Reversing Cognitive Decline
Your Brain Can Heal
As recent as 10 years ago it was always thought that we are born with all the brain cells we are going to have and that these cells steadily erode in a depressive journey through adulthood to old age. This is WRONG.
Not to mention secondly it was said that if you started losing your memory It was simply bad luck for there was nothing you could do to help this condition. This Is also WRONG information
We do lose approximately 30,000 neurons a day however the adult brain continues to create new neurons within the learning brain region. These new neurons are shown to have the same neuroplacity of newborns. within a grain size section of any brain there are 100,000 neurone or brain cells. This is so exciting to me especially having a history of epileptic seizures. It was a joke in my family that I lost so many brain cells with each seizure. Yet with this new information I feel confident I am restoring brain cells with nutrition and wellbeing. My inspiration for this article is hearing Dr. Dale Bredesen lecture at the recent Metagenics Health Congress. Dr Dale Bredesen's work specifically targets work in reversing and prevention of cognitive decline and even Alzheimer’s disease. Yes reversing cognitive decline can happen and is simply an amazing breakthrough in the field of integrative medicine.
Many people use the words Dementia and Alzheimer’s interchangeably but let me help define the differences. For this article I will use the word dementia as it includes Alzheimer's.
Dementia is not a disease – it is a group of symptoms that effected mental tasks like memory and reasoning. Conditions that can cause dementia are Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Vascular disease, Stroke, Chronic drug use and even HIV.
Alzheimer’s – is seen with abnormal beta-amyloid protein and neuro deposits forming plaque in the brain. It can be a progressive degenerative disorder that attacks the brain nerve cells (neurons) resulting in loss of memory, thinking and language skills and behavioural changer. It is a form of Dementia.
SADLY HERE IN AUSTRALIA IN 2016 THERE IS CURRENTLY 353,800 DIAGNOSED PEOPLE LIVING WITH DEMENTIA.
Alzheimer’s is NOT a mysterious untreatable brain disease it is a reversible metabolic or toxic condition usually multifaceted, systemic with a relatively large window for treatment and prevention giving anyone with memory loss hope. This is amazing! The problem seems, up until now ,research has tried to look for the wonder drug. Dementia really can be best described like a roof with lots of holes in it so all the holes need to be fixed up not just one so the one "wonder" drug approach may never be the true answer.
I like the analogy of the roof with leaks for every individual with dementia is different. One person might have a few leaks or issues whilst another person might have an array of leaks or issues necessary to deal with. It can be very complicated or quite simple. Nevertheless, let me try and explain as simply as I can portray how dementia is actually a protective response to up to 5 metabolic and/or toxic insults of the body.
There are three main markers that can be tested for inflammation in ones body. Inflammation can be caused by physical trauma, infection, autoimmune conditions or age modified proteins. AGE-(Advanced Glycation End Products) are proteins that become glycated as a result of exposure to sugar. (Fructose intake and blood sugar levels seem to have the more influence on your bodies AGE levels.) Past infections can lower the immune system and cause inflammation -eg pneumonia, meningitis, shingles, strep, mycoplasma, co-infections, lyme, fungal infections, oral infections, urinary infections. Physical trauma eg. Post surgery, car accidents, scar tissue.
There are a lot of things that can fall under this category e.g. hormonal, vitamin, minerals and amino acids, obesity, allergies and diet. The more learning I do on this topic the more I feel sugar, processed foods and gluten need to be dramatically reduced for good brain nutrition. There are many tests that can be done to establish what needs to be addressed for an individual.
Toxic exposure – internally or externally
Toxins can come from all areas of our life but having a toxic load can be detrimental to the brain. Depending on genetics some people do not detoxify as easily and with certain nutrients toxins can be reduced.
Vascular or oxygen supply
For the brain to function we need a good blood supply. As we get older and again depending on genetics the blood supply may be compromised but with the right medicines and nutrients this can be improved. In this category i include breathing issues and snoring and sleep apnoea.
Trauma can be physical from an accident or surgery or scar tissue but it can also be emotional trauma or chronic stress. Long term stress can be very draining on the brain, how we cope with emotional trauma can take its toll. Early emotional childhood events can play a role too.
In spite of this there will always be a medical drug solution under research at any one time but the holistic approach of Dr. Dale Bredesen makes sense. We need to find out the areas that relate to each individual so the results can be accomplished. A true holistic, focused program including lifestyle, diet, detox, allergy avoidance, genetics, methylation, stress management, cardiovascular, nutrition, sleep quality where it is appropriate and required. The aim is to fill all the holes in the roof so to speak.
Doing a colonoscopy at 45-55 years of age has become a mandatory assessment but maybe now it should be common place to do a “Cogniscope” of such (full assessment of cognitive health) if you would like to learn more about this please discuss this with your naturopath practitioner. We call it "cognitive assessment" or cogniscope.
Extra areas of interest in relationship to Cognitive Health
- GLUTEN You do not have to be Coeliac to be Gluten Sensitive. It is call NCGS (Non Coeliac Gluten Sensitive) Gluten sensitivity & Allergies can exclusively effect the brain and nervous system directly. Not only causing cognitive impairment but psychiatric illness.
B-BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) There is a substance in the brain that is call Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor or BDNF. The simplest way to describe it is that it is like the compost that feeds the brain nutrients promoting growth of new cells, improving memory learning and enhancing survival of existing neurons (brain cells) It influences the neuroplasticity. Low levels of BDNF are found in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Depression and Anxiety.
- SLEEP -Loss of sleep hurts attention executive function, working memory, moods, quantitive skills, logical reasoning and even dexterity. Sleep Apnoea, insomnia can affect your memory.
- EXERCISE - Aerobic exercise even twice a week halves your risk of dementia. It cuts your risk of Alzheimer’s by 60%. Exercise outside in fresh air give you more oxygen which is great for the brain health. Like the old saying move it or lose it. Relaxation Exercise - like yoga, Tai chi, Qi Gong to help reduce stress.
- STRESS - Chronic Stress causes cortisol to rise. Do not get me wrong cortisol is important when it gives up and then down as required but chronically being high damages cells of the hippocampus crippling your ability to use short term memory to learn and retain information. The worst type of stress for your hippocampus is feeling like you have no control over a problem, a feeling like you are helpless.
- NEUROPLASTICITY -The amazing thing is that throughout your life your brain retains the ability to change its structure and function in response to your experiences. It is not set this is called neuroplasticity. We have all heard of aerobics but the new thing is neurobics or brain games. Talk to your practitioners about this.
- MEDITATION Recently on “Catalyst” it showed through meditation how the hippocampus can regrow in volume and this was tested over only 6 weeks. Neurogenesis means the brain creates new cells and can heal its self.
- SOCIAL LIFE - Try and surround yourself with fun, joyous loving relationships. This brings the best our in our social genomics. Find hobbies and friends with similar interests and do not be lonely. Doing volunteer work and feeling a sense of purpose and community is important.
- SENSES -In therapy for the brain do not discount the power of using things for stimulating our senses. eg- music, aroma, taste, touch, vision, colour
- APOE4 - This is one of the genes that can be connected to dementia however you may have the APOE4 and never get dementia if you use the right nutrients and lifestyle to prevent dementia coming your way.
written by Maedy Colenso ND 2016
Inspirations and thanks
Brain Rules by John Medina
Metagenic Congress 2016 - Dr. Bredesen
Bioceutical Symposium 2016
Brain Grains by Dr. Perlmutter
Blue Zones by Dan Beuthner