Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Gift Within Tragedy

by Glen Depke, Traditional Naturopath

A week ago Monday, tragedy had shown its face to my family as my brother Mark passed at the age of 59. Mark was diagnosed with ALS about 18 or 20 months ago and it has been quite a journey with him during this time. As I know Mark, he would not want a fuss made over his passing and I am sure that he would want others to be aware of this tragic diagnosis of ALS and more importantly, some of the underlying challenges that we were able to uncover for him personally. This way, his tragedy can actually be a gift for somebody else.

Mark, this article is written in your honor.

I know Mark was very excited about the Ice Bucket Challenge to bring awareness to ALS in the hope of finding a cure for this tragic diagnosis. While I support bringing an awareness to this deadly and debilitating disease, I want to be very focused on the fact that I believe that this can be prevented when we look at the underlying factors. I personally wish my brother would have looked at all the underlying challenges earlier in his life because I truly believe that he would not only be alive today, but he would have never developed this disease in the first place.

You may ask how I can say this with such conviction.

So here's the story of my brother in the hope that this is a gift for one of the Depke Wellness followers or one of your friends or loved ones.

When my brother was first diagnosed, conventional medicine was trying to understand why he was have some difficulties with his speech. He was referred to a speech therapist and was provided a pharmaceutical drug that was suppose to help with his speech. Ironically I later found that one of the symptoms of this drug was neurological dysfunction. I want to be clear that I do not feel that the drug itself was the cause of Mark's challenges but it likely did not help. Once he was officially diagnosed we made it a point to get him into our clinic ASAP to take a look at the underlying factors that he was dealing with. Understand that here at Depke Wellness, we do not look at the disease or the diagnosis as the problem, we see the underlying causes as the real issue. Based on conventional medicine ALS is a somewhat diverse and decidedly mystifying disease. In more than nine out of every 10 cases diagnosed, no clear identifying cause of the disease is apparent, that is, patients lack an obvious genetic history, complete with affected family members.

So what would we look at then as a cause?

Let's first recognize that ALS, often referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The key here is neurodegeneration!

This is where we found many challenges for my brother and I would estimate that you would find similar challenges for others diagnosed with ALS. Let me be very clear though, you want to understand these keys before you are living with the symptoms or diagnosis of ALS.

Once my brother started working with Depke Wellness, we went through a battery of test to understand his function and underlying causes. These are the tests that we ran for Mark.
  • Comprehensive adrenal saliva testing
  • Gluten sensitivity testing
  • Cross reactive sensitivity testing
  • Urine porphyrin testing for heavy metals
  • Brain autoimmunity testing
  • Muscle testing for infection
  • Chiropractic assessment
The results of this testing showed some conclusive evidence of why Mark was living this this neurodegenerative disease. Upon initial review of his adrenal function, this revealed stage III adrenal insufficiency which directly impacts neural connectivity, muscle integrity and immune function as well as many other functions of the body. He had shown to be sensitive to gluten, dairy and corn, all of which he ate for most of his life on a consistent basis. Understanding that these sensitivities lead to gut/brain connection disorders, chronic inflammation, immune dysregulation and neural degeneration. We also found that he was loading with mercury toxicity, which is a known neurotoxin. When we received the results of his autoimmune testing, which tested five different levels at which that immune system can be attacking the brain, Mark was dealing with autoimmunity on all five levels. Upon muscle testing, it was discovered that he was also dealing with chronic infection throughout his body and the chiropractic assessments had shown definite neurological challenges based on subluxation in his vertebrae.

If it sounds as if Mark was a mess at this point, you could not be more correct and based on these findings it would be expected to also be living with some type of neurological degenerative disease state, which he was.

At that time, we of course initiated our focus on Mark's care. He removed the foods from his diet that he was sensitive to, we worked on balancing his adrenal function, supported his immune system with the intention of fighting infection, used proper chiropractic intervention to assist in aligning his spine, assisted on eliminating the mercury toxicity from his body and focused on the chronic inflammation which most often leads to autoimmune conditions. Throughout this time Mark often felt as if he was improving but it was a couple steps forward and some steps backward.

In the end, we caught this all too late and his body was beyond the ability to recover from the depth of this neurodegeneration.

The gift of this entire situation with my brother is in knowing that this can all be understood long before you would ever have to live with the news of a diagnosis of ALS or any other neurodegenerative disease and I personally look at all these areas for myself with consistency. After all, I not only witnessed my brother progress through this but also watched my mother and grandmother both pass with severe dementia, which is another neurodegenerative disease.

A certain level of peace that I have found through this entire process with my brother is that he told his conventional doctor with conviction that he was not going to progress through the typical stages of neuromuscular degeneration that is typical of ALS, and he did not. Up until just days before the very end, he was still walking and even working from home which is very unusual for those with ALS. One thing that I always loved about my brother is that he did it his way, both in life and in death. I will always love my brother and am grateful for the gift that he will provide for someone else in preventing neurodegeneration.

