Unfortunately, “brain care “is not part of the common healthcare paradigm in either conventional or alternative medicine. In both branches “healthcare” is a neck down practice despite the fact that current research acknowledges that the brain is one of the most fragile and susceptible organs to imbalances caused by poor diets and chronic stress. Evolving understanding in current neurology literature indicates that poor brain function is involved with or is the cause of many of our “incurable” chronic conditions. Yet practitioners are not being trained to look for and recognize or to manage poor brain function relative to the growing problems of degeneration and/or its relationship to many “common” conditions such as IBS, GERD, constipation, chronic UTIs and much more. Current awareness of brain function is relegated to recognizing these conditions only after they have progressed to the pathology stage and are past the point of therapeutic return.
When poor brain function is identified early lifestyle strategies can be implemented that not only impact the potential progression of such diseases as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, but can be efficacious in resolving a garden-variety of poor brain health related symptoms such as sleep disorders, brain fog, mild depression, moodiness, and anxiety. Increased age alone is a major risk factor for all neurodegenerative diseases and general brain symptomatic decline (fatigue, brain fog, poor endurance). The future practicing clinicians must develop the ability to recognize that most of the chronic symptoms and conditions that their patients present with have a brain related component to them. The clinicians must also endeavor to learn the already established principles of neuroplasticity in order to improve brain function in all of their patients and change the expression of their disorders.
We know that genetic and environmental factors play an important role in brain aging and function. An increasing body of evidence indicates that environmental factors such as nutrition, diet, and lifestyle (stress) can actually influence the expression of genes, including those involving brain aging and function. Brain degeneration (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s) specifically is a progressive condition and any hope to make significant change lies in early identification. Again, most healthcare professionals are not trained in and thus cannot recognize the early signs of brain degeneration. Thus there will be countless patients that they will not be able to serve other than late intervention with pharmaceutical management to “improve quality of life” to a mild degree while the patient continuously declines.
The incidence of brain disorders is officially on the rise. Not only do one in eight senior citizens develop Alzheimer’s these days but one in eight children are diagnosed with brain developmental disorder such as autism, ADD, and ADHD. Anxiety disorders, learning disabilities, and depression are much more prevalent today while “garden-variety” symptoms of poor brain health such as sleep disorders, brain fog, mild depression and moodiness have become commonplace. Antidepressants are now the second most commonly prescribed medication in the country.
The increasing rate of neurodegenerative and brain related diseases and symptoms is alarming. And the sad part is that it’s controllable. Among the controllable risk factors causing these disorders are altered methylation, liver detoxification abnormalities, environmental pollutant exposure, abnormal blood sugar levels, essential fatty acid imbalances, leaky gut, impairment of brain neurotransmitter activity, poor brain circulation and over activation of the brain’s separate immune system. Sounds complex. It is and it isn’t. And it should be the clinician’s role, once early signs of brain dysfunction present themselves or when they appear part of the clinical picture of another more all-encompassing condition (think fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue), to develop a strategy to improve the patient’s brain health, so that the patient’s overall health can improve and the patient then can maintain that higher quality of life. Though the tools are out there to accomplish this task, largely without medications, the fact remains that again “brain care” is simply not a part of the conventional healthcare paradigm in either conventional or alternative medicine practice. Pharmaceutical management and herbal adaptocrines do not constitute brain care.
Brain rehabilitation exercises based on precise findings from a comprehensive neurological evaluation have proven to be quite effective in improving brain function. Combined with the functional medicine approach to handle the inflammation, poor blood sugar responses, and oxygen demands that a healthy brain requires and that are negatively affected by the previously mentioned controllable risk factors substantial improvement in brain function, reduction of brain symptoms, and improvement of brain related conditions is a consistently realistic expectation in most properly selected patients.