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Get These Brain-Shrinking Drugs Out of Your Medicine Cabinet
How much will your brain shrink this year? Your brain shrinks with the passing years – a smaller brain is an inevitable result of aging. But some brains shrink faster than others. The trick to keeping your wits about you is to minimize this shrinkage. Otherwise, the faster your brain loses its size, the higher the risk of precipitously losing your memory and mental powers.
There’s an easy way to avoid an excessive loss of brain size: Stay away from a class of drugs that too many people unwittingly use.
Doctors still dish out these drugs, which include certain cold medicines that are sold as sleep aids, even though they’ve been long linked to memory loss.
Research at the Indiana University School of Medicine shows that these medicines – anticholinergic drugs – not only block the action of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter used by the nervous system and brain cells to communicate, but they can make you more liable to cognition difficulties and dementia as your brain shrivels.1
The Indiana scientists came to their conclusions by investigating the biochemical and metabolic effects of these agents. Their brain-imaging research proves these medicines speed the atrophy of brain tissue.
“These findings provide us with a much better understanding of how this class of drugs may act upon the brain in ways that might raise the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia,” warns researcher Shannon Risacher.
OTC and prescription medicines
Anticholinergic drugs are available in pharmacies as over-the-counter medications and are prescribed by doctors to treat high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and sleep problems.
These drugs include:
- Muscle relaxers like Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine) – often used for back pain.
- Antihistamines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) – taken for allergies and to promote better sleep.
- Tricyclic drugs like nortriptyline and amitriptyline – to suppress nerve pain.
- Motion sickness drugs like Antivert (meclizine).
For a complete list of the drugs identified in the latest study – and the steps you should take to counter their effects – I urge you to download my free report, Drugs That Steal Your Memory.
Keep your brain larger
Along with avoiding these drugs, you can keep your brain larger by engaging in consistent exercise and staying physically fit. Research at the Boston University School of Medicine shows that middle-aged people who are fit retain, on average, significantly more brain matter than folks who never raise a sweat.2
“… (Our) study provides more evidence that certain behaviors and risk factors in midlife may have consequences for brain aging later on,” says researcher Nicole L. Spartano.
Spartano’s study of more than 1,200 people shows that exercisers who are fit at age 60, and who have lower blood pressure, retain more brain tissue than the unfit.
The physically fit participants in this study also scored higher on tests of their memories and mental abilities.
Spartano believes that maintaining fitness helps the brain by preserving the health of the blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the brain’s neurons.
“Small blood vessels in the brain are vulnerable to changes in blood pressure and can be damaged by these fluctuations (when you rarely exercise),” Spartano says. “Vascular damage in the brain can contribute to structural changes in the brain and cognitive losses.”
Both of these studies provide further support what I’ve said for a long time – a do-it-yourself healthy lifestyle that includes exercise does more for your brain and body than shelling out money for Big Pharma’s problematic drugs.
And while the side effects of medications can threaten your life, the side effects of a healthy diet and exercise improve your life, helping you lose weight and look better. Plus, you’ll not only look better in the mirror, you brain will look better on the inside, too.
This “harmless” food can destroy your brain
Unknown to most people and most doctors, there’s a common food that can destroy your brain and make you suffer dementia as devastating as Alzheimer’s. Chances are, you eat this food every day and if you started losing your memory and personality you’d never even suspect this food was to blame.
The everyday food so potentially dangerous: Bread.
Do you ever give any thought to the fact that what you eat at every meal can have serious, unexpected consequences for the health of your brain? You should. Something as seemingly harmless as a piece of bread can knock out pieces of your memory. Or destroy it entirely.
Consider the case of a 58-year-old who thought he was suffering Alzheimer’s. He began forgetting conversations minutes after they ended. (Didn’t just forget the subjects of those conversations, forgot he’d ever had them.) Hit the gas pedal instead of the brakes on his car. Unknowingly told stories to friends a few moments after he’d just told them the same stories. Couldn’t even remember where the silverware was kept in a house where he’d lived for twenty years.
