The Missing Link: Are Lyme Disease and Mold Illness A Root Cause Of ALS?

ALS symptoms in Women

In this blog you will learn about ALS symptoms in women and men.

Wow, it’s a shock that the key root causes of ALS are not being looked at. The word needs to be spread on this information. Often the root causes of Lou Gehrig Disease ALS are not discovered until autopsy!

In this blog, you will learn:

  • How ALS can stem from an infection
  • The evidence indicating that an underlying infection, Lyme disease or mold illness can be the root cause of ALS
  • How we can address and improve ALS using a Functional Medicine approach to these infections

Do you suffer from muscle weakness or stiffness? Do you have ALS and struggle to perform normal daily activities? Then this blog is for you, as we present one possible missing link to treating ALS. Please read on for the details! 

The key to ALS treatment may be an individual approach using nutrition, lifestyle and exercise. If you want to improve your quality of life, you need a customized approach to address your unique needs. Our functional medicine clinic can help you. Look into our functional medicine clinic here

** Please note: If you want the longer, more detailed version of this article, then please click here **

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ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It is also sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the baseball player who was diagnosed with it in the 1940’s. The famous physicist Stephen Hawking also had ALS.

ALS Facts (Nat’l Org for Rare Disorders, 2021):

  • ALS is a rare disorder that develops in 1.5-3 people per 100,000 every year in North America and Europe.
  • Approximately 30,000 people are affected in the US, with approx. 5,000 new cases diagnosed each year.
  • Approximately 10% of all cases of ALS are hereditary.
  • ALS affects men more than women, with 60% of affected individuals being male.
  • ALS is a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
  • It is a motor neuron disease, in which motor neurons gradually deteriorate and die.

Motor neurons are a type of brain cell located within the spinal cord and the brain. Motor neurons are responsible for carrying signals away from the central nervous system towards muscles to cause movement.

As motor neurons deteriorate, they stop sending messages to the muscles and the muscles gradually weaken, start to twitch and waste away. Over time, the brain loses the ability to control movement.

ALS Symptoms in Women and Men

Early ALS symptoms in women and men are muscle weakness or stiffness. Gradually all muscles are affected. The patient loses strength and the ability to speak, eat, move and eventually breathe.

ALS is fatal. ALS causes respiratory failure within 3 – 5 years from when symptoms appear. 10% of people with ALS survive for 10 or more years (Nat’l Institute of Health, 2021). Stephen Hawking lived for more than 50 years after he was diagnosed.

In conventional medicine, there is currently no known cure to stop or reverse ALS (Nat’l Institute of Health, 2021).

What is the Cause of ALS?

The cause of ALS is not known. As always, genetics and epigenetics are both involved. It is thought that environmental factors; exposure to toxic or infectious agents, viruses, physical trauma or diet, may be involved. Exposure to toxins during warfare, or strenuous physical activity, are possible reasons why some veterans and athletes may be at increased risk of developing ALS (Nat’l Institute of Health, 2021).

In ALS, various physiological mechanisms malfunction to cause symptoms. These issues lead to damage and death of motor neurons and the symptoms of ALS (Nat’l Org for Rare Disorders, 2021).

Genetics may predispose someone to ALS (Alonso R, 2019):

  • Many genes are involved in the pathology of ALS.
  • Mutations in over 25 genes have been identified to play a role.
  • This genetic predisposition to ALS could be related to susceptibility to microbial infection.
  • Microbial infection occurs in the central nervous system (CNS) of ALS patients. Amyloid plaques have been found in the CNS of ALS patients.
  • Amyloid is a strong antifungal and antibacterial agent that fights infection. Amyloid is present in other neurodegenerative diseases, especially in the brain in Alzheimer’s (see our article here).

Microbial infections are thought to stimulate the immune response and trigger the production of amyloid peptide. The infection could trigger a stress response in neural cells, leading to cell death (Alonso R, 2019).

How are ALS & Mold Linked?

Mold is a type of fungus. Fungal toxins, or mold, produce mycotoxins (mold toxins). Fungal infections have been found in the central nervous system of ALS patients (Alonso R, 2015). This is because some types of pathogenic fungi sequester in tissue and release toxins that target and destroy CNS cells (Purzycki CB, 2010).

The dominant theory used to be that ALS was due to a poison. In looking for a specific poison, mycotoxins (mold toxins) were found (Reid, 2021). Mycotoxins may be able to explain the entire pathology in ALS (Reid, 2021).

Fungal infections are similar to neurodegenerative disease. They are usually chronic and progressive if untreated (Alonso R, 2015). The fungal pathogens in the CNS can provoke chronic inflammation, as well as a constant production of toxic microbial products (Purzycki CB, 2010). Both inflammation and microbial products can lead to neuronal degeneration and death (Alonso R, 2015).

