Defending the Brain on 3 Fronts
The first-ever study of the application of the brain health protocol now known as ReCODE took place in 2014, with the result that 9 of the 10 persons in the study were able to reverse their cognitive decline, but were able to sustain the improvement. Some returned to fairly demanding jobs they had had to leave because they could not perform the work required of them. During this study, Bredesen and his research team discovered that medical science had been trying to eradicate a form of amyloid that turned out to be a protective response to one our more of three different assault categories on the brain: inflammation, suboptimal levels of nutrients and other synapse-supporting molecules, and toxic exposures.1
In order to reverse cognitive decline in subjective cognitive impairment, mild cognitive impairment, or Alzheimer’s disease (and potentially in other forms of dementia such as Lewy body disease), it is necessary to remove the factors— preferably all of them in each of the three categories— that are causing our brains to defend themselves by producing the protective amyloid response. After removing the three kinds of threats, the next step is to remove the amyloid itself. Once you’ve eliminated the triggers for amyloid production plus the amyloid that has already been produced, you need to rebuild the synapses that the disease has destroyed. To do that, it’s important to reduce your chances of all 3 — of inflammation, of a shortage of supportive compounds, and of exposure to neurotoxic substances. Since we can’t know if there are one, two or all three factors to address, it means that developing optimal treatments for complex chronic illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease involves identifying the many contributors for each person and then fashioning the best program to target these contributors.2 In other words, an individualized plan is needed to address the individual’s condition and deficiencies.
There is a not-to-be-missed chapter of Dr. B’s book entitled “How to Give Yourself Alzheimer’s – A Primer” that’s worthwhile for its humorous description of a day of self-destructive eating what we’ve come to know as food as well as a sobering wake-up call. Here’s an excerpt:
“Let’s get something at the drive-thru. Start with large fries, a perfect source of Alzheimer’s-inducing advanced glycation end products, or AGE— trans fats, starchy insulin, oxidized reheated oils with little vitamin E, and neurotoxic acrylamide. You can almost picture each fry with tiny little boxing gloves, snarling, “Let me at that hippocampus!” Add the burger— from corn- and not grass-fed beef, high in inflammatory omega-6 fats and low in the anti-inflammatory omega-3s, slathered in high-fructose corn syrupy ketchup, on a bun so packed with gluten it’s the perfect way to punch holes in your intestinal lining and your blood-brain barrier.”3
The good news is that although there are dozens and dozens of factors that can cause inflammation, a shortage of brain-supporting molecules, and susceptibility to toxic compounds, and thereby contribute to cognitive decline, they are all identifiable and all addressable— the sooner, the better.
Here are the basics for addressing each neurothreat:
1. Prevent and reduce inflammation:
Inflammation is your body’s response to attack, whether by pathogens (potential invaders, from viruses and bacteria to fungi and parasites) or noninfectious stresses. When we fight pathogens, the immune system floods the affected area with white blood cells that engulf and devour pathogens. That’s part of the inflammatory process. If the threat is chronic and the inflammatory response is continuously activated, it’s a problem. Scientific evidence is mounting for the conclusion that after a brain is invaded by pathogens, it produces amyloid, a potent pathogen fighter but one that eventually goes overboard, killing the very synapses and brain cells the amyloid was called up to protect. Therefore, to prevent and reverse cognitive decline, you must address potential infections, optimize your immune system’s ability to destroy pathogens, and reduce the chronic inflammation that results from fighting these organisms for years.
Inflammation can also arise without infection. It is triggered when we eat trans fats or sugar. The body also mounts an inflammatory response when damage to the intestines, often from consuming gluten or dairy or grains, causes “leaky gut.” Foods that contain gluten include wheat, wheat germ, rye, barley, bulgur, couscous, farina, graham flour, kamut, matzo, semolina spelt, and triticale.4
We humans evolved to handle only small amounts of sugars (about 15 grams per day, less than half the amount in a 12-ounce soft drink). Our bodies recognize sugar as poisonous, and therefore rapidly activate multiple mechanisms to reduce its concentration in our blood and tissues. For one thing, we store the extra energy as fat, which produces brain-damaging factors called adipokines. But that still leaves our bloodstream awash in sugar— specifically, glucose. The glucose molecules attach to many proteins, making the proteins ineffective. Our cells respond to the flood of glucose by increasing the production of insulin, which reduces the glucose by pushing it into cells. But your body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin. Insulin is intimately related to Alzheimer’s disease. After insulin molecules do their job and lower the glucose, the body must degrade the insulin in order to prevent dropping the blood glucose too low. It does this via an enzyme called insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE). Guess what else IDE degrades? Amyloid, the protein fragment in the sticky, synapse-destroying plaques in Alzheimer’s disease. But the enzyme can’t do both at once. To the extent that IDE can’t destroy amyloid, chronically high levels of insulin increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, a critical part of ReCODE is reducing insulin resistance, restoring insulin sensitivity, and reducing glucose levels, thereby restoring optimal metabolism.5
2. Optimize hormones, trophic factors, and nutrients
When we eliminate inflammation by reducing chronic infections and insulin resistance, we remove threats that allow amyloid to accumulate. That thwarts brain damage. It’s also crucial to give the brain a boost. The more you can strengthen your synapses, the harder it will be for any amyloid plaques that develop to destroy them.
To function at its best, your brain needs neuron- and synapse-supporting factors, including certain hormones, trophic factors, and nutrients. ReCODE offers ways to boost them. Among the synapse-strengthening compounds are brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which can be increased through exercise; hormones such as estradiol and testosterone, which can be optimized through prescriptions or via dietary supplements; and nutrients such as vitamin D and folate.6 Specific recommendations for obtaining supplements and nutrients can be found here: Maintain Your Brain – Conclusion: Key Concepts and Recommendations.
3. Eliminate toxins
ReCODE offers an effective way to reduce toxic induction of amyloid, starting with the identification of the toxic exposure, removal of the source, and then detoxification that includes, among other things, detoxifying foods such as cruciferous vegetables, pure-water hydration, sauna-based removal of a specific class of toxins, and increasing critical molecules such as glutathione. That way, the brain has no reason to churn out amyloid.
After doing all you can to eliminate the three neurothreats of inflammation, shortage of synaptic support, and toxic exposure, it is crucial to restore lost synapses and protect new and remaining ones. Research has identified compounds that enhance synapse formation.7
If you want to get a closer look at the science that led to developing the ReCODE protocol, excerpts from Dr. Bredesen’s book, The End of Alzheimer’s, are presented in the next article in the Maintain your Brain series, which is available by clicking here: Maintain Your Brain – Part 2: The Science Behind ReCODE. If you want to skip it for now, you may directly to the next article in this series by clicking here: Maintain Your Brain – Part 3: Addressing the Threats.
1 Bredesen, Dale. The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, p. 16
2 ibid, pp. 27-28
3 ibid, p. 43
4 ibid, pp. 45-47
5 ibid, pp. 49-50
6 ibid, pp. 50-51
7 ibid, p. 52