By Allison Downing Jordan
Alzheimer’s disease is preventable and even reversible. That is what craniosacral therapy researchers are finding at the Upledger Institute.
Michael Morgan, LMT, CST-D has been an instructor of craniosacral therapy at the Upledger Institute for 18 years. After losing both his mother and sister to Alzheimer’s and being faced with the powerlessness of caring for them, Morgan devoted his skillset to leading teams in research to see if craniosacral therapy could alter, slow, prevent, or even reverse Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is currently theorized to be a result of damage to the brain via plaque that clogs the brain’s detoxification pathways. Plaque is created by a protein called amyloid. All brains secrete amyloid; it’s a waste product of our brain cells. And all brains have a cleaning system that disposes of amyloid. This cleaning system is the combined effort of the craniosacral system, which is full of a fluid called cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) that nourishes and protects the brain, and the glymphatic system, a network of supportive brain cells called glial cells. In a healthy brain, this glymphatic system pushes huge amounts of cerebral spinal fluid through the brain, picking up dead neurons, pathogens, and amyloid proteins to filter out of the brain.
The problem with persons with senile dementia is that they have a significantly reduced amount of cerebral spinal fluid to sweep out the amyloid proteins. Persons with senile dementia have been found to have up to 75% less cerebral spinal fluid in their entire craniosacral system. Cerebral spinal fluid not only removes waste in the brain, but it also nourishes the brain with nutrients and bathes the brain in protective fluid.
With their brain detox system weakened, amyloid proteins can build up and create plaque. Just as plaque builds up on our teeth or inside our arteries, the glymphatic pathways also get clogged, causing the brain to slowly choke on its own toxins like lungs suffocating from a lack of fresh air. This leads to cell death so vast that it’s visible in the brain scans of Alzheimer’s patients; it looks like the brain is shrinking.
That prompted Michael Morgan to wonder: If he could improve the flow of cerebral spinal fluid in patients with Alzheimer’s, could the brain be supported enough to resist age-related dementia, or even reverse it?
Craniosacral therapy was the perfect treatment to test for this theory. As a light touch modality, craniosacral therapy helps decrease restrictions and compression in and around the brain and spinal cord to increase mobility of neural tissues, meninges, and cerebral spinal fluid to boost brain health. These restrictions on the brain and spinal cord can be caused by TMJ problems, dental trauma, car accidents, head trauma, whiplash, impacts on the tailbone, birthing trauma, and spinal cord injuries or punctures.
This therapy has helped children and adults with mood disorders, learning disabilities, headaches, migraines, eye and ear dysfunction, sleep dysfunction, depression, anxiety, and digestive dysfunction all have a significant decrease in their symptoms. Could craniosacral therapy do the same for memory loss and dementia?
Working with a team of therapists, Morgan ran several week-long studies over several years with multiple patients with mid- to late-state dementia. After receiving daily treatments, patients in every week-long treatment study began to regain their memory, recognize their caregivers, speak on their own, and speak in complete sentences.
Alzheimer’s researchers have also found that dementia can be linked to the gut and the inflammation in the brain caused by problems happening outside of the brain.
For example, the characteristic amyloid plaque found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients is also being found their digestive tract among the neurons and glial cells of the enteric nervous system. The enteric nervous system, or ENS, is a nervous system in our gut that can work entirely on its own to digest foods, respond to pathogenic threats, and send massive amounts of information to the brain on how the body is doing. Our gut houses up to 70% of our immune system, which includes our lymphatic system (the cleaning pathways of the body), which is similar to glymphatic system that cleans the brain.
Researchers are finding that many Alzheimer’s and dementia patients have a history of gut problems, including IBS, constipation, diarrhea, and food sensitivities. There’s some reason to believe that the interaction of the brain-gut axis could therefore transfer strain on the gut to the brain. Even if this is not the case, the brain still undergoes an immense amount of inflammation caused by atrophying small intestinal walls and leaky gut, which allow particles and pathogens to enter the bloodstream and create systemic inflammation in the entire body.
The best way to deal with Alzheimer’s, then, is to not only look at the brain, but look at the entire body. If you are seeking more ways to help yourself or loved ones with dementia, some next steps you could take include:
- Getting regular craniosacral therapy
- Introducing a diet low in carbs and simple sugars and increasing intake of protein and vegetables
- Increasing gentle exercise to help the body decrease inflammatory states
- Identify if there is intestinal permeability in the small intestine (leaky gut) and address it
There is hope yet for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s. We only need to keep looking!
Allison Jordan FDN-P, BCTMB is a functional medicine practitioner, Craniosacral Therapist, and Visceral Manipulation practitioner. She is the owner and founder of Better Belly Therapies, an Ann Arbor clinic that helps men and women reduce food restrictions and increase their energy and quality of life. Allison is also the author of Stop Stomach Pain: How to Heal Your Gut and End Food Restrictions, a full-color, easily digestible book that goes into the often unexplained origins of gut dysfunction and how you can heal your gut. Available in digital and print at betterbellytherapies.com.
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