6 Ways to Help Manage ALS Symptoms
Those living with ALS experience a vast and varying degree of challenges that accompany the disease. Although there have been extensive advancements in the development of new remedies, treatments, and devices, these resources can sometimes be limited and difficult to get to, especially in a post-Covid world.
That being said, not everything needs to be difficult. Here’s a list of simple and natural ways to help you with your symptoms and with your overall wellbeing.
- 1. Eat a Nutritional Diet –
The most important part of a nutritional diet for PALS is to ingest foods that will remove toxins and help reduce the risk of damaging motor neurons caused by free radicals. Remove all sugars and processed foods1.
Next, you will need to introduce nutrient-dense and whole foods filled with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Organic foods like free range chicken, grass-fed beef, healthy fats, and fruits and vegetables are examples of nutrient-rich foods7.
- 2. Exercise –
To help prevent atrophy, improve mobility, and strengthen muscles, non-exhaustive exercise has shown to be beneficial in patients with ALS. Typical exercise regiments should consist of aerobic exercise, breathing exercises, stretching, and light resistance movements. For those in more advanced stages of ALS, caregiver assisted stretching is beneficial to prevent pressure point sores and contractures. Overall, exercise for ALS may slow progression of motor neuron degradation, help patients maintain a high level of function, and improve respiratory capacity3. It is advised to seek a professionally developed program designed by a licensed physical therapist. An easy option with step-by-step guided instructions is the Exercise Program for ALS developed by Julie Talkington, a board certified specialist in Neurologic Physical Therapy.
- 3. Occupational Therapy –
These therapies provide rehabilitative care for activities required in the daily lives of patients recuperating from a physical or mental illness. Occupational Therapy programs fundamentally improve the daily challenges faced by patients with ALS such as bathing, dressing, swallowing, and walking. Assisted devices, tools, and clothing, which can facilitate mobility and daily activities, are easily accessible. Studies show that people with ALS involved in multidisciplinary programs have longer life spans, due to social involvement and enjoy better mental health4.
- 4. Supplements –
Avoiding nutritional deficiencies and establishing an adequate dietary intake is a key factor in preventing atrophy, infection, and a weakened immune system5. Supplements are a great way to ensure ALS patients are getting the appropriate vitamins, minerals and nutrients that they need. Antioxidants and detoxifiers are equally important for preventing cell damage from oxidation and free radicals. There are various supplements that are recommended for patients with ALS. Some of the more notable ones are: Vitamin E and C, Vitamin B-complex, AAKG, GABA, Ubiquinol, Niacin, Vitamin D, CoQ10, Calcium, Magnesium, Selenium, Zinc, and fish oil2. These supplements provide important benefits such as energy production, detoxification, maintaining bone and muscle mass, improving cellular and mitochondrial function, and more. You can find many of these supplements as well as easy to take ALS Neuro-Health Protocol nutritional bundles at https://www.simplesanutrition.com/neuro-health/.
- 5. Emotional Support –
The challenges of ALS not only affect the body, but also take a heavy toll on mental and emotional health. The stress of coping with a debilitating disease is difficult to manage. Support from family and caregivers is essential to emotional well-being. For help with managing stress, depression or anxiety it can be very helpful to work with a therapist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. This discipline works with patients by emphasizing the importance of underlying thoughts in determining how we feel and act6. There are also various support groups and forums where you can speak to others in similar circumstances. You can visit alsforums.com and alsnewstoday.com/forums/ to connect with the ALS community. The ALS Association also offers expert local emotional support through its local chapters.
- 6. Sleep and Rest –
PALS often report difficulty in managing constant exhaustion caused by the inability to get restful sleep. The lack of sleep can add another layer of stress to the already difficult effects of ALS. To prevent this restless cycle, there’re some tips to help you secure better sleep, such as: being active during the day, aromatherapy, eating foods that increase serotonin and melatonin, taking magnesium, adhering to a sleep schedule, taking a warm bath, exercise, meditation, reading, and taking natural, sleep-inducing herbs. Other remedies for trouble sleeping due to pain include muscle rubs using lavender and peppermint oils, massage therapy and acupuncture, Epsom salt baths, and foam roller exercises, with the approval of a physical therapist. New remedies such as Full Spectrum Hemp-Oil (with CBD) show promise in soothing and calming patients and getting them into a more restful mindset.
This article is not intended to be an all-encompassing or exhaustive list of suggestions to help you manage your ALS. Rather, the above recommendations serve to provide a few simple, common sense and effective ways to tweak your daily routine. Make some or all of these changes and introduce new habits at a rate that is comfortable for you. Many of these tips can be easily implemented and may provide significant improvements in the lives of those with ALS and their caretakers. Stay strong!
- Levy, Jillian. “Lou Gehrig’s Disease (+ 6 Ways to Help Manage ALS Symptoms).” Dr. Axe Food is Medicine, 1 Feb. 2018, https://draxe.com/health/lou-gehrigs-disease/.
- Tedone M.D., V.M., Tedone-Gage, D., & Tedone, C. The Deanna Protocol Hope for ALS and Other Neurological Conditions. Tampa: Paradies/ Inspire, LLC, 2015. Print.
- Andrew J Lui, Nancy N Byl. A Systematic Review of the Effect of Moderate Intensity Exercise on Function and Disease Progression in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. JNPT Vol 33, June 2009 p68-87.
- Arbesman, Marian; Sheard, Kendra. “Systematic Review of the Effectiveness of Occupational Therapy–Related Interventions for People With Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.” AJOT, Jan. 2014, https://draxe.com/lou-gehrigs-disease/..
- Rosenfeld, Jeffrey, and Amy Ellis. “Nutrition and Dietary Supplements in Motor Neuron Disease.” Physical medicine and rehabilitation clinics of North America 19.3 (2008): 573–x. PMC. Web. 4 Oct. 2018.
- Levy, Jillian. “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Benefits & Techniques.” Dr. Axe Food is Medicine, 30 Apr. 2018, https://draxe.com/health/cognitive-behavioral-therapy/.
- ALS Association, https://www.als.org/blog/its-national-nutrition-month-tips-you-need-know-help-maintain-good-nutrition-while-living-als