Monday, December 10, 2012

You Never Know Where You Will Learn Something That Changes Your Practice: Lysine for CNS Disorders and Cognitive Function

Written by Shiva Barton, ND, LAc
2011 Physician of the Year

OK, even though I am no longer Physician of the Year – that was soooo 2011 – I was asked to contribute to the AANP blog. Just when you thought it was safe...

A few weeks ago I gave a talk at the local Senior Center. I had given a talk there a few years ago and evidently I didn't kill anybody so they invited me back. The topic was, “When Would or Should a Person Consider Using CAM.” The talk was part of a community event where vendors were invited to have tables promoting their senior relevant businesses. (Did you know that there is an association of Senior Relocation Services – think selling or cleaning out houses, estate sales, etc. – and that there is an accreditation process for these services?) As I looked out over the audience there must have been 100 or more people there. The difference between this time and last time I spoke was that now I QUALIFY TO BE A SENIOR! (Big 6-0!)

I was the first speaker, which I enjoy, because people don't generally nod off right away. Anyway, I love to give these kinds of talks because it is easy to make them relevant. I generally ask who in the audience has seen the different types of complementary practitioners. Examples include, ND (not too many – i.e. none), DC, acupuncturist, massage therapist and reiki practitioner. I ask people to share the reason that they went – not so much the medical condition but why they didn't pursue conventional care. Then, I expound on each of those possibilities: conventional care didn't work, the treatment suggested had side effects, or the patient was not interested in the recommended conventional treatment. This approach to a talk can be a little dicey because you never know if someone is going to try to give you their life story. As the speaker, you must be willing to artfully interrupt someone, hopefully, without them being offended. There were plenty of good stories to build on from in this audience.

As you can imagine, it is always helpful to give a handout at this type of event. Something that is relevant to the attendee, speaks directly to them, and of course has your contact info on it. I don't find practice brochures to be that helpful in this instance. The handout that I like to give is a list of recent patients and conditions we have seen at our practice. As an example:
  • 6-year-old boy with recurrent ear infections,
  • 45-year-old man with metastatic colon cancer, and
  • 65-year-old woman with insomnia.
Listing the ages and conditions really gets people to thinking that this might benefit themselves or a family member.

The whole talk went pretty smoothly. The feedback was good and I even got a few patients out of it. One thoughtful question stood out. Among the patients I had listed on my handout were two patients in their 80s with dementia: one with presumed Alzheimer's (beginning stages) and one with presumed Lewy Body dementia (advanced stage). One of the attendees asked me if we actually cured all these cases, rather than had only seen them—very appropriate, pointed question. Which comes to the crux of our practice—what do we consider a successful outcome?

I spoke about some of the patients who were not cured, but had improvement or successful outcomes. I particularly focused on two patients with metastatic cancer who were able to extend their lives and maintain a good quality of life before dying. I also spoke about two patients with dementia, who have improved memory and their cognitive decline has slowed but not stopped. To me, these are somewhat successful outcomes. I, of course, want everyone to be totally cured, but this isn't a reality, unfortunately.

At the end of talk lots of people came over afterward to ask me questions. The man who asked the question about cure came up to me as well. He asked me if I ever used lysine to treat dementia (I had never heard of this). He said a friend of his cured his mother of Alzheimer's disease using lysine. Of course, I was extremely skeptical, since I know that there is no cure for Alzheimer's. His friend wrote a book about it. The man said he would bring me a copy. That afternoon the book showed up at my office. The author is Brad Pitman and the title of his book is, Ma Is Back. The book is an easy read; I couldn't put it down. I recommend that you get it.

Pitman chronicles the decline of his mother's functioning to the point where she didn't recognize people, was having fecal incontinence multiple times at night, and more. Then he started giving her lysine. (I'll have you read the book to see how he figured it out.) She started to immediately and slowly improve. Eventually she was back to normal again (I think it took 6 months–can't remember exactly). Quite phenomenal and unbelievable if you ask me–except it is true! Very interesting stuff. I could go into the science behind it, but I will save that for another time.

I have a patient that I mentioned above with advanced Lewy Body dementia. She, like Mr. Pitman's mom, did not recognize her daughter, had fecal incontinence, and was not speaking an unable to feed herself. Within one week of taking Lysine, 1000 mg, three times per day, she was periodically able to: hold her food, feed herself, recognize her daughter, make conversations, be oriented times three. Now, she is not cured, and may never be, but this is certainly an improvement, with continued upswings. The treatment is inexpensive and seemingly helpful so it is worth trying it with your patients with CNS issues, especially memory disorders. I spoke about this at the New Hampshire Association of Naturopathic Doctors’ conference last weekend. A couple of ND's mentioned that they had seen benefit with neurological pain as well.

So there you are, my gift to you for this Holiday Season.

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