An Integrative Approach to Neurodegenerative Conditions

A naturopathic approach can often slow down the progression of the neuronal degeneration.

In the August 2016 Focus Newsletter, we discussed groundbreaking research on high-dose biotin (a B-vitamin), which has been able to halt progression, or least help with
symptoms, in primary progressive and secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) patients.

I was delighted to read this powerful new research, as it confirms what I have experienced as a naturopathic physician: the stunning ability of nutrients and botanicals, detoxification, dietary and lifestyle changes to impact refractory neurodegenerative disorders (ND). Indeed, our conversation in this issue with a Yale-trained neurologist who specializes in the treatment of MS also reinforces this. Here, I follow up with my own approach for testing and treating ND.

In naturopathic philosophy, we are taught the “therapeutic order.” This entails using the least invasive, least aggressive treatments first, while utilizing drugs and surgery when pertinent. I will outline how I approach tough cases given this philosophy. Note, ND is an umbrella term for a range of conditions which primarily affect the neurons in the human brain, but can also affect the spinal cord1 and peripheral nerves. ND‘s are thought to be incurable and debilitating conditions that result in progressive degeneration and/or death of nerve cells. For simplicity and space limitations, I will not directly write about my approach to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other health concerns regarding cognitive decline, although, some of my suggestions below will help.

A naturopathic approach can often slow down the progression of the neuronal
degeneration, as well as strengthen the central and peripheral nervous systems, decrease oxidative stress4 and optimize mitochondrial function.

Toxic Exposures: The First Place to Look

First and foremost, I investigate the patient’s history of past and current toxic exposures. The link between Parkinson’s disease (PD) and toxicant exposures is well established. The link between heavy metals and multiple sclerosis (MS) is also highly suggestive. Environmental exposures have also been implicated in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This certainly doesn’t mean everyone that has been exposed to an inordinate amount of toxicants will develop ND. Genetic vulnerability is always at play. The very apt saying applies: “Genetics loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger.”