Have You Heard About Functional Medicine Breakthroughs in Preserving Cognition?


It’s both exciting and frustrating when you learn that the majority of what you have been taught about a subject is likely wrong. The exciting part only applies when you find out that something that was thought to be irreversible can be changed for the better. The frustrating part is that it was probably right in front of our eyes all along and we just couldn’t see it because of the way we think about and approach certain problems like the loss of cognitive function.

We are losing millions of nerve cells every day and at the same time we are making tens of millions of new connections between nerve cells. I have always thought that there is a network effect. Memory is not localized to a single area but spread out across the brain in arrays of nerve cells that fire together forming functional networks. As we strengthen these networks we become more resilient, wiser and in a lot of ways smarter. So even with the loss of brain cells, in many ways we can get smarter and smarter.


This says to me that the quality of the networks we build and the effort we put in to maintain and build them over time are critical factors in how well our brain works as we age.

We have been taught that for those who start to get cognitive decline that once the problem starts to take ahold there is often a steady decline and not much to do about it. A few simple blood tests, an imaging study, a questionnaire or more formal testing of cognitive function, and a medicine or two that might or might not slow your decline is the best you can hope for. What an abysmal and sad story. And worse yet it’s a story we have lived with for years and years. A story that should horrify current generations as we age and a larger percent of the population moves into the age ranges where cognitive decline is most prominent.

We’ve also been taught that there is one type of Alzheimer’s disease. Other dementias were certainly recognized like dementia that happens after a series of mini-strokes or dementia that goes along with Parkinson’s disease. We’ve known that dementia-like conditions occur with Vitamin B12 deficiency, with thyroid problems, and with depression. The dementias with Vitamin B12 deficiency, thyroid problems, and depression were even fixable in a certain percentage of patients. We have also been learning that repeated small head injuries – like those that happen to boxers and football players, and even a single large head injury – can lead to dementia. You may recall that Ronald Reagan fell off his horse in Mexico and got a subdural hematoma a while before it was clear he had Alzheimer’s.
Little Red Riding Hood, still making the trek to Grandma’s House through the woods many years later, is now fearing the Alzheimer’s Wolf. Grandma it turns out is alive and well in her advancing years, probably from healthy living, getting exercise traipsing around the forest every day and eating berries. When a furry four-legged canine jumps out of the brush and onto the path Red naturally fears the Wolf. But instead she is greeted by a coyote – not just any coyote mind you, but the shape shifting Coyote of Native American myth and legend. The Trickster himself. And instead of taking a bite out of her or even wanting to he does something far more radical. He tells Red her paradigm is all wrong.

Red and most of the rest of us have been under the illusion that cognitive decline is just something that happens to us, something that jumps out from behind a tree and bites us, something inevitable for many of us that must be from our genes. And while there are certainly genetic variants that are higher risk, the wrong genes are by no means a certain sentence that you will get dementia. After we got all wound up in the double helix we used to think that 90% of what happens to us occurs because of the genetic patterns we are born with and there wasn’t much you could do about it.

The new king in town is Epi-Genetics. Not to worry, Genetics still has a nice condo overlooking the river. But Epi-Genetics – the science of which genes are turned on and off and by what is now living in the palace. And when those living in the palace mostly eat from the lush garden that surrounds the joint instead of heading down to the local pub for bangers and mash or fried everything soaked in ethanol then good things start to happen. Genes that can cause harm tend not do to so. Genes that repair your cellular architecture start to do so. Now it looks like 90% of what happens to us is wrapped up in the diet, lifestyle, social and environmental factors that modulate epigenetic phenomenon.

We are learning that addressing all the various factors from nutrition, to antioxidants, subtle chronic infections, heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants, loss of beneficial bacteria in our gut and beneficial trophic factors such as hormones along with dysregulation of blood sugar in the brain and the body along with many more identifiable and definable ingredients create an environment where the brain is damaged one cell at a time. By sorting these critical factors into groups – sugar related, toxin related, repetitive trauma, vascular insults, and loss of key beneficial factors Alzheimer’s is coming into focus. Not as a single disease, but as a final common pathway that can result from dysregulation and disruption of multiple paths.

When we can more clearly categorize something, we have a chance to address it. For people at the earliest stages of cognitive decline some dramatic success stories are starting to emerge from Functional Medicine practitioners using multimodal programs to address and patch these defects. Red can rest a little easier when she gets to Grandma’s. Maybe if she stays there long enough the fearsome wolf will be evicted and the entrepreneurial Coyote will own the forest for the benefit of all. That would be a trick worthy of a Trickster or a non-linear scientist and healer.

