Updated: December 2021
Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating deterioration and cognitive decline process that is causing incredible amounts of grief for all involved with a family member or loved one suffering from this horrific condition.
I don’t know a single person who would embraces and looks forward to the thought of cognitive decline as we age. We all want to know who our loved ones are as we age, right?
We all want to be able to function on our own during our “Golden Years”, right? In working with many aging patients, I would have to say that the answer to those questions is a resounding, “Yes”.
A Sense of Hopelessness
However, most people are at a loss when it comes to how to prevent cognitive decline and go through life blind regarding what could possibly be done to change their path.
Many will unknowingly make decisions that keep their body in a state of chronic inflammation and therefore be a part of the “Degeneration Nation” without even knowing it.
Many of them will experience high levels of anxiety because they know that they could be healthier and happier but they don’t know how to do it.
I believe that wonderful things can be done to increase just about everyone’s chances of leading a full and content life for the duration of their life.
What is Most Important?
On your death bed, do you think that you would ask for more money? What do you think you would want more of?
Would you want quality time with good health and happiness or would you just want time? Would you want that time if you couldn’t think clearly or express your emotions to your loved ones?
I would say that most of us would say that most of us would choose quality time over quantity. If I can’t be me and do the things I love with the people that I love, I don’t think that I would ask for more time just to have it.
Some people may buy in to the theory that Alzheimer’s is genetic and that since it runs in their family, they are most likely going to get it.
Genotype vs. Phenotype
I would say that there is definitely some truth to that but what has to be mentioned here is that there is what is called a “genotype” but there is also the “phenotype”.
Genotype is hardwired. Genotype is skin color, eye color, or hair color. It is something that is genetically set in stone. Genotype is unmodifiable. It is what it is.
However, phenotype is the expression of genes. Phenotypic expression can be modified and changed. Working with phenotype through diet, exercise, nutritional supplementation, meditation, and other methods, is the way to make those modifications.
Genes can be turned on and off. You can make lifestyle choices that will turn on certain good genes (those that promote healthy pathways inside your body) and/or choices that will turn off bad genes (those that promote unhealthy pathways).
In turn, you could make bad food choices, not exercise, drink alcohol or take medications and/or drugs that turn on bad genes and lead to sickness, poor health and/or disease.
The Ball is In Your Court
That’s the beauty of life. So many things come down to choices. So much of this is in our control. Often, sickness and health comes down to the decisions we make on a day to day basis.
Bad decisions today don’t lead to disease today. Eating excess sugar is fun (and even addictive). I get it. But, bad decisions today can show up years down the road in disease, poor health and lost quality of life. Good decisions today can lead to prevention of disease tomorrow, happiness and quality time with your loved ones and family.
It is a great joy of mine to work with patients who are willing to take ownership and make good decisions. They usually see life changing results and do so very quickly.
What about Diabetes?
An example of phenotypic gene expression is Type 2 Diabetes. I LOVE working with Type 2 diabetics. Type 2 diabetes is considered a lifestyle disease.
I don’t think that there is a doctor out there who would disagree with this statement no matter what kind of specialty they have. These facts are in the medical literature and are widely recognized.
In fact, I just watched a video series on diabetes and how it causes leakage of blood vessels due to the damage it causes over time. The leakage of the blood vessels is what causes destruction of tissues and complications from the disease.
Is Diabetes a Disease?
Yes, diabetes is a disease. A disease won’t get better unless you do something about it. Some just accept the fact that they have a “disease” and that there is nothing that can be done. I don’t want to sound rude, but I didn’t write this article for those people.
The facts are that there is only so much time in the day. I can’t spend my precious time on people who don’t want to learn – or – someone who knows that they have a serious problem but won’t put the effort in to do something about it. I published this article for the people who are willing to take action.
What Kind of Person are You?
This article is for you if you are the type of person who isn’t going to take a punch in the face and not get up to fight. The main question you have to ask yourself is: Are you going to accept this or are you going to pick your chin up and fight? Your life (or quality of life) could depend on it.
