This is a disease caused by inflammation of the nerves or the nerve coating (myelin), usually precipitated by a viral illness or vaccine. The body produces antibodies against these viruses which for some reason also attack the nerves (this is called Molecular mimicry). The most common infections are campylobacter gastroenteritis, HIV. Glandular fever (Ebstein Barr) and mycoplasma. It has also followed some vaccinations, but the incidence is very small.
The disease starts with symmetrical weakness usually starting in the legs and progressing upwards. The tendon reflexes are absent. Usually there is some mild change in sensation with pins and needles. The disease can in severe cases affect the breathing muscles and can also affect the autonomic (automatic) nervous system causing rapid or slow heart rate, low blood pressure and loss of sweating.
The diagnosis is usually made by the clinical findings and raised proteins found in the spinal fluid.
What Doctors can do
This can become a very severe illness and patients should go to and stay in hospital, until the symptoms are resolving. In most cases the disease slowly worsens for about 2 weeks, then plateaus and starts recovering. Full and complete recovery occurs in over 60% of patients, and about 85% recover to become independent.
Treatment – two therapies can be used in severe cases – plasma exchange and intravenous gamma globulin. These appear to speed up and increase recovery when given early.
No other treatments have been shown to give benefit. In the past high dose steroid treatment has been used but this has not shown to give any benefit in trials, and interferon beta has also been tried, appeared to help some but has little benefit shown in trials and has significant toxic effects.
The main treatment is observation and await the recovery process, and support breathing, blood pressure and other autonomic abnormalities.
What you can do
This can be a frightening illness and there is very little written about alternative treatments, in part because most patients spend their time in hospital until they are recovered. While many immune diseases (like multiple sclerosis – see notes on MS in the navigation panel) benefit from higher doses of vitamin C and D, we really do not know if these will help or worsen Guallain Barre. Fish oils can help the myelin sheathes recover and a good multivitamin/mineral may help the body recover.
So I would recommend a good multi, fish oil, vitamin c about 1 gram daily and vitamin D 3-5,000iu daily. Coenzyme Q10 may help with energy to the muscles.
The Nutritional supplements I use and recommend to my patients
For Guillaine Barre patients – USANA – Cellsentials *, Biomega, Active Calcium plus, Coquinone, Vitamin C and vitamin D –
Other therapiesThere are a number of other therapies which you might like to look at. They have not been specifically included with this disease because some are a form of treatment which is applicable to most diseases and many focus on the mind, body, spirit, and the universe. These include - acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, energy healing, homeopathy, naturopathy, prayer, visualisation and some people with this condition might like to look at these topics (I have described them more fully on another page on this website click here .) With my personal experience and reading, I do not think that I can comment of whether one or a number of these might help. They fit well with most conventional and complementary treatments and I suspect some or even all of them can be extremely powerful - if performed by an experienced practitioner. My only caveat is that if in the course of one of these therapies, you are given potions or herbs, do check with your health practitioner that they will not interfere with other treatments or drugs you are receiving.
Nutritional supplementsI believe in today's world that nutritional supplements are so necessary as to be an essential component of any form of both prevention and treatment. Not only is today's food lacking in nutrients because of the way it was grown and processed, but also most of us make the wrong choices in diet. It is virtually impossible to obtain optimal levels of most of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients although many people try to do so, and even then fresh produce is not available all year round. *There are many quality supplements available on the market, including –Thorne, NFS, Douglas Labs, Xtend Life, True Star Health, USANA, and Metagenics. There are others, but do your due diligence before choosing one. USANA Health Sciences has added a new adjunct to its multivitamin and multi mineral called CellSentials. These are a patented blend of phyto-nutrients which they believe affects cell signaling and growth, and increases the production of preventative antioxidants within the cell. These should add to the value of the multi, so these are the multivitamin/mineral preparation I recommend.