- All chronic diseases exist on the same spectrum of biochemical and pathological change.
- There are common causes of all of the degenerative diseases on this continuum.
- All disease states can be improved, or healed, by altering the negative lifestyle choices and biochemistry which the individual is practicing.
- Degenerative brain disease has become pandemic in our current culture.
- The medical industry is not currently designed, or practiced, to help heal chronic degenerative disease conditions, including the neurodegenerative diseases.
- CTE is a chronic degenerative brain condition.
- A novel approach to help victims of cognitive decline, CTE, and other types of central nervous system decline is presented.
This Journal hearkens back to the earlier Journal on Brain Health in which I used Alzheimer’s disease as a model of study. As was pointed out in a long list of contributing causative factors in that writing, dementia conditions are due to a rather wide variety of negatively synergistic genetic, biochemical, environmental, and lifestyle factors.
Had that Journal writing been about cardiovascular disease or cancer or any other degenerative disease, the long list of causative factors seen in the writing would have been almost identical. Indeed, in these times of environment toxicities and poor lifestyle choices, almost all of the chronic diseases which are degenerative in nature have their origins in common causal factors and processes which are now pandemic in our world.
All degenerative diseases exist on the same continuum of pathological change. The causes of these disorders may be summed up by using the word “toxicities” to denote the umbrella of negative causal factors. The expression of individual disease conditions is then created by these toxicities through the stimulated expression or suppression of one’s genetic blueprint.
Both health status and disease conditions can be improved by the kinds of lifestyle choices which assist positive gene expressions from one’s genotype into one’s phenotype.
The genotype is what we are born with. The phenotype is the downstream physical expression of that foundational blueprint. It is what we get from the foundation we were born with. The genotype turns into the phenotype as a result of epigenetic influences. Epigenetic forces are anything which influences gene expression without changing (mutating) the genes.
For instance, all nutritional and malnutritional chemical elements are epigenetic in nature. Epigenetics also includes intrauterine influences and childhood developmental influences. Deeper epigenetics includes intergenerational pre-conception influences which are now known as the exposome, or, exposomal genetics. Epigenetics is a vast new science.
Inherited mutations and spontaneous mutations can be assisted into healthier expression by lifestyle epigenetic choices…from exercise to meditation to how we sleep, and, most importantly, how we feed ourselves. In addition, there are exogenous epigenetic forces at play, such as negative electromagnetic field effects and environmental toxicities. It is safe to say that everything that we expose ourselves to is an epigenetic force. Such a long list of exposures would also include our inner thoughts and emotional states.
Our genes are not our destiny. Genetic expression is highly malleable. It is largely influenced by the overall health of the cell, most particularly the mitochondrial health of the cell. The mitochondria are the place where all of the food chemistry we consume and the oxygen we breathe are made into ATP, the energy molecule of life. How efficiently this energy molecule is generated in the mitochondria by the choice of fuels we supply the mitochondria with is one of the most critical health concerns about which we must become discriminating and accountable.
Indeed, it is now becoming accepted that every one of the known degenerative diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and the other disorders of every organ system, are likely due to aberrant cellular metabolism and resultant abnormal genetic expressions. This is one way of saying that a biochemical problem starts in the cytoplasm of the cell and then progresses into the nucleus where the genes are influenced in an epigenetic fashion. The genes then code for health or non-health, as they are directed to do by their ambient biochemical cellular environment.
The abnormal genetic expression is a downstream expression from the initial cytoplasmic metabolic defect, not an upstream one. This is the opposite order of cell expression which has been taught in biochemistry and pathophysiology since the days when DNA was elucidated in the early 1950’s. A new and refreshing understanding of the primacy of extra-nuclear cellular health is emerging to supplant the old paradigm of gene primacy.
Genes are not autonomous. Genes require external epigenetic signalling. Thus, our epigenetics becomes our destiny.
As stated, the most important factor which influences cellular metabolism and mechanics is how we nourish ourselves with food chemistry…our nutritional lifestyle choices. Exercise (body movement), stress management, sleep, and environmental exposures fall in line in an order of importance which varies with each individual.