And just when he thought he might soon be institutionalized, he heard about a study at the Mayo Clinic that showed some people can suffer from Alzheimer’s-like symptoms linked to gluten, a group of proteins found in wheat, barley and rye. Of course, in the American diet wheat is by far the most common of these three grains.
Seeing a ray of hope, he decided to try a gluten-free diet. He figured he had nothing to lose. His doctor couldn’t offer him any help. According to the doctor, his type of early-onset dementia was incurable.
So he gave up bread and other foods like beer, cake, pizza and pretzels that contain gluten.
The result? Within two weeks, with that single change of diet, his brain began to mend. His memory began a steady return. His friends and family immediately noticed the difference. The angry, forgetful, confused man had recovered the use of his brain.
Gluten is the conglomeration of proteins that give dough its gooey texture. But in susceptible people, gluten irritates the immune system, leading immune cells to attack the body. These immune cells can damage and destroy nerves and brain cells.
No one knows for sure how many people suffer these consequences. Medical researchers have only begun to get a handle on how many of us are intolerant to the gluten we eat.
The most important facts about gluten include:
1. No one can digest gluten. You may tolerate gluten, but it passes through your body without being assimilated and it has no health benefits.
2. The best estimate is that 1 percent of Americans suffer from the most serious form of gluten intolerance, known as celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that can destroy the digestive tract, nerves and brain.1 Celiac disease is extremely serious. Some experts speculate that mild gluten intolerance is actually a moderate form of celiac disease.
3. Anywhere from 6 to 20 percent of Americans (and maybe more) suffer what is currently termed “gluten sensitivity.” These people haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease but suffer health problems from an immune reaction to gluten.2 By far the majority of these people don’t know they’re sick because their systems can’t handle gluten. They just suffer from a mystery illness their doctors can’t diagnose.
4. Research indicates that you can develop celiac disease or gluten sensitivity at any age. You can be OK with gluten today but wake up with celiac disease tomorrow. As you age, your chances of celiac disease grow.
Gluten’s harm to your brain can be devastating. This problem has not received a great deal of attention in the media, but the studies that have looked into this form of brain destruction are disturbing.3
For example, when Mayo Clinic researchers investigated 13 people with celiac disease who were developing dementia and other serious cognitive deficits at a relatively young age, their findings clearly pointed toward gluten as the culprit.
These eight women and five men were all plagued by amnesia, confusion and personality changes. In several cases, when researchers put them on a gluten-free diet, their memory loss ceased or was reversed.
Unique Mental Condition
According to Joseph Murray, M.D., the Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist who took part in this study, “There has been a fair amount written before about celiac disease and neurological issues like peripheral neuropathy (nerve problems causing numbness or pain) or balance problems, but this degree of brain problem — the cognitive decline we’ve found here — has not been recognized before. I was not expecting there would be so many celiac disease patients with cognitive decline.”
Dr. Murray points out that an autoimmune reaction to gluten:
- Leads to nutrient deficiencies. When the immune system attacks the intestines, it destroys the villi, the part of the intestinal wall that absorbs nutrients like vitamin E, vitamin B12 and folate.
- Causes an increase in inflammatory cytokines. These immune cells increase inflammation that damage brain tissue.
- Sets off a direct immune attack on brain cells and nerves.
Experts estimate that about one in ten people with celiac have brain and neurological problems, although the research on this issue is still sketchy. Along with wiping your memory clean, the attack on nerve cells can cause neuropathies — pain and tingling in the hands, feet and other parts of the body. Sometimes these problems are irreversible. In other cases, going on a gluten-free diet may alleviate the discomfort.4
Dr. Murray points out that until now, if you had cognitive impairment and were developing dementia, it was generally considered incurable. “This is key that we may have discovered a reversible form of cognitive impairment,” he says.
And William Hu, M.D., Ph.D., who also took part in the Mayo study says, “For patients who come in with atypical forms of dementia, we need to consider checking for celiac disease.”
So, if you’re having trouble with your memory, trying a gluten-free diet (no foods containing wheat, barley or rye) may help. If gluten is the root of your brain problem, going gluten-free may start improving your brain power within a couple of weeks. It did for the 58 year old whose doctor told him there was no hope.