Foods rich in antioxidants and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) may help reduce the risk of ALS or potentially slow its progression.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a severe progressive neurological disease that causes muscle weakness and, ultimately, difficulty breathing.
Poor nutrition and weight loss are common in ALS and show a link to faster disease progression.
It’s important for people with ALS to maintain a balanced diet to support their overall well-being.
There isn’t a specific diet that can cure or halt the progression of ALS, but proper nutrition is essential for maintaining overall health and supporting the body’s functions as the disease progresses.
- Balanced diet: Aim for a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from different groups. This helps ensure that you’re getting a wide range of nutrients.
- Adequate caloric intake: Because ALS can cause your body to use more energy, eating enough calories is crucial to prevent weight loss and muscle weakening. You should eat nutrient-dense foods to meet these calorie needs.
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): Research suggests that higher levels of ALA — a polyunsaturated fatty acid in the blood — show an association with longer survival and a slower decline in functional abilities among people with ALS. Good sources of ALA include flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, flaxseed oil, chia seed oil, and canola oil.
- Include antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds:
Researchsuggests that consuming antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds such as vitamin E (nuts, seeds, spinach), n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (salmon, mackerel), and carotenoids (carrots, sweet potatoes) may lower the risk of ALS.
- Support your gut microbiome: Emerging
researchsuggests that the microbiome (the collection of microorganisms in the gut) affects neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS. Eating a balanced diet rich in fiber, probiotics, and prebiotics — such as garlic, onions, and asparagus — may indirectly support gut health. This could have potential benefits for people with ALS.
- Protein: Protein is crucial for maintaining muscle strength. Include lean protein sources such as poultry, fish, tofu, and legumes in your diet.
- Fruits and vegetables: Consume a colorful array of fruits and vegetables to provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These can help support overall health.
- Stay hydrated: Stay well-hydrated, as dehydration can worsen symptoms. If swallowing becomes difficult, consider thicker liquids or pureed foods.
While there’s no specific diet known to treat ALS, some studies have suggested that specific dietary elements might influence ALS progression.
For instance, research indicates that higher alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) levels in the blood could potentially lead to a slower decline in ALS symptoms and a lower risk of death.
But experts need further research to confirm these findings and fully understand ALA’s role in ALS progression.
Dietary sources of ALA include:
- flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
- chia seeds
- walnuts and walnut oil
- hemp seeds and hemp oil
- canola oil
- soybean oil
- green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, or collard green
- brussels sprouts
If you have ALS, here are some foods you might want to limit:
- Excessive glutamate: Some
evidencesuggests that high glutamate intake (a type of amino acid) may increase the risk of ALS. People with ALS may consider reducing foods that are exceptionally rich in glutamate, such as certain processed foods, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and foods with glutamate-containing additives.
- Saturated and trans fats: Healthcare professionals generally discourage a diet high in saturated and trans fats for overall health. Limit foods such as fried foods, processed snacks, and fatty cuts of meat.
- Processed foods: Highly processed foods often contain additives, preservatives, and unhealthy fats. You may consider reducing the consumption of processed foods.
- Excess sugar: High sugar intake can contribute to weight gain and may affect overall health. Reducing added sugars in your diet is a good practice.
- Alcohol: Chronic alcohol consumption can lead to elevated glutamate-induced excitotoxicity, but
researchis mixed on whether it can worsen ALS. If you drink, you should exercise caution and limit alcohol intake.
If you’re living with ALS, it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet to support overall health and potentially slow the progression of the disease.
In particular, incorporating omega-3 fatty acids (especially ALA), antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds may have potential benefits in slowing disease progression.
While diet alone may not cure ALS, it can play a supportive role in overall health and quality of life for those affected by the condition. Always consult with healthcare professionals for tailored guidance.