Can We Prevent Neurodegeneration? #HP-EVOO - Blog # 85
Hello Everyone! Welcome back to another Friday blog. Today I wanted to take a look at brain health and neurodegeneration - that is the loss of neurological function - affecting the brain and nervous system. It not only affects how our brain functions, but how our muscles and the rest of our body functions. Let’s delve in.
The brain itself is mostly fat and requires adequate intake of essential fatty acids (omega 6s and 3s) and healthy fat to function optimally. Your body likes an omega 6:3 ratio of 1:1 - but the SAD (Standard American Diet) is roughly 20:1 or even higher. When we look at levels of lipids in the brain, we find roughly 60% saturated fat, 20% MUFA (Oleic Acid), 15% PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) - of which, 90% is DHA (omega 3) - and Neuronic Acid. Neuronic acid is incorporated into sphingomyelin - rich in the myelin sheath. Synthesis of neuronic acid is from Oleic Acid! EVOO is a real hero here. “Decreased levels of PUFAs and MUFAs, particularly DHA (22:6 n-3) and oleic acid (18:1 n-9), respectively, were observed in the brain of Alzheimer’s disease patients.”
We’ve all heard of myelin - the fatty sheath surrounding nerves that speeds up delivery of information. “Myelin is critical for the proper function of the nervous system and one of the most complex cell–cell interactions of the body. Myelination allows for the rapid conduction of action potentials along axonal fibers and provides physical and trophic support to neurons. Myelin contains a high content of lipids, and the formation of the myelin sheath requires high levels of fatty acid and lipid synthesis, together with uptake of extracellular fatty acids.”
When myelin is damaged or unable to be repaired - we get neurological degenerative symptoms - but not right away. It can take 15-20 years of damage to this system before a diagnosis of MCI (mild cognitive impairment), AD (Alzheimer’s Disease), Lewy Body dementia, Frontotemporal dementia - that now we know starts as an autoimmune attack - such as RA (rheumatoid arthritis), MS (multiple sclerosis), ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and many other neurological ailments. “AD is a brain-centric disorder of innate immunity involving concurrent autoimmune and autoinflammatory mechanisms.”
So, what is myelin, what is it made of, and how do we protect it from degeneration? Myelin is a “multilamellar” (multiple layered) membrane that is roughly 40 or more lipid (fat) bilayers tightly wrapped with high levels of saturated VLCFAs (very long-chain fatty acids), cholesterol and a few proteins. The saturated fat increases compactness and stability of the myelin structure. In fact, myelin is 70-85% fat - functioning both as a fuel tank and protective cushion. Interestingly, Oleic Acid is the major composing FA (fatty acid) of myelin. WHAT?!!! Here's where EVOO comes to the rescue! Further, the brain sequesters 20% of the body’s total cholesterol and stores free pools of cholesterol (the most in the body) in myelin. Myelin CANNOT be made without cholesterol - Further, the cholesterol in myelin primarily comes from de novo synthesis. That is, your body MAKES it - it isn’t dietary. What do you think happens as a “side-effect” of blocking this production with cholesterol medications??? DISASTER on a broad scale.
In the CNS (central nervous system- brain/spinal cord), oligodendrocytes produce myelin. One oligodendrocyte can make myelin sheath sections for multiple local neurons. What is striking is that myelin synthesis and oligodendrocyte differentiation is severely disrupted in oligodendrocytes unable to synthesize cholesterol. We now know, oligodendrocytes that are unable to make cholesterol cannot produce myelin - even when they are able to get it from a neighboring cell - such as an astrocyte. 😳 So what do you think happens when you take statin drugs? You think myelin is getting repaired? Think again. You also have depleted your cholesterol fuel tank! Your brain CANNOT WORK efficiently!!!!