Three Power Foods Not to Miss – Let Food Be Your Medicine


What’s a power food anyway? Is it what people eat at power lunches? Or is it just the latest form of hype? Actually, a power food is one that is a top performer at getting you healthy macro and micronutrients as well as having other compounds that are healthy and vitalizing for your body at the cellular level.  Brad Pitt or Scarlet Johannsen might eat them at a power lunch and be part of a trend.  But it would be a good trend to join in on.


Apples are one of the lowest glycemic fruits so they don’t tend to raise blood sugar much in most people. They have very healthy types of fiber in them including pectin. Pectin is very healing to the gut lining and also supportive of the microbiome, the organisms living in your gut. Apples can help to lower cholesterol as well. All the apples you eat should be organic. Insist on it for both apples and products such as applesauce since apples are always number 1 or number 2 on the Environmental Working Groups Dirty Dozen List of the fruits and vegetables most contaminated by pesticides.

Apple Health Tip:

After a stomach flu, food poisoning or taking antibiotics take 5 Organic Granny Smith apples, peel them and simmer them for 15 minutes. Cool and add some Ceylon Cinnamon and eat about 1 apple’s worth of what you have cooked every day. Do this three times for a total of 15 days and you will help to heal the lining of your gut and restore the microbiome to a healthier state. Taking probiotics after these kinds of challenges may also be a good idea.


Flax seed has healthy fat, specifically a good amount of ALA – or alpha linolenic acid. This type of fat has been shown to benefit health and longevity. Flax seed lowers blood pressure. Another huge plus for flax seed is that it contains plant compounds that are phytoestrogens or estrogen-receptor modulators. This is important for two reasons:

  1. We are exposed to lots of pesticides, plastics and other compounds that are called xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are chemicals that mimic the effect of estrogen in the body and stimulate estrogen receptors to turn on. They may account for unwanted reproductive side effects and even increased rates of cancer. The plant estrogens in flax interact with certain estrogen receptors but in a weaker way. In doing this they block access to the receptor for the xenoestrogens which tend to have stronger stimulatory effects. This is important because many diseases in women including conditions such as fibrocystic breast disease, PMS, infertility and headaches result in part from imbalance of hormones in which estrogen becomes too dominant. Blocking some of the estrogen effects can be helpful.
  2. Unhealthy metabolites of natural and artificial hormones. Even if you don’t take any hormones there are certain metabolic pathways in the body and in the bacteria in your gut that can lead to hormone metabolites that increase your risks of certain problems including breast cancer. In the same way that compounds in Flax Seed can protect the estrogen receptors from xenoestrogens they may also protect your body against overstimulation of the receptors by harmful estrogen metabolites.

Flax Seed Health Tip:

The best way to incorporate flax seed into your diet is to grind it fresh.  We suggest buying a small coffee grinder and grinding the flax right before you plan to use it. We dedicate er for flax and other seeds and keep it separate from the one we grind coffee in just to save the hassle of taking all the fine particles out of it. Grinding the flax seed daily keeps the oil that is released in a healthy unoxidized state. The oil in the whole seeds is protected by the casing and also antioxidant compounds within the seed. Once it is ground or if you just use the oil then some of the oil can oxidize into a less healthy form. You can put it in applesauce, baked goods or smoothies. I take 3 Tablespoons of fresh flax seed, grind it and add it to a green smoothie.


If you can get it wild is a good idea. Wild canned or frozen salmon is likely a better choice than fresh farmed salmon as some sources suggest the wild may have less chance of having higher exposure to pesticide levels. Why salmon?  Because it is one of the SMASH fish that has a very high content of Omega-3 fatty acids.

What are the SMASH fish:

S – Salmon

M- Mackerel


S- Sardines

H- Herring

Salmon is my favorite as it is rich but not overpowering in flavor. I think fish that is fresh, frozen, or canned may be safer than fish that is pickled. Cultures that eat a lot of pickled foods such as pickled herring tend to have higher incidence rates of stomach cancer. Some species of mackerel are on the high mercury content list which takes them off our grocery list.  Leaving – Salmon! A great low-carb food that has healthy fat and a good serving of healthy protein.

People who eat fish 2-3 nights a week tend to have a wide spectrum of health benefits. It is much easier to prove that eating fish is healthy for you than taking fish oil or other Omega3 oils. This may be because there are other healthy fractions such as Omega 7 in fish that you don’t get in purified Omega3 oils.

Salmon Health Tip:

Canned salmon is easy to dress up for a party and easy to carry when you travel. I find locating healthy foods while traveling to be a daunting and expensive challenge. Throw a few cans of wild salmon in your checked suitcase – double bagged for safe keeping and eat it in your hotel or have it along with some steamed vegetables from room service. If you want to get fancy take a few travel packets of pickle relish and some seasonings you like in your suitcase too and create your own delicacies.