Protect Your Brain With Natural Anti-Inflammatories

by Dr. Julian Whitaker
Filed Under: Mood & Memory
Last Reviewed 03/28/2014

Protect Your Brain With Natural Anti-Inflammatories

It’s well known that Alzheimer’s disease is marked by specific degenerative changes in the brain called beta-amyloid plaques and tangled tau proteins. What isn’t known is exactly what causes this catastrophic damage.

David Perlmutter, M.D., a neurologist from Naples, Fla., has made a very strong case for inflammation as the primary contributor. In his words, “The brain is on fire.”

Inflammation is a lifesaving process used by the immune system to combat infection. But sometimes the inflammatory response is inappropriately activated. The most blatant examples are autoimmune disorders, in which the immune system ignites a full-fledged attack against the body’s own tissues,making natural anti-inflammatories necessary.

However, chronic low-level inflammation also takes its toll. It releases compounds that are toxic to neurons and unleashes a cascade of free radicals that damage and destroy brain cells.

Brain tissues affected by Alzheimer’s are rife with inflammatory chemicals. In addition, blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation, are linked with increased risk of the disease. Therefore, addressing inflammation with natural anti-inflammatories is critical for protecting against Alzheimer’s and its progression.

The Best Natural Anti-Inflammatories

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, have been shown in more than 20 studies to help prevent Alzheimer’s and also retard the progression of the disease. But, rather than taking NSAIDs, which have a host of gastrointestinal and cardiovascular complications, here are three simple tips to use natural anti-inflammatories:

  • Go easy on meat and egg yolks, which contain pro-inflammatory arachidonic fatty acids, and eat more fish—nature’s best source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Studies show that people who eat fish just once a week reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s by 60 percent.

  • In addition to eating fish, I also recommend taking 2–4 grams of high-quality fish oil daily. Low levels of the omega-3 fat DHA have been linked with Alzheimer’s as well as other types of dementia and mood disorders.

One of the most abundant fats in the brain, DHA helps construct robust cellular membranes and protective myelin sheaths. It also turns on genes for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which makes neurons more resistant to injury and free-radical damage.

The Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a large, multicenter study funded by the National Institutes of Health, also found that long-term use of fish oil supplements was associated with reduced age-related shrinkage of the brain and better cognitive function in older adults identified as having “normal cognition” at the start of the three year study.

Note: In recent months, there has been a ridiculous claim floating around that fish oil accelerates aging. In case the data from the ADNI isn’t enough to ease your concerns, this claim is based on a mouse study and is being circulated as a marketing gimmick to sell encapsulated nut/seed oils. Fish oil is backed by thousands of medical journal studies—including hundreds of human clinical trials, which demonstrate broad, potentially lifesaving benefits.

  • Increase your intake of curry, a staple in India, where there is a low incidence of Alzheimer’s. Turmeric, the spice that gives curry its color, is an excellent source of curcumin, one of the most powerful, natural anti-inflammatories (and antioxidants).

Animal studies show that curcumin lowers levels of inflammation in the brain and reduces beta-amyloid plaque by up to 50 percent. A human study also revealed that people who ate curry had significantly better scores on tests of cognitive function than those who never ate it.

If you can’t tolerate the taste of curry, you can also supplement with curcumin. The suggested daily dose is 1,000–2,000 mg of regular curcumin or 500–1,000 mg of curcumin phytosome.

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