Q: It seems more and more people are being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Can this be prevented or reversed?
-Julie T., St. Paul, Minn.
A: The toxic burden in our food, air, and water contributes greatly to the increased incidence of cognitive decline. Our bodies are designed to protect vital organs against toxins by walling toxins (e.g., plastics, pesticides, fertilizers, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals) inside fat cells. Our brains are made mostly of fat (cholesterol, in particular), and, unfortunately, many of these noxious substances can cross the blood-brain barrier and lodge in our fatty brains.
It's not all bad news, however. Dale Bredesen, MD, published promising research from three years' of working with Alzheimer's patients. He is writing a book on the topic, set to be released sometime in 2017.
He has pinpointed three types of Alzheimer's:
1. From amyloid plaque
Formed in an attempt to protect brain cells from chronic infection (especially problematic are Lyme disease, spirochetes bacteria, or molds) and chronic inflammation. The assumption has been that beta-amyloid plaque was the cause ofAlzheimer's. Turns out it's the response, but not a highly functional response. Chronic inflammation can be caused by many agents, including a high-sugar, refined-carb diet. And surprisingly, poor dental health (including root canals) is an oft-overlooked cause.
2. From aging and/or endocrine disruptors such as plastics
In these cases, there are a few substances that can help grow new brain cells. These include estrogen and testosterone, vitamin D, and nerve growth factors (e.g., acetyl L-carnitine, gotu kola, ginkgo). In this type of Alzheimer's, there are higher levels of brain destruction than brain repair. Plastic everywhere-especially touching our food and water-is a problem. Living indoors (chronic low vitamin D status) is also a problem.
Protect your brain by avoiding plastics as much as possible-especially plastics that touch your food.
3. From heavy metal contamination
This is the hardest to treat, according to Bredesen. Chelating heavy metals out of tissues-which are on the order of 1,000 times higher compared to blood levels of heavy metals-takes time. Therefore, chelation must be done by a health-care provider who understands that critical minerals need to be replaced, and that the kidneys and lymphatic systems need to be supported at the same time.
What's the remedy? Bredesen talks about 36 different parameters of intervention, "as though you had a roof with up to 36 leaks-each must be addressed" if they are part of a given patient's presentation.
Prevent Alzheimer's prevention remedies include:
1. Excellent diet
Here's what this means: low-sugar, minimally processed foods; high-fiber veggies and low-glycemic fruit; organic, gluten-free foods without saturated fats, except coconut oil; and SMASH fish-salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring. Most other fish, especially ones with big bodies and long lives, are high in heavy metals from eating bottom feeders and smaller fish.
2. Brain herbs
Such as ashwagandha, bacopa, and gotu kola. And methylated B vitamins, especially if your homocysteine level is over 10.
3. 8 hours of sleep
4. 12-16 hours of fasting daily (includes 8 hours of sleep)
This is more stringent than previous recommendations. Bredesen insists on giving the digestive system a long rest, so the body can focus on producing enzymes that will digest away toxic debris and damaged cells overnight. This means curtailing your eating time to an 8-hour window: maybe a good breakfast at 10 a.m. and then a healthy dinner at 5 or 5:30 p.m.
5. Digestive enzymes and probiotics
For enhanced digestion and daily bowel movements.
Keeping the whole body healthy is the key to brain health. This is a clear example of the continuity of mind/body-there really is no separation. If someone is depressed, for instance, regular exercise, eating well, and getting sufficient sleep and water are essential. And the same is true for all aspects of mental health, including staving off Alzheimer's. If you treat your body right, you're treating your brain right, and that's the best thing you can to do stay sharp throughout your senior years.