Introduction to Cognitive Impairment & Disorders
Cognitive impairment disorders are notably increasing throughout the world and are a major source of stress on the individual as well as everyone involved (friends, family, etc.). Cognitive impairment can be defined as mild to severe challenges in remembering, learning, concentrating, and/or making decisions that affect an individual’s everyday life. People with mild impairments may notice changes in cognitive functions while still being able to perform their everyday activities. Severe impairment can significantly alter the mental function of an individual to the point where living independently becomes impossible. It is estimated that 5.1 million Americans aged 65 and older currently have Alzheimer’s Disease, and this number is expected to increase to 13.2 million by 2050. This figure does not include the many other disorders that impair cognitive function, meaning the prevalence of cognitive disfunction is even higher.
Some of these Cognitive Disorders include:
· Motor Skill Disorders (Parkinson’s)
· Post-Concussion Syndrome
· Substance-Induced Cognitive Impairment
· Bipolar Disorder
Understanding Cognitive Impairment
The standard medical approach to all of these conditions is medication. Sometimes medications can even cause cognitive impairment and proper cognitive function is restored once these medications are discontinued. These medications 1) do not resolve the condition 2) come with side effects, and 3) only manage the symptoms while neglecting several causes of cognitive impairment including:
· Nutritional Deficiencies
· Heavy Metal/Environmental Toxicities
· Systemic Inflammation
· Hormonal/Neurotransmitter Imbalances
· Gut Bacteria Imbalances
· Food Sensitivities
The earlier these impairments are recognized and treated, the better. And while the number one strategy against these conditions is prevention, several of them are reversible with proper treatment.
Sometimes these injuries to cognitive function occur at a young age, in which case immediate treatment is important to prevent further developmental impairments. Other times, these injuries occur later in life where again immediate treatment is important to ensure prevention of severe cognitive decline. People with mild cognitive impairments such as forgetting important information (e.g. recent events, appointments, conversations, etc.) that would have been typically recalled with ease have an increased risk of developing more serious cognitive disorders like dementia. However, if impairment is detected and treated early enough, dementia can be prevented, and milder forms can be reversed. While severe cases are less likely to reverse, prevention of further decline is still obtainable. This is why it’s important that people experiencing cognitive impairment seek help as soon as possible for early diagnosis and natural treatment to prevent further decline and optimize overall health.
The Balanced Body Approach to Cognitive Impairment:
History and Exam:
All patient care begins with a detailed history and exam. Our doctors spend the time necessary to really understand the history and extent of the patient's problem. It is these details that help our doctors determine the tests needed to identify the cause or contributing factors of the current condition. Your personal history also helps us shape an individualized care plan that is unique to you.
Blood Chemistry Studies with Functional Evaluation:
Since many organs and systems affect cognitive function, it is essential to start with complete blood chemistry tests. Our standard chemistries allow our doctors to evaluate the body’s major systems. By using an advanced form of interpretation called Functional Medicine, our doctors can discover hidden nutritional deficiencies, early organic dysfunction and the cause of many imbalances. Once the tests are evaluated, a treatment plan is established.
Intestinal dysbiosis is an imbalance of bacterial colonization within the gastrointestinal tract. With roughly 100 trillion bacterial organisms living in the gut at any given time, each with their own effects on the human body, it is important to ensure that the right types of bacteria are predominately present to ensure optimal overall health. There are many ways in which dysbiosis can have a negative effect on cognition, one of which is the alteration in neurotransmitter production. Neurotransmitters are chemicals used by the nervous system (including the brain) to carry out functions. Bad bacteria will prevent the neurotransmitter dopamine from converting to another neurotransmitter, norepinephrine. This results in a dopamine build up that could lead to toxic levels of dopamine in the brain which can in turn lead to cognitive decline. Intestinal Dysbiosis also can cause a condition termed “leaky gut” in which molecules that would normally not get absorbed into the blood stream are absorbed. This causes an inflammatory response that negatively affects many systems in the body (including the brain) thus potentially resulting in cognitive decline. Our office utilizes Organic Acid Testing in order to assess the bacterial environment in the gut and determine the proper treatment to re-establish proper gut-brain health.
It is essential to measure the toxic representation in the body when evaluating and treating cognitive disorders. Our office has been using Heavy Metal Testing for our patients for 20 years. Once toxic elements are identified, our office uses various natural products to help bind and eliminate these toxins naturally and effectively.