In the PNS (peripheral nervous system), Schwann cells make myelin. “Schwann cells unable to synthesize cholesterol fail to myelinate or produce only thin myelin sheaths.” One Schwann cell, however, can only myelinate one neuron. Both oligodendrocytes and Schwann cells rely on FA (fatty acid) synthesis and an adequate supply of FA substrate to generate myelin. Free FAs can readily cross the BBB (blood brain barrier) to meet these needs. SCFAs (short-chain fatty acids) made by our gut microbiome are critical in maintenance of healthy myelin. In fact, it is clear that an altered microbiome termed “perturbation of gut–brain axis” is now recognized as a characteristic of MS pathology - resulting in altered gut microbiota composition and increased intestinal barrier permeability. When they looked at fecal microbiota in MS patients they lacked the microbes capable of producing SCFAs. “Fecal metagenomic sequencing revealed a detrimental effect of MS gut microbiota which is majorly attributed to the loss of SCFAs-producing bacteria.” This microbiome connection is KEY to reversing and preventing these pathologies.
When we look at dementia and Alzheimer’s, microbial biofilms underlie most of the amyloid plaques in the brain. Amyloid protein - previously thought of as the villain - is actually an antimicrobial protein created by the body to protect the brain from further damage. On autopsy, they find biofilms at the base of amyloid plaques in the brains of Alzheimer's victims - that include bacteria, parasites, fungi and viruses. For example: P.gingivalis (oral microbe that causes gingivitis), spirochetes like T.denticola and T.pallidum, viruses like Herpes simplex, etc. Amyloid proteins also bind toxins - such as copper or iron when in excess. The more amyloid protein the brain makes to protect itself, the more cognitive impairment there is. Where these plaques are located in the brain, often predicts the type of deficits. For example, with frontotemporal dementia, facial recognition as well as behavioral disinhibition are major issues. These individuals often speak or act in inappropriate ways. So, how do they gain access to the brain?
Pathogens can leak from our gums and make their way into the brain - they can leak from our from consuming gluten and other inflammatory proteins in grains - we can breathe them in through our olfactory system or respiratory system. Have your gums ever bled when you brushed your teeth? This condition of low vitamin C allows the migration of pathogens into the blood vessels where they travel to other parts of the body and cause havoc. 😳 This can go on for 20+ years unbeknownst to us - until we walk into a room and can’t remember why we went in…This is actually late in the game on the path to dementia and/or Alzheimer's - meaning significant damage has already occurred. Each year, roughly 10% of those diagnosed with MCI will convert to full Alzheimer's.
These pathogens also gain access into the body through increased intestinal permeability - when we don’t feed our good gut microbes the fiber, polyphenols and fat they like to eat - or eat gluten that causes a transient leaky gut - or eat a high carbohydrate diet that depletes ATP from our enterocytes resulting in weak tight junctions - Our enterocytes’ (intestinal cells) primary diet is a SCFA (butyrate) made by our gut microbiome. When they don’t eat, they get weak - the tight junctions can’t close = increased intestinal permeability - bacteria and literal sewage leak out of our intestines into the body causing massive inflammation and activate the immune system. This is leaky gut. It is the PRIMARY cause of autoimmune diseases. “Derangement of gut microbiota has been associated with brain disorders and neurodegenerative diseases such as ASDs, depression and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).” What is striking, is that “germ-free” mice do NOT make amyloid plaques in their brains!! Scientists are finding strains of pneumonia, tick infections, fungal infections like Candida albicans and even H. pylori the organism responsible for stomach ulcers in the brains of AD patients. “H. pylori-specific antibodies are present in the cerebrospinal fluid of AD patients, and mice infected with the bacterium demonstrate impaired cognitive abilities.”
This microbial migration termed “bacterial translocation” allows for formation of biofilms that create a sticky foundation creating arterial plaque as well - causing HTN (hypertension) and CVD (cardiovascular disease). “Derangement of gut microbiota has been associated with brain disorders and neurodegenerative diseases such as ASDs, depression and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).” When we correct our microbiome by increasing beneficial microbes that control pathogenic populations - we get SCFAs (feed our enterocytes) produced, NO (nitric oxide - to relax blood vessels) and ketones that enhance mitochondrial function and help return the body to a homeostatic state. “FAs as metabolites, indeed harbor the ability to manipulate epigenetics and cell signal transduction, etc., reflecting their identity as “metabokines”.” This means that the FAs produced by our microbiome literally function epigenetically - "above the genes" - to turn off cancer genes (oncogenes) and turn on genes that protect us from cancer and other diseases, for example.
