Diet and Environment
The body is going through a lot when you are living with ALS and we can help it out by eating healthy food, making sure we have clean drinking water, and keeping our environment free of toxins. In this section I explain why I believe each of these areas are important and how they can help to ease the strain on our bodies while giving them the best chance to heal.
As you will hear me mention several times on this website, what we eat and put into our bodies is important. In my journey I have found it best to avoid eating too many processed foods (foods with preservatives and artificial ingredients) and to only eat fresh, natural foods when I am able. These foods are giving my body plenty of nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants while allowing me to avoid much of the 'junk' that is difficult for it to process. Going organic with all of my fruits and vegetables has been important, and my brain and body have benefited from regular intake of healthy fats like those that come from coconut oil, avocado, and organic butter. These healthy fats are not only good for my brain and the myelin sheath protecting my neurons but are also helping me to maintain my body weight which is important for those of us with ALS.
I have benefited greatly from reducing my intake of foods that have high levels of glutamate, which actually causes my body and muscles to feel noticeably weaker after consumption. Glutamate is known as an excitotoxin, which means that too much of it is actually toxic within the brain. Research on ALS patients indicates that they have high levels of glutamate and that this is a contributing factor to the damage that is being caused to motor neurons. Interestingly the first drug approved by the FDA to slow progression of ALS called riluzole works by blocking glutamate in the brain, so I believe it is important to limit how much dietary glutamate we are getting as well.
You may have heard of MSG (monosodium glutamate,) which is the most harmful form of glutamate, but many natural foods can also have high levels. Here is an informational resource on glutamate with a list of some dietary sources if you are interested in learning more.
I have benefited from being (mostly) gluten-free and dairy-free, as my body responds negatively to both gluten and too much calcium. This may paint me as a bit of a freak when it comes to dietary restrictions but hey, to each his (or her) own! Whatever works as far as diet goes and makes the body feel good is on the right track. The bottom line is to make your diet as clean and pure as it can be, and to listen to your body's needs and wants. Your body will appreciate getting only good clean fuel and will respond positively as a result.
It is common sense that we need to be eating good food, but sometimes it is easy to forget about our drinking water. Just think about how much water we are putting into our bodies on a regular basis. I don't know about you but I tend to drink alot! For most people drinking tap water might be fine but I'm always weary of what might be in mine. As a result I purchased an under
sink reverse osmosis water filtration system on Amazon for roughly 200 to 300 bucks. If this is too much for your budget getting one of the water filtration pitchers at your local Target or Walmart is a good investment. Knowing that I'm getting clean water in addition to clean food gives me the peace of mind that what I'm putting into my body is pure. Plus, filtered water tastes a whole lot better.
Reducing Toxic Exposure
When you’re living with ALS or any other chronic condition, chances are your immune system is compromised and your body's detox organs may also be struggling. We want as few chemicals as possible in our environment and to eliminate potential sources of toxic exposure before they can begin to be a problem.
If you are like me, in your time living with ALS you may have become sensitive to things that other people are not. I am now sensitive to many airborne chemicals like air fresheners, fabric softeners, nail polish, colognes and perfumes when I wasn't before. As a result I try to stay clear of them and we wash my clothes in scent-free laundry detergent and don't use fabric softeners (which seem to aggravate my system the most.)
We have found an essential oil diffuser to be a great-smelling alternative to chemical scents and scented candles. Air purifiers can also be great way to keep the air in your home clean, and many indoor plants like peace lily purify the air as well!
I have found that reducing toxic exposure by using only BPA free plastics is helpful, and we try to use alternatives to plastics where possible. Never microwave anything in a plastic container if you can avoid it, and be aware that canned foods are also lined with BPAs so use fresh fruit or frozen vegetables instead if you are able.
When it comes to reducing toxic exposure it may not be necessary to go overboard, but just use common sense in making sure you aren't unnecessarily exposing yourself. Again, if you are living with ALS your body is likely struggling under an intense burden and by being proactive with healthy eating and by ensuring you have clean drinking water and a toxin free environment we are really helping the body out.