Neurotransmitter, Adrenal, and Hormone Testing
Neurotransmitters and Hormones are an important aspect in dealing with cognitive function as neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers the brain utilizes in order to perform tasks like creating new memories, retrieving stored information, and using this previously learned information to problem solve. Neurotransmitters are also responsible for concentration, relaxation, and sleep (sleep deprivation alone can lead to poor cognitive function). Hormones (male, female, and adrenal) help us deal with stress. When hormones become imbalanced, it forces the neurotransmitters to work harder to compensate during a stress response. Therefore it is important to take hormones into consideration any time neurotransmitter problems are suspected. Our office uses neurotransmitter, Adrenal, and hormone testing to determine if you are not generating enough neurotransmitters/hormones, not converting one to another, or if you are not eliminating old neurotransmitters/hormones appropriately, leading to a buildup which can cause a variety of problems. We then can supply your body with what it needs to regulate balance and improve cognitive function.
Orthomolecular Nutritional Therapy
Once the problem is identified, there are many nutrients, enzymes and vitamins that can restore proper biochemical balance within the body. Our clinic offers orthomolecular evaluations on all Blood Chemistry studies. Orthomolecular medicine, which was developed by Linus Pauling, aims to restore the optimum environment of the body through natural means. This is done by correcting imbalances or deficiencies based on individual biochemistries using substances which are natural to the body such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, trace elements and essential fatty acids.
Amino and Fatty Acid Testing
Amino Acids and Fatty Acids are molecules used as the building blocks of many structures and other molecules of the body. Especially important for cognitive function, these acids are utilized to build hormones and neurotransmitters which are essential to cognitive function. Our office uses Amino Acid and Fatty Acid Testing along with comprehensive blood panels to determine if you are not eating enough good foods, not absorbing enough good foods, or if your body is not utilizing good foods appropriately due to another underlying condition. We can then use this information to create a customized amino acid supplement specific to your amino acid imbalance. This will help replenish depleted stores within the body and start rebuilding deficiencies in amino-acid-containing molecules. We also have high quality and quantity fatty acid supplements to restore imbalances in fatty acids as well.
Environmental Toxicity Testing
While scientists have yet to discover all the negative effects environmental toxins have on the body, it is evident that there are many everyday chemicals that commonly build up in the body and cause harm to our overall health. Every day, we are exposed to hundreds of toxic chemicals through products like pharmaceuticals, pesticides, packaged foods, household products, and environmental pollution. As we have become more exposed to chemical-laden products and to toxic chemicals in food, air, and water, we have been confronted with an accelerating rate of chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, chemical sensitivity, autism spectrum disorders, ADD/AD(H)D, autoimmune disorders, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. The Balanced Body Center offers the GPL-TOXtest to evaluate for the presence of 172 different toxic chemicals including organophosphate pesticides, phthalates, benzene, xylene, vinyl chloride, pyrethroid insecticides, acrylamide, perchlorate, diphenyl phosphate, ethylene oxide, acrylonitrile, and more. This profile also includes Tiglylglycine (TG), a marker for mitochondrial disorders resulting from mutations of mitochondrial DNA. These mutations can be caused by exposure to toxic chemicals, infections, inflammation, and nutritional deficiencies. All of these can alter cognitive function.
Methylation and Genomics Testing
Genes can be described as the blue prints of the human body. Genes dictate how our body builds structures, including hormones and neurotransmitters. Sometimes within the genetic code, a methylation defect can exist meaning that certain enzymes (proteins that carry out function) are not designed to work as fast as the body needs. These enzymes are responsible for methylation, which is a chemical process of attaching a chemical (methyl group) to an enzyme in order to activate it. This is an essential process in brain health and contributes to proper cognitive function. And yet, many people are only able to carry out a percentage of this process due to genetic weakness. Even though we cannot change your genetics, our office utilizes supplements that are methylated (already activated) based on Genetic Testing in order to give your body the products it needs to carry out its processes at 100% capacity.
The relationship between the nervous system and physical structure of the body has been well documented over the years. Frequently in cases of severe low back injuries involving the discs, the nervous system is compromised to the point that optimal cognitive function cannot be obtained. Furthermore, neck pain has been shown to alter neurotransmitter balance over time, also resulting in poor cognitive function. During migraines, cognitive function is also altered and research has shown that neck dysfunction associated with poor spinal biomechanics can induce migraine headaches. Our office offers advanced structural assessment and correction of spine imbalance (utilizing NUCCA and Pettibon) to resolve any strain on the nervous system, along with gentle, non-rotational adjustments to correct these imbalances.