Constitutional Health Network:
Fight Brain Disease

The past year has seen several new Alzheimer’s drugs fail in clinical trials. That’s no surprise. An effective Alzheimer’s drug is one of the holy grails of drug development, but to date we haven’t discovered one. For decades, medicine has told us that Alzheimer’s is due to the buildup of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain. If we could just get rid of the plaque, the theory went, we could stop Alzheimer’s in it’s tracks. But it hasn’t worked out that way. What’s been surprising about the latest round of failed drugs isn’t that they didn’t work. It’s this: they did exactly what they were supposed to do. They did clear plaque out of the brain, or stop it from building up in the first place. But here’s the thing: it had zero effect on symptoms. This should suggest to anyone with half a brain that beta-amyloid plaque is not the problem. Could it be that this focus on plaques and tangles has ...

In the past decade we’ve discovered that your pancreas isn’t the only organ that produces insulin. Your brain also makes insulin and, like your body, it can become insulin-resistant. When that happens, your brain cells can’t use sugar properly and eventually they starve. This could be the beginning of the chain reaction that eventually leads to Alzheimer’s.     When your body becomes too insulin-resistant we call it type 2 diabetes. When it happens in your brain, we don’t call it anything…but maybe we should. A growing number of doctors now argue that we should start calling it what it is: type 3 diabetes.   But there’s good news.   You may have heard it before. A growing number of doctors are now arguing that Alzheimer’s should be considered “Type 3” diabetes.   Their reasoning is sound; in the past decade we’ve discovered that your pancreas isn’t the ...

Alzheimer’s disease may get most of the news headlines, but it’s far from the only frightening brain disease out there. There’s also Huntington’s disease, which in the end robs you of the ability to speak, walk, or control your movements. There’s multiple sclerosis, in which your own immune system attacks your nerves and your brain. There’s ALS, which eventually paralyses you and takes away the ability even to breathe on your own—usually within about five years. There are various types of dementia aside from Alzheimer’s. And then there’s Parkinson’s disease, which robs you of the ability to control your movements and eventually leaves you trapped in your own body even though your mind is intact. As many as 60,000 new cases of Parkinson’s are diagnosed each year, and victims may live with the disease for decades. There is no cure for any of these diseases. In fact, though we’re well-versed in the symptoms ...

Twenty-five years ago, the idea that “happiness is a choice” was profound. Today it’s a meme, as meaningless as dozens of other tired old clichés that get thrown around. In fact, to a certain segment of the population it’s become little more than a way to judge and belittle people. Having a bad week? Going through a rough patch in your life? Well (these folks say) happiness is a choice, and if you just tried harder… We all know people like this. And not surprisingly...they’re often not the happiest people themselves. You see, they’re missing the point. “Happiness is a choice” has some truth in it, but it’s a huge oversimplification. Happiness isn’t just a choice. It’s a bunch of choices. You don’t just wake up one day and tell yourself, “I’m going to be happy from now on” and that’s that. You can’t flip a mental switch and go from discontent to happiness in the ...

If you can’t make it through the day without needing a nap, there could be a lot of reasons. Maybe you need a new mattress and your bed is beating you up. Maybe you’re eating too much sugar for breakfast and not enough protein. Maybe you sleep with a television on in your room or stay up too late checking Facebook. Maybe you don’t get enough exercise. Maybe you just overdid it the day before or you were up all night with a sick child or grandchild. There are a billion things that can leave you totally exhausted long before bedtime. We all have the occasional day where we wonder how we’ll even make it through lunch, much less dinner. However, if you find yourself exhausted for no obvious reason on a regular basis, there might be something else going on. But before you start worrying about whether you have a heart problem or there’s something wrong with your thyroid, you might consider something much simpler and more likely: It could be your ...

Nearly every culture in the world has a tradition of using heat for healing. The Romans, Greeks, Scandinavians, and many other cultures used saunas. Native Americans used “sweat lodges,” and many indigenous cultures used similar practices. But today, while we do still see saunas and sweats used for healing, the practice is largely limited to native cultures and “alternative” medicine. In the mainstream, the sauna or steam room is viewed as nothing more than a high-end relaxation technique—and a pricey one at that.   But this summer, a maverick psychiatrist making waves by suggesting we should re-think that view. According to him, these ancient heat-healing practices have the power to cure one of the most common but intractable forms of mental illness: depression. Feed a fever, starve depression? Dr. Charles Raison didn’t set out to find a treatment for depression. He was just intrigued by another culture.   While ...