These products made by a healthy gut microbiome go a long way in reversing IR (insulin resistance) and T2D (type 2 diabetes) - HUGE contributors to Alzheimer's and dementias. In fact, Alzheimer's is termed Type 3 Diabetes of the Brain! When you have IR, your body has a very hard time getting glucose into the cell to be used for energy. The brain is an energy-hog. You start to experience brain fog, fatigue, memory issues. As IR progresses into T2D, the neurons are starving! Glucose can't get into the cell to provide energy. This results in high blood sugar that glycates your proteins and renders them non-functional. This causes neurodegeneration, muscle degeneration/atrophy, macular degeneration, cataracts and many other common chronic problems. It is why diabetics get neuropathy and lose sensation in their feet, for example.
There are many other contributors to neurodegeneration as well. Environmental toxins: heavy metals, gas fumes, off-gassing of new cars, furniture and rugs, fire-resistant clothing, wildfires, smoking, “forever chemicals” (PFAs), glyphosate, astrazine and other pesticides/herbicides/bacteriocides, air pollution, makeup, shampoos, lotions, creams and self-care products. Infections/latent infections: viral, bacterial, parasite, fungus. You may not even know. Understanding that our body is being overwhelmed by these chemicals on a daily basis, we must make a conscious effort to remove as many as we can. So, now that we have the picture - it is CLEAR that we need to be actively preventing damage from occurring in the first place - then, doing all we can to reverse IR/T2D to allow our brain to process glucose - eat to provide nourishment to your microbiome as well as your neurons.
Here are several strategies that you can implement right now to prevent Neurodegeneration:
- Eat healthy FAT - Provide your body the right substrate to synthesize and repair MYELIN - eat healthy FAT - HP-EVOO (high polyphenol extra virgin olive oil) with Oleic Acid and polyphenols, avocado, coconut oil and MCT oil, nuts, seeds, grass-fed butter and Ghee.
- Increase Omega 3s - DHA, EPA in cod liver oil, salmon, cod, sardines, anchovies, cod and other fish and seafood, grass-fed beef, pastured chicken and eggs, spirulina, chlorella, ALAs in chia seed, flax seed, hemp hearts...
- Feed your microbiome! They like FIBER and polyphenols! Eat the rainbow of organic vegetables and fruits - drizzle HP-EVOO to provide more polyphenols and enhance absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients - stay lower glycemic, away from starchy white potatoes - opt for heirloom purple sweet potatoes - get at least 25-30 different plant sources/week. The beneficial microbes as well as phytonutrients are in the food - eat all colors of bell peppers, all kinds of onions, red and green cabbage, purple and white cauliflower. Try strange vegetables you've never had.
- Eat fermented food - This gives you a wide range of LIVE microbes - so don't heat your raw organic fermented sauerkraut! It also has POSTBIOTICS ready to go! Eat fermented pickles and other vegetables, kimchi, natto, miso, etc. FYI - 1C raw fermented sauerkraut provides a full dose of vitamin C - to prevent microbial access to blood vessels.
- Eat Anchovies - they are high in the amino acid Threonine - it has properties that treat ALS, MS, spinal spasticity and other neurological disorders. They are also omega 3 stars - so 2 birds with one stone!
- Support mitochondrial function - get your B vitamin levels up as well as minerals - Magnesium and zinc - increase ketones (MCT oil, goat cheese, EVOO) - do a hot sauna or a cold plunge - fast -
- Get Insulin-Sensitive - remove sugar, grains and processed carbohydrates - they are causing damage and driving Neurodegeneration, HTN(hypertension), CVD(cardiovascular disease, Obesity, NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease), CKD (chronic kidney disease) and Cancer.
