The following article gives an overview of neurological and neurodegenerative diseases, and follows with answers to commonly asked questions about specific diseases.

NEURODEGENERATIVE DISEASES OVERVIEW

What are some neurodegenerative diseases?

Neurodegenerative diseases include a wide range of brain diseases including multiple sclerosis (MS), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease are the most common neurodegenerative diseases. 

 

What are examples of other nervous system disorders?

Other nervous system disorders include autism, ADHD, depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and disordered eating, among others.

 

How do you get a neurodegenerative disease?

There are many causes for neurodegenerative diseases, with constantly new and emerging research. Some causes include medical conditions such as alcoholism, tumors, or a stroke. Other causes may include toxins, chemicals, viruses, and other lifestyle factors. Genetics can also play a role in predisposing people to developing neurodegenerative diseases. 

What neurological disorders show up on MRI?

MRI is used to diagnose stroke, traumatic brain injury, brain and spinal cord tumors, inflammation, infection, vascular irregularities, brain damage associated with epilepsy, abnormally developed brain regions, and some neurodegenerative disorders.

 

How does a neurologist check for nerve damage?

A nerve conduction velocity (NCV) test measures how fast an electrical impulse moves through nerves and can identify nerve damage.

What is the Bredesen Protocol?

Professor Dale Bredesen, one of the world's leading experts on neurodegenerative diseases, created the protocol based on his laboratory research and patient care on the brain's inner-working and neuroplasticity signaling. In 2014, he published Reversal of cognitive decline: a novel therapeutic program. The Bredesen Protocols that were created are PreCODE (for prevention) and ReCODE (for reversal). Both have changed the way all practitioners will treat brain health forever. 

 

What is Apollo Health?

Apollo health is a community of those involved with the prevention and reversal of cognitive decline. As their site states quite accurately, "ReCODE and PreCODe Reports are a proprietary implementation of the Bredesen Protocol, allowing practitioners and individuals to achieve unprecedented success in the prevention (PreCODE) and reversal (ReCODE) of cognitive decline. Through genetics, blood biomarkers, and a multi-modal reporting system, participants and their practitioners receive new prevention and treatment options for brain health optimization and the prevention of cognitive decline (PreCODE), and the reversal of the symptoms for those in the early-stage Alzheimer’s disease or experiencing cognitive decline (ReCODE). Our goal is to reduce the global burden of dementia."

NEUROLOGICAL SYMPTOMS

What can cause neurological problems?

The specific causes of neurological problems vary, but can include genetic disorders, congenital abnormalities or disorders, infections, lifestyle or environmental health problems including malnutrition, brain injury, spinal cord injury, nerve injury and gluten sensitivity.

 

Can stress cause neurological symptoms?

Symptoms of functional neurologic disorders may appear suddenly after a stressful event, or with emotional or physical trauma.

 

What conditions can a neurologist diagnose?

A neurologist is a medical doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating, and managing disorders of the brain, motor neurons and nervous system including, but not limited to, Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), concussion, epilepsy, migraine, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and stroke.

 

Can viruses cause neurological problems?

Yes viruses can cause neurological problems. One example includes the Varicella Zoster virus, which can cause a variety of neurological complications, including cranial neuropathies.

COMMON NEUROLOGICAL CONDITIONS

MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS (MS)

Is MS autoimmune or neurological?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the central nervous system. It is thought to be an autoimmune disorder that affects the nervous system. 

What are symptoms of MS?

Symptoms of MS most commonly include changes in vision, fatigue, pain, and impairments in coordination. The frequency and pattern of symptom occurrence is different among individuals. 

ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

What are the signs of Alzheimer's disease?

Symptoms include memory loss and confusion, inability to learn new things, difficulty with language, and problems with reading, writing, and working with numbers, difficulty organizing thoughts and thinking logically, shortened attention span, and problems coping with new situations.

What is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer's?

Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia and has specific diagnostic criteria. There are multiple causes for dementia. 

How do Alzheimer’s patients feel?

Alzheimer's sufferers have an increased risk of feelings of anger, anxiety, depression, fear, and loneliness. It is not uncommon for individuals have episodes of worsening memory intermixed with semi-normal functioning in the early stages of the disease. 

Can music help someone with Alzheimer's?

