Alzheimer’s and inflammation: 3 essential ways to protect your brain
Alzheimer’s help is needed as disease numbers in the U.S. rise rapidly. The 2020 Alzheimer’s Disease: Facts and Figures from the Alzheimer’s Association tells us that dementia and other neurodegenerative disorders are disproportionately underfunded.1 Medical care can’t keep up with demand.
Want to keep your mind sharp regardless of your age? Start by cutting out sources of inflammation to protect your brain health — like processed foods, refined sugars, and stress. The Body Ecology Diet book can show you how.
The Alzheimer’s Association refers to several studies and demonstrates that:1
- About 5.8 million Americans ages 65 and older have Alzheimer’s.
- This number does not include other dementias.
- Both of these numbers are rising as the U.S. population over 65 increases.
- The 2020 figures tell us that after the age of 85, 32 percent of the U.S. population has this very severe neurodegenerative condition.
Alzheimer’s help: How neurodegeneration relates to chronic infection
Several recent studies have linked Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 (HSV1) to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.2 Plaque formation in the brain, which is extremely common in Alzheimer’s patients, is now being considered as possibly an antimicrobial protein that the brain secretes in a self-defensive act against infection.3
HSV1 is extremely common. It’s estimated that nearly half of teenagers and adults under age 50 in the United States are infected with HSV1.4
In 2008, a pivotal study conducted at the INSERM in Bordeaux, France, led by Luc Letenneur, specifically showed a link between HSV1 antibodies and Alzheimer’s:5
- The study covered a 14-year time span.
- Approximately 512 elderly people with no signs of dementia were monitored.
- HSV1 antibodies were documented as a bigger risk factor than a gene called the “Alzheimer’s gene.”
The protein responsible for plaque formation is called beta-amyloid. Some drugs have been developed that are anti-amyloid. Meaning, they fight the production of amyloid agents. These drugs have either failed to produce results or have actually sped up the neurodegenerative process. Why is this?
The critical link between Alzheimer’s and inflammation
The inflammatory process is an immune system response that is set up to protect the body. When opportunistic pathogens, like yeast, bacteria, or viruses, invade the body and begin to multiply, the immune system is programmed to tag these invaders and destroy them.
Problems happen when the immune system attacks the body itself.
This can occur in an autoimmune condition, or when the immune system becomes confused and attacks a non-pathogenic substance, like wheat gluten. The protein structure in wheat gluten has actually been found to be similar to that of Candida albicans. This may account for why so many people have sensitivity to the proteins in wheat.
Many of us already know that persistent inflammation, even if it lies somewhere deep within the body, will eventually lead to the breakdown of our whole system.
Scientists are now finding that beta-amyloid fights pathogenic infection.6 In fact, it’s likely that this beta-amyloid protein is a part of an immune response in the brain. This is why it ties to neurodegeneration. When the brain becomes inflamed, it breaks down.
While this protein is hallmark to an inflammatory response and neurodegeneration, it’s also a protective measure. Without this protein, the brain is then more vulnerable to infective agents, like HSV1.
Researchers studying beta-amyloid have also found that it has significant microbicidal activity against several pathogens. These include Candida albicans, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and pneumoniae.7,8
Dr. Perlmutter, who spoke at the Institute for Functional Medicine’s 20th annual symposium, says that beta-amyloid “may actually be a friend, not a foe.” Dr. Perlmutter, a neurologist and functional medicine physician in Naples, Florida, has authored multiple books about the brain, including Brain Wash and Power Up Your Brain.9
Neurodegeneration, such as that in Alzheimer’s, links to excessive activity of the microglia cells in the brain.
Microglia are the housekeepers in the brain. They’re extremely sensitive to any kind of stimulation:
- Glial and microglia cells are similar to macrophages of the immune system.
- They clean house, having the ability to destroy and also sound an alarm call with certain cell messengers called interleukins.
- Microglia cells protect and nurture the neuron.
- Microglia are extremely sensitive. One neuronal death is never a singular event. There is always, even if small in degree, a domino effect.
- A systemic inflammatory signal can activate microglia cells.
Prolonged activation of the immune system can go systemic and trigger a whole-body alarm response. Once this happens, especially if over an extended period of time, the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, which protects the brain, weakens and becomes permeable.
Let’s win the fight against Alzheimer’s. Listen to our podcast to learn more about healthy aging.
Why a weakened blood-brain barrier can open the door to HSV1
Also in 2008, another team of researchers led by Dr. Ruth Itzhaki, found HSV1 DNA in amyloid plaque samples in people with symptomatic and asymptomatic Alzheimer’s disease.10
The study confirmed that:
- Approximately 72 percent of the viral DNA is plaque-associated.
- HSV is a significant contributing factor to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
- The process by which herpes enters the central nervous system is slow and lifelong.
Systemic inflammation contributes to the weakening of the protective blood-brain barrier.
When a pathogen like HSV1 enters the immune system, the microglia cells react, and neurons die. Not only that, but researchers now believe beta-amyloid are so congruent in Alzheimer’s patients because this plaque protein is actually a defense mechanism.
What’s the best way to protect the brain? 3 scientific solutions
Remember, beta-amyloid is also effective against Candida albicans, Escherichia coli, and Staphylococcus aureus. When so many people are infected with common viruses, like HSV1, and other herpetic viruses that affect the nervous system, as well as systemic fungal infections, what’s the most effective way to shield the brain from neurodegeneration?
The Body Ecology Principle of Acid and Alkaline tells us that when the body is in an acidic state, opportunistic pathogens like yeast, bacteria, and viruses can thrive.
The body becomes acidic when we:
- Consume excessive amounts of sugar, especially refined sugars.
- Eat foods to which we have a sensitivity or an allergic response.
