Hello everyone and I am glad you’ve made it to my blog. Today I am going to go through an article published by the department of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in 2010. The article is titled “Autoimmune dementia: clinical course and predictors of immunotherapy response.[i]” I’ll explore how the study was done, what the results were, and then what the implications of the results mean for you.
This study took 72 patients with suspected autoimmune dementia and treated them with immunotherapy (drugs to suppress the immune system). The study found 64% of the patients showed improvement in almost all cognitive domains including learning and memory. In short, the immunotherapy helped reduce the dementia symptoms and improve brain function! For those who are reading drug research studies this is the next step forward in nearly all fields of neurology medication. While the current round of “brain drugs” are aimed at neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, gaba, and acetyl-choline, the next round of drugs are all aimed at the immune system. It is studies like this that encourage further research into how the immune system impacts our brains.
The next part of the study was also very important. After one year, 26 of the patient stopped their anti-inflammatories and relapsed. As soon as they were not taking anti-inflammatory medications, the dementia came back. This means the medications did not restore ongoing balance to the immune system.
What We Learned
Let’s review the two main findings from this study and what we can learn from them. We first find that anti-inflammatories can help improve symptoms of dementia. While this study looked at dementia, there is evidence for other brain diseases being helped by anti-inflammatories including Parkinson’s, Depression, and Anxiety, and ADD. The second point is that the current medications do not restore balance to the immune system in the long run. Current drug therapies for the immune system are extremely crude. I tell my patients it is like solving a creaky door hinge by removing the whole door. Is it effective in stopping the door from making noise…yes. However, you have not really fixed the hinge and typically wherever you had a door it is a bad idea to just get rid of the door. To really help rebalance the immune system you must do two things:
- Remove the source of inflammation
- What is driving the inflammation in a person? Is it a chronic infection with a virus, bacteria, yeast, or parasite? Is there a chronic stress response? Is there a diet imbalance of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids? If someone is inflamed, if the source driving the inflammation is not removed then as soon as anti-inflammatory therapy is removed the inflammation will come back and the patients symptoms will come back.
- Support the balance of the immune system
- Rather than use the drugs to completely suppress the immune system, there are several nutrients which can help us balance the immune system. For more in depth information on the immune system see my article entitled“Immune System Concepts”. A short list of good, safe immune system regulators/balancers are vitamin D, vitamin A, Omega 3 fish oils, and Glutathione.
Brain Immune Balancing
For anyone with a brain related problem (such as brain fog, depression, anxiety, dementia, etc.) anti-inflammatories for the brain can be absolutely helpful. The immune system in the different than the rest of the body. The microglial are the brain’s chief immune cells and they act broader and less discerning than their counterparts in the rest of the body. Therefore inflammation in the brain causes more collateral damage than in the rest of the body. This means inflammation is particularly MORE DAMAGING in the brain that to other tissues. Symptoms of brain inflammation include:
- Brain fog
- Unclear thoughts
- Low brain endurance
- Slow and varied mental speeds
- Loss of brain function after trauma
- Brain fatigue and poor mental focus after meals
- Brain fatigue promoted by systemic inflammation
- Brain fatigue promoted by chemicals, scents, and pollutants
I highly recommend Dr. Kharrazian’s new book Why Isn’t My Brain Working for further reading. Chapters 10 and 11 are particularly emphasizing the immune brain connection.
Research is showing promising treatments for brain disorders in the anti-inflammatory realm. Remember to really fix the problem you must find and remove the driver of the inflammation and also help balance the immune system. Thank you for reading.
[i] Flanagan EP, McKeon A, Lennon VA et al. Autoimmune Demantia: clinical Course and Predictors of Immunotherapy Response. Mayo Clin Proc. Oct 2010: 85(10)881-97.