Research suggests that listening to music can provide emotional and behavioral benefits for people with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia.

During what stage of dementia does incontinence occur?

Incontinence is a symptom that develops in the later stages of dementia. About 60 to 70 percent of people with Alzheimer's develop incontinence

How is Alzheimer’s disease treated?

Conventionally, a drug class called Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors is most commonly used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. There are other therapeutic interventions that might be used and are currently being explored, but treatment of Alzheimer’s has not been largely changed in many years. The current conventional management of Alzheimer’s disease is not effective for many individuals, meaning they still progress with the disease and symptoms.

Natural interventions are gaining popularity and offer a wide range of therapeutic targets. One example is Apollo Health, which includes a protocol based on 30 years of medical research. It assesses the specific causes of Alzheimer’s disease and classifies them into six main categories, so that treatment can be more targeted to that individual. More information and a list of certified practitioners can be found on their website. 

How will a Naturopathic Doctor treat my Alzheimer’s condition?

Naturopathic physicians are trained as primary care providers who diagnose, treat and manage patients with acute and chronic conditions, while addressing disease and dysfunction at the level of body, mind and spirit. Naturopathic medicine is a system that uses natural remedies to help the body heal itself. It embraces many therapies, including herbs, massage, acupuncture, exercise, and nutritional counseling. A naturopathic doctor will take your case, diving into your history, and employ various natural modalities to help target the root cause of what is causing your Alzheimer’s disease. 

Can vitamin d reverse dementia?

Animal and in vitro experiments suggest that vitamin D has therapeutic potential for brain health and the prevention and treatment of cognitive decline and dementia. 

PARKINSON’S DISEASE

What are the stages of Parkinson's disease?

Stage one individuals experience mild symptoms that generally do not interfere with daily activities. Stage two symptoms worsen, including tremor, rigidity and other movement symptoms on both sides of the body. Stage three is considered mid-stage. Stage four symptoms are severe and limiting, and patients will mostly need caretakers at this time. During stage stage four, patients are unable to stand without assistance. Stage five is the final stage when patients are usually in wheelchairs with full time assistance to prevent any falls.

How do you get Parkinson's disease?

Parkinson's disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra. Various conditions, illnesses, or exposures may contribute to this loss. It is important to note there are also Atypical Parkinson disorders that are progressive diseases that present with some of the signs and symptoms of Parkinson's disease, but that generally do not respond well to drug treatment with the common treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

What are Parkinson's disease motor fluctuations?

On/off phenomenon in Parkinson's disease happens when the treatment, a dopamine promoter, wears off and motor symptoms return, before it's time for the individual’s next dose.

What does end stage Parkinson's look like?

When patients reach end stage Parkinson's they will have severe posture issues in their back, neck, and hips. They are generally wheelchair-bound, unable to stand at all without “freezing” of the legs, increasing susceptibility to falls.

LEWY BODY DEMENTIA (LBD)

What is Lewy Body Dementia, and what causes it?

Lewy body dementia is characterized by the abnormal buildup of proteins into masses known as Lewy bodies. People who have Lewy bodies in their brains also have the plaques and tangles associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Who is affected by Lewy Body Dementia?

Lewy body dementia typically begins at age 50 or older and appears to affect slightly more men than women.

How do you know if you have Lewy Body Dementia?

People with Lewy body dementia may experience visual hallucinations and changes in alertness and attention. They will often experience many symptoms that are seen in Alzheimer’s disease, and will often receive that diagnosis.

TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI)

How is a traumatic brain injury diagnosed?

Assessment usually includes a neurological exam and an intake on clinical history, specifically inquiring about trauma such as sports or car accidents. A doctor might feel that labs and/or imaging are also necessary. 

What is the difference between an acquired brain injury and a traumatic brain injury?

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) is caused by the shearing of brain nerve fibers due to trauma or by cell death related to swelling, bleeding, disease or loss of oxygen to the brain (anoxia). Traumatic Brain injury (TBI) is caused by trauma especially to the head or neck, such as a hard hit to the head during a sport.

What causes bruising and internal damage to the brain?

When there is a direct blow to the head or a whiplash-type injury, the bruising of the brain and the damage to the internal tissue and blood vessels is due to a mechanism called coup-contrecoup. This means that the brain moves to the opposite side of the head than where the initial injury occurred, causing additional bleeding and bruising.