We talk about Alzheimer’s a lot. We do it as a society. We do it here at Constitutional Health too. But although it may be the most talked-about—and probably the most frightening—it’s far from the only chronic brain disease. Multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, ALS and other degenerative brain diseases are equally devastating. They just destroy in different ways. One of the most common of these is Parkinson’s disease. It’s actually the second most common neurodegenerative disease. Like Alzheimer’s, it affects millions. Like Alzheimer’s, it kills brain cells and leads to loss of function. Sometimes, like Alzheimer’s, it leads to dementia. Like Alzheimer’s, there is no cure. And although it really hit the public consciousness when actor Michael J. Fox was diagnosed while only in his late twenties, like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s usually affects people over 50. Unlike Alzheimer’s, there ...

“Let food be the medicine." It's advice that’s fallen in and out of favor throughout history. Some American pantry staples such as Kellog’s Corn Flakes and graham crackers started life as “medicinal” foods but are now on the “don’t eat that!” list. Others, such as the spice turmeric, show some real scientific potential. And sometimes unexpected foods show truly surprising health benefits. For example: recent research suggests that our pancakes might contain one of the keys to defeating Alzheimer’s disease—in the form of maple syrup. It might not be good for our waistlines but Canadian researchers say it appears to have a positive effect on our brains. Alzheimer’s disease is the most devastating form of dementia. It robs its victims of their memories, their personalities, and eventually their lives. It has no cure. And although science still doesn’t understand its root cause, it appears ...

On August 12, long jumper Jeff Henderson captured the gold with a leap of 8.38 meters. It was a memorable moment for Team USA—the first US gold medal in the event since 2004. The win might have had fans cheering, but what he did after being awarded his medal brought a tear to their eyes. It reminded us all just what the Games are all about and the spirit that underlies them. The 27-year-old Arkansas native is a multi-talented athlete who is also a sprinter. He became a serious athlete at age 15 and winning the gold is thus far the pinnacle of his career. In a touching gesture guaranteed to tug the hardest heartstrings, he decided to pay tribute in front of the whole world to the person who helped him climb to that pinnacle, even if she doesn’t remember it now. Henderson dedicated the gold to his mother. And he confided that she is one of the millions of people world-wide who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease—the most devastating form of dementia. ...

For years, science has told us that Alzheimer’s disease ( watch our video to fight back diabetes naturally ) is the result of the buildup of a substance called beta-amyloid. This protein forms sticky plaques in the brain, so the theory goes, where it interrupts brain cells’ ability to make connections and communicate with one another. The plaque eventually causes the cells to die and leads to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. This is the theory that nearly all experimental Alzheimer’s treatments have been based on. If we could stop the build-up of plaque, the thinking goes, we could slow or stop the progression of the Alzheimer’s disease. But a new study from Harvard University Medical School suggests that most of what we think we know about Alzheimer’s disease might be dead wrong. There’s compelling evidence that amyloid plaque isn’t the cause of Alzheimer’s disease at all. In fact, it’s probably the body’s attempt ...

There’s good news on the horizon for both Alzheimer’s patients and for supporters of medical marijuana. THC—one of the active compounds in marijuana—has been found to remove the clumps of toxic amyloid plaque that build up in the brains of Alzheimer’s victims. If you’re not familiar with THC, it’s short for tetrahydrocannabinol. It's one of the two main chemical components of marijuana. It’s powerful medicine. It’s also the chemical which give you a “high.” In spite of this, THC is currently used to treat an amazing array of conditions from chronic pain to the side effects of chemotherapy. And while federal law still makes it very difficult to study the medicinal effects of cannabis (marijuana), more research is being done every day. There are already several cannabis-based prescription drugs on the market and more are in the works. Although cannabis has been studied as a possible treatment for some types ...

If the idea of having something implanted directly in your brain unsettles you, you’re not alone. But that’s exactly what a promising new treatment for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia entails. The experimental treatment, known as “deep brain stimulation,” isn’t available for dementia yet. If it does fulfill its promise, it still won’t go public for several years. But for a disease that’s incurable and basically untreatable, the possibility of any effective treatment is a glimmer of hope at the end of a very dark tunnel. Sometimes mad scientists get it right Although scientists are still experimenting with deep brain stimulation, it’s actually an approved treatment for Parkinson’s disease. It’s actually an official treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder. And scientists are now looking into using it for various other issues such as depression and chronic pain—and dementia. Now, ...