- Have a diet that includes processed foods, which are often stripped of their natural minerals.
- Ignore what types of oils are in our diet and eat common oils in processed food products.
- Let stress dominate our lives.
- Overtrain or habitually overexercise.
As we know, chronic inflammation is not an isolated event. Chemical messengers that communicate the inflammatory signal travel throughout the body.
So, it’s important to:
- Eliminate unhealthy oils and excessive sugars, which are known to generate an inflammatory response.11
- Replace these with beneficial microflora, as they have been shown to actually reduce inflammation in the intestinal tract.12
- Stop or reduce sources of stress and breathe deeply. This activates the parasympathetic nervous systems and calms the body down, which reduces inflammation.13
The digestive system is uniquely related to the central nervous system. When the epithelial cells of the digestive walls become inflamed, the epithelial cells of the blood-brain barrier also become inflamed.
The recent research of Dr. Dale Bredesen, internationally recognized Alzheimer’s expert and author of The End of Alzheimer’s, shows great potential for using lifestyle to reverse Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Bredesen, so far, has improved or reversed cognitive decline in hundreds of people.
Patients following his protocol — with interventions like removing gluten from the diet, practicing mindfulness, and taking supplements — saw dramatic changes within several months’ time. Bredesen’s case studies demonstrate that removing sources of inflammation could cause hippocampal volume to increase and numerous cognitive functions to return, including language and memory.14
Many foods that are easily available and attractive to our senses are all heavily refined or contain additives that may enhance the taste or shelf life of a product but not its health value. These foods are even sold in natural food markets and advertised as healthy and beneficial to your body.
The smartest way to get around these additives, excessive amounts of sugars, and unhealthy oils? Read labels carefully, and try to prepare as many of your meals at home as possible.
- 1. “2020 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.” Alzheimer’s Association, 2020.
- 2. Itzhaki RF. Corroboration of a Major Role for Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 in Alzheimer’s Disease. Front Aging Neurosci. 2018;10:324. Published 2018 Oct 19. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2018.00324.
- 3. Wozniak MA, Mee AP, Itzhaki RF. Herpes simplex virus type 1 DNA is located within Alzheimer’s disease amyloid plaques. J Pathol. 2009 Jan;217(1):131-8. doi: 10.1002/path.2449. PMID: 18973185.
- 4. Geraldine McQuillan, Ph.D. “Prevalence of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 and Type 2 in Persons Aged 14–49: United States, 2015–2016.” NCHS Data Brief, No. 304, February 2018.
- 5. Letenneur L, Pérès K, Fleury H, Garrigue I, Barberger-Gateau P, Helmer C, et al. (2008) Seropositivity to Herpes Simplex Virus Antibodies and Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease: A Population-Based Cohort Study. PLoS ONE 3(11): e3637. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0003637.
- 6. D. K. V. Kumar, S. H. Choi, K. J. Washicosky, W. A. Eimer, S. Tucker, J. Ghofrani, A. Lefkowitz, G. McColl, L. E. Goldstein, R. E. Tanzi, R. D. Moir. Amyloid- peptide protects against microbial infection in mouse and worm models of Alzheimers disease. Science Translational Medicine, 2016; 8 (340): 340ra72 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaf1059.
- 7. Kumar DK, Choi SH, Washicosky KJ, Eimer WA, Tucker S, Ghofrani J, Lefkowitz A, McColl G, Goldstein LE, Tanzi RE, Moir RD. Amyloid-β peptide protects against microbial infection in mouse and worm models of Alzheimer’s disease. Sci Transl Med. 2016 May 25;8(340):340ra72. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaf1059. PMID: 27225182; PMCID: PMC5505565.
- 8. Soscia SJ, Kirby JE, Washicosky KJ, Tucker SM, Ingelsson M, Hyman B, et al. (2010) The Alzheimer’s Disease-Associated Amyloid β-Protein Is an Antimicrobial Peptide. PLoS ONE 5(3): e9505. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0009505.
- 9. Perlmutter, David. “Alzheimer’s Risks, Inflammation, Lifestyle, and Interventions.” Speaker at the Institute for Functional Medicine’s 20th annual symposium, 2017. Naples Florida.
- 10. Itzhaki R. F., Wozniak M. A., Herpes simplex virus type 1 in Alzheimer’s disease: the enemy within, J Alzheimers Dis, 2008, 13, 393–405.
- 11. Ted M. Hsu, Vaibhav R. Konanur, Lilly Taing, Ryan Usui, Brandon D. Kayser, Michael I. Goran, Scott E. Kanoski. Effects of sucrose and high fructose corn syrup consumption on spatial memory function and hippocampal neuroinflammation in adolescent rats. Hippocampus, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/hipo.22368.
- 12. Marie-Anne von Schillde, Gabriele Hörmannsperger, Monika Weiher, Carl-Alfred Alpert, Hannes Hahne, Christine Bäuerl, Karolien van Huynegem, Lothar Steidler, Tomas Hrncir, Gaspar Pérez-Martínez, Bernhard Kuster, Dirk Haller. Lactocepin Secreted By Lactobacillus Exerts Anti-Inflammatory Effects By Selectively Degrading Proinflammatory Chemokines. Cell Host & Microbe, 2012; 11 (4): 387 DOI: 10.1016/j.chom.2012.02.006.
- 13. Twal, W.O., Wahlquist, A.E. & Balasubramanian, S. Yogic breathing when compared to attention control reduces the levels of pro-inflammatory biomarkers in saliva: a pilot randomized controlled trial. BMC Complement Altern Med 16, 294 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-016-1286-7.
- 14. Bredesen DE, Amos EC, Canick J, et al. Reversal of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease. Aging (Albany NY). 2016;8(6):1250-1258. doi:10.18632/aging.100981.