The Supplements of Mice and Men

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by John Connor |

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Roll up, roll up, for all the fun of the fare!

I swallow an awful lot of supplements. Have I also swallowed the barkers’ patter? I don’t think so. But I’m more than aware that if something works on mice, then the chances of it working on me are likely lower than winning one of them ginormous lotteries — twice!

My epicurean larder has expanded largely because of my work here as the co-moderator of our Multiple Sclerosis News Today Forums. As such, I regularly peruse the output of our news section and trawl the net for other MS stories. Very rarely, I get to them first. I’m especially chuffed if it’s new research.

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Of Mice and Men (and MS Research)

For last week’s column, I compiled all of the prescribed pills I have to consume. There are so many that it turned into a herculean task. That may be a tad hyperbolic, as I didn’t have to kill the Hydra or capture the three-headed dog that guards the entrance to the underworld. I’m thankful, as Cerberus does indeed pace the entrance — typical of hell to be yet another establishment that doesn’t offer disabled access!

I wrote a column about supplements in February 2018. I’ll précis the ones I’m still taking. (One has disappeared entirely, as scientists found that it didn’t work.) I buy capsules if possible.

Enough preamble — let’s get stuck in. It’s a long list. Of course, you should always consult your medical team before taking any new vitamins or supplements.

St. John’s wort: It can help to calm inflammation, something many MSers dread. My wife, Jane, scoffs at me for this because she’s been taking the supplement on and off for years. I had to wait till there was a peer-reviewed paper about it in relation to MS. Still, it doesn’t stop her from half-inching mine! (That’s cockney rhyming slang for “pinching.” This column is all about education.)

Vitamin D3: Big yes. It’s been proven that low blood levels of vitamin D can increase susceptibility to MS and contribute to a more severe disease state. Studies have also found that taking this supplement can help to ease MS symptoms. So, what’s not to like?

Flaxseed oil: A rodent study on neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy found that flaxseed mitigates brain mass loss, improving motor hyperactivity and spatial memory. Perhaps it can offer similar benefits for MS patients.

Taurine: There’s evidence that suggests this natural metabolite might help with remyelination. It’s also one of the main ingredients in energy drinks, so at the very least, maybe it can keep us awake. In capsule form, there’s little temptation to add vodka to it.

Turmeric/curcumin: An article published in the journal Neurological Sciences noted that, “Studies have reported curcumin as a potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant agent that could modulate cell cycle regulatory proteins, enzymes, cytokines, and transcription factors in CNS-related disorders including MS.” I’m British and therefore love curry, but I could never eat the recommended amount of curcumin, the primary active compound in turmeric, so I take a supplement every morning. The label says that it contains “added black pepper extract to aid absorption.” I have no idea if that’s scientifically accurate, but since I put pepper on anything savory anyway, bring it on! Yum.

Kombucha and, recently, vegan kefir: I jumped on this particular wagon well before the band got on board. There’s been increasing interest in how our gut microbiome may affect our brain. Both of these drinks (there’s also plenty of fermented milk kefir products out there) have billions more microbes in them than regular probiotic ones. This may help to lower inflammation levels.

Vitamin B12: Stand easy, this one is just because I’m vegan. It’s a vitamin often found in meat and fish.

N-acetylglucosamine: Levels of this simple amino sugar (not for me, guv!) are often low in people with progressive forms of MS. That’s me all over.

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Ursolic acid: This compound, found in some fruit peels, was found to aid myelin repair in a mouse model. It must take ages to find a mouse model that won’t scamper off the damned runway. The supplement has become increasingly available because it’s used by many bodybuilders.

Vitamin C: At ease, MSers, this one’s just for me. I’ve been combining it with the antibiotic nitrofurantoin, which I’ve been taking for over a year now via a very specialist urologist. It finally seems to be conquering my chronic urinary tract infections.

Lion’s mane: The extract is derived from the mushroom of the same name. There’s no solid research about its effects on MS patients, but it’s believed to have many health benefits, including nerve cell repair. I had no idea about it until my youngest son gifted it to me for Christmas.

Lipoic acid: This antioxidant has been shown to slow brain atrophy in secondary progressive MS patients. Clinical studies are ongoing.

Trehalose: This sugar molecule helped to clear myelin debris in a mouse model. It seems that the mouse must be fighting fit by now!

And that’s it. I have to munch through this lot in addition to my prescribed pills. No wonder I struggle to get anything done.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Richard Poulin avatar

Richard Poulin

Wonderful article! There is no doubts about vitamin Bs and D. Lion's Mane doesn't get enough attention as it should. It's not a bad idea to add in Omega 3 or look for products that have it fortified. I hate to add in one more to your list but check out PS128.

John Connor avatar

John Connor

Ta 4 the compliment.
Flaxseed oil does contain 50-60% omega oil. As a vegan don't down fish derived ones!
Also one of Kefir's active microbes is Lactobacillus plantarum AKA PS128!
Phew, don't need to add any more pills.

Cynthia avatar


Thanks for great info ! I have used some of these for years .... but learned about new ones . Will certainly try them !
Always enjoy your columns

Martin Schmid avatar

Martin Schmid

Thank you very much for your article. Could you also tell us which dosage you are taking?

John Connor avatar

John Connor

As I don’t know the efficacy of any of them I t Jd to. buy the largest dosages & then just take one a day. Never go 4 the cheapest on the theory that less likely to be hookey!

John Cowburn avatar

John Cowburn

Do you think any of the supplements have made any difference? I've taken many different supplements plus tried vegan and no dairy, but I really don't think any of them have made a scrap of difference! Problem is, I wonder that if I stop taking any of them, will my deterioration go even faster? Main problem at the moment, is horrendous spasticity pain in legs, hips and lower back and nothing I take or massage in, seems to make any difference!

John Connor avatar

John Connor

Can't claim any of them work. Only thing that actually does for spacisity is marijuana, pls read my col: Also get referred to a spacisity neurologist immediately Just had my first consultation - believe it will be very helpful in near future. Also milk looks to be a prob Tho this relates to getting MS in 1st place. Still, plangty of vegan milks around now. Cheers John

John Connor avatar

John Connor

Can't claim any of them work. Only thing that actually does for spacisity is marijuana, pls read my col: Also get referred to a spacisity neurologist immediately Just had my first consultation - believe it will be very helpful in near future. Also milk looks to be a prob Tho this relates to getting MS in 1st place. Still, plenty of vegan milks around now. Cheers John


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