Collier and Lee Counties Edition
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Working to Prevent and Reverse Alzheimer’s

Local Health Practitioners Share their Strategies

According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2018 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, the most common cause of dementia. “We fear Alzheimer’s as we fear no other disease,” writes Dr. Dale Bredesen in The End of Alzheimer’s, his groundbreaking book for everyone beyond the age of 40. He cites reasons for the fear. “The disease is fatal and there is no cure now or on the horizon.”

Bredesen, UCLA’s Augustus Rose Professor of Neurology, does have some good news, “Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented, and in many cases its associated cognitive decline can be reversed.” He notes that contrary to the current wisdom, this disease is actually a protective response to three specific processes: inflammation, suboptimal levels of nutrients and other synapse-supporting molecules, and toxic exposures. Bredesen’s discovery means that we can better treat the subtler forms of cognitive loss, mild cognitive impairment and subjective cognitive impairment before they progress to full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.

Bredesen, the first to conduct a small study at the UCLA Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Buck Institute for Research on Aging, focused on 10 patients with memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s. He is also the first to suggest that memory loss in patients may be reversed and improvement sustained using his Reversal of Cognitive Decline (ReCODE) protocols, a complex approach described in a 36-point therapeutic program that involves comprehensive diet changes, brain stimulation, exercise, sleep optimization, specific pharmaceuticals and vitamins, and multiple additional steps that affect brain chemistry.

Natural Awakenings turned to local health practitioners familiar with Bredesen’s ReCODE—Deborah J. Post, an advanced registered nurse practitioner and owner of Wellbridges, in Bonita Springs; Pamela Hughes, DO, owner of Hughes Center for Functional Medicine, in Naples; Sara Capece, a certified functional medicine health coach and owner of Healthier on Purpose; Dee Harris, a registered, licensed dietician/functional nutritionist, certified diabetes educator and owner of D-Signed Nutrition, in Bonita Springs; and Doreen DeStefano, registered nurse, natural health practitioner, licensed esthetician and owner of Root Causes Holistic Health & Medicine, in Fort Myers.

Each of these health professionals is trained in areas of functional medicine using the ReCODE protocols to help patients diagnosed with subtler forms of Alzheimer’s. Each is also working with individuals that have identified their most predictive genetic change for late onset Alzheimer's, the apolipoprotein E gene variant (ApoE4). Some of their patients are working to prevent or reverse other neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia. Impacting an individual’s motor skills, spatial awareness, basic movement, balance, memory, problem-solving skills, Lewy body dementia is a progressive type of dementia that can also cause severe psychiatric indicators, including delusions and hallucinations.

Deborah PostDeborah J. Post

“Prevention of Alzheimer’s and any other disease is all about reducing inflammation from as many sources as possible,” says Post, who cites the five biggest issues involved in reducing inflammation—toxins and allergens, which are most likely caused by food, infections (often hidden), and emotional and nutritional stress. “Genetics plays a part only in that some individuals can be more vulnerable, and many issues such as mold and infections or nutritional deficiencies can make these individuals more likely to have inflammation that affects the brain with more intensity than someone else,” she explains.

“The gut is the mother of all of the inflammation that is likely to be causing the aging. Ninety percent of all signals go from gut to brain, rather than the other way around. Fix the gut and you will fix the brain, and most likely prevent inflammatory diseases of the brain,” notes Post.  

Protocols that reverse dementia require that healthcare professionals work with individuals before their state of mind prevents them from understanding or making a decision to eat better and avoid toxins. “We are finally getting a clearer picture of how to fix a gut, but if the diet and exposures of the Standard American Diet don’t change, people don’t have a chance. Every bite of food you eat either sets you up for disease or helps you stay healthy and age slower. It’s simple, just not easy,” she advises.

Pam Hughes, DO

Reversing insulin resistance and high blood sugar are at the top of the list of preventatives that Hughes addresses immediately. Focusing on personalization, she advises that removing toxins such as mercury from the body and mold from the environment are important issues.

