Brain Health Ask Me Archives


Question:
For a healthy almost 57 year old woman with low blood pressure, weighing 106 lbs., what is the maximum allowable dosage for the purpose of trying to recapture memory? My short term memory isn’t bad. However, I find that I lose entire events that occurred from a few months to 6 or more years ago. Even if reminded, I simply cannot recall anything about the events. It is as though they had never happened. I take good notes because I am a professional and my line of work requires a memory. I think that my short term memory has improved since taking Vitamin E daily, 1000 IU.
Any other ideas? What nature of physician or professional should I consult?

Answer:
If you are in good health and not taking blood thinners and other meds, you can increase your vit E to 2000 IU. Studies are underway now for up to 3000 IU in severe Alzeiheimer’s Disease cases. Even better is membrane stabilization with high potency pharmaceutical grade liquid (low mercury) fish oil in large doses of 10-15 grams a day active ingredient EPA/DHA.


Question:
My dad is 73 years old, lately he has been feeling head tension and numbness. Recently he was diagnosed with brain shrink. I read an article from your website about Alzheimer’s disease. I don’t know if Brain Shrink will eventually lead to have AD? Is AD and brain shrink totally different diseases?
Right now, my dad can’t even watch TV as he feels tension and numbing in his head. What is possible treatment or medication for his symptom?

Answer:
Brain shrink is a clinical condition that is used to describe the reducing matter in the brain. However, doctors don’t really know the exact mechanism yet. There is a variety of reasons, and there are numerous studies to show correlation between such things as aging, back pain, depression, learning to brain shrink. Anytime your brain matter is reduced, the ability to process information is reduced. Naturally you would expect that memory lost will be part of the symptoms. Alzheimer’s Disease, on the other hand, is a distinct pathological condition characterized by specific plaques in the brain, with symptoms of memory lost plus others. There is obviously some correlation between the two states, but at this time, science has not been able to clearly establish the correlation.
Treatment of the condition is dependent on the cause of the state. First step is to check with your doctor as to the reason. It is not uncommon for your doctor to say “I don’t know”, in which case you will have to look at natural supplements to:

  • enhance membrane stability and electrical conduction with phosphatidyl serine and vitamin E in high dose
  • reduce oxidative stress with high dose melatonin and CoQ10 and fish oil.
  • reduce toxic chemicals with Magnesium dipotassium oral chelation
  • Increase oxygenation to bring nutrients to the brain. Moderate exercise will do.
  • Increase blood flow to increase oxygenation with gingko, for example.

Note that promoting brain health is a long process that requires time. There is no quick fix. But in my view, it’s better than any thing prescription drugs can offer.


Question:
I have been prescribed a supplement called Arctic Omega. This is Omega 3 fish oil. I have read the Warning on the bottle saying”Do not take this product if you are using blood thinners”. Since I am taking one daily– Aspirin (325mg—should it be safe for me to take the above supplement?

Answer:
Studies have shown that 5 grams of fish oil is equivalent in blood thinning activities as 325 mg aspirin tablet. The 5 grams is 5 grams of DHA and EPA, not 5 grams of fish oil. Depending on the grade of the fish oil, the % of DHA and EPA is anywhere from 30% to 60%. If you need fish oil, get the pharmaceutical grade liquid is best, where one teaspoon will give you 2.7 grams of combined DHA and EPA. Do note that many people cannot take fish oil in liquid form because it can make your burp and that can be unpleasant. In that case, you can go with flaxseed oil.


Question:
I am the age of 40. Sometimes I forget things that I need to do. Do I need a vitamin for memory?

Answer:
Memory loss for those under 70 is usually due to information overload and not structure problems like a tumor or Alzeiheimer’s Disease. Nevertheless, there are supplements you can take designed to enhance neural membrane stability (vitamin E, phosphitylserine and choline), increase blood flow gingko), reduce inflammation (fish oil), reduce oxidative stress (lipoic acid, melatonin), and reduce toxic chemicals (EDTA). You can read more about the aging brain here.
Taking the proper dose of vitamin blends will often help the slowing of the detoriation process.


Question:
What foods do you need to stay away from when taking coumadin?

Answer:
Watch the intake of high vitamin K food as vitamin K can interfer with blood thinning.
Limit the following food to 1 serving each day.

