Alternative ALS treatment options

Alternative Treatments and Therapies for ALS

It’s widely known that there is currently no cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, although certain FDA-approved drugs and other ALS treatment options have been shown to slow down the progression of the disease and alleviate certain associated symptoms.

Without a cure, it’s understandable that individuals may look for alternative treatments, therapies and approaches such as special diets, cannabis and acupuncture following an ALS diagnosis. Here we take a look at some of these alternative approaches and the available research regarding their efficacy.

Much of the information found below is available in more detail from the NCBI article ‘Complementary and Alternative Therapies in ALS’.

What is Complementary/Alternative Medicine?

There is a huge market for homoeopathic or complementary medicines around the world. These approaches lie outside the mainstream medical arena and there is generally limited evidence or research conducted on their efficacy.

Typically you will find a large amount of information online about these therapies, but often the reason for using such approaches is based on anecdotal accounts.  

There is No Natural Cure for ALS

There is currently no cure for ALS and there are no complementary ALS therapies that cure the disease either. Many individuals diagnosed with the disease will explore these alternative ALS treatments and some do indeed find improvement in their condition, at least for a short space of time.

Can ALS be Reversed Naturally?

Whilst this is a commonly asked question, there is no evidence to suggest that anyone has reversed the disease through natural ALS therapies.

For the majority of the alternative approaches to treating ALS, a lot more research needs to be undertaken before we understand if there are truly any benefits or not.

1. Diets and Nutritional Supplements

Ketogenic diet

There is a huge amount of information online about how various dietary changes and the use of nutritional supplements can help with a range of illnesses and health conditions.

This can be a difficult area, however, when it comes to ALS. Some research has shown that losing weight, for example, reduces muscle strength in mice with a mutant gene for ALS and makes their condition worse. In patients, weight loss happens as the disease progresses and has a negative impact on quality of life.

The right dietary approach is an area of dispute amongst ALS researchers. Some advocate a high carb diet, others a high-fat one. Some online sources suggest that a ketogenic diet can have a positive impact following an ALS diagnosis but more research needs to be undertaken in this area.

It’s will come as no surprise to learn that almost 75% of patients with ALS take some form of dietary supplement. In a few research articles, a significant proportion reported that they had more vitality and physical functioning after following a supplement regime, though this could be down to a placebo effect.

The most popular supplemental approach is called the Deanna Protocol which combines a number of supplements thought to affect nerve function. The success of this complementary ALS therapy focuses on one research paper that has a number of flaws, but it remains a popular approach with individuals who have the disease.

2. Cannabis

Cannabis, particularly since its legalization across parts of the US and in Canada, has been mentioned in relation to many diseases. There is a growing body of evidence that the drug certainly does have some therapeutic benefits, especially in dealing with the symptoms of ALS.

Of all the alternative ALS therapies, the use of cannabis probably has the most research behind it and there are numerous studies that show it can be effective in managing pain, reduce spasticity and improve loss of appetite. 

3. Acupuncture

Acupuncture model

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine that uses fine needles to manipulate ‘meridians’ or energy centers around the body. It has been shown to be effective in managing pain and may also have a role to play in other aspects related to ALS.

A small and controversial study has suggested that acupuncture can be used to slow or even reverse the progress of ALS. This has yet to be replicated, however, and the existing study only involved a small number of subjects.

4. Chelation

Chelation therapy is a process that is used to remove heavy metals from the body, for example, when someone has lead poisoning. It involves ingesting a chelation agent which attracts the metal and is then excreted out of the body.

There are some who believe that heavy metal poisoning could cause ALS, although there is little formal evidence to support this. There is a distinct lack of research that suggests chelation can either slow down the progression of ALS or reverse it.

5. Energy Healing

Spiritual and faith healing are often mentioned as an alternative ALS treatment. You might be surprised that there has been a decent amount of research in this area, albeit for other diseases such as asthma and recovery following cardiac bypass surgery. All the research to date has shown no effect regarding alleviating ALS symptoms or slowing the progression of the disease.

You can read the full article from which the information above is derived from by clicking here.