“Particularly in Florida, there can be an issue with what Dr. Bredesen refers to as inhalational Alzheimer’s, one of the three subtypes of Alzheimer’s associated with designated chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS), which he addresses in Aging: Open Access Impact Journal on Aging. CIRS is commonly caused by exposure to mycotoxins typically associated with molds such as Stachybotrys, Penicillium, or Aspergillus, which are present in water-damaged buildings. Also, studies are now being done on the link between cyanobacteria, now in our coastal waters, and dementia as well as ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease,” says Hughes.

Sara Capece

Capece, who was trained by the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy, which is endorsed by spokesperson Dr. Mark Hyman, is presently doing telehealth coaching with six clients that have used 23andme.com DNA testing to learn about their health. Each has the Apoe4 gene variant and two have two copies of the Apoe4, pushing their risk well above 50 percent. “They are focusing on prevention so that they can get ahead of the game,” says Capece, who also counsels individuals with Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia.

Capece notes that since she began working in January with her male client diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, his symptoms have reversed. “He and his wife started working with me via Zoom calls so that she could help him with protocols. After only four months, her husband’s personality, which had gone flat and was about to disappear, was back. She was so happy that her husband was again interacting with her and the family.

A return to the Mayo Clinic in August for retesting showed that he had not declined or had improved in all areas of cognitive testing. “This is really amazing, as at his visit in the summer of 2017, he was told go home and get his papers in order. Although his vision and perception have improved, he doesn’t drive anymore. It was music to my soul when she told me that they couldn’t have done it without me,” Capece notes.

Doreen DeStefano

DeStefano’s toolbox for working with Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinson’s patients includes intravenous nutrient therapy, a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, oxygen therapy and pulsed electromagnetic therapy (PEMF). She uses them in conjunction with a healthy diet and supplementation.

DeStefano uses an intravenous infusion of phosphatidylcholine, a major component of biological membranes that plays a role in membrane-mediated cell signaling, to get to optimal levels in the brain. “This helps repair cellular membrane of the central nervous system so cells can function and communicate. Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) infusion therapy protects DNA, slows down aging and helps restore function in neurodegenerative illnesses such as Parkinson’s,” she says.

“PEMF increases vascular capacity. We use it in conjunction with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. We open the existing blood vessels with PEMF, and then use the hyperbaric chamber to push oxygen into the capillaries that aren’t getting blood flow. The frequency of treatments depends on whether the goal is prevention, managing or reversal,” notes DeStefano.

Dee Harris

“With advances in medicine, we now know that like our body, our brain doesn't need to reflect chronological age as we journey through our elder years. With some strategies and commitment, we can actually regenerate the brain by the process of neurogenesis, which is the formation of new neurons or brain cells. As Dr. David Perlmutter describes in his book, The Better Brain, there are many factors that affect the preservation and production of brain cells. By making important lifestyle changes, we can decrease the risks of brain degeneration. Feeding the brain proper nutrients, coupled with exercise, weight management, brain stimulation, stress reduction and meditation are critical in maintaining a healthy brain and stimulating new neurons,” says Harris.  

Local Resources

Bredensen’s ReCode is definitely complex and not a “one size fits all” approach. Because it is personalized according to an individual’s test results, it is necessary to seek the guidance of a healthcare professional.

D-Signed Nutrition, Bonita Bay Executive Center, 3531 Bonita Bay Blvd., Ste. 300, Bonita Springs. 239-676-5249, D-SignedNutrition.com.

Healthier On Purpose, 518-423-1399, HealthierOnPurpose.com.

Hughes Center for Functional Medicine, 800 Goodlette Rd., Ste. 270, Naples, 239-649-7400, HughesCenterNaples.com.

Root Causes Holistic Health Medicine, 12734 Kenwood Lane, Ste. 84, Ft. Myers. 239-425-2900. RtCausesMd.com.

Wellbridges, 9200 Bonita Beach Rd., Ste. 213, Bonita Springs, 239-481-5600, DebPost.com.

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