When a motor neuron specialist determines that you have ALS, he or she will typically try to soften the blow by telling you something like “everyone is different … some live ten years or more… research is going on all the time to find effective treatment or a cure… don’t lose hope.” No matter how they try to sugarcoat it, the message of their underlying belief is always inescapable, “You gonna die!” The power and the impact of this message lie in how the patient chooses to hear it. Initially, the impact on me was devastating.

As I learned more about alternative medicine, I came to realize that the physicians who had diagnosed me were speaking from within the limits of a paradigm that shaped their beliefs. Eventually, I came to realize that when a conventional medical practitioner said to me, in whatever way the words were disguised, “You gonna die”, what he or she was really saying is “Within my knowledge base, I have no idea how to fix this.” Choosing to hear the message in this way opened up the possibility that another paradigm might be able to lead me to a solution.

My first exposure to alternative medicine was at the Kessler Clinic in Victorbur, Germany. It was there, under the care of Dr. Wolf-Dieter Kessler, that I first learned about functional medicine. This practice treats each person as an individual, seeks to determine the root cause of ailments rather than treat symptoms, and attempts to unleash the body’s natural ability to heal by removing obstructions and imbalances. The tools of functional medicine may include homeopathic remedies, vitamins, herbs, reflexology, medical equipment that uses frequencies to diagnose and treat pathogens and allergies and other conditions, kinesiology, and much more. If you would like to learn more about the tools and practice of functional medicine, visit Dr. Kessler’s website.

Dr. Kessler never promised me a cure, but he did express confidence that he could slow the progression, and I believe he did. In addition, the knowledge base I developed during the three-and-a-half years under his care helped me to become a better consumer of alternative health care. I am convinced that without that knowledge I would not be sitting here writing this blog. During my six visits to the clinic I met many people with various “terminal” illnesses who had given up on traditional medicine to find unexpected cure or improved health and extended life expectancy through he treatment they received there. My experiences there made me a believer in functional medicine and alternative practices as a whole.

Over the past twenty years there has been a significant increase of interest in holistic and alternative medicine. See Complementary and Alternative Medicine Facts. As a result, many traditionally trained doctors have formed complimentary practices in which they combine the use of conventional and alternative methodology. Still there are many other doctors who refuse to look into alternative therapies even when traditional approaches have little to offer. They claim they don’t have the time, or they assume that all alternative practices are quackery without even bothering to learn something about them. When they do look into an alternative approach they tend to evaluate on an all-or-nothing basis, meaning that if the technique doesn’t cure a disease all by itself, they conclude that it is worthless.

I am not opposed to conventional medicine. If I had a broken leg, I would not hesitate to seek out the services of a good orthopedist. But traditional medicine relies far too much on surgery and drugs, even when it makes matters worse, and when a more holistic approach could serve the patient much better. For a good example, see Mark Hyman, MD: Is There a Cure for Autoimmune Disease? .

Far too many motor neuron specialists are content to help their ALS patients be as comfortable as possible while they waste away. They offer them Riluzole in the hope that it might extend life a few weeks or months, if it doesn’t damage the liver first. They support research to find drugs that will do more than Riluzole, but I have not found a single study examining the common therapies (conventional or alternative) that might provide some insight as to what is keeping the few hundred of us alive who have been living with ALS for more than ten years. This unfortunate case of myopia is costing people quality of life, longevity, and possibly life itself. It’s time to wake up and start using some of the research money where it may do some immediate good. It’s time to try some new approaches, and challenge conventional wisdom. People’s lives are at stake!

What do you think?