Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease) involves the death of neurons that control voluntary muscles. It is characterized by stiffness, twitching, and gradually worsening weakness, which results in difficulty speaking, swallowing, and eventually breathing.

There are six intertwined issues proposed for the cause and treatment of ALS; Where you live, High levels of glutamate, Lesions in the brain, Exposure to toxic substances, Genetics, and Inflammation.

In Europe, the disease affects about 2 people per 100,000 per year. In the United States, it’s more than 5,600 per 100,000.

Why is the difference so dramatic? Many serious conditions affect people differently in different geographic areas. For example, multiple sclerosis is rare in areas with a lot of sunshine, which causes some researchers to think there might be a connection between low vitamin D and MS.

People with ALS have higher levels of glutamate in their serum and spinal fluid, yet excess glutamate is not thought to be the sole cause of the disease. Regardless, it might be important to control levels of glutamate, a substance that is derived from protein. Many people are sensitive to monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is commonly found in processed foods because it adds the perception of flavor. MSG is present under several names and people sensitive to it need to be vigilant about what they consume.

Another common factor is lesions to the frontotemporal lobes of the brain, which are similar to those identified on nerve tissue in MS patients. There remains the question of whether the lesions cause MS or vice versa. There is little correlation between the number of lesions and symptoms.

Chemicals, electromagnetic fields, occupation, trauma, and electric shock have been considered but are without consistent findings. There is also a tentative association with exposure to a number of pesticides including glyphosate (Roundup).

Some research focuses on individual genetics but modern research shows how gene expression can be changed by adjusting the environment (diet, exercise, toxin exposure, etc.). Having family members with ALS does not guarantee a person will also get it. Genetics are a factor but not as important as older science theories had us believe.

The ALS Association has stated, “There is increasing evidence that inflammation accompanies the death of motor neurons in ALS. However, evidence so far does not support that ALS is an autoimmune disease.”

Yet a question remains in whether inflammation kills cells, or maybe dying cells cause inflammation.

The official discussion of inflammation centers on using antiinflammatory drugs to treat and/or halt ALS progression. While it makes sense to do what we can to quell inflammation, adapting an anti inflammatory lifestyle could be a better choice than drugs. This involves eating well, avoiding wheat products, all sugars, all synthetic sweeteners, and drugs that promote inflammation (estrogens).

There is one drug therapy deserving attention, Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN). In doses of 3.0mg to 4.5mg this medicine delivers potent antiinflammatory activity, based on the production of natural endorphins in the user’s body. A single daily dose at bedtime has been shown highly effective in controlling and reversing symptoms associated with inflammatory diseases, including multiple sclerosis, arthritis, diabetes, and so on.

Would it be surprising if LDN helped ALS patients?

No, this isn’t to suggest LDN can cure the disease, but usage evidence supports the idea that controlling inflammation controls symptoms.

Those who suffer with ALS should consider inflammation and talk to their doctors about lifestyle changes, and adding LDN might have value, especially when doing what has always been done isn’t working so well.