Dr. Sierra Breitbeil - Naturopathic Longevity Physician

HUMAN BRAIN: PART 1

Who wants to have a great brain?

The answer is: We all do!

There is new evidence about how our brains are aging too fast for a longer life expectancy, now approaching 90, even 100 years of age and older.

For these next 2 months I will be discussing many different facets of brain wellness. In culmination, I will host, along with my colleague, Dr. Kayla Preece, ND, the first of a natural health series lecture, called Brain Health, to be held on Wednesday April 12, 5:30 p.m. at my building, the Methow Valley Wellness Center in Winthrop.

You can have a great brain!

Our brains make us who we are as human beings:

  • our ability to communicate
  • our personalities
  • our past memories of long ago and more recent
  • our future aspirations and longings

All of these capabilities originate within our amazing brain. We have the ability to affect the health of this important organ that controls everything about us.

We need to champion our brains, protecting and nourishing this metabolically demanding organ. The brain is rich in blood, lymph, protein fragments, essential fats and brain-specific phospholipids, along with nearly the entire repository of who we are, where we've been, what we've done, who we've met, and, most importantly: "Where are we going in this one precious life"?

Your One Life Is Precisous!

Where are we going in this one precocious life?

There are many assaulting influences in our modern lifestyle wanting to take our brain down.

Research is now coming to light about our brains, and how alcohol -yes, the bubbly, affects our brains.

Today's post references a 30 year study published last summer, in an article of the British Medical Journal, and reveals the shocking bottom line:

Even moderate alcohol consumption has a harmful brain-shrinking effect.

In England, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as 1 drink daily for women, and 2 drinks daily for men. A drink is considered to equal 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits, 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer.

More about the Topiwala study is found below in today's post.

Do you want to learn more about Brain Health including what foods are best to enhance and properly nourish this VIP of your body?

Dr. Sierra uses state-of-the-art measures of important antioxidants most important for brain health.

Contact Dr. Sierra today to discuss your concerns.

Healthy Human Brain

A healthy brain should be able to keep up with our intellect and creativity, allowing us to do, learn, create and be involved in whatever we desire.                                                             ~Dr. Sierra

Our brains should be capable of forming and strengthening new brain cell - to brain cell connections.

We all have to become our brain's best champion.

If you routinely skimp on sleep, suffer from over-caffeinated fatigue, eat too much sugar and processed food, drink too much alcohol, live with too much stress, exercise too little,  gain too much weight, or, perhaps are exposed to neurotoxic pesticides, solvents and heavy metals, etc. . .

Then you need to ask yourself, "How will my brain handle this stressor"?

A particular brain stressor is hypoxia of sleep. Contact Dr. Sierra today if you want to know if you are maintaining proper oxygen levels all through the night while you sleep, because low oxygen states are particularly damaging to our brains' cell.

The brain is the organ first damaged by low oxygen levels since it uses a full 20% of your moment to moment O2 supply. Under wake or sleep conditions, your brain demands all this O2 despite being just 2% of your body's total mass. So if you snore, fall asleep routinely during the day or are fatigued even upon waking you should not assume you are keeping a normal oxygen level through the night.

HIPPOCAMPUS

Hippocampus
Alcohol consumption is proven to affect the hippocampus.

The hippocampus is the part of your brain located in the above position in the illustration,  and helps regulate our emotions, our awareness of our position in space and time, the formation of our memory, and, in particular the way we create lasting life-long memory.

In the study by Topiwala and colleagues (referred above), moderate drinkers in England over a 30 years period (1985 to 2015) had hippocampal shrinkage in a dose-dependent manner directly related to the amount of alcohol consumed.

In the Topiwala  study, 424 men and 103 were followed for a 30 years span of time.

At the beginning of the study, all of the participants were healthy.  The mean age of participant was 43 years old of which none were dependent on alcohol.

Over the next 30 years, participants answered detailed questions about their alcohol intake and took tests to measure memory, reasoning and verbal skills.

They underwent brain imaging with MRI at the end of the study.

When the team analyzed the questionnaires, the cognitive test scores and the MRI scans, they found that the amount of shrinkage in the hippocampus was related to the amount people drank alcohol.

Alcohol Damages The Brain

 

Those who had the equivalent of four or more drinks a day had almost six times (6x) the risk of hippocampal shrinkage as did non-drinkers.

Moderate drinkers had three times (3x) the risk for hippocampal shrinkage.

There is some debate about people benefiting from moderate alcohol consumption with heart-related disease, pain causing diseases and processes like diabetes, stroke, and even chronic widespread pain.

While there is debate on the benefits of alcohol consumption, we now have hard evidence about the brain's response to long term moderate drinking.

The chief medical officer (CMO) in Britain, Sally Davies, maintains from this study above:

"There is so very much industry and personal recreational investment in alcohol consumption, it may take a few years for the true meaning of these warnings to have us finally know, that like in life generally, what goes up, must come down".

Leaving aside the human misery side of cognitive decline and dementia, the care of cognitively impaired older people is a becoming a great financial crisis.

Alcohol dependence is already established as a major cause of dementia.

Alcohol related brain damage (ARBD) accounts for possibly 10% of early onset dementia and potentially 10-24% of dementia cases in nursing homes.

Alcohol related brain damage typically involves relatively young people, often in their 40s or 50s, when based on severity.

Brain Neurons
We have 100 billion brain cells in our brain.  Each neuron may be connected to up to  10,000 other neurons.  That is more than the stars in the Milky Way galaxy.  We are a universe unto ourselves...every one of us! 

Alcohol related brain damage generally afflicts malnourished drinkers who consume very high levels of alcohol.

There is some degree of success in potentially reversing some of the effects caused by alcohol on the brain, if caught early enough.

No other European or US equivalent to the CMO has made any such proclamation and it is estimated such a statement by Britain may precede any by national counterparts by more than a decade.

The study results don’t come as news to Dr. Kenneth J. Mukamal, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Mukamal and his colleagues reported similar findings in 2001.

His team studied 3,376 men and women who were enrolled in the Cardiovascular Heart Study who had also undergone MRI scans and had reported their alcohol consumption.

The Harvard researchers also found that brain volume shrank in proportion to alcohol consumed, and that atrophy (shrinkage) was greater even in light and moderate drinkers than in teetotalers (non-drinkers).

To note: there are other diseases that may benefit from ethanol consumption.

For example:
Especially in men, the risks for stroke and ischemic disease of the heart and brain are mostly lowered by light to moderate intake of alcohol.

Moderate drinking has also been associated with a lower risk of gallstones and diabetes.

Dr. Sierra remarks: "Many of my clients through the past 2 decades of medical practice, have told me of the social and psychological benefits of 1 or 2 servings of alcohol a night. This makes sense: the research of PET scanning shows there are endorphin releases with rising blood alcohol levels.

However there are also endorphin releases when we die as well! Since the background rate of brain cell death is 10,000 daily, we can be sure that the chronically moderately inebriated brain has a minimum 10-fold higher level of neuronal death.

My own observations confirm Tokiwala's objective findings: regular moderate consumption of alcohol does nothing to help our brains age gracefully".

If you want help reversing brain decline, contact Dr. Sierra for an appointment.

Coming up in my next Info Post:

What foods, supplements and beverages help manage and offset some of the harmful effect of alcohol on the brain.