I have often said to patients who struggle with difficult diagnoses that all of the known diseases exist on the same unified spectrum of health and disease expression. All diseases may be defined through a common lens of chaotic cellular expression. Cancers are on the same spectrum of disease expression as are cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, and the neurodegenerative conditions. This paradigm of understanding disease is now becoming the accepted viewpoint of holistic functional medicine practitioners.
It is well known that one of the final common pathways of most degenerative diseases is inflammation chemistry. It is present in cancer, osteoporosis, depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and most any disorder that could be listed. In the aging population of those in the later decades of life, the term “inflammaging” is now used to describe the molecular forces which attend the aging curve and the spectrum of diseases on that curve.
According to the holistic principles that I am attempting to describe here, we can surmise that if several people with their different genetic blueprints were to be sequestered and exposed to the exact same set of negative chemical and environmental variables, then we would witness as many differing disease outcomes as there are individual participants in the study. The biochemical variability of human genotypes and resulting phenotypic expressions is completely diverse.
As Hippocrates said some 2500 years ago, “It is more important to know what kind of person has a disease than to know what kind of disease a person has.”
Modern medicine generally fails to acknowledge and work with individual variability. Therapies are not tailored to individual variability, and are too rigidly applied to too many individuals in almost all cases. The wide array of epigenetic forces which affect the phenotypic expression of pathology on the disease continuum has so far failed to elicit much curiosity and inquiry in the ranks of community health providers.
As a result, condition X is almost always treated with standardized treatment Y. Results of rigid therapies will fall short of what may be achieved from evolving more individualized healing options and choices which are based on considerations of natural biochemistry, genetics, and epigenetics.
Conventional medical practice at the community level and prevailing pharmaceutical industry dogma have shackled the consciousness of health care consumers to accept a rather narrow view of disease conditions. In all cases, these conditions are actually being promoted by poor lifestyle choices and the ubiquitous environmental toxicities which prevail.
Disease should be viewed as the beginning of the healing process.
Our healing ability is a supremely intelligent and powerful set of divine forces which operate all of the time through all aspects of our being…in body, mind, emotions, and spirit. It is in this quaternary that the best epigenetic life choices can be understood and practiced. It is important that we become familiar with how our life evolves in the elements of this quaternary of healing.
Our choices and life practices influence our healing intelligence. Health is something that we should have, as long as we do not interfere with it, and we learn to support it. A cut on our skin heals by its own intelligent design. It is a simple matter to support this process and not get in its way.
Regarding the Neurodegenerative Disorders
In consideration of the neurodegenerative disorders, I have developed an impression that the majority of people believe that degenerative brain disorders are essentially beyond help. This generalized impression may exist because the course of these disorders is so relentless and the suffering is so large and intimidating that many people give up on hope.
To date in our culture, the power of our native intelligent healing abilities has been left largely unexplored when neurodegenerative diseases hold sway in a person’s life.
Dementia has become very common in society. We have been accustomed and habituated to regard the majority of chronic diseases as an end game which we can only manage by reactive interventional treatment plans. The conventional medical industry offers little meaningful help for such suffering from its handful of narrowly focused pharmaceuticals. More is needed from our institutions of health to help mitigate the myriad causes of decline on the disease continuum, and to help restore central nervous system health, homeostasis, and regeneration.
While health consumers wait on the health institutions to evolve into embracing more humane individualized holistic awareness, we need to be embracing our own autonomous health choices based on the enormous amount of evidence which supports natural healing modalities and lifestyle practices.
Genetics research will soon offer much to those who have, or may develop neurological degenerative disorders. Through the rapidly evolving science of epigenetics all of the lifestyle choices and environmental factors which influence the negative expression of the human genome’s impact on brain degeneration will become known. Hopefully this knowledge will be freely shared and practiced and not perverted or suppressed by the corporate interests who currently control what the conventional medical industry has to offer.
Specific Genetic Considerations in Neurodegenerative Disease
When a gene is mutated the enzyme protein that it codes for is dysfunctional; usually down-regulated in its functional capacity. Please refer to the earlier writing entitled Your Personal Genetic Analysis where I explained some of the basics of genetic mechanics.
At present, a few gene associations may be considered to be operative in brain degeneration. These gene sites are ones which are actionable in a positive sense by way of lifestyle choices.
