Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease of the nervous system in which plaque is laid down in the brain. For the last few years treatment has been aimed at destroying the plaque. This direction of treatment has not been very effective because the plaques are not the cause of the disease process, plaques are the result.
What is the cause then?
Alzheimer’s is from a plethora of causes all related to modern living. In other words: diet, stress, toxicity levels and the resultant whole-body inflammation are just some of the bad guys. Alzheimer’s is an environmental disease that typically effects those who have the genes for it. Functional medicine has known this for years, but recently some exciting medical research has confirmed that we can make a dent in prevention and even treatment by addressing these factors. In fact, prevention and treatment are very similar. Of course, the earlier you begin making changes the better.
So now what?
First, identify if you have genetic risk by getting your gene workup at www.23andme.com. The APOE4 is the most important gene in determining risk for Alzheimer’s. If you have one APOE4 gene your risk increases, if you have two your risk is around 50 %. Having APOE4 means you are good at inflammation; which is great when you need to fight disease, but is not helpful in the pro inflammatory modern world we live in.
So next, we need to address the environmental factors that contribute to Alzheimer’s, and heal the subsequent health issues. Incidentally, all chronic degenerative diseases have in common a causal relationship with modern living. From autoimmune disease to diabetes type 2, lifestyle is a key factor. The culprits include: modern stress, diet, and all forms of pollution. Which disease you get has do with your genetic makeup. In fact, Alzheimer’s is so connected to Diabetes Type 2 that Alzheimer’s is often referred to as Diabetes Type 3. If you are positive for the APOE4 gene and you have Diabetes Type 2, your risk for Alzheimer’s is even higher.
Below I address the more common culprits and how to identify them. This is a great start toward prevention, but if you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you will have to dig deeper. Change of lifestyle based on individual testing and supplementing where needed are keys to success.
· Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation is what happens when your body deals with threatening situations such as: chemical load, foreign proteins, inhaled bugs, or an ankle sprain. Erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein are great tests for whole body inflammation. If your lab tests reveal your inflammation is high, you need to reduce the inflammation. I begin patients with a detoxification program designed to reduce inflammation quickly and establish healthy eating habits to maintain those levels.
· Blood Sugar challenged
The appropriate tests are: fasting insulin, fasting glucose and HA1C. Sugar challenged is anyone with High Blood Sugar, Metabolic Syndrome, or Diabetes Type 2. Diabetes effects microcirculation in every area of the body, especially the brain. I am often asked how much processed sugar is ok and my answer is “none”. Most us have had our lifetime quota of processed sugar already. Eating processed sugar leads to unhappy minds and bodies. I use a blood sugar balancing program with dietary changes to normalize blood sugar. I also recommend Keppi Keto Oil to anyone with Insulin resistance. One tablespoon a day for prevention and if you are already diagnosed; dosage varies.
Adequate support from hormones such as: estradiol, testosterone, thyroid and insulin are key when working with Alzheimer’s. I recommend saliva testing for sex hormones because it gives you tissue hormone levels rather than blood. For thyroid a full panel, not just TSH, is a must.
I use two companies for this type of testing, Genova Diagnostics and Diagnostechs.
Most of you have heard me talk about the health benefits of detoxification. Because the air, food and water we are exposed to have many forms of toxins, we now need to detox our bodies regularly. Toxins cause neural inflammation; which leads to the amyloid plaques of Alzheimer’s. It is important to reduce all forms of toxins, such as: mercury, copper and the mycotoxins produced by molds. I recommend a yearly detox process as well as minimizing exposure. I also test for metals and mycotoxins to determine individual toxic load.
· Vascular Disease
Most vascular problems are inflammatory and relate to blood sugar imbalance, so you see many of these risk factors overlap. To measure your cardiovascular risk, I recommend testing homocysteine, on routine blood work.
Once you know where you are, start systematically addressing your risk factors starting with the big offenders, and work your way down the list. Because it covers so many bases, I recommend starting with a detox program. Detoxing lowers inflammation, gets rid of toxins and can be geared toward balancing blood sugar. As many of you know I believe everyone should periodically reset the body with a detox program. Detoxifying the body has become a necessity of modern living.
Whether you want to lower your risk, or have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, the list below gives you a few more health issues to address, all of which play a partwith the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Poor Sleep * Stress *Adrenal Fatigue* Low Oxygen *Lack of Exercise* Vitamin D Deficient* Damaged Microbiome * Poor Dental Hygiene * High Blood Pressure * Gluten Sensitivity* Sleep Apnea* Obesity *Infectious Agents* Hypothyroidism *History of Head Trauma* Lyme Disease* Neurotransmitter levels* Medication Overuse* Acid Blockers
Below are a few helpful tips:
Learning something new is more powerful than just doing what you already know how to do. Trade off your daily coffee for neuroprotective green tea. Eat lots of Sulphur rich vegetables, like broccoli and Brussel sprouts. To stimulate hippocampal neurogenesis, get out walking for 30 minutes a day. Meditating for 15 minutes a day will decrease your stress. Listening to music you enjoy is more stimulating for the brain than watching TV. I recommend reading ” The End of Alzheimer’s” by Dale Bredesen MD. Finally, if you are having any brain function issues at all; get off Gluten.
This may all feel like a daunting task, but once you take the first step, it gets easier. The improved quality of life is a great motivator. You will also find if you heal one aspect of your health naturally, others will come along for the ride.
One immediate benefit of changing your lifestyle is an improved overall quality of life.
When I see commercials on TV about investing in our future, I think “we should think about
investing in our health”. Caring for our health is an investment in our happiness that pays
dividends right now.
Excluding the genetic workup, I offer all forms of testing mentioned above, surprisingly
many insurance companies are now covering these tests.
Jamie Gutheil DC ACN