SAVING DAD’S BRAIN (PT 2):
INFLAMED & CONFUSED
hey say good fences make good neighbors. Well then even more so: cell walls.
Cell walls are barriers. Functioning barriers keep what we want out, out, and what we want to keep in, in. This lets us get things done … like make a home. Or a smoothly-functioning brain cell.
Inflammation (and the process that inflames us once it really gets going, oxidative stress) chews away at our cell walls like termites working on wood framing. We might not notice much at first. Eventually doors start to stick and cracks appear in the plaster. Left to themselves those cracks become holes. Ceilings start to sag.
No one with better options wants to live in a house with holes in the walls. Yet when we expose ourselves to large quantities of poisonous pro-oxidant free radicals like agricultural toxins, household chemicals, common air pollutants, heavy metals … essentially we’re poking holes in the cells of our walls. Eating away slowly at the two by fours behind the plaster.
So what can we do?
Well … one thing we can do to even up the odds a bit is by upping our antioxidant consumption. Fresh fruits, vegetables, hearty, interesting salads built on a base of dark fresh greens. The antioxidants in fresh food are natural molecular fire retardants to the burning in our brains.1,2,3,4
Eat the rainbow. The richer the color mix in your food, the broader mix of phytonutrients and antioxidants you’ll enjoy.
We may or may not notice it in ourselves.
Excellent chance those around us will.
Chronic low-grade inflammation from environmental exposures, toxic food choices or simple stress does much the same thing to us that coming down with a flu does. We don’t want to be around people. We’re grumpy and grouchy. Or worse.5,6,7,8
Some Excellent Research Scientists Appear To Be Lousy Nutritionists
Like anything else, it’s easy to work this nutrition/inflammation angle badly.
There are some mistakes it takes a PhD to make.
One of the favorite approaches of researchers uninformed about nutrition best practices is to test one single nutrient at a time. Money talks in medical research just like anywhere else, and it’s always easy to do anything badly.9
This can reverse nutrients’ normal effects or even overload downstream metabolic steps, creating side effects very different from the nutrients’ action at the right dose for an individual.
That’s another problem: research studies typically use the same dosages on everyone, whereas best practice nutrition work adjusts the dose to the response. Some people need dozens of times more B vitamins than others, for example.
Even so … there are many single-nutrient studies that show benefits. Just not all of them. Guess which ones we tend to see in the news.
That said … antioxidants do specialize:
- Alpha-lipoic acid protects brains14,15,16,17 and peripheral nerves: it’s a specific for arresting and sometimes reversing diabetic neuropathy.18,19,20,21
- Vitamin E can lower blood pressure in some individuals when consumed in the right form and in adequate quantities over long periods of time, helps the heart, kidneys and brain.22,23,24,25 Be sure to get the kind with mixed tocotrienols.26
- Super-oxide dismutase (SOD) protects joints.27,28,29
- N-acetyl-cysteine and liposomal glutathione30 feed phase II detox pathways, lowering inflammation everywhere.31,32,33
Precisely because each antioxidant has its own specialty while inflammation is frequently global, things seem to go best when we get an array of antioxidants (and more) working as a team.34 So since inflamed brain cells don’t work so well, we layered on the antioxidants for Dad.
- In addition to protecting nerves35 alpha-lipoic acid also helps tune up the “powerplants” in our brain’s neurons, the mitochondria. These tiny, moist, soft structures are easily damaged by inflammation’s oxidative stress.36,37,38 At the same time, since they are our cells’ powerplants they’ll generate a lot of their own oxidative “exhaust” waste. That makes alpha-lipoic acid a great biochemical “patch” for a weak point in the system.39
- Vitamin E’s been shown to protect against cognitive decline.40,41,42 It also thins the blood so Dad was able to reduce his daily dose of anti-clotting meds (something to always remember when considering vitamin E supplements for older people.)43,44
- CoQ10 helped stabilize his congestive heart failure45,46,47,48 and probably his brain circulation as well.49,50
- Lots of vitamin C helped keep his immunity strong51,52,53 while also preserving his connective tissue.54,55
- Resveratrol stabilized circulation and the brain.56,57
- Zeaxanthin, lutein and astaxanthin to preserve his eyesight.58,59
- Quercetin to help control his allergic reactions.60,61
Early on we did this with pills. Later we realized it was much easier on him to make berry smoothies, blend the vitamins in with it and get Dad’s nutrients in that way.
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30. Best for those with CBS SNPs, impacting their ability to process the sulphur compounds essential to Stage II detox pathways. (“SNP” stands for single-nucleotide-polymorphism, a polite word for “mutation.” Since the word mutation implies a defect and since it now seems that genetic uniquenesses can confer strengths as well as weaknesses, SNP has become the preferred term.)
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