Mycotoxins can cross the blood-brain barrier and directly damage nerve cells in the brain (Purzycki CB, 2010).

Differences in the types of mycotoxins could lead to different pathologies (Alonso R, 2015).

If different neurodegenerative diseases are caused by fungal infections, then they will share several similarities (Alonso R, 2015). We have written about and established evidence that mold, or a fungal infection, may be the root cause of Alzheimer’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.

In the case of ALS, fungal proteins and DNA have been found both in the CSF, the CNS and brain samples of ALS patients (French PW, 2019). Fungal infection has even been found in some neurons of the CNS in some ALS patients. Test results identify several different fungal species (Alonso R, 2015).

A low burden of infection, and the fact that the fungal material is very small, explains why it can be so difficult to detect infection in ALS (Alonso R, 2015).

ALS presents differently in each patient and clinical symptoms can vary widely (Alonso R, 2015). ALS can progress very quickly in some people, who die within one year from diagnosis. Other patients can survive several years after the onset of clinical symptoms. The presence of different fungal species in each patient may account for these differences (Alonso R, 2015).

Grass or soil-associated fungal infections have long been suspected to play a role in ALS (French PW, 2019). Clusters of ALS have been reported in soccer players, natives of Guam and farmers (French PW, 2019). Grass-associated fungi are known to produce a range of neurotoxins (French PW, 2019).

If a fungal infection can be confirmed as a root cause of ALS, then there is a straightforward treatment strategy for this fatal and previously incurable disease (French PW, 2019). ALS patients would likely benefit from antifungal therapies (Alonso R, 2015).

Can Bacteria be a Cause of ALS?

It is likely that various microbial infections, which vary from patient to patient, are involved in ALS (Alonso R, 2019). This would explain why symptom severity and survival time can vary widely. Overlapping symptoms of different neurodegenerative diseases can be caused by an ever-changing mixture of microbial infections (Alonso R, 2019)

Signs of bacterial infection have been found in neural tissue in ALS patients. This shows the possibility of multiple microbial infections in the CNS of these patients. Different kinds of bacterial species can colonize the CNS and cause symptoms (Alonso R, 2019).

Is Lyme a Root Cause of ALS?

The research on Lyme and ALS is somewhat conflicting. Some research says ALS can be caused by Lyme. Other sources strongly disagree with this conclusion. It is difficult to find a clear-cut answer to this question.

What is clear is that the diagnosis of Lyme disease can be very challenging. Lyme can mimic neurological disorders. It can mimic motor neuron disease and look like ALS (Burakgazi, 2014).

Careful examination is required to avoid an incorrect diagnosis (Burakgazi, 2014). Neuroborreliosis, a Borrelia infection of the brain, should certainly be considered in ALS (Wirsching I, 2019).

Borrelia burgdorferi is a bacterial species of the Borrelia spirochete. It causes Lyme disease and is transmitted to humans by infected ticks.

Borrelia burgdorferi may directly damage neurons and neural structures (Wirsching I, 2019). It may trigger autoimmune processes (Wirsching I, 2019).

There are cases of patients with motor neuron issues caused by neuroborreliosis: (Wirsching I, 2019)

  • A 63-year-old man was thought to have ALS (Wirsching I, 2019). However, CSF analysis showed it was actually neuroborreliosis. The patient had typical manifestations of motor neuron disease, but it was found to be acute neuroborreliosis (Wirsching I, 2019).
  • A 61-year-old woman was thought to have motor neuron disease (Hänsel Y, 1995). But further testing indicated chronic infection from Borrelia burgdorferi. Symptoms improved after antibiotics. The initial diagnosis of ALS was revised to chronic neuroborreliosis (Hänsel Y, 1995).

In the case of neuroborreliosis, antibiotics treatment, or another Lyme protocol, can resolve or improve symptoms. In regions where Lyme disease is common, neuroborreliosis should be checked for and excluded in all neurological cases (De Cauwer H, 2009).

In Conclusion

The good news is that patients with ALS may not necessarily have to wait for new treatments or new medications to be discovered. They can simply start treatment for mold illness, Lyme disease or other antimicrobial protocols. In many cases, this would improve symptoms, and may even reverse ALS.

We regularly treat and resolve Lyme, mold and chronic microbial infections in patients of our Functional Medicine clinic. We have expertise in treating a range of infections, that could be causing ALS, or other neurodegenerative diseases.

** Please stay tuned for our next Blog!  **

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Dr. Miles has spoken for the following organizations:

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