Let me propose the following: Diabetes is well know for ultimately breaking down tissues in the body especially blood vessels and nerves. Right now, you may not have tingling or numbness in your hands or feet.
I work with a lot of patients who do. They tell me that they can’t think clearly. They tell me that they can’t walk far without pain. They tell me that they have no energy.
They tell me that their feet feel like they are on fire. They tell me that they are starting to fall because their balance is off. Some of them tell me that their feet have a constant sensation of getting bit by ants or having thousands of needles poking them.
Is Diabetes a Death Sentence?
What if you aren’t as bad as that yet? What if you realize that the diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes doesn’t mean that you will end up there if you start making some better decisions right now?
What if you don’t have to develop loss of eyesight, kidney disease, and loss of balance or nerve pain 10-20 years from now because you owned up and took control of the situation? What would that be worth?
I’ve had patients tell me what I just explained above. They have said, “Well, I was bound to get diabetes because everyone in my family has it.” That’s when I explain genotype vs. phenotype and how making some different decisions could lead to a better outcome.
Good Decisions Lead to Good Outcomes Brain Health
Better decisions = better expression of genes and lead to improved health in most circumstances.
I realize that you may be thinking that this article is about Alzheimer’s Disease and the gut connection. It is! However, now that you understand the difference between genotype and phenotype, it may be a little easier to understand how even something like Alzheimer’s and dementia could be modifiable.
Better decisions can be made to protect your brain from a preventative standpoint.
Okay, so buckle up. Here’s a little biology and anatomy to explain when, where, how, and why brain breakdown occurs leading to Alzheimer’s and dementia.
What does the Hippocampus Do?
The hippocampus in the brain is the epicenter of Alzheimer’s and dementia. The function of the hippocampus is short to long term memory. The hippocampus also coordinates cortisol release and therefore, is very susceptible to too much insulin.
Increased hippocampal sensitivity to insulin contributes to the fact that Type 2 diabetics are more likely to get Alzheimer’s when compared to non-diabetics.
In some circles, Alzheimer’s is called type 3 diabetes!
How is the Immune System Related to Alzheimer’s Disease?
Yes, blood sugar dysregulation (spikes and dips in blood sugar) can cause an upregulation of the immune system and lead to increased risk for plaque formation in the brain.
White blood cells (called microglia) live in the brain and clean and dispose of foreign substances.
White blood cells kill off foreign invaders in one of two ways:
- They swallow the foreign particle and kill it internally
- They “vomit” hydrogen peroxide onto the foreign particle and kill it externally
Either way, debris can be left behind and could possibly contribute to plaque formation leading to cognitive and neurological impairment.
Sugar is Bad!
Therefore, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to hypothesize that excessive amounts of sugar in the blood could ultimately be seen as a foreign invader and lead to a heightened inflammatory state even in the brain.
Once inflammatory pathways are initiated, the immune system brings in a host of inflammatory cytokines and basically an army of other white blood cells in order to help defeat the enemy (in this case excessive sugar). Once again, leaving behind an inflammatory battlefield riddled with trash and debris.
As I talked about in my article, Glutathione and the Gut/Brain Connection, phosphatidylcholine and glutathione are very important nutrients for hippocampal/brain health.
Also, liver detoxification, healthy eating habits, enough exercise, and adaptogens such as Panex Ginseng, Ashwaganda, and Astragalus are good for supporting hippocampal health and protecting the brain.
The Aging Brain
The aging brain is in a race against time. 15% of your resting cardiac or heart output goes to the brain. 20% of the total oxygen goes to the brain. 25 to 70% of glucose goes to the brain at a given time.
The above information shows the importance of what your body thinks is most important when it comes to functions of organ systems. The brain is by far #1.
Protect your brain! Protect your brain! Protect your brain!
Got it? Good!
Stay tuned for part 2 of Alzheimer’s Disease – The Gut Connection (Part 2)