Gene site mutations which I believe are important to consider in neural degeneration processes include:
- Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF)…governs neuroplasticity and brain regeneration
- Neurotrophic tyrosine kinase receptor type 2 (NTRK2)…expresses BDNF
- Neural excitotoxicity chemistry…such as is created by mutations in enzymes like D-amino acid oxidase activator (DAOA), and in neural receptors like the N-methyl D aspartate (NMDA) receptor
- Glutamic Acid Decarboxylase enzyme (GAD) which makes the calming neurotransmitter GABA from the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate
- Vitamin D Receptor (VDR) mutations…I encounter this super-critical mutation in up to 50% of patients. Vitamin D governs many genes.
- Mitochondrial enzyme mutations…I encounter these in everyone as mutations of the mitochondrial enzyme Superoxide Dismutase (SOD).
- Apolipoprotein E4 (APOE4)…currently implicated in dementia conditions
- Microtubule Associated Protein Tau (MAPT)…currently associated with several types of neurodegenerative disorders
- Mutations of inflammatory chemistry pathways and immune system expression
In addition there are other mutations of neural chemistry, as well as mutations of vitamin pathways, detoxification pathways, methylation chemistry, gastrointestinal system chemistry, inflammation/immunological chemistry, and mitochondrial chemistry which are interwoven into the continuum which we call degenerative brain disease.
It is my belief that cognitive mental decline and the more advanced central nervous system degenerative diseases can be improved upon at the genetic and cellular levels if those who are so affected take empowered and persistent steps to practice proactive and accountable lifestyle choices of assisting the known genetics of their nervous system and its biochemistry, as well as the genetics and biochemistry of important associated organ systems.
In this specific consideration the chemistry of the central nervous system (which includes the autonomic limbs of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems) should be considered along with the chemistry of the neuroendocrine system, the immune system, the gastrointestinal system, and the mitochondria. The consideration of neuroendocrine chemistry includes all of the endocrine organs.
Ample clinical experience exists to corroborate the integration of these 5 major systems whose biochemistry and functions are intimately interwoven. Indeed, most seasoned holistic functional medicine practitioners now regard the integration of these 5 systems as a standard of care in their practice when treating almost any chronic disease state.
Indeed, these 5 systems, as well as all other systems are so integrated that they should really be considered as a single unified process. Reductionist divisions serve in our ongoing assimilation of how all knowledge comes full circle and reintegrates into itself.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
A new football season is underway as summer practice camps are in progress in preparation for a new season. Athletes are being schooled in a variety of new rules, which are growing in number over the past 5 years, to help reduce collision impact trauma which is the causative prequel hallmark of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
Recently I read several sports blog site discussions where CTE was a topic of interest. A few of the writers who were former participants in football and soccer felt that they had been negatively affected by impacts and concussion events in their earlier playing days. They were concerned about the symptoms they were experiencing, which were descriptive of early cognitive changes in all cases. Some of the writers indicated that they were unaware that any preventive and therapeutic help is available.
In early dementia cases I believe that this is the very best time to apply biochemical and lifestyle choices to change the direction and momentum of the negative influences which may be in play. I believe that the development of more advanced cognitive decline and dementia can be prevented when intervened early.
If a person has experienced concussive or lesser impact traumas, and if any cognitive changes have developed, then this is the time to initiate changes before the condition devolves into a chronic degenerative disease. If someone has cognitive changes and continues lifestyle practices which negatively influence brain health, then these negative practices must be understood, and new healthy lifestyle practices must be encouraged and developed.
In almost all cases the evolution of cognitive changes is entirely insidious. Any cognitive deterioration should be respected and acted upon in a proactive fashion. Common denial processes by all concerned must be overcome.
CTE is a serious progressive brain dementia condition brought on by repeated blows to the head; now classified as traumatic brain injury, or, TBI. The disorder is seen in athletes of any type of sport which predisposes the player to head trauma… including football, soccer, rugby, cricket, baseball, boxing, ice hockey, wrestling, martial arts, rodeo, and stunt performing. It is being investigated in domestic violence victims, and is also well documented in victims of combat trauma. CTE is probably much more common as a result of long term exposure in the sports world to TBI than we currently know, especially in football.
