Immune System & Anti-Inflammatories
The supplements in this list are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, but many also have strong antioxidant capabilities as well. In addition to these supplements, there are plenty of foods that also help to reduce inflammation. Eating a healthy diet low in sugars and free of processed foods with plenty of fruits and vegetables will assist in reducing inflammation. Keeping on the weight for those of us with ALS is also important to slow disease progression so plenty of healthy fats like those that come from coconut oil, organic butter, and avocados are recommended. Factors like getting a good amount of sleep and keeping stress levels as low as possible are important as well.
Turmeric is a spice that gives curry its yellow color and has been used in India for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal herb. The most powerful active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin, an incredibly potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Turmeric only contains about 3% curcumin by weight, but there are nutritional supplements that are pure curcumin. The only downside to these is that curcumin is poorly absorbed in the bloodstream, but if you get a curcumin supplement that also contains bioperine (pepper extract) absorption is increased by 2000%! In ALS, curcumin may be of benefit in reducing free radical damage and by decreasing the protein clumping in motor neurons that has shown to be a damaging factor, but more research needs to be done on this. There is advantage to taking turmeric by itself in terms of overall anti-inflammatory benefits, and extracted curcumin seems to be more powerful in terms of its antioxidant capabilities.
Tart Cherry (juice or extract):
Tart cherries have a high level of anthocyanins, a type of flavanoid with strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions. They are also rich in nutrients and have far lower in sugar content than traditional cherries. Studies show that tart cherry reduces symptoms of arthritis and gout, fights free radicals, and reduces damage caused by various diseases and environmental toxins. While tart cherry juice may be slightly more potent it has been shown that tart cherry extracts in capsule form retain their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities remarkably well. I take tart cherry capsules every day and absolutely love them!
Whenever there is tissue damage or a threat to the body the immune system activates and creates inflammation. This is a process that is helpful to allow for healing in the short term, but if the immune system perceives threats over a longer period of time it can get stuck in “attack” mode creating a state of chronic inflammation that is harmful to the body.
In ALS it appears that the loss of motor neurons and other aggravating factors activates the immune system which then stays activated contributing to an inflammatory state. A prolonged immune system response like this not only ends up harming the body, but leaves the immune system weaker overall because it is constantly working and loses effectiveness over time. We are then left in a challenging situation in which the immune system is over-worked, under-effective, and also contributing to harmful inflammation.
Immune modulating components are a natural way to support the immune system in returning to a state of balance. They are types of herbs known to be adaptogenic, meaning that they are able to stimulate the immune system where it is needed, and to reduce the immune response where it is out of control or harmful. I have found the herbs in this section to be incredibly flexible in their ability to bring my immune system back into balance, while strengthening it in a healthy and harmonized way. Taking natural anti-inflammatory supplements has also assisted me in reducing chronic inflammation and I hope that some of these suggestions are helpful to you.
Immune System Supplements
I’d like to note that some of the most popular adaptogenic herbs to assist in regulating the immune system are mushrooms like chaga and reishi. They are not mentioned here because mushrooms contain high levels of free glutamate, a neurotransmitter that can be damaging to ALS patients. I personally have a sensitivity to foods and supplements with high levels of glutamate and do my best to avoid them, but I don't know if this will be the case with all ALS patients. Now that I have all that aside, on to the immune system supplements!
Probiotics are friendly, live bacteria that are good for the digestive and immune systems. Probiotics can be taken as a nutritional supplement in which case some of the most powerful you can find are 50 billion CFU (colony forming units), but many fermented foods also contain natural probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, and cultured vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi. It seems that patients with ALS may tend to have a low diversity of beneficial gut bacteria, and probiotics could be a way to help. In addition, research is increasingly finding a link between probiotics in the gut and mental health.
Autoimmune-X is an all natural and herbal extract of immune modulating components from cultured 20th generation non-GMO aloe plants. This is not aloe vera as most understand aloe, but a botanical that has been bred to produce immune modulating components in extremely high quality and quantity.
Out of all the supplements that I have taken to this point other than magnesium and SAMe perhaps, autoimmune-X has been the most beneficial. I take most supplements with the hope that they are doing good things within my body, but in truth I rarely know for sure. This is because the effects are either not incredibly potent or because the subtle work they are doing in my body is happening beneath my conscious awareness. From day one autoimmune-X was different. I could feel things moving in my stomach as the detoxification began. The brain fog that I had been noticing since my ALS symptoms started actually began to improve over a period of weeks and months of using this supplement. My hunger increased as well, as if my body was needing more fuel for the work it was doing. At the time of writing this I have been taking autoimmune-X for nearly eight months. I am confident that it has slowed the physical progression of ALS for me, and I don’t say that lightly.
I want to talk about a few experiences with this supplement that I hope are helpful to you. First of all, the recommended daily dosage of this supplement is eight capsules per day. I myself have never been able to get to this dosage given the intensity of the detoxification symptoms if I take too much. This includes gastrointestinal rumblings, burping and farting, and aching in my kidneys. If I take too high of a dose it feels as if my kidneys and body are struggling to process all that autoimmune-X is assisting in removing, and I have even had to take a break from using the supplement to let my body catch up at times. I have found it helpful to be take herbal supplements that benefit my kidneys alongside this supplement, and you can find some recommendations for these in the antioxidants section of this website if you have a similar issue. I know that autoimmune-X isn’t cheap, but if I could only choose a few supplements to take this would undoubtedly be one of them.
Panax ginseng is an adaptogenic root that has been prized in herbal medicine for thousands of years as a general curative tonic. It grows in Korea, China, and Russia and is more potent than American ginseng due to its higher content of ginsenosides, the natural plant compounds which provide its health benefits. Panax ginseng is known for stimulating cellular energy, increasing circulation, and down-regulating overactive stress response within the body.
Evidence is also accumulating on the physiological and pharmacological effects of panax ginseng on neurodegenerative diseases. The possible protective mechanisms include anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiapoptotic, and immune regulating activities. No human studies that I am aware of have been done on ALS patients, but I did find a study in which panax ginseng was used on ALS mice with the SOD mutation. It was shown that ginseng powder significantly delayed onset of signs of motor impairment and prolonged their survival. It is important to keep in mind with any studies on mice that results may not necessarily translate into human benefit but I have used this supplement on and off for some time and my body seems to like it.