In the end, we can use this tragedy as a gift and recognize that neurodegenerative disease can be addressed at the core, but don't wait until you have a significant diagnosis such as ALS, dementia or Alzheimer's. Catch this early and prevent!

If anyone cares to donate in memory of my brother Mark, please donate to either the San Fransico SPCA or the ALS Association. When my brother lived in San Francisco he would regular donate his time and money to the SPCA due to his love for animals and cats specifically and I know that he was very supportive for ALS awareness.

If you have any comments or questions, please leave these below and we will address them personally.


  1. Thank you for sharing your information and I am sorry for your loss. I lost my father to Alzheimer's disease.I did not know until after his death that I was giving him his medication and poisoning him at the same time. He was on Statin drugs for almost 20 years. I didn't realize what they do to the nervous system until it was too late. I know by sharing your brothers information others will be helped. May God bless you and your work.

    1. Thank you for your kind words Jan and thankfully we can learn and grow from past experiences and by being a part of the journey of others.

  2. So sorry to hear of your very sad loss Glen.
    My brother passed from the worst for of ALS a little over 3 years ago. A year later I discovered that I am very likely celiac and VERY sensitive to dairy, sensitive to corn and soy and quite a few others things too!
    I can see many members of my family and my husbands who, in my opinion, have significant food sensitivities, particularly gluten and dairy.
    From the wealth of information you and many other functional practitioners share so generously I started to piece together the theory that his sensitivities had probably been the underlying cause of his dreadful illness.
    It is very difficult to observe so many people with obvious food sensitivities who are, sadly, very closed to receiving the information that the foods they choose to eat are most likely making them ill!!!!!

    1. Thank you Sue! Yes, it is sad when others won't look deeper into the core of there issues but I find that most are either ignorant of these potential challenges or afraid of the thought of giving something up that they have eaten their whole life. I see it all the time but it is changing.

    2. Yes that is so true.... When people say to me 'It must be so hard to eat without gluten and dairy' I now reply 'It was harder to be in bed sleeping twice a day, not being able to live my life and many days not being able to do the essentials looking after myself, family and home....'

    3. Right on Sue! I always say that feeling good feels better than that food will taste...

  3. Glen, so, so sorry to hear about your brother's passing. I commend you on your efforts to pursue more alternative care for him. Given your brother's medical history (non-typical ALS, a chronic infection, adrenal issues and multiple food sensitivities), I am wondering whether he wasn't dealing with (undiagnosed) Chronic Lyme Disease. Like syphilis, Lyme is caused by a spirochete, is systemic and mimics many diseases including ALS, MS, lupus, etc. In fact, there is a medical doctor out in Colorado who got diagnosed with ALS but who actually had Lyme and who improved after treating Lyme. I believe he went on to develop a practice around that although I haven't followed him.

    Unfortunately, Lyme Disease is not well understood by conventional medicine and the testing utilized is poor. Many people don't get the classic bulls eye rash (I didn't or at least I never saw it). Lyme is also highly controversial and the CDC does not recognize Chronic Lyme.

    Once again, I'm very sorry for your loss but I wanted to raise awareness of the potential for a disease (Lyme) which does offer some hope. Sending prayers and healing energy to you and your family.

    1. Thank you for your kind words and yes, Lyme was assessed with my brother. I would agree that this is often a possibility in chronic disease. Thank you for sharing this for the awareness for everyone!

  4. Sorry to hear about your loss, however, after reading your story I do believe it arms people with an awareness they did not have before reading your story. I know it did for me. This served as a wake-up call to look beyond conventional wisdom. Thank you for sharing this so it can help others.

  5. Excellent information keep up the great job Dr. Depke!


  6. When I read this story, I did wonder if Mark had ever taken a statin drug. ALS is one of the side effects I have seen mentioned plus diabetes, amnesia and muscle death.

    Hopefully, more and more of us will just say NO to these drugs that have minimal if any benefits and lots of prospective problems.

    1. Actually I am sure that he did not take a statin but I am in agreement with you on the dangers of statins. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Gary and I send our condolences to you and your family Dr. Depke.

    You may remember a number of years back when I first met you, I had been going through a similar experience.

    A family member had been challenged with cancer. If my mother had known how much of a key role nutrition played, I believe she would still be here too.

    When she passed on she left many gifts. One of them, the reminder of how important it is to take care of these walking temples each one of us resides in... the bodies we were blessed with at birth.

    Thankfully, we are fortunate to have people such as yourself to help us learn how to do that, and I so appreciate it.

    Thank you and your brother for your inspiration! :-)

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Jeanne!

      I hear you with taking care of our bodies. Heck, if we don't, who will?

  8. My heart and prayers for you and your family Glen. I am so sorry for your loss. You are such an Incredible Gift to so many of us. Even in time of grief, you are thinking of us and working at reaching as many that will listen. Sending you Love ~ Cindi LaCorte