How Do You Get Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

As I mentioned in my article about what Multiple Sclerosis is, MS is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body's immune system malfunctions and starts attacking itself. With Multiple Sclerosis in particular, the immune system attacks the protective coating around the nerves (myelin) in the central nervous system, which consists of the brain, optic nerves, and the spinal cord.

Multiple Sclerosis is not a virus so it can not be caught; MS is not contagious!  According to mainstream medicine the cause of MS is currently unknown but most people (including a lot of doctors) believe that Multiple Sclerosis is caused by a combination of different (but still unknown) factors.

Though it is not yet completely accepted by everyone to be fact, it is pretty obvious to most people that MS has a lot to do with genetics. The most likely scenario is that some people have a genetic predisposition for developing Multiple Sclerosis and this genetic "switch" is triggered by an environmental factor of some sort that activates this autoimmune disease.

Think of this scenario; we have a set of identical twins but only one of these twins develops MS. Perhaps both twins have the genetic switch but only one twin was exposed to the right environmental trigger that "switched" their “MS gene” on.  That would explain why both twins do not have MS even though some twins do. I have met examples of both online!

So there are many different theories on what types of environmental factors could contribute to MS but the most commonly talked about theories are diet, location, and climate. There is a higher incidence of MS in certain areas of the world such as northern Europe or the northern USA, especially in areas further from the equator. This is believed to be due to the fact that people get less sun exposure causing a Vitamin D deficiency. Most MS patients (including myself) seem to have a Vitamin D deficiency for whatever reason. I grew up in sunny Southern California so perhaps even if you are in the sun as much as the average person, your body just can’t absorb Vitamin D as well? But let’s also consider a state like Washington in the northwest corner of the USA; they have one of the highest incident rates of MS in the nation and anyone who has seen the movie “Twilight” knows that Washington gets no sun! So whether you can’t get it or absorb it there definitely seems to be a connection to Vitamin D deficiency.

The image below shows where Multiple Sclerosis is more prevalent in the world. The numbers may not be up to date but it still illustrates how the closer to the equator you get the lower the numbers seem to be.

Many studies also seem to point to diet as a contributing factor in Multiple Sclerosis. As humans evolved over time we started eating things that were not available to us when we first started out as a species. As our diet changed faster than we could evolve to handle it, it looks as though Multiple Sclerosis started making it's first appearances around the world where ever we started processing food or consuming things like dairy products that were not available to ancient man. In parts of the world that are behind in this dietary evolution, Multiple Sclerosis is not as common. In areas like Asia and Japan where fish (high in Omega-3, an anti-inflammatory fatty acid) is regularly consumed in the diet, there is a significantly lower occurrence of Multiple Sclerosis. MS obviously causes inflammation in the body so it’s thought that eating inflammatory food can make symptoms worse and eating anti-inflammatory foods can make symptoms better. Whether you choose to believe any of the many dietary theories or not, the evidence is hard to ignore.

Of course you will also read about some of the “crazier” theories (as some might call them) like mercury exposure from fish or tooth fillings but I can punch a hole in that one pretty quick; I never ate fish growing up and I never had any fillings. Another popular theory is CCSVI (Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency) where it is believed that Multiple Sclerosis is not an autoimmune disease but in fact a vascular disease that causes a narrowing of the veins in the neck. Blood can’t get out of the brain as fast as it gets in causing the symptoms of MS. Many patients swear that the CCSVI treatment is the cure for MS but most people can see that the evidence for CCSVI is weak at best…

Bottom line, Multiple Sclerosis is not contagious and you can not catch it nor is there anything we know of that you can do to avoid contracting the disease. There is no cure for MS. Most doctors and researchers who are proactive in the world of MS accept that there are genetic factors involved. We are pretty sure my grandmother had Multiple Sclerosis but she passed away before she ever got a diagnosis. So with all that said, it’s kind of a matter of chance so go ahead and put your gas masks away!