Environmental Toxicants & Neurodegenerative Diseases

Today we are going to explore the rising number of neurodegenerative diseases (diseases where there is a loss of function in the brain such as Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), Parkinson’s Disease (PD), dementia, Multiple Sclerosis, etc) and how environmental toxicants play a contributing role.

This is a really important topic because it affects every single one of us: we are all aging every day and people aged 65 and older are the fastest-growing segment of the global population.
 
While aging is a normal process, it is not normal to develop neurodegenerative diseases.


 
Developing such disorders can be blamed on genetics, but did you know that being exposed to environmental toxicants can increase your risk of developing these conditions?
 
According to research, AD and PD development are attributed to exposure to heavy metals and pesticides. 
 

Heavy Metals That Increase Risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

The following heavy metals contribute to the development of AD by increasing oxidative stress in the neurons (nerve cells) and causing inflammation and apoptosis or cell death.
 
Lead
 
Lead is toxic to the nervous system and once it enters the body, it rapidly crosses the blood-brain barrier. Exposure to lead during the developmental years, acute exposure, or lead poisoning can cause inflammation, increased neuronal oxidative stress, and cell death.
 
From paint to toys, lead can almost be found anywhere today. Check out this list here to see what else contains lead.
 
Cadmium
 
Just like lead, cadmium has the same effects on neuronal cells. In an experiment, mice exposed to drinking water with cadmium, later on, developed deteriorated learning and memory abilities.
 
For non-smokers, the primary source of cadmium is the diet, more particularly from plants grown in soil or meat from animals that fed on plants grown in soil as well as cosmetics. Smoking exposes one to cadmium because cigarettes contain 0.5 – 5 ppm of cadmium.
 
Manganese
 
Manganese, in required low levels, is actually important to our cells. But in excessive amounts, it is also neurotoxic. Aside from occupational exposure, the general population can be exposed to manganese through the diet because there are a lot of foods rich in manganese. However, toxicity occurs when there are elevated levels in drinking water or air. Inhaled manganese (industrial byproduct) is directly transported to the brain before it is metabolized by the liver and symptoms of toxicity may appear gradually and over months or even years.
 

Pesticides and Parkinson’s Disease

Next to AD, Parkinson’s Disease is another neurodegenerative disorder that affects old people. It is characterized by motor and nonmotor symptoms. People with PD display tremors, muscle rigidity, muscle cramps, freezing, and slowness of movement. They can also suffer from depression and dementia.
 
Years of studies have shown the link between exposure to pesticides and the development of Parkinson’s disease, and the group of pesticides that are frequently associated with PD is known as organochlorines. They are toxic to the neurons and promote oxidative stress.
 
Now that we get the idea about heavy metal exposure and how they contribute to the development of AD and PD, let’s learn what are the available methods to manage them in functional medicine.
 
Probiotics
 
We’ve discussed many times before that probiotics are critical for gut health. Since the gut acts as our secondary immune system, strengthening the gut with the aid of probiotics is essential to enhance our intestinal and systemic immune defense, which is necessary to achieve health and well-being. In addition, some probiotics have antimicrobial abilities, and according to studies, they reduce pathogenic toxins. In light of this, using probiotics is a simple way to lessen heavy metal toxicity.
Probiotics exist in living foods as well as in supplement form…and in nature like forests and soil! Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchee, yogurt, kvass, kefir, and tempeh are a few examples of probiotic foods/drinks. Spending time outside in nature also exposes you to beneficial bacteria. And then of course, there are many probiotic supplements (see my guide here).
 
Nutrition
 
To reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases, our diet should be rich in antioxidants, such as nuts, leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, and spices. Also, certain nutrients and even our dietary patterns can protect us from cognitive decline. We should include in our diet foods that are high with B-vitamins (i.e. meat, salmon, eggs, broccoli, sunflower seeds, etc), vitamin D (fatty fish, egg yolks, mushrooms), folate (green leafies, avos), polyphenols, and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (i.e. fatty fish).
 
Nutrition is an important tool in the prevention and treatment of neurodegeneration. By using foods that contain certain nutrients, inflammation can be reduced, symptoms are relieved, and quality of life is improved.

It is my passion to work with people like you whose health symptoms are getting in the way of you living life fully and with a sense of freedom in your body. I can help you to regain your health so you can feel great and free to enjoy life fully.

If you’re ready to discover where your best health has been hiding, I’d love to connect with you!
Apply for a complimentary Unstoppable Health Discovery Session. bit.ly/schedulinghealth (subject to availability).

Until next time, I’m wishing you unstoppable health!
~Rebecca

Understanding Blood Sugar Test Results

Today we are going to explore what certain test results really mean about your health and what you can do if you have levels of high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), hemoglobin A1C (HbaA1c), fasting blood sugar, fasting insulin, post-meal glucose, and homeostatic model assessment for insulin resistance (HOMA-IR).
 