The disorder has its earliest descriptions as far back as 1928, when it was called “dementia pugilistica” in boxers who displayed the syndrome of being “punch drunk.” In today’s times it has also be seen in high school football players following a few years of playing activity.
A brief history of CTE can be seen in this link, which picks up with the pioneering discoveries and courageous research efforts of neuropathologist Bennet Omalu who brought meaningful definition to the disorder in 2005. The 2015 movie Concussion depicts Dr. Omalu’s contribution to human health, and is recommended.
CTE most commonly presents as a type of tauopathy dementia which is not unlike aspects of Alzheimer’s disease in its clinical manifestations. However, Alzheimer’s is usually caused at the cellular level by a predominance of beta amyloid plaque tangles, as was described in the prior Brain Health Journal. CTE may also present as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and as post traumatic Parkinson’s disease .
Obviously individual biochemical, genetic, and epigenetic lifestyle factors will influence the form which the CTE takes. The mechanism and duration of TBI impacts is an important variable, as is the time window of when the trauma occurred in the very important earlier life phases of neuro-developmental vulnerability.
The disorder usually becomes noticeable in the patient’s fourth decade of life, but can occur earlier. The disease progression extends itself into the next several decades, but can end violently by suicide in earlier years. The degree and duration of traumatic exposure and the lifestyle practices of individuals so affected are the key pathological variables which need more research, clarity, and earlier interventional therapy.
The medical industry seems to be years from making and offering any meaningful therapeutic impact in the treatment of CTE. Even the drugs currently offered by the pharmaceutical industry for regular old common place garden variety dementias are inadequate.
The best research on CTE is being done at The Stern Lab at Boston University School of Medicine. I recommend this webpage from the Stern Lab. Here you will find a 1 hour and 18 minute lecture on CTE by Dr. Robert Stern. It is informative, and it will help you understand the current state of knowledge and research orientation.
The diagnosis of CTE is an important diagnosis to make during a time when helpful changes in lifestyle can occur. Dr. Stern and associates describe 4 primary domains of common clinical features. All of these do not have to be present:
- Cognitive…memory and executive function impairment
- Mood…depression, hopelessness, and suicidality
- Behavior…impulsivity, explosivity, aggression
- Motor…post traumatic Parkinsonism, dysarthria, ataxia
Further diagnostic criteria, both clinical and laboratory, as well as differential diagnosis considerations can be appreciated by viewing Dr. Stern’s lecture which is linked above.
We are a long way from meaningful therapy unless we step in and accelerate new ways to consider healing a damaged central nervous system. A consideration of individualized foundational predisposing genetic variables seems like a good biochemical place to initiate deeper and broader inquiry. Dr. Stern does make mention of some genetic variables in his lecture, but he does not seem well engaged at this level of consideration.
CTE is much more common than we currently are able to appreciate. The lecture by Dr. Stern and the short 2 minute info talk by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, also on this page, will help you appreciate this concern.
I am not aware of any concerted research effort which is being given to important foundational functional lifestyle changes to assist those who have or may progress to have CTE. The current attention, funding, and research effort is being oriented to basic science and epidemiology and improved diagnostic techniques.
Of course, this kind of research and elucidation is very important. However, more is needed now to help those who are affected now, and to help those who are at risk now.
In a broader sense, the medical system is not oriented in this manner of thinking and in clinical applications to invoke our innate healing mechanisms in body, mind, emotion, and spirit.
I recommend a viewing of Dr. Stern’s scholarly presentation, linked above, which was presented in a manner which is very accessible for all viewers.
A Health Offering for Neurodegenerative Disorders
I shall now be offering consultative services to those who are interested in looking more deeply into their general brain health chemistry. This approach is applicable to all degenerative conditions of the central nervous system, including CTE.
This service will enable solutions through a more proactive and immediate approach to lifestyle choices than what may be available in the clients’ current health care choices. I believe that there are many current and former athletes who may benefit from a more expanded investigation of their biochemistry and lifestyle orientations so that mental decline can be interrupted.
This offering will explore genetics and neurotransmitters, as well as the biochemistry of the neuroendocrine system, immunological system, gastrointestinal system, mitochondrial functional efficiency, and all of the important lifestyle considerations which were mentioned in the long list of causative factors in the prior Brain Health Journal.