  • ½ c. cooked Swiss chard
  • ½ c. cooked Turnip greens
  • ½ c. cooked Kale
  • ½ c. cooked Collard greens
  • ½ c. cooked Spinach
  • ½ c. cooked Brussels sprouts
  • Do not take more than 3 servings of the following food per day:
  • Scallion ½ c raw
  • Broccoli ½ c raw/cooked
  • Cabbage, green ½ c raw/shredded
  • Green Tomato 1 raw
  • Seaweed, dulse ½ c dried
  • Garbanzo Beans 1/3 c cooked
  • Soybean ½ c cooked
  • Lentils ½ c cooked
  • Soybean oil 1 Tbsp
  • Alcohol intake greater than 3 drinks daily can increase the effect of Coumadin.
  • Herbal supplements can affect bleeding time: Coenzyme Q10 Wheat grass Herbal teas made with tonka beans, melilot (sweet clover), or sweet woodruff.

Question:
I was wondering if you could tell me about asprin, vitamin E 1000iu, and siberian ginseng? Since they are blood thinners would taking all three of them, even at various times, thin the blood too much? Would that cause tiredness and fatigue?

Answer:
Aspirin has anti-platelet and therefore blood thinning effect. Vitamin E also contains similar properties, but in high doses of 800 IU and higher, variation exist. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell what level of vitamin E intake correlates with the degree of blood thinning at this time. Herbs such as ginseng is good for improvement of energy, and its blood thinning effect is not well documented. If you are on blood thinner, you are best to consult your doctor prior to starting any nutritional supplements. If you are not sure, start with small doses of each and work your way up, checking your bleeding time along the way with your doctor. For more information on this subject, read this: Blood Thinners and Nutritional Supplement


Question:
I recently read about a study done in Switzerland which discussed the celebrex and its ability to decrease inflammation in the vessels of the heart. Do celebrex and vioxx have the same properties? I have a script for vioxx, have lupus, and am concerned about taking the vioxx because of reports about heart attacks in people who take the NSAID’s.

Answer:
Both Celebrex and Vioxx are part of the same family of what we called designer Non-sterioidal Anti-inflammatory Agent (NSAID). Their properties are similar, with the key property being pain control without gastric damage, as so many of the earlier (NSAID) like naprosyn does.
NSAID is now shown to help with reducing the inflammatory response in the endothelium of the blood vessel. There are also reports of reduced cardiovascular epidoses such as heart attacks for people who take NSAID. The problem, however, is that there is a down side to the majority of these powerful designer drugs. If you have had ulcers or stomach bleeding, asthma, hives, or allergic-type reactions after taking aspirin or other NSAIDs, have severe kidney problems, have severe liver problems, or are pregnant, you need to be very careful. Likewise, there are well-known side effects including upper respiratory tract infection, diarrhea, nausea, heartburn, water retention, and high blood pressure associated with these drugs.
The good news is that there are natural alternatives to reducing the inflammatory response in the cardiovascular system, which can be measured in the laboratory by a test called C Reactive Protein. Such natural remedy include herbs such as cat’s claw and olive leaf; vitamins such as high dose Vitamin C, lysine and proline; and high dose fatty acids (5-10 grams pharmaceutical grade fish oil).


Question:
I have read about the benefits of vitamin e for memory, heart and basic anti-aging health. I also read that too much can be toxic. How do I determine the correct quantity? I am a 43 yr old active female in good health.

Answer:
Your case is quite interesting. Without taking a more detailed history, these are just my general thoughts. It appears that your body is highly sensitive, and may have a sympathetic overreaction response. At the same time, your body may have developed sensitivity to epinephrine even though the amount produced is not very much. Many of the symptoms may also be suggestive hyper-thyrodism, and I am sure your doctor is already on top of this though the numbers may not show. The fact that short term hydrocortisone therapy helps is a good sign for your adrenals. I don’t know what stage of adrenal fatigue you are in, but it generally takes a few months for the symptoms to subside. This is especially true for the sympathetic nervous system, as there is no “opposing” hormone to epinephrine. Once your flight or fight response is activated and your epinephrine is produced, it has to be washed out of the body slowly and naturally. You may wish to do more exercise to “use it up”, or meditations as well. I think my adrenal fatigue protocol will help you, especially with the supplements and sleep portion. Propanolol just suppresses some symptoms and is not a long term solution as you know. I think in your case, laboratory numbers are going to be less helpful than if you listen to your body. Have a diary and go thru with your doctor what events that helps and what that aggravates your current symptoms. Please keep in mind that there is usually a primary underlying root stressor, and until the stressor is removed, which can be emotional, financial, conflicts etc., the condition will not get better.


