Causes of ALS

Causes of ALS

While the actual causes of ALS remain unknown, there are presently several theories being put forward:

The Glutamate Connection

Glutamate is one of several neurotransmitters in the brain. Scientists have found that, compared to healthy people, ALS patients have higher levels of glutamate in the serum and spinal fluid. When neurons are exposed to excessive amounts of glutamate, they begin to die off. Scientists are trying to determine what leads to the excessive buildup of glutamate in the spinal fluid, and how this build-up can lead to ALS.

The drug Riluzole is believed to reduce damage to motor neurons by decreasing the release of glutamate. Unfortunately, it has side effects, it is quite expensive, and only results in a 2-3 month increase in life span - hardly the ideal therapy. However, it gives hope that the progression of ALS may be slowed by other glutamate-inhibiting therapies in the near future.

The Infectious Disease Connection

Some scientists believe that there is a viral, bacterial or mycoplasmic component to ALS similar to that of Lyme Disease in Multiple Sclerosis patients. While this has not been clinically proven, it is useful to keep in mind when investigating treatment options. Perhaps ridding the body of infectious agents and/or making the body inhospitable to bacteria and viruses can help to overcome the disease manifestation.

The Environmental Toxin Connection

Studies have shown that ALS patients have higher concentrations of mercury, lead and aluminum in their body tissues. Chemical toxins, such as excessive exposure to pesticides and other toxic agents, have also been implicated. For instance, the very high incidence of ALS on the island of Guam are thought to be caused by environmental toxins, as there are much higher concentrations of heavy metals such as lead, mercury and aluminum found in this Pacific island region than elsewhere.

As well, the incidence of ALS among the personnel of Operation Desert Storm is twice that of the general population - suggesting that chemcial toxins such as those found in chemical warfare may be a significant component. In addition, people with a history of exposure to agricultural chemicals, including fertilizers and pesticides used in gardening and lawn care, may be twice at risk for developing ALS.

It may be helpful to examine whether you may have been exposed to excessive amounts of metal or chemical toxins, whether through occupational hazards such as mining, manufacturing, welding, etc., or through recreational pursuits such as excessive exposure to chemically treated lawns (golfing, soccer, etc.), painting, ceramics, and so on.

Is it ALS or is it Heavy Metal Toxicity?

According to Andrew Hall Cutler, PhD., standard medical textbooks mention that both mercury and lead poisoning can easily be confused with ALS. With this in mind, it seems prudent that anyone appearing to have ALS should be screened for heavy metal toxicity.

One can actually do something about heavy metal poisoning, whereas most people with ALS eventually succumb to disease progression and death. Dr. Cutler mentions that he personally knows at least one case where a patient was misdiagnosed with ALS when he in fact had heavy metal poisoning. The person was treated for metal toxicity, and regained his health.

Do a Hair Mineral Analysis Test to Identify Hidden Toxicities

A hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA) is a simple, non-invasive screening test that can be used to find out if you have a heavy metal problem. This is especially useful if your program of supplements and lifestyle changes is not showing consistent positive results or is working a little more slowly than you would like.

An HTMA test will help you find hidden toxicities, help you identify the source of exposure to heavy metals, and will suggest ways to balance the essential minerals and eliminate the toxic metals.

Hair Mineral Analysis
It is important to note that may people get better through detoxification, even when diagnosed with a serious illness like ALS. Removing toxic metals can relieve some of the symptoms of the disease, and sometimes even slow down the progression of the disease entirely.

An HTMA can give you the extra information needed to take additional control of your health. I recommend a hair tissue mineral analysis test once or twice a year as a way to receive information that you can use to fine-tune your program and either hasten your return to health, or lessen your symptoms.
For more information and to order the hair tissue mineral analysis, please click here.


The Autoimmune Connection

Autoimmunity may play a role in ALS. Some scientists have theorized that the body's immune system attacks its own normal cells, resulting in the impairment of motor neurons. Autoimmune disease is generally a reflection of a malfunctioning immune system, which is thought to be the result of exposure to toxins, bacteria and viruses. Several studies of ALS patients have found the presence of antibodies to motor neurons.

The Trauma Connection

There has been a hypothesis put forward that a head injury or trauma to the brain may be a contributing factor in ALS. It may be helpful to investigate if there was ever an injury to the head or brain in the ALS patient, even going as far back as childhood.

The Dietary Deficiency Connection

Some studies have proposed that a deficiency in certain nutrients, such as thiamin, calcium, magnesium and vitamin D, may be associated with ALS. When dietary intake of calcium and magnesium is low, this results in increased intestinal absorption of toxic metals.

A dysfunction in carbohydrate metabolism is associated with ALS, as well.

The Free Radical Connection

Free radical damage is associated with many degenerative conditions, including nuerological disorders. A growing body of research suggests that ALS is associated with a defect in the enzyme called superoxide dysmutase (SOD), in which the SOD produced by the body changes from an antioxidant that is protective to nerves, to a pro-oxidant that damages the nerves. Thus, antioxidant therapies might help slow the progression of the disease.

The Implications

In searching for the cause of ALS, it is thought that perhaps a COMBINATION of the above factors, along with a genetic predisposition, are involved in the development of ALS. It would be prudent to test both for heavy metal toxicity, for nutritional deficiencies, and for Lyme disease and mycoplasma infection.

For more information on how to test for these substances, click here for our Useful Lab Tests page.

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