Multiple Sclerosis patients may benefit from serotonin manipulation

One Way or Another

When you think of serotonin you probably think of depression or relief from depression. But new research suggests that multiple sclerosis progression may be impeded with serotonin manipulation.

The question is, how will you manipulate it? A famous drug might do the trick. But non- drug approaches might work just as well.

Keeping nerve lanes healthy

Serotonin is a hormone that helps regulate our sense of well being. But it also plays an important role in the transmission of certain nerve impulses.

Although it occurs naturally throughout the body, serotonin is concentrated in the midbrain where levels of the hormone are determined by reuptake into the pre-synaptic cell. When levels are low, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs (SSRI) increase serotonin availability.

A new study from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands tested fluoxetine (the generic name for the active ingredient of the SSRI Prozac) on patients with relapsing remitting or relapsing secondary progressive MS.

For 24 weeks, 40 MS patients received either 20 mg of fluoxetine daily, or a placebo. On weeks 4, 8, 16 and 24, each patient was given a brain MRI to assess the telltale lesions typical of MS. These lesions are patches of inflammation that strip neurons of their myelin sheaths – the fatty insulation that protects nerve cells.

Results showed that the average number of new lesions in the fluoxetine group was 1.84, compared to 5.16 in the placebo group. More than 60 percent of the subjects in the fluoxetine group had no new lesions, while 26 percent of the placebo subjects had no new lesions.

Sunlight and sunflower seeds

Before MS patients try to manage the progression of lesions with a drug that has a daunting list of adverse side effects, they should know that there are safe non-drug treatments that can help boost serotonin levels.

In the March 2002 issue of Real Health Breakthroughs, William Campbell Douglass, M.D., wrote about Reuven Sandyk, M.D., M.Sc., who believes that MS is associated with calcification of the pineal gland, which contains the brain’s highest concentration of serotonin. Dr. Sandyk theorized that pineal calcification may contribute to MS symptoms, so he recommends these natural methods of prompting serotonin production:

  • Whenever possible, spend a moderate amount of time in direct sunlight each day
  • L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid that’s a precursor of serotonin – foods rich in L- tryptophan include raw milk, sunflower seeds, bananas, turkey, nuts, and corn
  • Supplements that may promote the production of serotonin include biotin and magnesium, as well as vitamins B-1, B-3, B-6, and B-12.

For a comprehensive overview of natural ways to treat MS, HSI has prepared a special report titled “Underground Cures: What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You About Multiple Sclerosis.” Compiled with the input of experts on the HSI Advisory Panel, this report offers details on alternative treatments that have provided answers for many MS patients.

“Effects of Fluoxetine on Disease Activity in Relapsing and Multiple Sclerosis: A Double-blind, Placebo-Controlled, Exploratory Study” Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, Published online ahead of print 5/1/08,