Pathology of the Disease Process
There are a number of theories as to how Dementia and Alzheimer’s develops. I will briefly share the CNN perspective and the Craniosacral Perspective on this as well. Understanding how this happens has also given us “clues” as to how to prevent or possibly reverse the process…
A number of experts on Larry’s special shared their views on how Dementia and Alzheimer’s develops. Researchers aren’t entirely sure, but the convention wisdom is a combination of diet, mental inactivity, inflammatory processes in the brain, genetics and simply getting less flexible, otherwise known as getting older. Think of aging as less flexible, “more creaky” if you will. The more flexible you are, the younger you are more likely to be, in mind, body and spirit.
Dr. John Upledger has given a more detailed insight into the pathology of Dementia, based on his extensive understanding of biochemistry, the inflammatory processes in the body, and immune system microbiology. He points out that the formation of amyloid “plaques” inside the brain (a key indicator of advanced dementia and Alzheimer’s) may be a “by product” of the immune system trying to defend itself from what it perceives as an “intruder” in the brain. Immune system cells begin to attack brain tissue and generate an inflammatory response, and further generate “pro inflammatory cytokines” which in turn generate even greater inflammation inside the brain. The result is:
- Micro inflammation (and swelling) of the brain followed by
- Shrinkage of the brain-fluid pathways are destroyed and ultimately CST circulation is decreased.
Oh, and by the way, this also effectively destroys the brain tissue (including axons and synapses) that conducts electrical/chemical flow and form the neuronal network that creates our “holistic” memory, images, and “recollection.”
Simply put, our ability to remember-both short and long term-is diminished as this network is progressively destroyed. The long-term consequences of this usually result in a shortened life span as well.
This 3 part blog on the Larry King CNN Special on Alzheimer’s points out some key elements on risk factors, the pathology of the disease process, and suggestions for prevention and treatment. I will counterpoint key elements of the special with comments on how our research with CranioSacral Therapy complements and enhances these views.
From the Larry King special on Alzheimer’s:
“If this is not dealt with, this will cripple the healthcare system.” President Reagan’s Alzheimer’s doctor.
“By the time you’re 85, it’s a coin toss as to whether or not you will have it.” Ron Reagan
“They look like your parent but they become your child.” Maria Shriver
“For caregivers, make sure they don’t do it alone.” Laura Bush
It is estimated that caregivers (estimated to be 15 million people) spend an average of 202 billion hours annually supporting their loved one.
The following is from a compilation of sources relating to risk and environmental factors that seem to contribute to Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Larry King mentioned some of these, but some have also been added:
Environmental and Risk factors:
1. Women have double the risk of being affected with Alzheimer’s in later life than men.
2. Dietary factors are high-calorie/high-fat diets, excessive amounts of dietary iron and copper, and low intake of folic acids/folates and antioxidative nutrients such as Vitamins C & E.
3. Low demands on intellectual function, which seem to correlate with increased occurrences of Alzheimer’s.
4. Sedentary Lifestyle. Mental and physical exercise seems to help.
5. History of head trauma.
6. Increased oxidative stress that heightens oxidative damage in the brain tissue
To compliment the above view, from a craniosacral perspective, we have two additional components to add to this list of risk factors:
A. Decreased flow of Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CSF) in an aging population.
B. Increased incidence of inflammatory response in aging humans.
Let’s look at both of these in turn.
Decreased flow of Cerebral Spinal Fluid in Aging Population: A number of years ago, Dr. Upldeger (the founder of CranioSacral Therapy) commented that the “turnover” of CSF in middle age adults (the definition of which keeps changing) may be half that of normal healthy younger adults. Our additional research has shown that in elders with Dementia and Alzheimer’s, the flow of CSF is again half as much. To put numbers to this, normal CSF flow is 800ml a day, which may decrease to 400ml daily, and in Dementia and Alzheimer’s, down to 200ml a day.
Why is this important? CSF has a “washing” action, which removes heavy metals across the blood brain barrier. The less flow there is the more opportunity there is for the brain to “clog up” with plaques, tangles, and other factors typical of the memory loss and eventual overall decline found in Alzheimer’s patients.
Increased incidence of inflammatory response in aging humans: Simply put, as we age many people accumulate “pockets of inflammation” in the body that are a result of disease processes such as Arthritis, Osteoporosis, Diabetes, Cardiovascular disease and the like. In some cases, that ongoing inflammation “overflows” across the blood brain barrier and begins to compromise the brain tissue. In many of the patients in our research project, we found prior disease states to be a part of their history.