Functional Medicine – ALS
Functional medicine and the future of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
Reports suggest that between 12,000 and 15,000 people in the United States live with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurological disease that primarily impacts the nerve cells that control muscle movement. Around one in 10 people with ALS survive for ten years or more. However, in most cases, it’s fatal, with patients dying of respiratory failure within three to five years after symptoms develop.
This is a hard truth that no one wants to hear. But there is a way for ALS sufferers to improve their quality of life and regain control over the trajectory of their health.
Neurologist and functional medicine doctor Ken Sharlin has decades of experience tending to those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He witnessed first-hand just how limiting conventional drug-based treatments can be. That’s why he developed a unique protocol called Brain Tune Up!. Founded on the principles of functional medicine, this program has helped many with ALS improve their well-being and enhance their confidence.
We’ll explore Brain Tune Up! in more detail below. First, let’s take a closer look at ALS.
What is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)?
ALS refers to a group of neurological diseases that affect the nerve cells responsible for dictating voluntary muscle movements like chewing, talking, and walking. ALS is a progressive condition, with symptoms worsening over time.
People diagnosed with ALS are often told that there is no cure and no way to reverse or stop the disease’s progression. This can be devastating for both patients and their families.
What are the symptoms of ALS?
ALS typically begins in the hands, limbs, or feet as muscle stiffness or weakness. It may also present with difficulty swallowing or a change in voice quality. These early signs can be so subtle they are shrugged off. Over time, all muscles that fall under voluntary control are impacted, with patients losing their ability to complete basic tasks, like eating, speaking, and even breathing.
Other common symptoms of ALS include the following:
- Tripping over often
- Difficulty speaking
- Issues with swallowing
- Hand weakness and clumsiness
- Crying, laughing, or yawning for no reason
- Muscle cramps in the shoulders, arms, and tongue
- Noticeable behavioral changes
These symptoms can completely transform people’s lives. People with ALS become dependent on their caregivers and eventually require support to undertake even the simplest activities.
What causes ALS?
A small percentage – around five to 10 percent – of those diagnosed with ALS have a family history of the disease or a related condition known as frontotemporal dementia (FTD). The remaining 90 to 95 percent of cases are called ‘sporadic.’
Conventional doctors may inform patients that do not have a family history of ALS that their condition has no known cause, that it’s random. This isn’t true. In fact, research suggests that a nuanced interaction between environmental conditions, lifestyle factors, and genes contributes to the development of ALS, the severity of symptoms, and the rate of decline.
This theory is nothing new, and probable risk factors include the following:
- Exposure to heavy metals like mercury and lead
- Exposure to agricultural chemicals like pesticides and other organophosphates
- History of electric shock
- Head injury
- Other physical injuries
- Extreme athleticism
- Exposure to blue green algae, certain viruses or bacteria
Other studies have explored the impact of the intestinal microbiome on the progression of ALS. These suggest that diets high in vegetables, fruit, and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids can minimize the risk of developing ALS and reduce the speed of decline in patients.
How is ALS treated?
According to conventional medicine, there is no treatment for ALS that can effectively reverse or stop the disease. Patients are generally prescribed drugs that aim to manage the symptoms of ALS, decrease the likelihood of complications, and prolong independence and quality of life.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has currently approved two drugs specifically engineered to treat ALS. These are not without their own risks and adverse side effects:
- Riluzole or Rilutek is taken orally and may improve life expectancy by three to six months. Side effects include liver function changes, dizziness, and issues with the gastrointestinal system.
- Edaravone or Radicava is taken intravenously and may minimize the decline of day-to-day functioning. Side effects include headaches, bruising, and trouble breathing.
Other medications may be prescribed to help manage additional symptoms, such as:
- Muscle cramps
- Sleep issues
- Depression and anxiety
- Excessive saliva
Treating the causes of ALS using a functional medicine framework
Conventional treatments for ALS focus on managing symptoms. If research suggests that environmental factors and other identifiable influences affect the development and progression of ALS, why not work on addressing those? Doesn’t that make the most sense?
That’s exactly the thought process of Dr. Ken Sharlin, one of the only neurologists that is also a functional medicine doctor. Functional medicine is a science-backed approach that sees every patient as a whole individual and works toward discovering and removing the causes of disease.
When treating the causes of ALS using a functional medicine framework, Dr. Ken Sharlin targets and corrects environmental imbalances. This is done through a five- to eight-month program called Brain Tune Up!.
Brain Tune Up! is a patient-tailored system that combines diet and lifestyle factors with environmental influences to help individuals regain their vitality and enhance the quality of their lives. It involves the careful examination of imbalances at the cellular level to determine why the disease has occurred in the first place. From there, participants are empowered to make meaningful changes in their lives.
Accomplishing these goals involves working through the functional medicine operating system, which consists of the following three elements:
- The Functional Medicine Timeline
- The Functional Medicine Matrix
- Therapeutic Lifestyle Factors (Sleep & Relaxation, Movement & Exercise, Nutrition, Stress, and Relationships)
Take control of your health
If you’re unfamiliar with functional medicine, it can be overwhelming. Dr. Ken Sharlin is here to help, to answer your questions, and to give you the confidence you need to start your journey toward a better quality of life.
It all begins with a free consultation. Get in touch today to schedule your phone call and get the answers you deserve.