It is just important that you are able to make sense of your lab results and know why the optimal, not just the standard range matters. As I have mentioned before, an illness may already be present even when the lab tests have standard results. 
 

But before digging into the above mentioned metabolic markers, let’s understand the basics of diabesity first: diabetes and obesity together. There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Both of them make the sugar levels high, but they do so in different ways.
 
After a meal, our blood glucose elevates and triggers the pancreas to produce insulin. Insulin is the only way for the glucose to enter the cells, so without insulin, glucose in the blood remains high, which is not good because it can cause health problems.
 
In type 1 diabetes, your body’s own immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. So the pancreas stops producing insulin and blood sugar level increases, which is very dangerous and even deadly if not addressed.
 
In type 2 diabetes, your pancreas still produces insulin but your body doesn’t respond to it as it should. Less glucose enters the cells and your blood sugar level remains high. This is called insulin resistance. In response, your pancreas works even harder to produce more insulin, putting a strain on the organ, and eventually leading to greater malfunction.
 
Now let’s understand where metabolic markers in blood tests play a role in diabesity.
 

High Sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP)

The liver creates hsCRP and when there is inflammation, this protein becomes elevated in your blood. We know that inflammation is an indicator of metabolic dysfunction. The higher the result, the more inflammation there is in your body. People with chronic inflammation, including those with obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, leaky gut, cardiac-related inflammation and cancer have high hsCRP.
 
A result of more than 2 mg/dl means you have a higher risk for cardiac disease while lower than that means you’re less at risk. However, for optimal results, 0.5 mg/dl or lower is best.
 

Hemoglobin A1C (HbaA1c)

This is a way to assess blood glucose averages over the preceding three months, since glucose molecules attach to the hemoglobin of red blood cells which tend to live for about three months. This process is known as glycation.
 
Your HbaA1c can tell you if your blood glucose levels have been high over a period of time. So even when you have a normal fasting blood sugar level, your HbaA1c can be high and this will give you the idea of what is really going on in your body. This used to be done only to monitor diabetics, but it can diagnose prediabetes and diabetes. The standard value considered to be normal is less than 5.7%. More than that is considered prediabetes (5.7%-6.4%) and diabetes (>6.5%)
 

Fasting Blood Sugar

This measures the blood glucose levels without being affected by a recent meal. You have to typically fast for about 8-12 hours before the test.
 
Blood sugar matters. When it is chronically high, it can damage your blood vessels and nerves and affects your vital organs.
 
Below 100 mg/dl is considered normal but optimal is below 90 mg/dl (some experts even say below 85 is ideal). Higher than 100 mg/dl is indicative of prediabetes (100-125 mg/dl) or diabetes (126 mg/dl).
 

Fasting Insulin

This measures insulin levels without being affected by a recent meal. The pancreas is designed to produce insulin in response to the high blood glucose levels. It works just to maintain the normal blood glucose levels, so getting fasting insulin will give you a sense of how hard your pancreas is working to keep your blood glucose down.
 
The normal range is below 25 mIU/L. This means you have strong insulin resistance. Shoot for the optimal levels, which is lower than 8 mIU/L.
 

Post-Meal Glucose

This test measures your blood sugar levels two hours after a meal. Not every metabolic dysfunction can be diagnosed through a fasting glucose test, so it’s valuable to check postprandial (after meal) glucose as well. A spike in blood glucose after eating can cause atherosclerosis and damage the walls of your blood vessels. So if the glucose spikes become chronic, you are at a high risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
 
The standard range is less than 140 mg/dl, but the optimal level is below 120 mg/dl.
 

Homeostatic Model Assessment for Insulin Resistance (HOMA-IR)

This indirectly measures how your body’s insulin is working in dealing with glucose using the following equation:
 
(Score) = (Fasting insulin) x (Fasting glucose) / 405
 
When you have the results for fasting insulin and fasting glucose, then you’ll be able to identify your HOMA-IR. A healthy range is between 0.5 and 1.4, but aim for less than 0.5 for optimal results. Lower results mean you are insulin sensitive (which is what you want!). You only require a little insulin to lower your blood glucose levels. Higher results, on the other hand, mean you are insulin resistant and your body doesn’t respond well to the effect of insulin so your cells don’t take the glucose from your blood.
 
I hope this will help you better understand your metabolic health markers and your overall health status as well.

Your diet and lifestyle hugely influence metabolic markers! Eating a clean diet rich in high quality protein and plants, healthy fats, drinking plenty of water, getting 7+ hours of sleep each night, moving your body daily, and managing your stress throughout the day are the foundations to good health.

It is my passion to work with people like you whose health symptoms are getting in the way of you living life fully and with a sense of freedom in your body. I can help you to regain your health so you can feel great and free to enjoy life fully.

If you’re ready to discover where your best health has been hiding, I’d love to connect with you!
Apply for a complimentary Unstoppable Health Discovery Session. bit.ly/schedulinghealth (subject to availability).

Until next time, I’m wishing you unstoppable health!
~Rebecca