Actually we do know quite a bit about ALS

Rest in Peace, and condolences for families and friends of patients who died due to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

This post was a follow up to: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and CBD Receptors.

The Life Extension Foundation is a non-profit organization focused on research into preventative health strategies. The company does sell supplements, books, and a few other products but it also helps fund research in preventative health care. The foundation publishes an academic type journal and an article from the journal is available on their website which provides a review of the current theories and research available regarding Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). [1]

The article ends with a quote or two about the limited effectiveness and negative side effects associated with the medication that is currently prescribed for ALS patients. The sad point is that at least then the doctor can feel like they provided a service by writing a prescription but if it doesn’t really help slow progress of the disease and adds negative side effects then is that prescribing doctor really “Doing no harm.“?

The article doesn’t provide vitamin or supplement recommendations or provide other preventative guidance. It is a review of current research which did provide enough information to suggest to me several strategies that might help me reduce my risk of developing ALS. I’m motivated because I fall into one of the ‘you may be at more risk for ALS if you also have this condition’ categories.

Studies suggest that ALS is more associated with some autoimmune and chronic infectious diseases and with some nutrient deficiencies or imbalances and with exposure to some environmental toxins.

A few points gleaned from the article that might help me reduce my risk of developing ALS:

  1. Avoid mercury, lead, aluminum, manganese and other heavy metal toxins.
  2. Be careful if working with herbicides and pesticides to reduce exposure.
  3. Have adequate intake of calcium and magnesium – in balance. Excess calcium and too little magnesium may increase degenerative calcification of the central nervous system.
  4. Avoid excess intake of free glutamates. There are many sources of free glutamates in the diet as they are used as flavoring agents. MSG is one better known example. *The article doesn’t recommend avoiding glutamates, it mentions that ALS is associated with glutamate toxicity. One study found plasma levels of glutamate to be significantly elevated in ALS patients compared to controls (Plaitakis et al, 1993). One theory suggests that there may be a glutamate transport problem that allows the elevated levels to accumulate. [1] *Having adequate zinc and magnesium levels helps the cells control intracellular glutamate levels. [3], magnesium also helps control transmembrane movement of the other electrolytes: calcium, sodium and potassium. [4]
    ALS is highly linked with glutamate. One proposed mechanism is a defective glutamate transport system that permits neurotoxic levels to build up (Onion 1998). A study showed significant elevations (by about 70%) of plasma levels of glutamate in ALS patients as compared to controls (Plaitakis et al. 1993). – See more at:
    ALS is highly linked with glutamate. One proposed mechanism is a defective glutamate transport system that permits neurotoxic levels to build up (Onion 1998). A study showed significant elevations (by about 70%) of plasma levels of glutamate in ALS patients as compared to controls (Plaitakis et al. 1993). – See more at:
  5. Have adequate but not excessive intake of selenium as it helps the body remove mercury. Two Brazil nuts per day provide about 200 micrograms of selenium which is the recommended daily goal. Excess selenium can cause toxicity symptoms so be careful not to take supplemental one-a-day or other mixtures that contain selenium in addition to taking selenium as an individual supplement or in addition to eating Brazil nuts regularly. Toxicity wouldn’t occur in a few days but might develop if multiple sources were eaten over a longer time period.
  6. Growth factor deficiency may be involved in development of ALS. Touch is important for stimulating human growth factor. Therapy pets and massage may also help stimulate internal production of human growth factor. *The article doesn’t mention the therapeutic benefits of touch. It only mentions that reduced growth factors are an underlying problem associated with ALS and pharmaceutical sources have been found helpful for slowing progress of the disease in some (but not all) studies. However touch can also help stimulate innate production of growth factors without needing a pharmaceutical company. [2]
  7. Spinal compression may increase risks of a similar nerve degeneration problem that can resemble ALS so /speculative/ regular exercise such as swimming might help or regular use of an inversion board at a gentle 10 degree slope might help relieve spinal pressure. /Disclosure, I do use an inversion board and find it helpful for headache and back problems but they can be dangerous so please seek individual guidance regarding their use./
  8. Some infections with long term chronic phases are associated with ALS type symptoms including Lyme’s disease, poliomyelitis, HIV/AIDs, and tertiary syphilis.
  9. Some endocrine and autoimmune diseases such as the hyperthyroid condition Grave’s disease and  Diabetic Amyotrophy are associated with ALS risk. Maintaining lower thyroid levels and avoiding thyrotoxicosis may help reduce risk of developing ALS.
  10. Some other conditions associated with ALS like problems include the neurological diseases: Pick’s Disease and Kennedy’s Syndrome; and the genetic enzyme disorders: Superoxide Dismutase, Hexosaminidase A, and Alpha-Glucosidase.
  11. If you missed the previous post – adequate cannabinoids/phospholipids are an important factor in protecting against ALS. A list of legal food sources of cannabinoids or phospholipids is included, see: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and CBD Receptors.
  1. Lyme disease and poliomyelitis
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Amyotrophic Lateral Scleros

/Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes and is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see an health professional for individual health care purposes./

Magnesium might help protect against beta amyloid placques

Working on experimental medications for a prenatal population places the infants at risk in addition to the female patients. In my professional experience instructing clients about raw pumpkin seeds and the DASH diet frequently helped prevent preeclampsia or high blood pressure problems from reoccurring for patients with a history of having had the problem during a previous pregnancy. Pumpkin seed kernels are similar to sunflower seeds, both are good sources of magnesium and many other nutrients. The DASH diet promotes eating a serving of nuts, seeds or beans daily as a source of magnesium. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. [1]

Additional note: *Raw pumpkin seeds were my recommendation because the toasted salted ones can be very salty which would dilute the amount of magnesium naturally available in the seed compared to the large amount of sodium available from the added salt. Excess sodium can cause increased urinary losses of magnesium in the average person and may increase risk of high blood pressure in people who are salt sensitive. [5]

In a recent study conducted in 19 hypertensive patients after 2 months of adherence to a low (50 mmol/d) and high (200 mmol/d) sodium intake, the investigators observed an increase in intracellular (erythrocyte) calcium and sodium concentrations and a reduction in magnesium concentration during salt loading, primarily in salt-sensitive subjects.82 [5]

Nutritional strategies recommended to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease include increasing intake of magnesium. Research has found that low levels of magnesium promoted build up of  beta amyloid protein while high levels of magnesium promoted breakdown of the misshapen proteins.

“Lab studies show that magnesium modulates enzymes involved in amyloid beta production; at low levels, magnesium favors amyloid beta buildup, while at higher levels it favors amyloid beta breakdown.101,102″ [2]

That article also contains good news for coffee drinkers; drinking 3 to 5 cups of caffeinated coffee per day is associated with reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The article suggests that the caffeine content itself seems to provide the protective effects. [2] Coffee is also a good source of magnesium, perhaps that is a coincidence. However three to five cups of coffee is more than is recommended during pregnancy; one cup per day is likely safe while six cups of coffee per day may be harmful for pregnancy. The article also recommends blueberries and curcumin (found in turmeric which is commonly used in mustard and in curry powder) which would be safe during pregnancy.

The misshapen proteins have a protective effect against bacteria and the yeast Candida albicans so a chronic lowgrade infection may be an underlying cause of the accumulation of beta amyloid placques. [3] [4]

/Disclaimer: This information is for educational or entertainment purposes, see a health professional for individual medical guidance./

Calcium sparklets, TRPV channels and vanilla

     Calcium sparklets are not a good thing, not in excess at least. This is just a few interesting articles that have TRPV channels in common. The calcium channels cause problems in a variety of ways for some people. Identifying who is at risk for problems with fluid balance could help prevent the chronic degenerative changes that can result from electrolyte imbalance. (This post led to parts of this webpage: Relaxation & Stress)
     I was amused when the search term ‘sparklets’ turned up something pertinent to my field of interest. TRPV channels and vanilloid receptors with overactive calcium flow can increase pain and other types of muscle and nerve signals.

Calcium sparklets are not a type of chewing gum. They are a sudden increase in flow of calcium through certain calcium channels in vascular tissue. A specific chemical trigger called protein kinase Calpha (PKCalpha) was found to signal L type calcium channels into increased calcium flow [3]. The sparklets occurred in diabetic vascular tissue following high blood sugar levels [2]. A cooperative action taking place with as few as three calcium channels needing to be open for maximal vasodilation to occur [1].
TRPV4 are a type of vanilloid receptor. Loss of function due to genetic difference has been associated with hyponatremia, low sodium blood levels. [6]

“TRPV4 is activated by hypotonicity in vitro, and perturbations of even a few mOsmol/kg H2O were sufficient to achieve this effect (5–7); such exquisite sensitivity closely parallels the in vivo mechanism whereby a change of only a few mOsmol/kg H2O influences release of arginine vasopressin. In rodents, TRPV4 is expressed in the blood–brain barrier-deficient central osmosensing nuclei (5, 35), and targeted deletion of the TRPV4 gene gives rise to aberrant osmoregulation in murine models (20, 21).” [6]

     Time to bake something with vanilla. The above paragraph’s reference to a blood-brain barrier deficiency having a genetic component suggests that susceptibility to headaches also could have a genetic component. The change in osmoregulation means that membranes could be more resistant to fluid and particles crossing or more open and barrierless (and  prone to get migraines). The problem could combine a deficiency in ability to transport needed nutrients into the cell with an increase in leakiness of important things out of or into the cell. The lack of nutrients like magnesium would further reduce the calcium channel blocking potential of the cell.
     So is vanilla something that some people genetically need more of? good question. And the bigger bell ringing loud was the risk of hyponatremia means that a low salt diet could lead to even lower levels of sodium in the blood.
     TRPV receptors have to do with pain control as well as flow of fluid and electrolytes (osmoregulation). Vanillin receptors can have a calming effect on the body and sooth pain. Baked goods with vanilla have a little extra besides love soothing the body. (So does hot pepper though – capsaicin).

