(Natural News) Omega-3 fatty acids may offer a natural approach to treat the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). The nutrients may come from either health supplements or foods rich in fatty acids. Multiple sclerosis is a severe neurodegenerative disease. There is no cure, and no one knows what triggers the autoimmune response. Each patient with multiple sclerosis experiences different symptoms. Also, the disease progresses differently in individual patients, making it hard to pick out a general pattern to it.
Researchers sought out alternative methods of treating multiple sclerosis. They found exciting results with omega-3 fatty acids, and they believe that supplementing with omega-3s may become standard practice for treating patients with the neurodegenerative disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that naturally appear in certain types of foods. Whereas saturated and trans fats harm health, these healthy fats support the normal functions of the body. The three main types of omega-3s are ALA, DHA, and EPA. They are popular over-the-counter health supplements.
Plant-based foods that contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed and soybeans. The animal-based sources are certain fish such as herring, mackerel, salmon and sardines. (Related: Research suggests cannabis can relieve symptoms, pain associated with MS.)
Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the harmful effects of multiple sclerosis on the patient’s health
Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the body in many ways. It enhances vision, regulates inflammation, and helps people sleep better.
The health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids may directly alleviate the symptoms caused by multiple sclerosis. Taking the fatty acids may improve the conditions of patients with progressive MS or during a relapse of the disease.
- Supports eye health — Patients with multiple sclerosis often suffer from poor vision, such as blindness, blurred vision, double vision, and painful eyes. Omega-3 fatty acids improve the sight organ’s health and vision, which suggests that they may help protect the eyes of MS patients.
- Fights inflammation — Multiple sclerosis causes inflammation in the brain and spinal cord that damages the nerve cells there. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties that reduce the immune response, making them good candidates for controlling the symptoms of a relapse.
- Improves sleep — Patients with multiple sclerosis may find it hard to fall asleep, and the ensuing tiredness makes the other symptoms worse. By helping people sleep better and rest more fully, omega-3 health supplements help reduce or prevent MS-related fatigue.
The immunomodulating effects of omega-3s may rein in autoimmune diseases like MS
Furthermore, omega-3 fatty acids are also immunomodulators that regulate the immune system. They may help control multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease caused by an overactive immune system. The immune system produces a type of white blood cell called a macrophage. The cells release substances that regulate cell function. Upon detecting internal damage or pathogens, the macrophages also trigger inflammation to fight off infection. If a macrophage finds improperly-functioning or extraneous matter inside itself or in other cells, it breaks down those parts via autophagy. However, a malfunctioning macrophage may not perform the critical process. Eventually, the problems cause excess inflammation.
A Norwegian study ran tests on mice and the cells of healthy human donors. The researchers gave omega-3 fatty acid supplements to the animals and administered the fatty acids to the human cells. The results showed that taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements increases the autophagy process in macrophages. By boosting the efficiency of immune cells, the supplements reduce inflammation levels. Further, omega-3 fatty acids throttled down the response of type 1 interferon, a molecule that triggers inflammation.
The study indicates that patients with multiple sclerosis may consider omega-3 supplements an effective and natural way of improving their lives and health.