It’s an honor to be asked to join The Institute for Functional Medicine for their 2017 Annual International Conference. This year’s theme hits especially close to home for me: The Dynamic Brain – Revealing the Potential of Neuroplasticity to Reverse Neurodegeneration.
I know many of you won’t be able to join me out in California, so I wanted to take the time to share my slides from my plenary session lecture with you here on my blog. Enjoy!
One of the central themes of this blog centers on the importance of various lifestyle factors as they relate to brain health. We live at a time when there is, as of yet, no specific treatment or cure for our most-feared degenerative conditions of the brain, like Alzheimer’s disease. So it is fundamentally important that we embrace the notion of prevention as it relates to brain degeneration. This is why we’ve had such strong emphasis on things like diet, exercise, sleep, and social engagement. Continue reading
Alzheimer’s disease, far and away the most common form of dementia, now affects some 5.4 million Americans, representing the third leading cause of death in our country. Even more troubling is the fact that this number is predicted to double in just the next 15 years. Moreover, women are disproportionately at risk, representing 65% of Alzheimer’s cases. In fact, a woman’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease now exceeds her risk of developing breast cancer. The annual cost for caring for Alzheimer’s patients exceeds $200 billion. All this for a disease for which we currently have no meaningful treatment.
This is sobering information that should cause us to take a step back and wonder why this is happening in the first place. Continue reading
It has been estimated that there are around 45 million individuals worldwide who are suffering from dementia. Even more compelling are the projections that this number will nearly double in just the next 15 years.
As statistics now stand, we as Americans have around a 50 percent chance of being diagnosed with dementia by the time we reach 85 years of age. That means it’s basically a flip of coin that determines whether we will be in a position to care for ourselves or slip into a place that causes us to be dependent on others for our so-called “activities of daily living.” These include such things as dressing ourselves, preparing food, and personal hygiene. Continue reading
Everyone is familiar with inflammation. When a joint is inflamed with arthritis, it swells, gets red, becomes painful, and becomes less functional. Inflammation may also occur in areas that are less obvious such as in the coronary arteries. In fact, inflammation as a process is a cornerstone mechanism for the narrowing of the coronary arteries that typifies coronary artery disease. Inflammation is also a big player as relates to the disability that stems from diabetes, And there’s even a strong correlation between inflammation as a mechanism, and cancer.
The past several books that I have published have focused on the important role of inflammation as relates to the brain. Making the connection, for example, between inflammation and a disease like multiple sclerosis, it certainly something many people don’t have much of a problem understanding, since anti-inflammatory drugs are often used to treat this disorder. On the other hand, it seems a bit more of a stretch to connect the process of inflammation with such diseases as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. And yet, this process, inflammation, is a cornerstone mechanism related to progressive destruction that occurs in the brain as we age, as well as Alzheimer’s disease.
Tomorrow (Thursday, May 8th) on the Dr. Oz Show, I’ll be discussing the very real threat that gluten poses to brain health and function. I’m actually going to bring along a patient whose life was pretty much destroyed by a devastating movement disorder that involved her face. Tune in to watch what happened to her when she went gluten-free!
Gluten induces inflammation, and this may well be happening in all humans! Inflammation is a pivotal mechanism involved in all brain degenerative disorders. I’ll demonstrate exactly how this happens, so tune in. Should be very instructive.
Find your local broadcast time and station.
I recently had the great honor to lecture in California along side Dr. Alessio Fasano. Dr. Fasano is a practicing gastroenterologist and research scientist at Harvard whose interest is in gluten-related disorders like gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy and celiac disease. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Scientific American, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Bloomberg News and many other high profile media resources.
My lecture focused on the role of inflammation in brain related disorders and how gluten serves to initiate and perpetuate this process. Dr. Fasano focused on the specifics of the biochemistry related to gluten’s detrimental effects and he discussed how gluten in the diet increases the permeability of the bowel wall (leaky gut). And it is this permeability that allows a variety of normally excluded products access to the bloodstream. So things like bacteria, proteins, and viruses that normally would have been prevented from entering the bloodstream gain access when the gut becomes leaky as a consequence of gluten exposure.
Growth hormone for the brain. What a concept. Truth is, science has indeed identified a protein that does exactly that. It’s called brain-derived neurotrophic hormone (BDNF). While this may sound compelling in name and implication, let’s take a step back and look at what the science tells us about this incredibly important actor in brain health.
BDNF is a protein that plays a pivotal role in neuronal health. Your brain contains as many as 100 billion neurons and the health, vitality, and, perhaps most importantly, functionality of each one of your brain cells is intimately influenced by BDNF.
Early in life, BDNF regulates not only the growth of brain cells, but also their ability to make connections to other brain cells, a process fundamental to our ability to create a more powerful brain. But keep in mind that the process of growing new brain cells, neurogenesis, continues throughout your entire life! Think of it. As you are reading this report, your brain is actively producing new brain cells, and brain cells are always busy creating new connections with their neighbors in a process called neuroplasticity.