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Local Practitioners Offer No-Brainer Ideas for Preventing Dementia


An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, particularly regarding brain health. Before any symptoms of memory decline and other brain functions become evident, it’s comforting to know that there are practitioners in Southwest Florida that can help individuals slow down or even reverse cognitive decline.

Naples Center for Functional Medicine

“The brain is a hormone-dependent organ, responding to hormones by stimulating DNA to produce proteins that keep it sharp and functional, as in youth. Natural bioidentical hormones do not have unforeseen side Dr. Carol Robertseffects or increased cancer risks, unless an individual has special risk factors. While this means that hormone replacement can be part of a brain support program for life, it’s important to work with a physician that is experienced in natural hormone therapy,” advises Dr. Carol Roberts, medical director for Naples Functional Medicine Center, formerly the Hughes Center for Functional Medicine, in Naples. “Love is an essential nutrient for keeping brains functional, happy and healthy. From babies to the elderly, anyone will suffer from lack of community acceptance, physical contact, heartfelt connections and love.”

“Possible contributors to cognitive decline are the toxins related to mold exposure,” advises Dr. Eduardo Maristany who recently joined the Naples Center for Functional Medicine A board-certified internal medicine physician trained in functional medicine, he is knowledgeable about advanced personalized genomic interpretation, brain health Dr. Eduardo Maristanyand chronic inflammatory diseases.

Mold and fungi thrive on drywall, wood and other soft materials, as well as in dark and moist environments. A leaky toilet, shower or sink, as well as any small roof leak, are common causes of mold lurking behind walls, in air ducts, crawl spaces and attics. Stachybotrys, the toxin-producing black mold, definitely has a dramatic effect on the brain and behavior.

The main symptoms of mold exposure include allergies, runny nose, cough, congestion and sinusitis, in addition to frequent colds and upper respiratory infections. Symptoms of mold exposure related to the central nervous system can include brain fog, inability to concentrate, depression, sleep disorders, anxiety, irritability, headache and confusion. “A good air purifier can often make a big difference but ultimately the source has to be treated and a home testing service can come to check through the walls, air vents and air conditioning system,” advises Maristany.

Naples Center for Functional Medicine, 800 Goodlette Rd., Naples. 239-649-7400.

Wellbridges, Bonita Springs

Deb Post“Alzheimer’s is a disease of toxic overload from dirty air, cleaning products, plastics, beauty products, cookware, flame retardants and pesticides used in growing food and factory farming. The problems begin at birth. The Environmental Working Group notes that the blood in baby’s cord can reveal that a newborn child has as many as 200-plus chemicals before birth, setting them up for a host of health problems such as asthma, childhood cancer, and brain damage later in life,” says Deb Post, ARNP and board certified in environmental medicine. “These toxins can be removed with proper treatment and patient education that alerts the individual about where they are being exposed, what toxins are prevalent in their body and how to reduce the body’s response to the toxic overload.”

Post also advises that a Cleveland Heart Labs cognitive profile, covered by a Medicare supplemental plan, shows her the present level of cognitive decline. “I work with patients using Dr. Dale Bredesen’s ReCODE protocols and focusing on the gut-brain axis to prevent or reduce risk factors, as do the majority of other functional medicine practitioners in this area,” advises Post.

Wellbridges Health Center, 9200 Bonita Beach Rd. Ste. 213, Bonita Springs, 239-231-8354.

D-Signed Nutrition, Bonita Springs

Dee HarrisDee Harris, owner of D-Signed Nutrition, tests for microtoxins with Great Plains Labs. “We test different bacterial loads such as Candida toxins that cause inflammation. If you have Candida and don’t eliminate mold exposure, you’ll never get rid of Candida,” she advises.

Harris, who worked with Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain, continues to educate herself on the brain, dementia and Alzheimer’s by attending conferences, such as the most recent led by Dr. Datis Kharrazian, a clinical research scientist, academic professor and functional medicine health care provider. “I now use a brain questionnaire to help pinpoint the exact part of brain that is sluggish, and then I provide nutritional support and recommended exercises that correlate to that section,” she explains.

Harris also zeroes in on genetic factors affecting brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), an important protein in the brain that, in humans, is encoded by the BDNF gene. BDNF drives brain growth, thoughts and memory retention and helps the brain develop new connections, as well as protect and repair failing brain cells. “Although people with a variant in these genes have a higher risk, it is important to remember that lifestyle, no matter what your genetic makeup, can affect memory and brain health. Lower levels of BDNF can result in cognitive decline, depression, neurological disorders, impaired motor skills, impaired learning and becoming socially withdrawn,” explains Harris.

The most important factor in increasing BDNF is exercise, especially high intensity or interval aerobic exercise. Calorie restriction, fasting one or two times per week for 18 hours overnight, meditation, deep belly breathing, stress reduction, a low-sugar diet, healthy sleep and nurturing relationships are other factors.

“What you can’t do—things like puzzles, games, learning a new language and mind/body exercises such as dancing, should become your regular homework. Take a class that challenges your mind, because it stimulates the connectivity of your brain by generating the need for new neural pathways. Difficult and even frustrating classes are better for you, as they will create a greater need for new neural pathways,” advises Harris, a licensed dietician-nutritionist who is also a certified functional medicine practitioner through the Institute of Functional Medicine.

D-Signed Nutrition, LLC, 3531 Bonita Bay Blvd., Ste. 300, Bonita Springs. 239-676-5249.

All Star Dance Studio, Naples

Roman GomezAccording to The Alzheimer’s Project, a 21-year study monitoring rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s as well as measuring mental acuity in aging senior citizens sought to determine if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity. The study results published in the New England Journal of Medicine noted the effect of cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and musical instruments. It also noted effects of physical activities such as playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework. The only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.

“Dancing may be better, because it involves making decisions and integrates several brain functions at once and simultaneously involves kinesthetic, rational, musical and emotional processes, as well as lots of social interaction and fun. If you can’t take dance classes or go out dancing four times a week, dance at home as frequently you can and enjoy all the great health benefits. More is better,” says Roman Gomez, studio co-owner and dance instructor.

All Star Dance Studio, 4910 Tamiami Tr. N., Ste. 118 (Outback Plaza), Naples. 239-304-9013.

Recept and LivLabs, Local CBD Distributors

A study published in Molecular Pharmaceutics conducted by a team of University of Connecticut researchers, suggests that cannabis “could be considerably better at Laura Cavanaghsuppressing the abnormal clumping of malformed proteins that is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease than any currently approved prescription.”

Other studies such as that conducted in 2017 by researchers at California’s Salk Institute also found evidence that cannabinoids such as CBD could help remove dementia from brain cells.

Kim DeWeese“Reducing inflammation and oxygen buildup, as well as working as a brain stimulant and neuroprotectant is how CBD can work to improve health outcomes for individuals with dementia,” says Laura Cavanagh, CBD educator and distributor of Recept, a broad-spectrum hemp extract. Additionally, Kim DeWeese, a representative for LivLabs for Life, which distributes broad spectrum CBD products, notes, “CBD may reduce stress and anxiety which cause inflammation, as well as reduce the decline of memory and other brain functions.”

Laura Cavanagh, 847-452-8357.

Kim DeWeese,, 239-572-1825.

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