Ataxia: Symptoms and Remedies
Ataxia is a neurological marker that reveals an abnormality in the nervous system. When a person is suffering from ataxia, it appears as a lack of control of certain muscle groups and functions, particularly in their gait. Therefore, recognizing the symptoms and understanding possible remedies is important for a more normal quality of life.
Ataxia is the physical manifestation of a nervous system disorder that commonly affects the cerebellum. In fact, there are three clear divisions of ataxia – cerebellar, sensory and vestibular. There are various types of ataxia within these larger classifications, ranging from mild forms (dystaxia) and those that affect one side of the body (hemiataxia), to more severe and debilitating versions of this disorder that may require surgery to remedy.
Ataxia is caused by many different things, including trauma or injury to the central nervous system (e.g., stroke, accident), vitamin deficiency, hypothyroidism, Celiac disease, lupus, genetics, environmental causes and nervous system degeneration, among others. Identifying the underlying cause can help doctors treat each particular case, because in many situations, quality of life can be improved without dangerous and invasive surgery.
Depending on which broad category of ataxia you are suffering from, your symptoms could be the result of bleeding or inflammation in the cerebellum, resulting in unstable eye movement, postures, and extremity control. It could also affect your sensory capabilities, making it difficult to know the position or angle of your joints. Finally, the vestibular variety can result in severe vertigo, equilibrium loss, nausea and vomiting.
The main symptoms of ataxia include jerky and unstable movements of the arms, legs and other joints, making the gait while walking unnatural or uncomfortable. Some of the cerebellar ataxia symptoms include slurred speech, difficulty writing, bodily tremors, and the inability to judge distance or movement. Many of the specific symptoms can be seen and diagnosed by a trained physician, leading to more effective treatment approaches.
Physical Therapy: For many of the physical symptoms of ataxia, such as awkward gait and muscle control issues, physical therapy is a viable option. This is particularly true if walking is still possible without an assistive device. This is a milder form of ataxia, and over time, more control can be gained in the joints and limbs. There are also many at-home exercises that can strengthen muscle control and improve the function of the nervous system.
Ashwagandha: One of the traditional remedies for this debilitating condition comes from Ayurvedic tradition – the famed ashwagandha herb. This powerful remedy is known to have brain-boosting properties, improving the function of the central nervous system, and relieving stress and anxiety. An an adaptogen, ashwagandha can actually help the body adapt to handling illnesses and disorders, literally changing our brain and body chemistry to treat chronic conditions like ataxia.
Vitamin E: Some research has shown that vitamin deficiencies can cause the symptoms of ataxia. In particular, vitamin E deficiency can result in poor nervous system function. Vitamin E also functions as an antioxidant, which reduces overall oxidative stress in the body and helps all organ systems function more properly. Some of the best vitamin E-rich foods include peanuts, spinach, almonds, asparagus, mustard greens and sunflower seeds.
Massage: Since ataxia is primarily an issue of inflammation or poor function of the cerebellum and other parts of the central nervous system, a physical solution may also be an option. Some research has shown that specialized massage, concentrating on the head and neck, can eliminate excess tension and inflammation in the muscles and tissues of the head and neck, helping you achieve more normal muscle control.
Coordination Exercises: A different aspect of therapy that can be beneficial to those suffering from physical ataxia includes coordination exercises. The inability to write properly, hold items normally, and move through the world comfortably can have a major effect on quality of life. Occupational therapists can outline a set of coordination exercises and activities to strengthen nervous system function and improve muscle memory and performance, especially in fine motor skills, which can often suffer as a result of this neurological disorder.
Vitamin B1: Also known as thiamin, vitamin B1 deficiency has been closely linked to the onset of ataxia in certain patients. Thiamin is important for macronutrient metabolism and has various coenzyme roles; without it, nervous system function will be impaired. Vitamin B1-rich foods include fish, seeds, nuts, bread and green peas.
Salmon: The brain-boosting potential of salmon and other oil fish is due almost entirely to the presence of omega-3 fatty acids in these particular sea creatures. Omega-3 fatty acid has certain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that make it very important for the nervous system. By lowering oxidative stress levels and improving cognitive function, these fatty acids can help inhibit the worst symptoms of ataxia.
Turmeric: Since there are so many potential causes of ataxia, from Celiac disease to autoimmune disorders, a comprehensive remedy like turmeric is a wise choice. Turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, is one of the most powerful antioxidants we have identified, and it can have immunoprotective effects, cognitive impacts, and even optimizes the metabolism. Adding this spice to your diet can prevent some of the underlying causes of this condition, and remedy the symptoms.
Olive Oil: Studies have shown that eating the proper mix of healthy fats in your diet can reduce the symptoms of ataxia. Olive oil is rich in polyphenolic compounds and various other antioxidants, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, making it a much healthier option than normal vegetable oils, particularly if you are at high risk for ataxia.
A Final Word of Warning: As mentioned, ataxia can come in many different forms and severities. If you want to ensure proper treatment and the minimization of symptoms, it is important to speak with a trained medical professional. Many of these home remedies are only applicable to certain symptoms and varieties, so the more specifics of your condition that you have, the more likely you are to choose the right treatment approach!