What concerns you the most when you consider growing into your later years? Loss of strength? Susceptibility to disease? Frailty? Inability to care for yourself? While those are on many people’s’ minds, the top concern is often dementia — severe loss of mental sharpness. Dementia is like a trap where you are here, yet not here at the same time. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is feared the most, where the brain breaks down and the sufferer is less and less able to relate to loved ones and even themselves.
When we think of longevity, we are not just looking to live more years, but to live them fully. Without the mind, those years mean nothing. We often remark of someone who is aging well, “her mind is so sharp even at her age”, or “I hope I’m that sharp when I reach his age”. We think it is remarkable when someone reaches old age and has vibrant mental capacity. Why? Because it’s rather rare. We’ve come to expect mental decline with advanced age.
Science has been key in telling us how things go wrong in the body. Possibly the first scientific technique developed was studying cadavers to look at what happened. But that doesn’t help so much while someone is alive. One modern tool, called Positron Emission Tomography (PET), allows us to see inside living brains and get a good idea of what is happening there. PET scans are showing us that the factors suspected of causing AD and perhaps lesser forms of dementia are significantly slowed in those who are aging well.
Tau and amyloid — the dynamic duo of proteins
Alzheimer’s is a complex disease, like so many degenerative diseases are. Current theories as to the causes of AD include insufficiency of a major neurotransmitter, direct destruction of neurons, a failure of a certain type of cell — microglia — to clear the brain of debris, vascular conditions causing a lowered level of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, a breakdown of the blood-brain barrier, and interference of neuron functions from the inside and outside by renegade proteins.
Two proteins which are clearly associated with Alzheimer’s are tau, when they collect abnormally in neurons and form clumped tangles of insoluable deposits; and amyloid protein plaques which collect between neurons. Both are disruptive to neuron functioning and communication, and can be seen with a microscope in brains of Alzheimer’s patients after death. Both proteins are normal at certain levels, so the abnormal levels and clumping found in AD patients is a corruption of the natural process. Tau undergoes “hyperphosphorylation” that leads to tangling with other tau proteins, and amyloid precursor proteins break down into toxic amyloids which clump together and block neuron communication.
A study published by the University of California San Francisco Memory and Aging Center showed that tau accumulation predicted with 40% accuracy upcoming brain atrophy in patients that would occur 15 months later. Using PET scans, they also predicted the actual location where the atrophy would occur.
The Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging presented a study taken from PET scans that drew a direct link between levels of tau and amyloid and the rate of cognitive aging. Those who showed superior cognitive skills at advanced age had a greater resistance to tau and amyloid build up. When the build up of both proteins reached a threshold, cognitive impairment started to appear. Protein pathology, or “proteinopathy” occurred, although it was not clear whether the proteins themselves, or insufficient removal of excess/damaged proteins is where the imbalance occurred. What is clear is that excess, damaged proteins were the culprit.
Remember, the body is adept at recycling proteins when there is not an abundant supply, but gets lazy when plenty of new protein is coming in. Most of us are simply pushing protein when we don’t need it!
Neurons, unlike most other cells, are designed to live more than a hundred years without replacement. As such, they have intricate repair mechanisms. Those repair mechanisms are also delicate and can be interrupted or slowed when the body is out of balance. Build up of damaged proteins in and around neurons can kill them. Neurogenesis — the process of neuron replacement — does occur, but it happens more slowly as we age. We want to preserve existing neurons!
Inflammation — the key to disease
Neuroinflammation — inflammation of the central nervous system — accompanies tau and amyloid plaques. An article published by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine states that neuroinflammation is detectable in the earliest stages of AD, and neurotoxic products of inflammation may initiate the abnormal processes leading to neural degeneration through activated microglia.
Inflammation is caused by toxicity, and also it produces toxins. Inflammation-activated microglia are thought to surround neurons and dump toxic products and reactive oxygen species (ROS), inducing neurotoxicity. As with other diseases, inflammation causes and accompanies dementia.
