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Reversing Memory Loss with the Bredesen Protocol

Oct 29, 2021 ● By Jessica Montalvo, MD
3 faces made out of trees. One is red, one is yellow and one is green

Photo by freshidea for Adobe Stock

When Dr. Dale Bredesen, author of The End of Alzheimer’s, began his work as a researcher in neurology, he was optimistic that Alzheimer’s disease was curable by a drug. The last new drug approved was in 2003 because all the medications studied since have failed to show results in clinical trials. Bredesen’s work tells us why we’ve made so little progress with Alzheimer’s. At least 36 separate pathways exist that can lead to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s dementia. A really excellent drug can only address two or three holes at best, so we have to follow a treatment plan that is much wider in scope.

The Bredesen Protocol is a new way to think about memory loss. Our brains start on the path of destruction decades before we start to visibly lose our memory. If the building blocks of the brain, the neurons, do not receive the right mix of signals from those 36 pathways, they die off. Then over time, we develop symptoms of dementia.

Alzheimer’s is the result of a misguided attempt of the brain to protect itself from a bad environment. The three main threats are inflammation; a shortage of supportive nutrients, hormones and other healthy brain materials; and toxic substances such as metals, pesticides and biotoxins produced by mold or other organisms.

The brain responds to these dangers by producing a protective substance called amyloid precursor protein, or APP, that wants to wall off damaged neurons. The brain does not want to spend resources on sick neurons when it can be strengthening healthy ones. When the threatening environment is persistent, APP production crosses from protective to harmful, choking off more and more neurons. The result is loss of memory, function and understanding of the world.

The Bredesen Protocol fixes the insulin resistance inflammation by focusing on food choices that are low in sugar, moderate in protein and high in quality fats. This allows the body to produce less insulin overall, and good fats are a much better source of fuel for brain cells. The timing of meals is also important. Following an eating schedule called intermittent fasting helps prevent excessive insulin production.

Brain cells and synapses need hormones such as estradiol and testosterone; nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin B12 and folate; and other compounds such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. These factors make the building blocks of the brain stronger in the presence of stress.

The body is usually able to deal with toxins we encounter daily. Many reactions take place in the liver, kidneys and gut to make them harmless to be removed through urine, stool or sweat. Becoming overwhelmed by toxins causes many possible symptoms, including memory loss. The brain sees toxins as bad, and tries to protect itself by producing APP.

The Bredesen Protocol works well for people that want to help prevent Alzheimer’s
or notice symptoms early and seek attention. The myth that Alzheimer’s disease is not preventable or that mild symptoms are not reversible is still pervasive in medical and public opinion. This misinformation can rob people of their ability to take greater control of their health destiny.
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Jessica Montalvo, M.D., is a certified functional medicine clinician through the Institute for Functional Medicine and has completed training in Dr. Dale Bredesen’s RECODE protocol. She practices at Forum Health, in Wheaton. To learn more, visit