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New Hope for Alzheimer’s

New Hope for Alzheimer’s
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Emerging research underscores the critical need to protect compounded bioidentical hormones. Action Alert!

Almost six million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and it is projected to afflict many more in coming years. Big Pharma has been unable to produce drugs that treat this debilitating disease. New research, however, is suggesting that Alzheimer’s is more complex than previously thought, requiring an individualized approach that can include hormone replacement therapy. Unfortunately, the FDA is poised to eliminate consumer access to compounded, bioidentical hormones. We must continue to voice opposition to a ban on these important treatments.

Leading the charge on this new approach is Dr. Dale Bredesen (here is a link to his book on Amazon). The prevailing wisdom about Alzheimer’s is that it is caused by buildup of amlyloid plaque in the brain. Drug trials have been targeted at removing these plaques. But according to Dr. Bredesen and his colleagues, this is wrong. Dr. Bredesen has suggested that the buildup of amlyloid plaque is a symptom, rather than the cause of Alzheimer’s.

Further, Dr. Bredesen thinks there are three forms of Alzheimer’s with at least 36 contributing factors to the disease. Individualized protocols must be developed to address these factors. Dr. Bredesen uses an analogy of a leaky roof with 36 holes to illustrate his approach, where the size of the different holes depends on genetics and environment. Each “hole” will be a different size in each person, meaning some may not need to be addressed while others do. But plugging just one of the holes will not stop the rain from getting in—this is why Big Pharma’s approach fails. One drug may address one of the contributing factors for Alzheimer’s, but the rest of the “holes” remain.

Dr. Bredesen identifies three types of Alzheimer’s. One type is caused by inflammation; another is caused by a lack hormones and nutrients necessary to maintain brain plasticity; another type is caused by exposure to stress and environmental toxins, like mercury or mycotoxins from mold.

Hormones are particularly important for addressing the second type of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Bredesen writes that estriol, estradiol, and progesterone have brain-protective effects and a “direct effect on the molecular balance that drives Alzheimer’s disease.” Dr. Bredesen says that, “Reaching optimal hormone levels is one of the most effective and most critical parts of [the Bredesen Protocol].”

Other research has shown that estrogen plays an important role in the brain, including the modulation of synaptogenesis, increased cerebral blood flow, mediation of important neurotransmitters and hormones, anti-inflammatory actions, and antioxidant properties. Dr. Bredesen emphasizes the importance of taking these hormones transvaginally, since oral administration can lead to liver problems—something conventional medicine often misses. He also emphasizes the importance of optimizing testosterone levels to support the brain.

To restore proper hormone function, Dr. Bredesen recommends bioidentical hormones as opposed to synthetic hormones, as bioidentical hormones are identical to the hormones produced by the human body.

Note that many of the FDA-approved bioidentical hormone products are taken orally, not vaginally as Dr Bredesen and most integrative doctors recommend, and for estriol there is no FDA-approved product, meaning it must be made at compounding pharmacies. This emphasizes the importance of having compounded bioidentical hormones as an option. Unlike FDA approved hormone drugs, compounded hormones can be customized to a patient’s specific needs: pharmacies can make medicines using doctor-preferred delivery mechanisms (i.e. creams for hormones), allergen-free formulations, and they can personalize dosages. Bioidentical hormones also appear to be safer, particularly estriol.

As explained above with the leaky roof analogy, the Bredesen Protocol is tailored to the individual and includes cleaning up the diet (cutting out simple carbs and eating more vegetables and fruits); getting enough sleep; exercising regularly; ensuring hormone levels are correct, regular fasting; proper supplementation; and much more. The protocol is individually tailored depending on which “holes” need to be plugged in the leaky roof.

Using this protocol, Dr. Bredesen has been able to help improve Alzheimer’s in over 200 patients. He is attempting to fundraise for a larger clinical study, but as this isn’t a drug protocol and isn’t a one-size-fits all solution, funding can be difficult to come by.

Other research has supported the notion that hormones have a role in Alzheimer’s:

  • One study found a 12 percent lower risk of dementia for women who had three or more children compared to women who had one child.
  • Another study showed that women who begin menstruating earlier and went through menopause later have a lower risk of developing dementia.
  • A study of 133 elderly women found that the more months of pregnancy meant a lower risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

The connection between pregnancy and reduced Alzheimer’s risk further suggests estriol’s role in protecting against the disease, as during pregnancy estriol levels rise significantly—in fact it is the most produced estrogen during that time.

This promising research gives hope to the millions of Americans who suffer from Alzheimer’s as well as their families and loved ones. It is also a stunning endorsement of integrative medicine that utilizes and individualized approach to treating illness (Dr. Bredesen is a conventionally trained physician who was introduced to integrative medicine by his wife, Dr. Aida Lasheen Bredesen).

It is a scandal that the FDA is considering a ban on compounded bioidentical hormones like estriol, estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone—medicines that could help Alzheimer’s patients, in addition to the 2.5 million women who rely on these medicines to manage menopause.

The FDA must continue to hear from the public about the urgent need to retain consumer access to compounded bioidentical hormones.

Action Alert! Send a message to the FDA and Congress telling them not to ban compounded bioidentical hormones. Please send your message immediately.

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