Back Copy. Dr. Walter Crinnion is a leader in the field of environmental medicine. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer 21 years ago, secondary to a drug my mother was prescribed while pregnant with me (given to millions of other pregnant moms for over 36 years), part of my healing was to go get tested and detoxed at Walter’s then state-of-the art clinic.
Dr. Crinnion went on to be an environmental professor at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe. He started the Crinnion Opinion (I love that name) to update docs about the environment and their patients. And he held a conference in Florida for movers, shakers and docs in this field this last January in Florida. He kindly asked me to speaker.
At the conference Walter explained that more important than water filters, organic foods, or nutraceuticals, is AIR. We breath constantly. Whatever is in that air affects our DNA, our brain, immune system, and moods and lays the ground for what kind of future we’ll live (or not).
Walter showed that when DNA is tested, the degree of it’s stability is a marker for our health. The more fragile our DNA, the more fragile our health. Studies showed that folks that had “high” quality air filters, had statistically significant improvement in DNA stability and health within weeks of putting these heavy-duty filters inside their homes. I am not talking about the $20 air filters you get at Home Depot to put in your ceiling vents.
Now fast forward to outdoor and indoor air pollution and it’s link to cognition in brains, even in children.
Pollution and Brains. In scientific arena there has been significant information emerging on pollution’s affects on the human brain; especially brains at the most vulnerable times of life. These milestones translate into the fetal brain, infants and kids, and then seniors, whose brains are also going through diverse changes.
In 2014 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, a University of Montana Professor Dr. Lillian Calderón–Garcidueñas MD, Ph.D. found that heavily polluted cities contain particulate matter as part of this pollution. A chemical soot. This sooty matter enters the brain and causes the body to form antibodies in an attempt to ‘fight’ off these particulate foreign particles.
These antibodies don’t just fight off pollution, they also destroy brain cells. They also damage barrier cells; critical barrier cells in the brain, in the gut, and in the lungs.
You have heard of leaky guts. Well pollution promotes leaky guts, leaky lungs and leaky brains. In the brain this leaky situation causes a cascade of continued deterioration of multiple parts of the central nervous system.
Brain autoantibodies are one of the features in diverse neuroinflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and other neurologic diseases.
This is not just happening to adults, but also in kids as young as 7 years old.
In 2015 in February this research team from Montana published more. Their new conclusions say that air pollution adversely affects short-term memory and IQ. They found that children living in cities with significant air pollution are at an increased risk for poorer short-term memory loss and lower IQ.
They also found something else. There is a genetic marker that puts people at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease called APOE4. Not all of us have this gene glitch. Those that do have a higher risk of dementia. But a child with this gene who is then exposed to air pollution has a magnification of adverse effects on their brain. This air pollution can be from OUTSIDE air, or INSIDE (pet dander, pesticides, smoke from cigarettes, fireplace, poor hygiene, etc.).
Once pollution’s nasty effects are heightened, IQ can go down almost by 10 points. This is huge.
In 2000, I wrote about the significance of IQ going down just a few points in children due to pollution (Hormone Deception). A difference of a few points of IQ can make a difference between academic, job, behavior and relationships throughout a child’s lifetime. It’s a big deal.
A month later in March 2015 another article came out that was medically shocking. For the first time ever, scientists found absolute evidence of Alzheimer’s disease (amyloid-mass build-up) in the brains of young adults, 20 years of age. This research was based on autopsy studies.
Amyloid is a protein in all healthy brains. It performs important jobs. It’s an antioxidant. And it promotes the brain’s ability to remain adaptable and plastic by helping the brain form and maintain new connections and old ones, especially surrounding memory.
In some folks these protein go south. They clump. Get sticky. Block normal function. They obstruct flow of nutrients to neurons and in essence starve them. Brain communication freezes. Cognition tanks. Dementia begins.
A team at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s disease Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, performed autopsies on normal and dementia brains. To their shock they found evidence of amyloid in everybody’s brains. Even 20 year olds without neurologic issues.
Their results showed, but again it was in autopsies, that the process that leads to Alzheimer’s disease begins as early as in our 20’s. (So your college kids should have air filters in their dorms!)
May 2015 an article demonstrated, not in corpses but in living beings, that definitively dementia starts 20 to 30 years before it appears to begin!
So brain health in your older age… starts in your younger age. Even by 7 to 10 years old!
Now air pollution is not the only cause of these processes, but it is one you can do something about.
We can take proactive steps to minimize pollution OUTSIDE. Don’t live near a busy road, try to have trees around you which “cut” the nastiness and also exercise, as the “fitter” we are the less we get damaged by pollution. When I bought a house with my ex- I drew a circle in which we could look for a house, as that area was furthest from heavy traffic and with the most trees!
But you have control over much of the air in your home. Knowledge is power so there are some steps a healthy brain owner might choose to take:
- Get air filters and use them
- Stay fit (the fitter you are the less pollution ‘gets’ you)
- Take green tea (as beverage and or extract) as it pulls excess iron out of brain, which promotes dementia type processes
- Check and avoid high iron levels
- Do intellectual pursuits
- The brain is a bag of fat with B vitamins; eat good fats, absorb them well, take B supplements, eat whole foods and lots of diverse fresh veggies
- Specific nutrients are especially brain friendly though out of the scope of this article
- Your gut and brain are in cross-talk; keep you gut healthy and happy especially your microbiome
- Keep your waistline healthy as the bigger your gut the smaller your brain volume and yes, size matters
Calderón-Garcidueñas LA, Vojdani A, Busch Y, et al. Air Pollution and Children: Neural and Tight Junction Antibodies and Combustion Metals, the Role of Barrier Breakdown and Brain Immunity in Neurodegeneration. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2014.
Calderón-Garcidueñas’ findings are detailed in a paper titled “Decreases in Short-Term Memory, IQ and Altered Brain Metabolic Rations in Urban Apolipoprotein ε4 Children Exposed to Air Pollution,” which can be found online at https://bit.ly/1ywtPqE.
JAMA. 2015 May 19;313(19):1924-38. doi: 10.1001/jama.2015.4668.Prevalence of cerebral amyloid pathology in persons without dementia: a meta-analysis. Jansen WJ, Ossenkoppele R, Knol DL, Tijms BM, et. al.