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Preventing Degenerative Disease
Nuero-degenerative Diseases - Oxidative Stress and the Brain/Aging of the Brain
Dr. Strands Supplement Recomendations for those with this medical issue:
My patients with MS have shown that at least 400 mg of grape-seed extract, 200-300 mg of CoQ10 and even some additional 500 to 1000 mg of vitamin C can be helpful in this disease. I warn my MS patients that it may be more than 6 months before they see any improvement.Pharmaceutical Grade Supplements
Dr. Ray Strand: Important nutrients needed by the brain actually have specialized transporting proteins available allowing them to cross this barrier. At the same time toxic substances, infectious organisms, and most other nutrients have difficulty passing through this barrier. This keeps the brain isolated with only
its most essential nutrients able to enter. Much like a medieval castle surrounded by water and a high wall whose entry is a drawbridge, so our brain also has significant protection from the dangers of the outside world. God created this amazing defensive barrier for the protection of this very sensitive area of our body.
So you wonder, what has gone wrong in the case of aging of the brain and neurological disease?
The neurology department at the Rabin Medical Center in Tel Aviv concluded that as a result of today's environment, the brain is exposed to a significantly increased amount of toxins, such as heavy metals, and thus oxidative stress. The antioxidant defense system is no longer completely effective in protecting this vital organ. They believe that additional antioxidants, which particularly need to be taken in supplementation, have the potential for diminishing or maybe even preventing the damage increased oxidative stress causes. They warn, however, that the antioxidants must be ones that can readily cross over the blood brain barrier.'3
Let's take a look at each of the important antioxidants needed to protect the sensitive cells in our brain and how well they traverse the blood brain barrier.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant, which is very important in the protection of brain and peripheral nerve cells. Vitamin E is able to cross through the blood brain barrier, but it does have some difficulty. Researchers have to use very high doses of vitamin E in supplementation in order to increase the level of vitamin E in this area of the body. Therefore, vitamin E is an important antioxidant in protecting brain cells but probably not the best one in this situation.
Vitamin C can concentrate in the tissue and fluid around the brain and nerves. It is able to pass through the blood brain barrier, and in fact, vitamin C levels are ten times higher in this tissue than in the plasma.'; When you realize that vitamin C is not only a great antioxidant but also has the ability to regenerate vitamin E and glutathione, it becomes a very important nutrient in protecting brain and nerve cells.
Dr. M. C. Morris reported a study showing that vitamin C and vitamin E given in supplementation to normal patients over the age of sixty-five actually decreased their risk of developing Alzheimer's dementia. This was a small study and larger, more aggressive studies need to be done.'5
Glutathione is the most important antioxidant within the brain and nerve cells. But this nutrient is difficult to absorb from oral supplements, and its ability to cross the blood brain barrier is not yet clear. Some studies using IV glutathione have shown significant improvements in patients with Parkinson's disease; however, these studies involved only a few patients.'6 The best strategy at this time is to supplement the nutrients the body needs to make its own glutathione (N-acetyl-L-cysteine, niacin, selenium, and vitamin B2). You also need to have those antioxidant nutrients available that regenerate the glutathione so it can be used again and again (vitamin C, alpha-lipoic acid, and CoQ10).
The medical community is recognizing alpha-lipoic acid more and more as an important antioxidant.'7 It is not only both fat- and water-soluble, it also has the ability to readily cross over the blood brain barrier. It can regenerate vitamin C, vitamin E, intracellular glutathione, and CoQ10.
Another important aspect of alpha-lipoic acid is that it can attach itself to toxic metals in the brain and help eliminate them from the body. Heavy metals such as mercury, aluminum, cadmium, and lead have been implicated in increasing the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases. These metals tend to deposit themselves in brain tissue because of the high amount of fat concentrated in that part of the body. These metals can cause a significant increased amount of oxidative stress and are extremely difficult to remove from the central nervous system once they are there. Antioxidants that not only are potent but have the ability to help remove these toxic heavy metals will become increasingly important in the prevention and treatment of these diseases.
As a side note, I believe it is wise to eliminate the use of products, such as deodorants and cooking utensils, that contain aluminum. When you realize that heavy metals actually increase the amount of oxidative stress in the body, especially the brain, you will want to decrease your exposure to them.
I anticipate that over the next several years we will hear more and more about mercury toxicity and how it too can cause significant damage to the brain. I would encourage everyone, but especially those with children, to avoid getting mercury amalgam fillings in their teeth. If you ask your dentist about possible alternatives to these mercury amalgams, he does have much safer options. (Don't run out and have all of your mercury fillings removed, though. If it is not done properly, it may cause more harm than if you just leave them alone.)
Coenzyme Q10, as you will recall, is a very potent antioxidant as well as one of the most important nutrients for the production of energy within the cell. Clinical studies have shown that oxidative damage in the mitochondria (this is where CoQ10 works) is an important aspect in the development of neurodegenerative diseases.9
As we age, the level of CoQ10 in our brains and nerve cells decreases significantly. CoQ10 may be a missing link in the prevention of diseases like Alzheimer's dementia and Parkinson's disease; however, further human clinical studies are still necessary. How well CoQ10 passes through the blood brain barrier has not yet been fully evaluated.
