Recently Selina, Quinn and I visited the Chattanooga Aquarium and surprisingly, among the many variety of amazing fish on display, my top choice goes to the jellyfish. Ironic that in spite of my knowledge and appreciation for spinal anatomy, these invertebrates captured most of my viewing attention. They are part of the Boneless Beauties gallery, along with the octopus and squid, all with the common trait of having no backbone. The rhythmic movements and colorful luminescence of the jellyfish was mesmerizing. Prior to this aquarium experience, the extent of jellyfish in my life was limited to fearing them at Galveston and the Prevagen commercials.
This new appreciation for jellyfish fueled my curiosity into the science behind Prevagen, a nutritional product marketed as the “#1 Selling Memory Supplement in Drug Stores.” Soon after starting my research into the relationship between calcium, apoaequorin (a jellyfish protein), and brain health, it did not take long to discover the controversy surrounding this product. As recent as January 2017, the Federal Trade Commission and the New York State Attorney General charged the marketers of Prevagen with making false and unsubstantiated claims that their product improves memory and cognition, and is “clinically shown” to work. Even with all this bad press, their sales continue to grow. Does this indicate just how many people are desperately seeking answers for their memory and/or mental decline? Especially given the fact that subjective and/or mild cognitive impairment are two conditions that often precede Alzheimer's disease (AD). Scary.
Basically, the premise of Prevagen’s benefit is how it can help regulate calcium metabolism inside brain cells. I started to get all caught up in the controversy of gut absorption, blood brain barrier, research design, if it’s a drug or a supplement, then STOP! All this blah blah blah obscures the bigger issue. It is so easy to get lost in a singular pursuit and miss the bigger picture. Yes, calcium regulation is important for brain health and even if Prevagen has some slight benefit, it is not the pathway I would recommend for better brain health. Taking a supplement to make symptoms go away is not a good long term health strategy. You have to go deeper than treating the symptoms.
Immediately upon it’s release last year I bought and read The End of Alzheimer’s by Dale E. Bredesen, M.D. The book’s byline is “The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline.” He states in the book that we fear Alzheimer’s more than any other disease for two reasons and I quote, “It is the only one of the nation’s top ten most common causes of death for which there has been no effective treatment. And it is not only fatal: It robs its victims of their lives long before they are gone.” In the book he details case studies with impressive results utilizing his protocols. You probably know someone with AD since it is the 6th leading cause of death in the US. Recommend this book and open their caretaker’s eyes that there are alternatives beyond the stance of the medical establishment. This is from the home page of the Alzheimer’s Association website (www.alz.org): “While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or a way to stop or slow its progression, there are drug and non-drug options that may help treat symptoms.” ….Just reading that statement makes me feel ill.
I had to know what Dr. Bredesen was doing that yielded such impressive results, with such a devastating condition. What I discovered was he is primarily doing functional medicine type protocols. Yes, very similar to what I provide in our office. Of course he will also use some prescription medications when indicated and I do not. I combine functional medicine with Nutri-Spec metabolic protocols, and sensory and motor based chiropractic methods. The benefits of sensory based techniques cannot be overstated.
Dr. Bredesen gets it, and his patients with AD are getting uncharacteristic medical results. If you read his book, you will hear about his frustration with the medical establishment and why he is using functional medicine protocols, an approach not common among his peers. By the way, I have been using a functional medicine approach for over 30 years, before it had a name. What do you call restoring optimal metabolic and neurologic function, using interventional methods in alignment with the body’s innate healing powers? I call it metabolic therapy, plus chiropractic, plus common sense. Oh yeah, chiropractors have been frustrated with the medical establishment’s approach to disease for over 120 years. Not acute and traumatic care, for that I believe we are all grateful. I’m referring to chronic disease prevention, recovery, and the paradigm of what is wellness. AD, like most diseases, is not a single disease and should not be treated with a one size fits all therapy. It’s difficult, but try to remember to not get seduced into taking a pill to address a multifaceted process. It does not work, except to put off the inevitable.
Here is a suggestion. Scrutinize all the pills you take, prescription and non-prescription. Start with the medications. Ask yourself, what is my purpose for taking it? Often, during a consult, a very common response is “I don’t know, my doctor prescribed it many years ago and I just keep taking it.” Pause and consider that for a moment. Is it just me, but doesn't that sound like problem? By the way, if you take blood pressure medication for high blood pressure, you still have high blood pressure. That medication just alters your biochemistry to mask the clinical findings, but the underlying chronic process is still progressing.
Common feedback regarding health supplements is “I take it because it is good for _____ (you fill in the blank).“ Good for is a red flag. Unless you know your specific biological individuality, you really don’t know what it is good for you. For example, give therapeutic doses of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) to somebody with an acid pH, and it makes them worse…if they also have scurvy, give it anyway. Arghhh!
Seriously, you can ask me about any supplement I have recommended for you, and I can tell you precisely why, and what the expected outcome is. I suggest you demand that kind of accountability of all your healthcare practitioners.
P.S. Have you ever had a shark swim over you?