It’s a fact that all the tissues of the human body are susceptible to degeneration, especially nerve tissue. This process is called neurodegeneration. Typical examples of neurodegenerative diseases, which currently affect Americans, are Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and MS. A whole host of symptoms are related to impaired brain and nerve functioning: poor memory, cognition, attention span, learning ability and physical incompetence including tremors, or shaking, muscular stiffness or rigidity, slowness of movement & difficulty with balance. It can also slow the GI tract, causing constipation, slow stomach emptying; it can lead to a loss of smell or taste.
Conventional Western medicine looks at these diseases as having no cure, so the approach is to use drugs targeted at reducing the effects of the symptoms.
I believe that understanding the process of neurodegeneration, learning about what can contribute to the initiation & progression of the disease may mean the difference in the quality of your life.
Although many factors play a direct role in the initiation of neurodegeneration, the 2 factors which interact in the cellular level are free radicals & excitotoxins. Free radicals are unpaired electrons that can cause damage to the cells of the body and are believed to increase the progression of certain diseases. They come from smoking, pollution, poisons, fried foods, and as a by-product of normal metabolism. It’s not something that you can completely avoid. So what’s the antidote for free radicals? Antioxidants! Antioxidant rich foods reduce the damage caused by free radicals, foods such as berries, beans, artichoke, nuts, etc. Studies have also reported that dietary intake of these antioxidant substances yields better results than taking them as supplements (Zandi, et al 2004).
Excitotoxins are substances that cause cell damage and eventually cell death. Exposure to these neurotoxic agents, such as consumption of foods contaminated with aluminum, heavy metals, MSG (food additives), aspartame act as major stress factors in initiating neurodegeneration. When we think of MSG we automatically think of Chinese food but you can find MSG in canned vegetables, soups, processed meats, etc. In liquid forms these excitotoxins are much more toxic than solid forms because they are rapidly absorbed and attain high concentration in the blood. This means that many of the commercial soups, sauces, and gravies containing MSG are very dangerous to nervous system health. According to Dr. George Schwartz, toxicologist and the author of “In Bad Taste” MSG is a nerve poison.
Besides eliminating certain foods that contribute to neurodegeneration what other steps can you take to prevent this disease?
- Improve blood sugar management –identify if you have any tendencies towards either hypoglycemia or insulin resistance. Because either will decrease glucose flow to your brain and negatively impact its function.
- Stimulate your brain-engage in activities that will stimulate your brain, and challenge it. Activities such as exercise, stretching, music, art, math, learning and reading.
- Decrease inflammation-There is strong connection between the gut and the brain. Therefore, following an anti-inflammatory diet and improving gut function can have profound impacts on brain function. If you have systemic inflammation you should stay away from nightshade foods: tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers. Check out www.noarthritis.com
- Don’t eat unfermented tofu-studies linked tofu consumption with exaggerated brain aging. Men who ate tofu at least twice weekly had more cognitive impairment, compared to those who ate moderately or never ate tofu. What’s more, higher midlife tofu consumption was also associated with low brain weight. We know that brain shrinkage accurse naturally with age, but in men that consumed more, the process has been exaggerated. To learn more about this check out The Whole Soy Story by Dr. Kaayla Daniel.
A study published in 2010 by Am J Cordiol reported a link between a diet rich in the saturated fatty acids found in coconut oil provided huge protection against oxidative stress in heart mitochondria. It is this same element that protects the brain hence having an impact on Alzheimer’s.
Findings show that coconut oil has an almost immediate effect on symptoms just after applying a single dose of 40ml to a patient. It has been established that ketones, found in coconut oil in abundance, are the magic ingredient behind this “miracle”. This is good news for those that have been hungering for ways to help ease the suffering of their loved ones. Coconut oil is not alone in providing this relief.
Additionally, studies also point to the fact that calorie restriction (reducing one’s calorific intake) by 30-50% can slow the onset of age-related conditions like neurodegeneration (Weindruch and Sohal 1997, etc). The challenge here is adherence to such a rigorous regimen, but if it offers hope then it is worth trying.