A Natural Approach To Health
Living With Ataxia
I had a question the other day about ataxia.
People with ataxia experience a failure of muscle control in their arms and legs, resulting in a lack of balance and coordination or a disturbance of gait.
This can happen if parts of your nervous system controlling movement are damaged.
While the term ataxia is mainly used to describe this set of symptoms, it’s also used to refer to a family of disorders.
Most disorders resulting in ataxia cause cells in the part of your brain called the cerebellum to degenerate, or atrophy.
Sometimes your spine is also affected.
While the phrases cerebellar degeneration and spinocerebellar degeneration are used to describe changes in your nervous system, neither term is a specific diagnosis.
Cerebellar and spinocerebellar degeneration can have many different causes.
The age of onset of any resulting ataxia varies depending on the cause of the degeneration.
Among the more common inherited ataxias are Friedreich’s ataxia and Machado-Joseph disease.
Friedreich’s ataxia is an inherited disease causing progressive damage to your nervous system with symptoms ranging from muscle weakness and speech problems to heart disease.
Symptoms usually begin between the ages of 5 and 15, but can appear as early as 18 months or as late as 30 years of age.
The first symptom is usually difficulty walking.
The ataxia gradually worsens and slowly spreads to your arms and then your trunk.
Foot deformities like clubfoot, flexion (involuntary bending) of your toes, hammertoes, or foot inversion (turning in of your foot) may be early signs.
Rapid, involuntary rhythmic movements of your eyeball are common.
Most people with Friedreich’s ataxia develop scoliosis (a sideways curvature of your spine), which, if severe, may impair breathing.
Other symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations.
Machado-Joseph disease (MJD) is a rare hereditary ataxia.
The disease is characterized by clumsiness and weakness in your arms and legs, spasticity, a staggering lurching gait easily mistaken for drunkenness, difficulty with speech and swallowing, involuntary eye movements, double vision, and frequent urination.
Some people suffer from dystonia, or sustained muscle contractions causing twisting of your body and limbs, repetitive movements, abnormal postures, and/or rigidity – symptoms similar to those of Parkinson’s disease.
You may have twitching of your face or tongue, or peculiar bulging eyes.
In Machado-Joseph disease, degeneration of cells in an area of your brain called the hindbrain leads to deficits in movement.
Your hindbrain includes your cerebellum, brain stem, and the upper part of your spinal cord.
MJD is an inherited, autosomal dominant disease, which means if a child inherits one copy of the defective gene from either parent, the child will develop symptoms of the disease.
People with a defective gene have a 50% chance of passing the mutation on to their children.
The severity of the disease is related to the age of onset, with earlier onset associated with a more severe form of the disease.
Symptoms can begin any time between early adolescence and about 70 years of age.
MJD is also a progressive disease, meaning symptoms get worse with time.
Life expectancy ranges from the mid-30s for those with severe forms of MJD to a normal life expectancy for those with mild forms.
Ataxia can also be acquired.
Conditions causing acquired ataxia include stroke, multiple sclerosis, tumors, alcoholism, peripheral neuropathy, metabolic disorders, and vitamin deficiencies.
To deal with ataxia it’s beneficial to:
*Drink lots of purified water daily to hydrate and flush toxins.
*There’s no cure for hereditary ataxias. If the ataxia is caused by another condition, the underlying condition is treated first. The prognosis for individual with ataxia and cerebellar/spinocerebellar degeneration varies depending on its underlying cause. Most people with ataxia have had a stroke and may go to a nursing home until they’re able to care for themselves.
*There’s currently no effective cure or treatment for Friedreich’s ataxia. However, many symptoms and accompanying complications can be treated to help you maintain optimal functioning as long as possible.
*MJD is incurable, but some symptoms of the disease can be treated.
*Include in your diet all fruits and vegetables, plus breads, cereals, and crackers containing only rice and oats.
*Include cold-water fish like tuna (limit to 1 serving per week), salmon, and herring in your diet.
*Follow a high-protein diet. Proteins are needed to supply your body with amino acids.
*Be sure you’re getting carbohydrates from foods containing complex carbohydrates and cut down on simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates can be found in fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, beans, and natural whole grains.
*Remove from your diet all forms of refined sugar and any products containing it. Also eliminate junk food and all foods containing artificial colors, flavorings, monosodium glutamate (MSG), yeast, or preservatives; processed and manufactured foods; and foods containing salicylates. Certain foods naturally contain salicylates. These include almonds, apples, apricots, all berries, cherries, cucumbers, currants, oranges, peaches, peppers, plums, prunes, and tomatoes.
*Don’t consume any of the following: apple cider vinegar, bacon, butter, candy, catsup, chocolate, colored cheeses, chili sauce, corn, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meat, margarine, meat loaf, milk, mustard, pork, salami, salt, sausage, soy sauce, tea, and wheat.
*Don’t use antacid tablets, cough drops, perfume, throat lozenges, or commercial toothpaste. Use a natural toothpaste from a health food store.
*Avoid carbonated beverages.
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