Here I share my thoughts and ideas about preventing and treating chronic and episodic health issues including but not limited to Alzheimer’s, metabolic disorders, and cancer. Where appropriate, I aim for my patients to use nutrition and herbal medicines as a first line of defense and and as first approach to treatment.
If you read my previous post on Alzheimer’s (AD) you have some understanding that the way our bodies use and regulate lipids (fat and cholesterol) has impact on this pressing health issue.
Although amyloid beta – when pathological is one of the hallmarks of the plaque build-up associated with AD – is a protein, there is an unmistakable but not-yet-understood link between atherosclerotic plaque build up in the body and these plaque deposits in the brain.
It occurred to me that the mechanism our bodies use to digest fat is bile, which is produced by the liver and stored in the gall bladder. Because of the blood brain barrier it seems the bile produced in the body could not make it to the brain. But if it could, would bile somehow assist in plaque removal? It seems harebrained but I had to look. What I found was surprising.
In fact, it was recently found that bile is produced in the brain, independent of the liver, and levels in the brain under normal conditions are 10-fold higher than in the body. In 2012 it was discovered that a bile acid present in both the liver and the brain, tauroursodeoxycholic acid aka TUDCA, directly reduced amyloid beta toxicity, acting as a potent neuronal cell protector. This research theorizes that TUDCA interferes with amyloid beta production and/or accumulation.
TUDCA-treated mice showed lowered inflammation, lowered amyloid beta deposits, and most importantly, rescued memory.
So now my question is, is this bile formation in the brain somehow impaired in AD? The answer is probably yes. If so, how do we kickstart the bile formation in the brain?
In 2018 a pharmaceutical company is set to test TUDCA in mild and moderate Alzheimer’s.
In 400 BC, as documented on silk fragments uncovered in a tomb in Hunan Province, dog and ox bile were recorded for the first time as treatments for various health disorders. In total, there are 44 different animal biles (including human) used as medicine in the ancient Chinese literature.
ApoE4 lipoprotein is a major genetic risk factor for late onset Alzheimer’s, it seems because they die much more readily than ApoE3 or ApoE2, so the plaque clearing mechanism is lost. TUDCA actually improves ApoE4 survival and function. Additionally, one of the earliest effects of AD pathology is reduced synapse density, and synaptic loss is highly correlated with cognitive impairment. TUDCA modulates synaptic deficits induced by amyloid, rescuing synaptic loss. These are only a few of the many effects TUDCA has on AD pathology in mice.
Given what we know, you do not have to wait for the expensive and protracted trials of the pharmaceutical powerhouses. Bile has been used, and documented as a treatment, for thousands of years.
As part of a diversified treatment plan for AD, I think we’re on to something.
Now let’s come around again to cholesterol. Bile acids are synthesized in the liver from the conversion of cholesterol. This process is the main way the body removes excess cholesterol to maintain healthy levels. So in order to regulate your cholesterol naturally, the best way is to ensure proper bile formation. Excessively low cholesterol will impair bile creation, with numerous adverse effects.
Once the cholesterol is properly transformed, the bile is essential for the digestion of proteins and starches, as well as eliminating toxic substances and pathogens from the body. The liver is the last step in our immune system, eliminating what the immune system picks up, including cancer cells. Faulty removal allows toxic substances or pathogens to accumulate in the liver. Eventually this will affect the intestines, and then the entire system.
These bile salts also assist in creating favorable conditions for healthy gut bacteria. Combine low bile activity with an impaired gut, and systemic infections can result.
I’d be curious to see the bile function in people with AD. If you are looking for a natural way to balance cholesterol, or are preventing or treating AD, optimizing liver function along with ensuring strong bile creation may be a great first step.