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Functional Medicine Support for ALS Management

Written by

Deborah Freudenmann BHSc

ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease is one of the most dreaded, progressive neurodegenerative diseases that impact motor neurons. It is a slow but steady decline where the brain loses connection with your muscles resulting in an inability to eat, talk, walk, before eventually paralyses and respiratory failure take place.

In loving memory of Frank.

This article was inspired by a vibrant and beautiful family friend, Frank who passed away from ALS in 2020. As a friend, family member or loved one, witnessing this disease and suffering unfold is heartbreaking. It’s the body of an ALS patient which deteriorates slowly while the mind stays strong.

Here is a brief discussion about what ALS means, how to address this condition with a functional approach and provide natural support to ease the symptoms.

What is ALS?

ALS refers to a progressive neurodegenerative disease, which affects the nerve cells or neurons in the brain and spinal cord, leading to the loss of muscle control. This is because, the deterioration and eventual death of these neurons, result in the inability of the brain to initiate, connect and control muscle movement.

Several factors including imbalances in the gut microbiome, exposure to toxins, increased intestinal permeability, nutritional deficiencies, and gene mutations play a role in the development of ALS.

What are the different types of ALS?

Sporadic ALS

This is the most common form of ALS. It comprises nearly 95% of patients with this disease. In most cases of sporadic ALS, the exact cause of the condition cannot be detected.

Familial ALS

Familial ALS runs in families indicating this condition is genetically linked. Approximately 5% to 10% of patients with ALS suffer from this form.

What are the different stages of ALS?

Early-stage ALS

The common symptoms of ALS in the initial stage include muscle weakness and wasting. Patients may also develop other symptoms such as muscle cramps, and twitching (also called fasciculations), and tightness or stiffness (spasticity) of the muscles usually in any one part of the body.

The middle stage ALS

As ALS progresses, muscle weakness, atrophy, and wasting become worse and start affecting other groups of muscles.

The muscles may become weak or completely paralyzed. It may lead to an inability to swallow food and even saliva resulting in dysphagia. The loss of ability to breathe or cough on their own may increase the patients’ risk of choking.

This stage is also marked by difficulty in speaking and breathing (dyspnea) and periods of uncontrollable crying or laughter.

Late Stage ALS

Further progress of ALS may result in the paralysis of most of the voluntary muscles in the body. At this stage, patients can no longer speak, breathe, or eat on their own and hence, require a ventilator or a feeding tube for these tasks.

Most patients with ALS die within 2 to 5 years after the initial symptoms appear. The cause of death may include respiratory failure, malnutrition, pulmonary embolism, arrhythmia, or pneumonia.

What are the signs and symptoms of ALS?

  • Frequent tripping or falling
  • Weakness in the legs, feet, and ankles
  • Difficulty in walking or performing routine activities
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Weakness and clumsiness of the hands
  • Slurred speech
  • Inappropriate laughing, crying, and yawning
  • Muscle cramps

Natural support for the management of ALS

Anti-inflammatory diet

Patients diagnosed with ALS are advised to follow an anti-inflammatory diet that is rich in foods having natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

They should avoid foods that trigger inflammation, food sensitives/allergies or create toxicity. Foods containing pesticides or similar toxic debris such as meat, dairy products from conventionally raised animals, processed foods, farmed fish, hydrogenated fats, refined sugars and grains, highly processed vegetable oils, and GMO foods must be avoided to minimize inflammation and slow down the progress of ALS.

Support mitochondria & nutritional deficiencies

It is advisable to increase intake of foods or supplements that enhance mitochondrial functions.

Patients with ALS should ensure their diet comprises of important vitamins and minerals to support healthy bodily functions including alpha-lipoic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, n-acetyl cysteine, resveratrol, coenzyme Q10, acetyl l-carnitine, B vitamins, quercetin, vitamin A, C and minerals. It would promote cellular functions and improve mitochondrial activities thereby reducing muscle weakness and other symptoms linked to ALS.

In chronic diseases such as ALS, often nutritional IV treatments are necessary.

Minimize toxic load

Minimizing toxic load and supporting detoxification through phase 1 and 2 pathways are effective strategies to control the symptoms of ALS.

Optimum nutritional support, sauna, coffee enemas, lymphatic cleansing, breathing exercises, physical exercise, promoting regular bowel movements, and heavy metal detoxification could boost natural detoxification processes in the body and help in the faster elimination of toxins.

Improving dental health by removing infected root canals and amalgams and treating periodontal disease including cavitation’s is also recommended to slow disease progression. Teeth are an important biomarker that links early toxic metal exposure to the development of ALS (even before symptoms appear). In a study they found 11 metals in the teeth which had been associated with ALS after diagnosis. This is why it is absolutely pertinent to look at the oral infections/oral hygiene and heavy metal exposure in an ALS patient. 

Regular intake of micronutrients, antioxidants such as glutathione, and natural anti-inflammatory foods like omega 3 fatty acids is also expected to accelerate healing and improve the body’s natural defences against the development and progress of ALS.

Balance gut microbiome

Patients with ALS should improve their intake of foods that can enrich gut microbiota with diverse strains of healthy bacteria. They should also include probiotic foods and nutrients that heal the leaky gut to enable optimum absorption of nutrients from the intestine in order to prevent nutritional deficiencies.

Ozone therapy & PEMF therapy

Ozone therapy is an alternative treatment method that involves introducing ozone into the body, via rectal insufflation or IV. It can protect the neurons against neurodegenerative changes triggered by toxins/pathogens. It can also enhance the healing of the damaged tissues thus restoring muscle strength.
PEMF is an energy power house and helps to re-charge the cells with negative ions, support muscular movement and strength. PEMF also aids mitochondrial function and supports detoxification.

Reduce EMF exposure

Exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) can contribute to inflammation, oxidative stress, and neurodegenerative changes in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord. Hence, patients with ALS are advised to minimize their exposure to EMF in order to prevent further progress of the disease.

Emotional and psychological support

Patients with ALS often experience severe stress that may affect their emotional and physical health to a great extent. Providing emotional and psychological support to the patient is an important part of managing ALS.

Stress-busting methods like breathing exercises are also recommended to relieve stress and improve mental health.

Conclusion

It is possible to minimize the intensity of the symptoms of ALS and slow down the progress of this condition. By providing natural support to the patients in terms of improved nutrition, balancing gut flora and eliminating risk factors can also play a huge role in inhibiting the progress of this disease and improving the quality of life of patients.

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