iStock_000031889438SmallThere is a huge epidemic with neurodegenerative disorders. For example, dementia is costing us twice as much as heart disease and triple what is spent on cancer care. The most rapidly cause of death in western culture is neurological disease.

What causes brain degeneration?

The process begins early on with inflammation in the brain. This produces free radicals that ultimately kills brain cells. Specifically in Alzheimer’s patients, these are brain cells that produce acetylcholine. Pharmaceutical agents for Alzheimer’s disease reduce the breakdown of acetylcholine to slow down the progression of the disease. As you can see focusing on treating the acetylcholine is at the end of this process. Physicians must address the inflammation and free radicals that leads to the death of brain cells because that is going to prevent this problem in the first place. By the time acetylcholine is decreasing, this process has already happened a long time ago. For example, in Parkison’s disease, it is the same scenario. There is death of brain cells that leads to decreased dopamine and we give dopamine to treat the disease and ignore the causes.

Free radicals cause oxidative stress. These damage lipids, proteins, DNA, and are early events in Dementia. Our body produces a way to get rid of free radicals by antioxidants. Free radicals play a signficant role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimers disease. The oxidative stress is an early event in this process that can act as a therapeutic target to slow the progression or the onset of the disease process. Antioxidants help dampen the burden of harmful free radicals that damage our proteins and DNA. There are many studies that show the slowing of progression of Parkinson’s with the use of CoQ10. It is important to know that many drugs deplete many nutrients such as coenzyme Q10.

What causes these free radicals?

Traditional medicine says this is unknown, however when we look deeper into the research they are well defined. Gluten and glucose are direct initiators of inflammation and the production of free radicals. Sugar is a powerful brain toxin. The carbohydrates that we consume increase blood sugar and play a critical role increasing inflammation and free radicals. In the New England Journal of Medicine there was a significant increased risk of Dementia in direct correlation with blood sugar. This process was occurring even in non-diabetics. Even at fasting glucose levels of 105mg/dl and 110mg/dl patients are already increasing their risk of developing Dementia. This is empowering because it process is actionable. Blood sugar is under people’s control by the food and exercise choices they make. Glucose in the bloodstream binds to protein (glycation). When this occurs, it up-regulates inflammation and free radicals. Hemaglobin A1c is a great easy lab test to measure glycation. Since HA1c is a glycated protein, it is a powerful marker for brain aging.

Gluten is a major cause and contributor to neurodegenerative as well as autoimmune diseases. Most doctors dismiss gluten as a problem. Traditional diagnostic testing has focused on blood antibody tests and or intestinal biopsies. Unfortunately, traditional tests for gluten sensitivity are often incorrect. There tends to be a lot of false negatives. Therefore, I just have patients eliminate gluten from their diet.

It is important to perform a comprehensive assessment including organic acids, amino acids, nutrient and heavy metals, fatty acids, and oxidative stress markers. Food-specific antibodies should also be considered. Food reactions have been associated with inflammation and removing offending foods may reduce neurological symptoms. In addition, an assessment of gastrointestinal function should be performed. Gastrointestinal imbalances have been identified as involved in the pathogenesis of autoimmune and neurological disorders. As you can see, there are many tests and underlying factors that are associated with neurological disease.

Nutrients for Brain Health

GPC is an important nutrient for the brain. It is naturally occurring in all our cells. GPC effectively raises acetylcholine showing improvements in memory, mental focus, and cognition.

Acetyl L-Carnitine is a critical energy cofactor for brain cells which increases learning capacity and helps prevent memory decline.

R-Lipoic Acid increases cellular and mitochondrial antoxidant activity. RLA improves memory, reverses cognitive dysfunction, and protects the brain from neurodegeneration associated with aging. In addition, it significantly increases insulin sensitivity.

CoQ10 (ubiquinone) has been shown to slow the functional decline in these neurodegenerative disease, particularly Parkinson’s disease.

Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a nutrient essential for optimal brain function. PS has been shown to prevent age-related memory decline and improve the quality of life of Alzheimer’s patients. There are no PS rich foods, so supplementation is the only way to increase your levels.

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Journal of Neural Transmission 105 (4-5):439:461:1988

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