Dr. Gott: Better diet could help son with multiple sclerosis

DEAR DR. GOTT: My son has progressive multiple sclerosis and is suffering with abnormal bowel movements. They’re very hard and large. His doctor recommended Colace, Fleet enemas and suppositories, but they don’t seem to help. His diet right now is baby food, hot cereal and pureed prunes, along with electrolytes and other liquids. He also takes vitamins and lots of medication for depression.

We try different things every few days but are running out of ideas. Your information has been so valuable. I read your column every day in our local newspaper. Any suggestions?

DEAR READER: For readers who may not fully understand multiple sclerosis, this disorder occurs when the body’s immune system attacks itself, destroying the protective sheath that covers the nerves. This may result in deterioration of the nerves over time and, unfortunately, the condition isn’t reversible. However, there are a number of things your son can do to remain active both mentally and physically.

Symptoms can occur at any age but are most common in people between the ages of 20 and 40. Women are more susceptible than men. Family history plays a large role, as well. For example, if a parent or sibling has the disorder, the other children of the affected parent or the siblings of the affected individual have up to a 3 percent chance of also developing it. This compares with one-tenth of a percent without a family history. Patients may have tremors, weakness or numbness in one or more limbs, occurring on one side of the body at a time, double vision, fatigue and more. In the beginning stages, there may be partial or complete remission that can reverse suddenly.

Bowel and bladder difficulties and depression are common in those with MS. I suggest he speak with his physician regarding the use of warm prune juice daily or my “colon cocktail,” which consists of equal parts prune juice, applesauce and bran. The specifics can be found in my Health Report “Compelling Home Remedies” and is one I have found to be effective when treating patients in nursing homes.

Your son should be eating a more healthful diet with fiber. Poor diet is linked to constipation, and diets low in fiber are known to increase the possibility for producing stools that can be difficult to pass. Because his diet is so limited, he should begin slowly – perhaps with whole-grain cereals and breads. He should drink plenty of fluids daily. Gradually add fresh fruits and vegetables, broiled fish and/or chicken and other appealing foods.

Many medications carry the unwanted side effect of constipation. He should speak with his prescribing physician to determine whether any of his drugs are contributing to his problem. If so, he should request another drug be ordered in its/their place.

His depression must be addressed. I don’t know how limited your son is in terms of walking, riding a stationary bike, listening to the radio, working on model cars or airplanes, having a stamp collection or using the Internet. It’s hard to make recommendations without knowing his age, general health and physical status, etc., but something between speaking with a therapist, a trip to the local park or a rousing game of checkers or chess with a friend on a regular basis might be just what the doctor ordered. He should also contact the MS Society to find the nearest support group.

As mentioned above, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report “Compelling Home Remedies.” Other readers who would like a copy should send a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a $2 check or money order payable to Newsletter and mailed to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092-0167. Be sure to mention the title or print an order form off my website at www.AskDrGottMD.com.

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