Magnesium flow through the proton gates that the TRPV group of receptors control is what helps reduce  pain (when there is enough magnesium) and what causes pain signals when there isn’t enough to protect the cell interior from calcium entry. Calcium signals overwork, which leads to pain.
Calcium channel blocker medications are trying to close the gates and keep the calcium out – magnesium would be super delighted to do that if enough were being absorbed from the intestines (too full of calcium and active hormone D3).

     A study on the use of magnesium with opioid pain killers demonstrated the power of magnesium’s effect on for helping reduce diabetic pain. Diabetics normally do not find pain relief from opioids but when magnesium was given in advance the pain killer worked – and the pain killing effect continued for three days after the opioid medication effect would have worn off. The research discussion seemed to focus on using 30 mg with IVs of  morphine or other opioid and didn’t not address the fact that the 300 mg dose had reduced pain on its own, without opioid medication. [18]
  • by Sonkusare SK et al, Elementary Ca2+ signals through endothelial TRPV4 channels regulate vascular function. Science. 2012 May 4;336(6081):597-601. []
  • Calcium and diabetic vascular dysfunction, Focus on “Elevated Ca2+sparklet activity during acute hyperglycemia and diabetes in cerebral arterial smooth muscle cells,  by Katherine M. Dunn, KM and Mark T. Nelson (11/11/09 Am J Physiol Cell PhysiolFebruary 1, 2010 vol. 298 no. 2 C203-C205) “This report is also the first to describe a molecular mechanism by which hyperglycemia produces increased [Ca2+]in VSM and suggests that this mechanism of Ca2+ sparklet activation may be uniquely initiated by hyperglycemia.”    [ article]
  • Article by Amberg GC et al “Calcium sparklets regulate local and global calcium in murine arterial smooth muscle” J Physiol. 2007 Feb 15;579(Pt 1):187-201. Epub 2006 Dec 7. [Free article]
  • The first three are from a search for ‘sparkles’ in pubmed, no sparkles-but autosuggester came up with ‘calcium sparklet’ and the whole list looks interesting: []-Truth can be stranger than fiction.

4. A different search ‘magnesium deficiency hyperglycemia‘ provided a summary worth reading :  Magnesium and Potassium in Lone Atrial Fibrillation, by Patrick Chambers, MD, pdf file: [] *** this needs to be added to the IoM 1997 report on magnesium. Lefthandedness section near the bottom notes an increase calcium flow across cell membranes in left handers. A genetic difference that can lead to an increase in the isoprenoid pathway and inhibition of Na/K pumps in the membranes is suggested to occur in some left handed people. The difference can lead to an increased need for magnesium.

5. Reminder – vascular calcification is somewhat reversible and a simple way to start is to add less by limiting the amount of calcium taken in daily. Two servings a day of calcium rich foods is adequate for most people; there is also calcium in smaller amounts in many other foods too. Calcification of Soft Tissue, hardening organs and softening bones (post, 8/19/11 )

6. A loss-of-function nonsynonymous polymorphism in the osmoregulatory TRPV4 gene is associated with human hyponatremia, by Wei Tian, et al []

7. Physiology and Pharmacology of the Vanilloid Receptor, by Angel Messeguer, Rose Planells-Cases, and Anton Ferrer-Montiel (Curr. Neuropharmacol., 2006 January: 4(1) : 1-15) [link]

Excerpt:  In addition to the contribution of the vanilloid receptor as a target of the neurogenic inflammation underlying different diseases, TRPV1 is gaining interest for the treatment of neuropathic, postoperative and chronic pain and, recently, for the therapy of epithelial disorders. Thus, for instance, topical capsaicin or resiniferotoxin have been used in postherpetic neuralgia, diabetic neuropathy, postmastectomy pain and arthritis [64,103]. Recently, TRPV1 has been clearly validated as a key target for management of chronic pain in bone cancer [42]. As a result, the development of specific TRPV1 antagonists is a central focus of current drug discovery

***antagonist equals block – the vanilloid receptors are also involved in soothing – feed and educate the receptors because they all serve multiple purposes. Pain has a purpose – to signal that something is wrong. Masking pain with antagonists that deaden a function – to signal a problem – was a very disappointing climax to that paragraph. TRPV1 receptors and all the rest of the gang are very exciting – let’s not waste more money and time inventing synthetic antagonists to a message system that is very intertwined in controlling gates and flow of substance. the pain is there for a reason – starvation – lack of building blocks – lack of function.

8. More on vanilla from “Confessions of a Cardamom Addict” blogspot – blog part one–  –blog part two – ***These cover the history, processing, environmental concerns, major botanical varieties.

18(vit D bib.). [] Magdalena Bujalska, Helena Makulska-Nowak, Stanis³aw W. Gumuka Magnesium ions and opioid agonistsin vincristine-induced neuropathy , Department of Pharmacodynamics, Medical University of Warsaw, Krakowskie Przedmieoecie 26/28, PL 00-927 Warszawa, Poland

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes. Thanks.