What is ALS?
ALS is often called Lou Gehrig's disease, in honor of the famous baseball player who had been diagnosed with it. ALS is a type of neuronal motor disease in which nerve cells gradually disintegrate.
This condition prevents neurons from receiving nutrition and ultimately causes them to disappear. The brain is unable to start and control specific muscles in the body, and voluntary movement is then lost. Those with ALS may lose the ability to move, eat, talk, or even breathe.
ALS often begins with muscular contractions and weaknesses in the extremity, or with difficulty in speech. Finally, ALS affects the control of the muscles needed to move, talk, eat, and breathe. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for ALS.
What Causes ALS?
ALS is inherited in 5 to 10% of cases, and the remaining 90-95% occur without a known cause. Several possible precursors to ALS have been studied, including:
Gene Mutation - Several genetic mutations may lead to hereditary ALS, which results in nearly the same symptoms as the non-inherited form.
Chemical Imbalance - People with ALS usually have higher than normal glutamate levels. Glutamates, used by almost all living things, assist in the biosynthesis of proteins. It is believed that too much glutamate may be toxic to nerve cells.
Disorganized immune response - Sometimes, a person's immune system may attack itself, which often leads to the death of nerve cells.
Protein manipulation - Well-controlled proteins in nerve cells can lead to a gradual accumulation of abnormal forms of these proteins in the cells, destroying the nerve cells.
While the causes of ALS remain unknown, there are two types of the disease. Sporadic and familial. According to the ALS association, sporadic ALS cases account for 90-95% of ALS cases in the United States. Familial ALS, which is inherited, makes up 5 to 10% of ALS cases in the United States. Association of ALS reports that ALS most often affects people aged between 40 and 70. The disease is 20% higher in men than in women.
The Neural Regeneration Study released an overview of the most recent findings in the use of compounds derived from cannabis for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
In the review, "Can cannabinoids be potential therapeutic agents in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis?" researchers noted that until recently, the only treatment available to patients with ALS was riluzole. However, this drug has limited therapeutic value while only moderately increasing survival. This makes riluzole more of a novel treatment, as more effective treatment options are still needed for ALS patients.
Cannabinoids, bioactive compounds of Cannabis sativa, perform their activity by binding to CB1 and CB2 receptors.
It appears that the cannabinoid system is involved in the pathology of ALS. In fact, it has been shown that the spinal cord of ALS patients is triggered by immune system cells (microglia and macrophages). This is motivated by motor neurons expressing high levels of the CB2 cannabinoid receptor.
"All of these data, therefore, show that modification of CB2-mediated processes may alter the progression of ALS and the degree to which the endocannabinoid system is potentially involved in decreasing neuroinflammation, excitotoxicity, and oxidative cell damage."
Previous studies have shown how CBD has antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective actions in ALS animal models. CBD may slow the progression of the disease and prolong survival of these animals. However, few studies have studied CBD's effect on humans with ALS, which is why it is difficult to interpret the results.
According to one observer study of patients with ALS, only 10% of those who received cannabis have shown moderate relief from several symptoms, including loss of appetite, depression, pain, and dislodge.
"In addition, spasticity is also a major problem for patients with ALS, and CBD can subjectively improve spasticity."
Researchers also noted that "There is a valid basis for suggesting the use of cannabinoid compounds in the pharmacological treatment of patients with ALS." Cannabinoids have been able to slow down ALS progress and prolong survival. Studies of CBD's neuroprotective potential for ALS were performed in animal models, though these were aimed at alleviating symptoms rather than the disease's progression.
Researchers hope scientists will continue to study how cannabinoids may be therapeutically useful for patients with ALS.
Current Treatment Options
Treatments cannot undo amyotrophic lateral sclerosis but can slow the progression of the symptoms, prevent complications, and make you more comfortable and independent.
Your team will help you choose the right treatment for you. You always have the right to select or reject any of the proposed treatments.
You may need an integrated team of trained physicians in many areas and other health professionals who will provide your care. It can prolong your survival and improve your quality of life.
- Riluzole: This medicine seems to slow the progression of certain people's illnesses, perhaps by lowering the level of a chemical messenger in the brain (glutamate), often present at higher levels in people with ALS. Riluzole is taken as a tablet and may cause side effects such as dizziness, gastrointestinal disorders, and liver function impairment.
- Edaravone: Edaravone was approved by the FDA in 2017 based on the results of a 6-month clinical trial. Results have shown that it reduces the daily reduction associated with ALS. The medicine is given as an intravenous infusion (usually 10 to 14 days in a row, once a month) and can lead to bruising, gait disturbance, rashes, swelling and shortness of breath.
Alternative treatment can be in the form of Therapies such as Breathing care, Physical therapy, Occupational therapy, Speech therapy, Nutritional support, and Psychological and social support.
CBD may help patients with ALS control symptoms related to pain, loss of appetite, depression, sleep problems, spasticity, and more. CBD combats ALS-related pain due to its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. CBD controls spasticity through because it serves as a muscle relaxant. Furthermore, due to its stimulatory effects on appetite, it may help prevent losses that may occur in later stages of ALS.
How CBD Can Treat ALS Symptoms
It is known that CBD or cannabidiol relieves acute pain and may reduce the symptoms of ALS:
- Analgesic properties: ALS is a painful disease. CBD is therefore used to relieve pain.
- Muscle Relaxation: ALS causes a powerful attack, CBD helps relax the body and releases tension.
- Bronchodilation: The CBD opens the airways and makes it easier for the patient to breathe.
- Saliva Reduction: As the disease develops, it is harder to swallow, resulting in increased saliva that develops in the mouth. Consumption of CBD prevents salivary glands from producing so much saliva.
- Stimulation of Appetite: Similarly, to THC, CBD can give the user a sense of hunger after consumption.
- Inducing sleep: CBD can cause drowsiness, which is helpful for people finding it difficult to fall asleep.
CBD relieves ALS symptoms. Although the life expectancy of people with ALS for about 2 to 5 years, several studies have shown that CBD mitigates the symptoms of this syndrome.