Studies show that grape-seed extract crosses the blood brain barrier quite readily. It is an exceptionally potent antioxidant, and the mere fact that high concentrations can be obtained in the fluid and cells of the brain and nerve tissue makes it an ideal antioxidant for the brain. My experience shows that this nutrient is a major player in the amazing results I have seen among patients who are suffering from neurodegenerative diseases. I believe it is by far the most important optimizer in these diseases. It is obviously one of the antioxidants that researchers should use further in studies involving these diseases.
Protecting Our Most Precious Asset
Everyone desires to maintain and protect the ability to reason and to think. In fact losing this ability is probably the number-one fear of most of my patients. When a person forgets where he put his keys or can't remember his neighbor's name, he often comes to my office fearing he has developed Alzheimer's dementia.
As we age, we will all have this concern at one time or other. I do not have a fear of dying because of my faith in Christ: to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." But after practicing medicine over three decades and seeing so many disabled patients, I do live with a nagging concern of being trapped in my body. I have patients with Alzheimer's dementia who have not recognized their spouses or kids for more than a decade, and yet their general physical health is still good. Walk through a nursing home and you will understand why I am so concerned.
The principle of optimizing our own natural antioxidant defense system is paramount when it comes to protecting the cells in our brain against our common enemy, oxidative stress. Remember, we must focus on prevention and protection, because once a brain cell is destroyed it is not readily replaced.
There are two main concepts to keep in mind if we are going to have any effect on decreasing the incidence of these seriously disabling diseases: First, we must use a cocktail of antioxidants that will work in synergy while readily crossing over the blood brain barrier. Second, we need to avoid any excessive exposure to the heavy metals I mentioned and other toxins in our environment. Balance is the key, and we must work on decreasing our toxic exposures as well as building up our body's natural defenses.
I believe the cellular nutrition program that I present in Chapter 17 will help the individual who is healthy accomplish his goals for brain health and preservation. If you are already concerned about a decline in your ability to remember things or have a strong history of Alzheimer's in your family, you may want to add some additional nutrients that I call optimizers. These are those antioxidants that are known to cross over this blood brain barrier readily, such as grape-seed extract. See Chapter l 7 for more details, or, if you are especially concerned, consult me at my website, www.nutritional-medicine.net.
Ross is a cowboy who seems to have walked right off' the screen of an old Western. His love of horses goes hand in glove with his love for the sport of roping. And he's good. Western competitors cringe when they see Ross ride into the arena-they know he's stiff competition.
For years Ross was one of the best. He cleaned house at the South Dakota "jackpots." But a few years ago, Ross began noting numbness in his legs. At first he was not too concerned, but then the mumbles spread up to his hips and eventually his lower back. The cowboy finally made an appointment with his doctor and after many, many tests, he received the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
Ross was devastated. I don't know if cowboys cry, but they can sure be a stubborn lot. This roper wasn't about to give up. He would literally get on his horse, unable to feel the bottom half of his body, and participate in team roping events. Ross now admits it probably wasn't the smartest thing he's ever done, since his balance in the saddle was significantly compromised, but he had to keep living and roping was his life.
It was about this time that Ross began looking into additional therapies for his MS. He heard me speak at a local meeting, and soon after began the nutritional supplement program I recommend to my patients with MS. Within months he began to feel better. The numbness and weakness in his legs began to improve.
Today, about three years later, Ross believes that he has fully recovered. The strength in his legs is back to normal, and he has absolutely no numbness in his legs, feet, or lower back. He is back to roping and again feels safe in the saddle. No doubt his fellow roping competitors are back to cringing when Ross pulls up to the rodeo grounds.
I have witnessed a number of near-miraculous recoveries from multiple sclerosis. I have personally been involved with several MS patients who have gone from being wheelchair-bound to walking, and I've had several other MS patients who have stabilized their disease with the use of nutritional supplements.
Granted, MS is more than a neurodegenerative disease; it is also an autoimmune disease that doctors have been able to treat by enhancing the immune system. In fact physicians are now using Betaserone and Avonex (which is actually interferon), drugs known to help improve the immune response. Nutritional supplementation with potent antioxidants, minerals, CoQ10, grape-seed extract, and essential fats do basically the same thing; however, they don't have all the adverse side effects. Again, I always encourage patients to continue taking all their prescription medications along with their supplements. Some MS patients do improve so much that they discuss going off their medication with their physicians.
It is quite obvious that the proper functioning of our brain and our nerves is an essential aspect of our health, and we now realize that the main enemy to this central part of our body is oxidative stress. Since brain and nerve cells have a very difficult time regenerating themselves, it is paramount that we protect these sensitive cells from being damaged in the first place.
It will take years of study to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that supplementing our diet with potent antioxidants that readily cross over the blood brain barrier can effectively protect us against these horrible diseases. But I believe the evidence available in the medical literature is strong enough now to advise my patients to supplement a healthy diet with antioxidants at optimal levels. Such a regimen can only help!
"What Your Doctor Doesn't Know About Nutritional Medicine May Be Killing You."
Dr. Ray Strand http://www.raystrand.com/bookstore.asp
Possible MS breakthroughs - Articles