Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Building Blocks of a Theory In Progress, regarding Alzheimer's

I have theories. Pondering and puzzling and coming up with theories is something I enjoy. Some of my theories have solid value, and others exist only to amuse me. The one I'm currently tinkering with is for real.

I think about Alzheimer's. I have heard different snippets of thought, and theories of cause, and possibilities for hope over the past several years. These nuggets and bits go into a drawer in a closet in my mind, and they mix around with one another, and jostle about. From time to time, I go in and see what they look like all together. I was mulling over this collection today, and started forming the basis of a possible understanding. Not the framework of a theory yet, but the shadow of the genesis of the idea of a theory.


-A few years ago, I heard that some people were studying the effect of blood sugar/insulin levels on the brain, and had even suggested the possibility of calling Alzheimer's Type III Diabetes.

- In the book Nourishing Traditions, I read their explanation of the real cholesterol situation in our bodies. They said that it is not high-cholesterol foods that cause elevated serum cholesterol levels in our blood. This author's explanation was this: Refined white sugar is highly inflammatory. High levels of sugar moving through the blood stream inflame the interior of the blood vessel walls. The body's natural response to this inflammation is to release higher levels of cholesterol into the blood, to repair the damage. According to this book, cholesterol is a natural healing tool of the body; a response to a problem rather than a problem itself. In this explanation, it is the sugar-caused inflammation that causes plaques to develop on the blood vessel linings. At least, that is my understanding of the explanation given. It was longer and better expressed in the book.

-The only conclusive diagnostic tool for Alzheimer's disease is through an autopsy after death, in which they examine the brain. What they look for are distinctive deposits in the brain, a unique and definitive sign of Alzheimer's disease.

- I watched a fascinating series of video clips on youtube, a documentary discussing the positive effects of coconut oil in counteracting the symptoms of Alzheimer's. The woman being interviewed is a respected doctor. Her husband was quickly disappearing into the darkness of Alzheimer's, and she observed, up close and personal, the dramatic improvements brought about by the introduction of coconut oil into his diet.

-Coconut oil... (when I mention coconut oil, I always mean unhydrogenated coconut oil!) ... is purported to have anti-inflammatory properties, among many other health benefits.

So, here are the loose bits from which I'm started to form the foundation of an idea:
What if sugars (meaning refined white sugar, as well as blood sugars from refined starches in the diet) have the same effect on the brain as they are said to have on the blood vessels? What if elevated blood sugar levels cause an inflammatory condition in the brain? What if this inflammation predisposes the brain for the development of the plaques unique to Alzheimer's disease, just as was described in the cholesterol explanation? And if coconut oil is anti-inflammatory, it could reverse this condition which leaves the brain vulnerable to that development.

I can see, with those bits, how the consumption of coconut oil could help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease, through it's healing and protective influence. With my limited grasp of even these few bits, I still don't see how it could reverse the condition once it had already been well-begun.

There has been an astronomical increase in the number of people with Alzheimer's disease in the past few decades, right? And people are always trying to find that critical factor that changed in our culture/society to bring this about. I know one theory I heard was that the use of anti-perspirants with aluminum were a contributing factor. So many people use such products now, and they didn't a hundred years ago.

But so many things have changed in our world in the past hundred years. The number of possible variables in this situation is beyond comprehension. We live in a polluted, mechanized world, full of highly processed foods, high stress levels, and harmful chemicals. Our lives have moved indoors. We as a nation have become sedentary, anxious and angry. We use large amounts of substances on our bodies to keep ourselves clean, tidy, attractive and smelling good. Our air is dirty. Our water is suspect. We protect ourselves from the sun, by covering ourselves in chemical substances or by staying indoors. We have lost touch with the natural world. We have lost our moral compass, as a nation, and many of us are spiritually adrift in a sea of uncertainty. We live in a constant barrage of input designed to make us alarmed about the state of things in our world. It is functionally impossible to isolate one single cause for any change.

And yet, I do wonder if this vulnerability of the brain, to this one condition, may in fact be linked to a simple cause: diet.

I wonder if the massive overuse of refined sugars and starches is behind the huge increase in dementia and Alzheimer's disease among us. These highly refined foods have become so completely normal to us that we don't even realize how they pervade every corner of our lives.

Starches/sugar= elevated blood sugar levels, often beyond the body's ability to self-correct= inflammation in every system of the body, including the circulatory system, including brain tissue= vulnerability to the formation of plaques on the interior of blood vessels (heart disease) and on the brain (brain disease/Alzheimer's)???

Eating a diet very low in sugars and refined starches, high in fresh, whole, "real" foods, with healthy saturated plant fats like coconut oil...and low in the most inflammatory foods (refined white sugar, refined wheat flour, dairy, red meat)...will heal the chronically inflamed conditions in our bodies...could= protection of our brains against Alzheimer's???

We know that the massive changes in our American diet have seriously messed us up in so many ways, with a national crisis of obesity, heart disease, cancers, diabetes, etc etc. It just makes sense to me that these changes in brain health could stem from the same root cause.

If losing just five percent of your body weight can make an immediate difference in diabetic symptoms, why couldn't small, but important, dietary changes have an immediate effect on brain health?

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