Alzheimer’s disease is a growing health concern, affecting 5.7 million Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control, this number is expected to exceed 11 million by the year 2040. As the prevalence of Alzheimer’s increases, so does the need to find ways to prevent and treat this disease.
More data is being uncovered identifying the connection between alterations in gut health and Alzheimer’s. By recognizing the importance of a well-balanced gut microbiome – new methods for treating and preventing dementia have been developed. Dr. Dale Bredesen of the Buck Institute, has developed the Bredesen Alzheimer’s Protocol with restoring gut balance as one of the cornerstones of treatment.
Gut health and Alzheimer’s are closely intertwined and by focusing on restoring gut balance, you are helping restore and preserve your cognitive function.
What is The Gut Microbiome?
In order to address the relationship between Alzheimer’s and the gut microbiome – you need to know what makes up your microbiome. Your digestive tract, and subsequently your gut microbiome, is one of your body’s greatest defense systems. If you think about it, the majority of your interaction with the external environment occurs in your gut. Exposure to nutrients, toxins, and pathogens can all be encountered in your digestive system.
The gut microbiome is the collection of microbes in your digestive tract, which consists primarily of bacteria. There is a small portion made of fungi, protozoa, and other microorganisms.
This collection of microbes play a key role in many functions including:
- Maintaining your metabolism
- Fighting off pathogens
- Developing your immune system
- Absorbing vitamins and nutrients
Research is continuously uncovering the many functions your gut microbiome plays in your health. Alzheimer’s disease has now shown a strong link to the diverse community living in your gut.
Alzheimer’s and the Gut-Brain Axis
Your central nervous system is greatly influenced by your gut microbiome. Your digestive system can potentially help regulate neurological pathways through a complex signaling system. This pathway is called the microbiota-gut-brain axis. New research is showing how the overall well-being of one system can affect how well the other system functions.
Diet, antibiotic use, and infection are ways your gut-brain axis can get knocked off kilter.
Research is showing not only can your brain affect your gut health – but your gut health can affect your brain health via this gut-brain axis pathway. Your gut microbiome strives to be in a state of homeostasis – or balance – to keep this pathway functioning well in both directions.
An imbalance in your gut microbiome can contribute to several chronic conditions including:
- Colorectal cancer
- Heart Failure
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Cognitive dysfunction
Newer data is showing how important this balance is to optimizing brain health, whereas previously the focus was mostly on resolving gut disorders. There are several neurological disorders which can be affected by an imbalance in the gut-brain axis such as:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Alzheimer’s disease
Additionally, an imbalance in your gut-brain axis can lead to an inflammatory response. This response can cause changes in the integrity of your gut lining, contributing to leaky gut syndrome. If bacteria and toxins are able to pass through the lining of your digestive system – this can further perpetuate the inflammatory response and even lead to neuroinflammation.
Although the data is in its infancy, this new understanding of the connection between your brain and gut health helps researchers find new ways to achieve balance.
More specifically – your cognitive health, including potential risk for Alzheimer’s – can be affected by your gut health.
Gut Microbiome Alterations and Alzheimer’s Connection
Your gut and brain are connected through various links including your endocrine, immune, and nervous systems. These links help send information and signals from your brain to your gut and vice versa. Studies have shown the gut microbiome of those with Alzheimer’s is altered when compared to those who didn’t have Alzheimer’s. More specifically, the bacteria which made up their gut microbiome was notably different from those without cognitive impairment. This indicates there may be a relationship between gut health and the development of Alzheimer’s.
If there is an imbalance in your gut microbiome, your body can increase and activate your microglia – which are an important part of how your central nervous system functions. Microglia function as one of the brain’s cellular cleaning system – removing and consuming debris on your brain’s synapses. The overactivation of these microglia can lead to increased inflammation and subsequently damage brain cells.
Additionally, if your gut is constantly in an inflammatory state, the formation and collection of amyloid can occur. Amyloid plaque formation is the hallmark sign of Alzheimer’s as it interferes with and destroys brain synaptic function.
Dr. Bredesen Alzheimer’s Protocol
Dr. Bredesen’s Alzheimer’s protocol – ReCODE – addresses gut health as a pillar of treating and preventing Alzheimer’s disease. By focusing on optimizing your gut microbiome balance, you can help improve your overall cognitive function.
The ReCODE protocol aims to reduce or eliminate triggers known to cause gut microbiome alterations such as:
- Foods allergies or sensitivities – such as gluten and/or dairy
- Chemical allergies or sensitivities – commonly found in processed foods
- GMO (genetically modified organisms) foods
- Anti-inflammatory drugs – such as aspirin, NSAIDs, steroids
By implementing Dr. Bredesen’s Alzheimer’s protocol, you can identify your specific gut triggers and work towards healing your gut microbiome. Since we know there is a connection between Alzheimer’s disease and gut health – restoring your digestive system is vital in combating dementia.
Beyond avoiding triggers – ensuring you’re supporting your gut microbiome is also important. If you have deficiencies in key nutrient groups or bacteria, this can lead to alterations in your gut microbiome. More research is showing how probiotics may help improve cognitive function. Probiotics can help reduce stress and inflammation which helps create a balanced digestive system.
Doctors Utilizing Dr. Breseden’s Alzheimer’s Protocol in the Kansas City Area
If you or a loved one are battling or feel you may have gut microbiome alterations contributing to your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Paul Reicherter and Dr. Jessica Jellison at Jellison Integrative MD can help.
Dr. Reicherter is certified in Dr. Breseden’s Alzheimer’s Protocol and understands the important connection between Alzheimer’s and gut health. Trying to tackle gut health can seem overwhelming but by working with a trained physician, you can find gut balance safely and effectively. If you are in the Kansas City area and would like to learn how Dr. Reicherter or Dr. Jellison can help restore your gut microbiome, please contact our office or call (913) 568-0608 to make an appointment today.