Since out of pocket cost is involved in such studies, individualized priorities will be given to which tests may be the most important to do and will yield a favorable cost effectiveness for the client.
I want to assist clients with positive therapeutic lifestyle orientations which will normalize and correct the progression of any symptoms. Exploration of all aspects of body, mind, emotion, and spirit is important to consider and develop.
Biochemical Testing Modalities
Without offering a detailed description of all of the individual chemicals which can be tested by each of the lab services, a brief description of the appropriate biochemical tests is as follows:
Genetic studies were amply covered in the earlier Journal entitled Your Personal Genetic Analysis. The gene testing from 23andMe is generally affordable and is a nice source of very important baseline information. This test assesses mutations at 195 gene sites in basic biochemical functional categories: detoxification, neurotransmitters, methylation, cardiovascular, endocrine, digestive, vitamins, inflammation, and mitochondria.
More targeted types of genetic array testing are also available from Genomics Solutions Now, a genetic testing service which I am also affiliated with. Their 10 different arrays are more expensive, but are more targeted in functional specificity.
Neurotransmitter testing from Labrix Labs, as well as their neuroendocrine hormone testing is affordable. More advanced adrenal gland testing is available from Precision Analytics by way of their DUTCH test. This acronym stands for Dried Urine Total Comprehensive Hormone test.
Immunologic studies are available as different arrays to assess autoimmune disorders and food sensitivities from Cyrex Labs.
Gastrointestinal testing, also affordable, is available from Genova Diagnostics.
Genova also offers organic acid testing to help understand the important mitochondrial chemistry and efficiency.
All of these studies can be performed at home with the exception of the Cyrex studies which require a venipuncture and specimen centrifuging.
A basic cost breakdown for these tests is as follows:
- Labrix neurotransmitters…$191
- Labrix neurohormones…$210 to $255
- Precision Analytics DUTCH testing…$400
- Cyrex Arrays…$225 to $585
- Genova Diagnostics stool testing…$ 109 to $514 (depending on insurance)
- Genova organic acids testing…$129 to $369 (depending on insurance)
The most important of these studies to do which reveal the most needed basic pieces of information are the 23andMe genetics study and the Labrix neurotransmitters and neurohormones. The other tests would be suggested, as needed, on an individualized basis.
In cases where mercury and other heavy metal toxicity is suspected, studies of blood, urine, and saliva will reveal mercury speciation in terms of inorganic vs. organic mercury levels. This testing is available from Quicksilver Scientific. These arrays cost from $150 to $340.
You can visit all of these labs via the links presented on the Consultation page of this website.
In all cases, standard blood chemistries will be important. This includes common studies such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, folate, lipid panels, thyroid function, homocysteine, complete blood counts (CBC), and serum iron. Often, the client can have their regular health practitioner order these conventional studies and then most of the costs will be covered by one’s medical insurance.
The other important testing and investigation which the conventional medical industry offers includes CT brain scanning and brain MRI studies. Occasionally EEG studies are also done, and may be helpful.
My standard charges apply and includes client intake interviews, interpretation of the testing, and subsequent lifestyle recommendations. The time needed for interviews, advice, and follow up will vary from client to client.
Clients are encouraged to be open to ongoing inquiry into body, mind, emotions, and spirit considerations around which the Haelan LifeStream model is designed. The full array of positive lifestyle epigenetics is always to be found in our evolving healing journey. Curiosity and inquiry are important in any healing experience. Education and goal setting help to complete the vision.
As an old Chinese says …unless we change our direction we are going to wind up where we are headed.
Thank you for reading.
Signing off from Crestone and Beyond
Other Helpful References and Resources:
New technologies are emerging to reduce impact trauma in football and other contact sports. A combination of the impact reducing technologies and impact data sensing technologies from the following 2 companies will be a great step, even though each technology is helpful in its own right. The incorporation of sensing technology would allow for long term data point accumulation which could be collated with individual players’ biochemical data points.
- An article about deceased football player Kevin Turner
- New study demonstrates mentally stimulating activities protect against cognitive impairment, posted on 2-11-17
- Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts, posted 2-11-17
- The Subtle Early Signals of Dementia in Someone You Love, posted on 2-16-17