If you’re diabetic and you’re taking medication, you’re probably putting your brain at great risk. Their calling the new study from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine a “Diabetes Game-Changer." It proves that prolonged use of diabetes drugs puts you at risk for a deficiency which can cause neurological problems, including dementia, and even brain shrinkage. This study used data that was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes. This was a 5-year study that ran from 1996 until 2001. It followed more than 3,000 people who were “at risk” for diabetes. Participants were divided into three groups. Group #1 was assigned a special lifestyle change method. They were put on a very specific diet and performed light exercises. Group #2 was given the diabetes drug metformin. Group #3 was given a placebo. The purpose of this study was to see which group had the lowest rates of diabetes and took the longest to develop ...

Unless you live in a cave with no internet access or television, you’ve probably heard of the Zika virus. It’s a mosquito-borne illness that’s related to dengue fever, and it’s creating a world-wide panic. The CDC is telling us to avoid travel to countries where it’s common. The World Health Organization has declared it a public health emergency. It’s this year’s Ebola, and the media can’t get enough of it. But is it really the plague that it’s being promoted as? Or is there more to the story? I’ll admit, when I first read about Zika I was more than a little uneasy. Like several other tropical diseases, it sounds like the stuff of horror films. And it appears even worse, in some ways, than the scariest of these. Ebola kills you, for example, and it kills you in a truly horrifying way. But Zika, the news reports say, causes horrible birth defects. Defects that might, in some cases, be a worse fate than simple ...

It’s been several decades in the making, but Big Pharma may soon have the biggest payout in the history of the industry. With many of its current herd of cash cows either about to go off-patent or already there, pharma is feeling a little anemic. It needs an infusion of cash, and it’s set its sights firmly on Alzheimer’s disease as just the thing to fill the bill.   Don’t get me wrong. I want someone to find the cure for Alzheimer’s. I’ve seen first-hand the devastation this disease can leave behind. First with my Grandfather, then with my own mother. More than most, I want to see a real treatment. And there’s a flood of new medications due to hit the market in the next few years. But the ever-expanding guidelines for diagnosing Alzheimer’s (“asymptomatic Alzheimer’s,” anyone? Or “pre-clinical Alzheimer’s”?) suggest that there’s more to the story than the desire to ...

I’ve talked about my friend Sarah before, and I want to talk about her again, because Sarah has had one of the most difficult, most heartbreaking jobs anyone can take on. When Sarah was 48, her mother was diagnosed with “possible Alzheimer’s” dementia. It was a huge shock, because her mother was only 68 at the time and in moderately good health. Sarah was devastated.   Sarah and her mother have always been very close. They lost her father when Sarah was only in her twenties, and she’s always felt it was like her job to look out for her mom. So early on she decided that she was going to take care of her mother at home no matter what.     The first year wasn’t too bad. Her mom had good days and bad days, as you might expect. On the good days she was almost her old self. On the bad days, things were…not so good. But as time went on the good days got fewer and farther between. And as s caring for mom took up more ...

Flint, Michigan and its poisonous water isn’t big news anymore but that doesn’t mean the problem has gone away. It doesn't matter how many lawsuits are filed or how many glasses of Flint water President Obama casually drinks. The problems remain for the people of Flint. Fines will be issued, sure. A handful of people may pay a handful of millions—but that won’t do a single thing to fix the health problems caused by this case of epic disregard for human health and life. The people of Flint will be dealing with the health issues long after the problem is “fixed” and the guilty parties are “punished.” And although the Flint situation was very high-profile, Flint residents aren’t the only people in this situation. A recent report by USA Today found at least 2,000 water systems with dangerous levels of lead across the country. A water sample from a Maine elementary school had levels 42 times higher than the EPA’s ...

Alzheimer’s disease was first described not long after the turn of the twentieth century, when Dr. Alois Alzheimer examined the brain of a mental patient who’d died. Her symptoms had included memory loss, difficulty with language, and bizarre behavior. On dissecting her brain Alzheimer discovered that it was full of clumps of an unknown substance and tangles of fibers. The woman was suffering from what has come to be called Alzheimer’s disease. The clumps and tangles are what we now call beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles—the hallmark physical signs of the disease. Since then science and medicine have told us that these clumps of plaque and tangles are what actually causes Alzheimer’s. Read nearly any article on Alzheimer’s disease and you’ll find this assumption. It’s been taken as a fact even though—as I’ve so often pointed out—we really have no way of knowing if these changes are a cause or merely a ...

