Everything we put in our mouths affects the health of our brains. What we are learning now is that sweets don’t appear to be good for our
Grace Slick was close to my new slogan for baby boomers when she wrote White Rabbit:
When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead
And the white knight is talking
And the red queen's off with her head
Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head, feed your head.
(Did you know that it was a dormouse, rather than “door mouse” and it
Feed Your Head
The pills that the doctors have for you, when logic and proportion and memory have “fallen sloppy dead” have been based on the theory that amyloid plaques cause Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common cause of memory loss in aging people, accounting for 60-80% of all cases. It is perhaps the most likely cause of dementia when memory loss and difficulty thinking are the only problems, without difficulty moving, controlling your
For a few years, news has followed the association between sugars and dementia: high levels of sugar – in either the diet or the bloodstream – correlate with increased rates or risk of
There are more dietary studies, and lots of very focused experiments investigating the effects of one or two factors on the likely development, or amelioration of dementia. Many have elaborated the specific dynamics on a microscopic physiological level with attention to factors that affect those dynamics. The multitude of factors that affect pertinent physiology suggests that “the pathobiology of AD dictates a system or program rather than a single targeted agent.” A systems approach has been used successfully with other diseases, particularly in a public mixed with private health arena. You can check your blood pressure at the drug store, and be reminded almost everywhere that you shouldn’t smoke! So, without having to understand the details of the highly technical neurological science involved in Alzheimer’s, it is relatively straightforward to grasp the collection of individual interventions that have been studied singly and when taken together might consist of a worthwhile effort to reverse a devastating disease process.
Dale Bredesen and John Varghese have done amazing work in this realm, publishing a theoretical article detailing the history and the rationale for a life-choices systems intervention model. Impressive, it sounds great, but does it work?
How handy, they were evidently working in the scholastic and real worlds at the same time, and in October of last year published a report of ten subjects with whom they were able to apply some of 22 identified potential beneficial actions their folks could take. One very advanced person failed to show any benefit, but the results with nine of the ten were truly impressive. Three of their personal stories are detailed in the article here.
There are some drugs used with Alzheimer’s patients, but none of them claims to nor has been seen to reverse the disease. Some symptoms or expressions of the disease may be temporarily controlled, but cognitive function does not return as it did with 9 of Bredesen’s 10 subjects.
What does this mean?
The implications are two-pronged, if you will, with one clear lead to the research community to take on the question with a larger group being studied. Meanwhile, there is every good reason for clinicians who are comfortable with the types of interventions used to add them to the tool bag of today.
In fact, there is good reason to share this information – healthful for more than just cognitive function – with all of our aging patients. The biggest problem, as I see it – is that some of the interventions will be novel to physicians (“How does one normalize Pregnenolone levels?”) and more worrisome, that the scope of the program is daunting to people with perfectly intact memories. There are a good number of lifestyle changes to make, and many, many supplements or prescriptions to consider adopting.
Here’s a summary of the 21 interventions.
- Reduce nutritional inflammation: choose a low-carb, possibly grain-free, and high-fat eating plan. Avoid allergenic foods, Reduce sugars!
- Clean your brain. Fasting is a good break for the brain, allowing it to “clean itself out”: fast for 12 hours a day.
- Stress management. Reduce your level of stress with yoga or meditation.
- Brain recovery and cleansing happen during sleep. Optimize sleep with a goal of 8 hours nightly. Rule out sleep apnea, and supplement with tryptophan or melatonin if needed.
- Exercise. 30-60 minutes, 4-6 days a
- Reduce brain toxins, specifically keep homocysteine <7.0. The first supplements to try are methylated versions of B12 and folate, as well as B6 in the Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate form. (These are all combined in Thorne Research Medi-Pro multi-vitamin.)
- Feed the nervous system in general. Keep B12 levels in the upper half of the normal range.
- Measure and manage inflammation. Check and normalize lab tests, including hsCRP and the albumin/globulin ratio.
- Hormones. Balance and replace hormones, including
- Optimized thyroid hormones
- Estrogen (estradiol, not Premarin), progesterone (not Provera) and testosterone – it’s not too late
- Pregnenolone and Cortisol
- Digestion must function normally. Evaluate gastrointestinal health and repair as needed.
- Prevent scarring in the brain. Reduce amyloid beta formation with curcumin and/or
- Reasoning mechanisms. Take supplements that enhance cognitive function: Bacopa
monnieraor magnesium-l- threonate.
- Vitamin D. Optimize vitamin D3 levels 50-100 ng/mL
- Brain repair. Increase neurotrophic growth factor: H.
- Support brain structure. Structural components of the brain need feeding, too, with Citi- or phosphatidylcholine, DHA, or the magnesium-l-
- Anti-oxidants. Optimize antioxidants using foods (blueberries) and supplements (mixed tocopherols, N-acetyl cysteine, and alpha lipoic acid.)
- Zinc and copper are key. Optimize Zinc/Copper ratio (1.1-1.5)
- Mitochondrial support. Optimize mitochondria: lots of vegetables, fruits and colors … and supplements such as Ubiquinol, alpha lipoic acid, selenium, zinc, and others.
- Mental focus. **Increase
focuswith pantothenic acid.
- Toxicity? Rule out heavy metal toxicity.
- Beneficial brain foods. Ketones are great for the brain, whether they come from a ketogenic diet, or supplementation with MCT Oil, or by prescription: Axona.
Some of these supplements are available to you in a simple stroll through either my online store or your local health food store. They are generally regarded as safe for generally healthy people. If you have any health concerns, OR if you want to pursue the program in its full complexity, I highly recommend you work with an experienced practitioner who knows how to test, supplement and prescribe for these 20 recognized areas relevant to brain health.