Does a traumatic brain injury cause permanent brain damage?

Traumatic brain injury can cause permanent brain damage. It is important to seek early intervention if one has experienced any head or neck injury. 

ANXIETY

How does anxiety feel?

If someone suffers from anxiety they might feel nervousness, restlessness, or being tense, and feelings of danger, panic, or dread. They might also feel physical sensations such as chest pain or pressure, stomach pain, visual changes, or tingling in their extremities. Anxiety manifests differently for everyone. 

What happens physically when someone is anxious?

When someone feels anxious, their body goes on high alert, looking for possible danger and activating a fight or flight responses. Some physical changes that occur include dilation of the pupils to increase vision, increased heart rate, increased sweating at the palms and feet, and blood movement toward skeletal muscles (to prepare for that fight or flight). People will generally have decreased hunger, digestive function, and sexual desire if they are feeling anxious. 

How can anxiety be so severe?

There are many possible reasons that someone’s anxiety might be severe. Causes include hormone imbalances, biochemical imbalances, and even toxicities from things such as mold or heavy metals.

DEPRESSION

What is depression and how do you know if you have it?

Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act.

 

What are the symptoms of depression?

Depression causes physical symptoms such as increased aches and pains, chronic fatigue, lethargy, decreased interest in sex, and decreased appetite. Psycho-emotional symptoms include low motivation, sadness, difficulty concentration, and decreased enjoyment from things that previously brought happiness. Current surveys have shown that the prevalence of depression in America is increasing.

 

Can depression affect your skin?

Anxiety and depression can cause an inflammatory response, which weakens the skin's barrier function and more easily allows in irritants. Skin can also lose moisture and heal more slowly.

DISORDERED EATING

What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are a range of psychological conditions that cause unhealthy eating habits to develop and often start with an obsession with food, body weight, or body shape. 

Who is affected by eating disorders?

 

Who can develop an eating disorder?

Most eating disorders are much more common in women and girls than in men and boys but boys and men are also affected. Many individuals develop eating disorders in their teen and young adult years, but eating disorders can also be developed later in life.

How do you know if you have an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are a range of psychological conditions that cause unhealthy eating habits to develop. Many people fall on the spectrum of disordered eating, but would not necessarily meet the criteria for an eating disorder. If you feel like you have trouble controlling your weight, appearance, exercise habits or desire to eat, speak to your doctor. 

How does an eating disorder affect daily living?

Thoughts about food, body, and exercise prevent concentration or impede performance at work or school. Individuals are often fixated on these topics to the point of disrupting normal functioning.

 

What is binge eating?

Binge eating is characterized by excessive consumption during certain time periods and feeling that the behavior is not within your control. Some individuals will purge after a binge eating episode, which may involve vomiting, extreme calorie restriction, or excessive exercising, to combat the high intake of calories.

What is Anorexia?

Anorexia is an eating disorder that is characterized by restriction of consuming foods. This disease can be very dangerous if someone sustains too low of calorie and nutrient intake for long enough.

When does dieting become a serious disorder?

Dieting becomes a serious disorder when someone is not consuming enough calories to stay healthy. Symptoms of this include rapid weight loss (as opposed to healthy weight loss), amenorrhea (females), extreme muscle loss, fainting, among other bodily changes.

OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER - (OCD)

What does OCD look like?

OCD symptoms might look like withdrawing from family and friends because of obsessions with things such as hygiene. Patients will often have strong focus on these obsessions until they act on them in some way that mitigates the anxiety around that obsession.

How does it feel to have OCD?

Those with OCD may find themselves preoccupied with excessive thoughts about germs or contamination, or a need for symmetry, balance, or numerical patterns. One common form of OCD involves intrusive thoughts of terrible things happening. Individuals will often be obsessed with these thoughts until they engage in a behavior, or compulsion, to reduce anxiety around these thoughts. An example of this would be constantly obsessing about hygiene and washing one’s hands repetitively throughout the day to deal with the obsession. 

Can you self treat OCD?

Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment that helps to control OCD symptoms by refocusing your mind when obsessive thoughts and compulsions arise. Other self-directed treatments for OCD might involve positive self talk, meditation, and deep breathing.