FEATURE — Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disorder in which the death of nerve and brain cells causes memory loss and cognitive decline, leading to dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is important to study and understand because it is the most common form of age-associated dementia.
As one of the biggest medical challenges of our time, there are currently more than 47 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease globally, with the Alzheimer’s Association predicting this number to increase to 120 million by 2050.
Although Alzheimer’s disease can be genetically inherited – through the ApoE4 gene – we can do better in controlling the environmental factors that contribute to the expression of this disease. Environmental factors can be controlled and modified to prevent or decrease risk for disease development or to change the course of the illness.
In the Alzheimer’s brain, abnormal levels of a naturally occurring protein – amyloid beta protein – clump together to disrupt cell function. Inflammation and the activation of the brain’s immune system (microglial activation) are very important as factors that cause this protein to be deposited in the brain.
However, the proteins themselves trigger and maintain generalized inflammation that feeds back on itself. In other words, inflammation creates more inflammation, and it becomes chronic with no readily available “off” switch for the inflammatory responses. This ongoing inflammation leads to the development of tissue changes.
Nerve cell death and brain shrinkage are triggered by amyloid beta protein accumulation in the brain. Amyloid beta becomes sticky and deposits in clumps around nerve cells, causing a downsizing of brain volume, brain cells and the nerve connections in the circuitry that is our life’s memories.
This process is thought to usually take about 20 years, which gives us ample opportunity to identify the environmental factors that cause inflammation and set the stage for the disease and to act by implementing treatments to slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
What causes the inflammation associated with neurodegeneration?
Infections and their toxins contribute significantly to Alzheimer’s disease, making it very important to actively assess immune system reactivity toward microbes that drive the Alzheimer’s disease process. These microbes include viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
Common infections are also strongly linked to Alzheimer’s, including the cold sore virus, HSV 1; the stomach ulcer bacteria, Helicobacter pylori; Candida yeasts, which causes thrush; and Lyme disease caused by Borrelia organisms. Pathogenic dental bacteria found in periodontitis or gum disease is strongly linked to Alzheimer’s disease. All of these factors are very diagnosable and treatable.
Testing for specific inflammatory markers is a core part of a thorough, integrated medical workup for brain inflammation and neurodegenerative disease. The causes for inflammation are identifiable can be treated.
Microbiome imbalance is also a potent contributor to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Disturbance of a healthy brain-gut-microbiome, unhealthy mucus membranes and unhealthy dental bacteria are strongly associated with microbes that end up in the brain. They can also cause a leaky blood-brain barrier, allowing more microbes, toxins and activated immune cells into the flammable brain.
Blood, saliva and stool tests for antibodies or microbial DNA of relevant microbes and their toxins help us understand if there is chronic exposure that can be corrected.
Toxins are a very strong and common factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The term “mad as a hatter” is a very appropriate historic reference to the degeneration of the brain in hat makers that were exposed to mercury in their work.
Modern-day studies strongly support the causative link between not only mercury levels in the blood and the brain but also between amalgam dental fillings and Alzheimer’s disease. Arsenic, lead, cadmium and other toxic metals are strongly linked with brain dysfunction and are also classified as dementogens – substances that predispose you to dementia.
Various chemicals such as VOC’s, plastics, pesticides, insecticides and especially small particulate inhalant exposure in air pollution are strongly linked to the development and acceleration of Alzheimer’s disease.
Testing for the presence of various classes of toxin dementogens helps us determine their presence, possible ongoing exposure and, most importantly, treatment options.
Precise diagnostic testing leads to a clear view of factors that contribute to neurodegenerative processes in Alzheimer’s disease. Prevention and treatment must be preceded by focused diagnostic steps to ensure that appropriate protocols are used to optimize the therapeutic effect of treatment.
Written by WERNER VOSLOO, MD, Restore Bio+Clinic.
This article was first published in St. George Health and Wellness magazine.