A primary concern that prompted Beyond Health's mission to improve the health of the American people was that he feared our epidemic of chronic disease would bankrupt our economy.
Nowhere is this concern more justified than in the case of Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2021, 6 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, one out of every three seniors dies with the disease or another dementia, and dementias will cost the nation $355 billion, including $239 billion in Medicare and Medicaid payments combined. Without a major scientific breakthrough, by 2050 the Association projects there will be 13 million Alzheimer's patients, costing more than $1.1 trillion (in 2021 dollars) annually.
Yet, as we have described previously, Dr. Dale E. Bredesen at UCLA, who was influenced by Raymond and his two causes-six pathways theory of disease, has shown that Alzheimer’s is preventable and reversible if treated early enough and addressing multiple factors that may be involved. See his book The End of Alzheimer’s Program.
One central factor would be gut health. It has recently been discovered that a “gut-brain axis” exists that conducts bidirectional communication between microbiota in the colon and the brain, and that what happens in the gut quickly and powerfully affects what’s happening in the brain.
Recently Alzheimer’s researchers have proposed that Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disease BEGINS in the gut. The inflammation-invasion hypothesis follows.
In a healthy gut, beneficial bacteria in the colon predominate over potentially harmful bacteria. All too commonly, this ratio is reversed, a condition called “gut dysbiosis.”
Gut dysbiosis causes inflammation and produces amyloids and toxins called lipopolysaccharides (LPS) which damage the gut lining, causing it to become “leaky.” This is significant because the gut lining has the important job of determining what passes through the gut wall and what stays inside. A healthy gut lining will allow fully digested nutrients to exit into the bloodstream so they can be carried throughout the body to nourish our cells, while retaining undigested food, toxins, and pathogens for further digestion or elimination. A “leaky gut” leaks these dangerous contents into the bloodstream.
The brain has a similar “lining” called the blood-brain barrier, with a similar function: it keeps toxins and pathogens out and allows nutrients in. Scientists have recently discovered that when the gut lining becomes leaky, so does the blood-brain barrier! This means that pathogens are allowed to exit the gut, enter general circulation, and invade the brain.
Also, because of the gut-brain axis communication, inflammation that starts in the gut is mirrored in the brain.
The result is out-of-control infection and inflammation in the brain that destroys brain cells, which causes neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s.
Although researchers have suggested that a “cure” for Alzheimer’s lies in altering microbiota in the gut, so far no clinical trials have tested this idea.
Still, it is one more reason to be mindful of our colon and its important residents, allies and enemies in our quest for optimal health.