Phytochemicals to the rescue
Pharmaceutical research looks to the plant to discover new chemical compounds which can impact disease. They are looking to synthesize drugs rather than suggest plant remedies, but their research reveals the vast healing properties of various plants. Herbs such as ginkgo biloba and spices such as turmeric have chemicals which appear to reduce tau and amyloid build up. A review published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information lists saffron, ginseng, sage, and lemon balm as plants that contain phytochemicals which appear to reduce dementia; and extracts such as resveratrol and curcumin also show promise. And these are merely those that have been discovered — likely there are more that we are not yet aware of.
Plants contain a wealth of phytochemicals, which help deter many disease conditions by reducing inflammation. A broader variety of plants and plant spices in your diet expose you to a bigger array of phytochemicals, so experiment and branch out. Remember that many aspects of plants are diminished or destroyed by cooking and processing.
Misconception of “science”
We tend to think that traditional medicine is scientific, while natural medicine is not. But both are applying science, which is defined as “systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” Traditional medicine seeks to interrupt the normal, natural processes of the body once a pathology is identified. In the case of tau and amyloid clumps, the pharmaceutical industry is looking to reduce tau/amyloid protein development or clumping with some drug that most likely will have unintended consequences as it throws some mechanism of the body out of balance. A health-centric approach recognizes that the system was designed so that when balanced, it produces the proteins it needs and disposes of the garbage. Natural medicine concentrates less on how pathologies develop because an in-balance body generally avoids them. The body is like an orchestra, with the best performance happening when all the instruments are in tune and playing together.
Abstaining from certain pleasantries and even fasting at times is important to invoking healing mechanisms that we possess but often don’t employ properly. Garbage proteins can be recycled with fasting, toxins can be removed with proper hydration and activity, and balance can be maintained when pleasurable but unprofitable foods are skipped over for those our bodies need. The apostle Paul stated, “Everything is permissible for me-but not everything is beneficial.” We are free to eat the Standard American Diet, but the SAD diet is not beneficial!
As we age, matters of longevity and mental sharpness concern us more, yet they are best dealt with earlier in life, before pathologies build up. The body can operate, apparently normally, while pathologies build silently. When they reach a threshold and start showing up, we are now looking to reverse the damage, which is harder than preventing it in the first place. Today, not tomorrow, is the best day to act!
Dr. Nemec’s Comments:
What ages the brain? The same thing that ages every cell in the body: INFLAMMATION. When you inflame tissues, blood, lymph, and cerebrospinal fluid you get the result of that inflammation: toxic build up of waste products with lack of oxygen, hydration, and food to those cells, tissues, glands and organs. This eventually turns into disease in the areas that accumulate the most or are the most sensitive to the inflammation. Neurologic tissue, especially brain tissue, is very sensitive to inflammation and can get damaged more quickly and more permanently than other tissue because it controls all glands, organs and tissues. At Total Health Institute we have spent over 35 years researching the sources of inflammation and that is how we address any health challenge from Alzheimer’s, to Cancer, to Autoimmune Disease, to pain. We offer four options to work on your health:
- Outpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-has the most benefit of teaching, treatment, live classes and personalized coaching. This program has the most contact with Dr. Nemec with 3- 6 month programs that can be turned into a regular checking and support program for life. This is our core program that has helped so many restore their health and maintain that restoration for years.
- Inpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-is our four-week intensive inpatient program for those that are not in driving distance, usually over 4 hour drive. This is the program that is an intensive jumpstart with treatment, teaching, live classes and coaching designed for all our international patients along with those in the US that do not live in Illinois. This program is very effective especially when combined with our new membership program support.
- Stay at Home Program-is offered to continental US patients who cannot come to Total Health Institute but still want a more personal, customized plan to restore their health. This program also includes our Learn Membership Program.
- Membership Program is our newest program offered for those that want to work on their health at a high level and want access to the teaching at Total Health Institute along with the Forums: both Dr. Nemec’s posts and other members posting. And also, to have the chance to get personalized questions answered on the conference calls which are all archived in case you miss the call. The Membership Program has 3 levels to choose from: Learn, Overcome and Master. The difference is at the Overcome and Master levels you received one on one calls with Dr. Nemec personalizing your program for your areas of focus.