It seems like you can’t open a newspaper these days or visit a news site without reading some mention of the newest looming “crisis.” Today that's the so-called “opioid epidemic.” Now, I’m not here to give an opinion on whether there really is an “epidemic” or not. I say “so-called” because we’re fed panic-stricken stories about some new “epidemic” on a regular basis. Is this one legitimate? I don't know. And it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter because I don’t want to talk about whether painkiller addiction is a real issue. What I want to talk about is the subtle effect this laser-like news focus is having. It’s changing the way we think about addiction—whether it’s to painkillers, alcohol, cigarettes or something entirely different. And it’s not a good change. But what does this have to do with your brain? It's that the Big Guys would like us to ...

Not long ago, I read a news headline I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. It said, “Drug Companies ‘Giving Up’ on Alzheimer’s treatment.” Alzheimer’s disease has been the holy grail of brain diseases for Big Pharma—irreversible, untreatable, and devastating, the company that created an effective treatment stood poised to charge any amount of money they wanted for it. The fact that pharma giants like Pfizer were throwing in the towel and turning their back on the almost infinite money that could be made from a treatment made several things crystal clear. It underscored just how very little we know about the brain in general and about Alzheimer’s in particular. It underlined what I’ve been saying for years—that we’re coming at the problem of Alzheimer’s all wrong. Science has assumed—even in the face of evidence to the contrary—that Alzheimer’s symptoms are caused by the ...

An amazing scientific breakthrough could mean that hundreds of thousands of people suffering from autoimmune diseases might finally have what they’ve been dreaming of: a cure. In diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus, the immune system mistakes part of the body for a foreign invader and attacks it. This immune reaction causes chronic and sometimes even fatal disease. There are treatments for some of these diseases, but till now the only possibility for a cure was also likely to be fatal. Not just for hopeless cases anymore It’s been shown that a transplant of bone marrow stem cells can reset the immune system and reverse autoimmune diseases. But in order to successfully do this doctors must first destroy the patient’s own immune system with chemotherapy or radiation. This procedure is fatal about 20% of the time. And even when it doesn’t kill, it can cause massive damage throughout the body. The chemo and ...

If you’ve ever lived with chronic stress—and how many of us haven’t, at some point—you probably already know this. If you haven’t, it might be a surprise. And if you’ve lived with ongoing stress for a very long time, you might not even realize how it’s affecting you. Whatever your situation, here’s the newest thing science is telling us about stress: it damages your memory.   If you’ve ever been the parent of small children or cared for an ailing relative long-term you’re probably already familiar with what I like to call “caregiver dementia.” It goes by many other names. Some people call it “brain fog.” Older people may call it “having a senior moment.” But it all boils down to the same thing—stress-induced short-term memory loss. And at long last, science is finally admitting that it really happens. More than that, scientists now think they might even know ...

Are you a superager? Unless you’re over 80, you’ll have to wait to find out. Meanwhile, science is uncovering some intriguing clues. While it might bring to mind images of sprightly seniors in brightly colored capes valiantly battling Father Time, “superager” is a real term scientists are now applying to a select group of the elderly. We’ve long known that some people simply age better than others; some people may look far younger than their years, others may be as active as much younger people, and still others have the mental acuity of a person thirty years their junior. It’s this last group that science has designated “superagers” and scientists want to know just what’s going on in their brains to make them so special. What makes superagers so super? To be considered a “superager,” a person must be over the age of 80—but have the memory of a 55-year old. That’s a tiny fraction of the ...

In the past few decades, we’ve developed some very odd—and rather unhealthy—ideas about anger. As a society, we’ve adopted the idea that anger is a bad thing. That it’s something we should never express. In fact, the underlying message we get is that not only should we not express anger, we probably shouldn’t even feel it, and that if we do then there must be something wrong with us.   Maybe this has something to do with the culture of victimhood we’ve transitioned to over the past several decades. Or maybe it’s the other way around; whether this view is a cause or a symptom is a question best left to sociologists. In any case, today the overwhelming popular viewpoint is that to feel angry—and certainly to act on that anger in any way—is to be unstable in some way.   Which is a load of horse hockey, of course. And although I’m not usually on the side of the shrinks, this is one area where ...

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