- Get a HEPA filter for your home/bedroom/office - It is the ONLY proven filter to remove 99.9% of these chemicals from the air - put in a room where you spend the most time - or get one for each room if you can afford it. The air quality inside your home can be up to 560x worse than outdoor air. 😳 How? Molds, dust, old rugs and carpet, off-gassing of furniture, carbon monoxide…etc.
- Have air ducts cleaned - we live in Texas where we have to use our air conditioning. So many chemicals, toxins and mold are trapped here.
- Decrease Inflammation - get your vitamin D3 level up to 70-80. It is really a hormone that is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Consume an anti-inflammatory diet - include foods with antioxidant properties
- Lower alcohol consumption - “Heavy alcohol consumption for prolonged periods of time greatly increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.” Even moderate consumption inhibits glymphatic drainage, but is reversed after 24 hours of sobriety.
- Get hearing checked - hearing loss is also associated with Alzheimer’s, whereas wearing hearing aids prevented it.
- Exercise - increase blood flow and oxygen to your brain and body. Your brain uses roughly 25% of body-wide O2! Exercise is a hormetic stress resulting in a healing response and activation of antioxidant pathways in the body.
- Sleep - When we sleep, the neurons actually shrink allowing the neuroglia (nerve glue) to remove toxins and viruses with increased CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) essentially “washing” the brain. This is the glymphatic system. “The “glymphatic system,” a brain-wide perivascular transit passageway dedicated to CSF transport and interstitial fluid exchange that facilitates metabolic waste drainage from the brain.” When is it most active? “As well as cleansing the brain, the replenishing role of the glymphatic system was observed. Glymphatic-induced reoxygenation of the brain occurs during large pulsations of CSF. The pulsating fashion in which these sleep oscillations occur suggests that the majority of glymphatic activity occurs during N3 sleep.” N3 is slow-wave sleep that occurs the first half of the night ~ 9pm - 3am. Get to bed by 9 to get the most active washing. It diminishes closer to 3am. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep. Make your bedroom an oasis - comfy, dark, cool, quiet, or even some white noise. Stop late-night snacking allowing 3 hours after eating before sleep.
- Address Sleep Apnea - Sleep apnea can reduce O2 to the brain. Insomnia, sleep apnea and other sleep disturbances are present in 25–35% of Alzheimer’s patients - with the suprachiasmatic nucleus (responsible for circadian rhythm) being most affected.
- Intermittent Fasting - 17-18 hours or even 24, 48, or 72 hours - fasting causes the liver to switch from carbohydrate oxidation to fatty acid oxidation which is protective against Alzheimer’s - fasting also stimulates autophagy (self-devour) a VITAL process where your body cleans house - removes misfolded or damaged proteins and makes new, better-functioning ones - removes bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites from your body and brain - increases mitochondrial function and number - burns stored fat and gets rid of toxins - Doing a longer fast will get you more healing and a reset of your microbiome, hormonal and immune systems! You begin to release stem cells at 72 hours that can become ANY tissue in the body! This is one fantastic tool we have - and it’s free!
- Manage Stress - when you allow yourself to get super angry and pissed off, it causes HUGE stress to your microbiome, which negatively changes the flora - increasing gut permeability (like a dimmer switch) decreasing absorption of nutrients, increasing microbial translocation and creating endotoxins from the outer membrane of gram negative microbes. You literally are turning your good guys into bad actors. Practice gratitude, breathing and mindful meditation techniques - refuse to allow yourself to get so worked up-
- HP-EVOO (high polyphenol extra virgin olive oil) - High polyphenol EVOO with Oleocanthal REPAIRS the BBB (blood brain barrier) important in keeping toxins, bacteria and viruses out - The polyphenols in EVOO also feed the microbiome - enhancing production of SCFAs that keep our gut healthy - improve mitochondrial function and number - provide fuel for the brain in the form of ketones - protect the arterial endothelium - provide epigenetic protection - and much much more! Oleic Acid provides substrate for myelin as well as the brain itself. Check out blog # 61 on how EVOO helps grow new neurons!