Question:
Does heavy exercise (say 8 Kilometers fast walk daily) helps reducing Lp(a) ?
My Lp(a ) reading is 59. My mother and father do not have this problem. How can I link it to genetics? I do not consume alcohol, tobacco, non vegetarian food, oily / fatty food, etc. Still why is my Lp(a) is high?

Answer:
Lp(a) is a genetically linked risk factor that is not related to exercise in and of itself. It has nothing to do with your lifestyle. You can have perfect lifestyle and have a high Lp(a).


Question:
What about the Warfarin warnings?

Answer:
Warfarin is an anticoagulant used to thin the blood and prevent it from clotting. It is a somewhat dangerous drug that can be affected by many substances, including foods. If you are taking warfarin, we don’t recommend taking any herb or supplement except on a physician’s advice. Vitamin K is an antidote to warfarin and directly counteracts its effects. Do not take vitamin K while you are on warfarin.Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a substance somewhat similar in structure to vitamin K, and reportedly it, too, can reduce the effects of warfarin. Vitamin C, when taken in high dosages (more than 1, 000 mg daily), has been reported to reduce the blood-thinning effect of warfarin.
As long as a person is on blood thinner, all herbs and nutrients that have potential blood thinning effect must be handled with extreme care. The list is very long indeed. You can see therefore that caution is very necessary.


Question:
If CoQ10 is not a coagulant, then how come it acts as a coagulant with Warfarin? Also, one of the usages of Vitamin C is to brake up clots or thrombosises. How can Vitamin C then be perceived as a coagulant?

Answer:
When it comes to nutrients, there are many things we still don’t know. Vitamin C is both an anti-oxidant and a pro-oxidant, depending on the dosage. This is data from the last 10 years only. Similarly, phyto-estrogen such as soy is both an estrogen inhibitor and enhancer. There is much we don’t know, and scientific studies trying to isolate one single variable and drawing empharical conclusions with limited ability to control can be very dangerous. We read in the press all the time the conflicting reports, both in nutrition and drugs. That is why, for example, there are 500 studies that say that hormone replacement therapy is good and 500 others pointing the opposite. This is after 40 years of intensive research among the top brains in the world. Clearly the subject matter is highly complex and we have yet to fully understand it. The good news is that if you take the time to really read all the studies over time and digest the details and scrutinize them slowly, a general picture will gradually form in your own mind, and that is what makes a professional a professional in the absence at this time of solid data demanded by modern medicine. And that is why the practice of medicine is not only a science but an art, especially in nutritional medicine.
For the general consumer not privileged to have spent years studying the subject, our general recommendation is simple: when in doubt, do not take it. Otherwise, err on the side of slightly excessive dosage. Sounds contradicting? Not at all if you have a good grasp of the underlying delimina. Why? We simply are aging too fast and the window is closing in too quickly. Often, drugs are worse . Provided that the risk is low and harmless, most aging and adults afflicted with disease will opt for natural therapy if given a chance.


Question:
Thank you, Dr. Lam, for your detailed and informative response. I appreciate it. I will keep taking DHEA @ 25 Mg per day. The stuff I buy also has calcium carbonate in it. I guess that helps absorbtion. It seems I feel better and have more of a sense of well being. I’ll eat blueberries everyday to ward off possible AD effects. I hear that works.

Answer:
Thanks for your compliments. Blueberry is excellent due to the high concentration of procanyandine, an antioxidant. Keep it up. For AD, you should really consider gingko and phsotidyl serine.


Question:
I heard, from my doctor, that DHEA is not good for the brain. That people who have taken it for three or more years can see the on set of Alzheimers Disease. Is there any factual basis to this allegation?

Answer:
The concept of low dose DHEA being linked to AD was advance in 1999 by James Michael Howard, http://www.naples.net/~nfn03605/ is his website and you can find many interesing DHEA related articles based on his views.
Subsequent to his postulation, the following article, plus many many others, seems to suggest the opposite. The following are some extracts just for your information. You can find many more. Most researchers points to low DHEA-S levels in Alzheimer’s dementia. For example, Researchers T. Yanase and colleagues have studied and compare the serum concentrations of DHEA-S in 19 patients with Alzheimer’s dementia and control group of age 45 and gender matched elderly individuals. The patients with Alzheimer’s dementia were found to have lower concentrations of serum DHEA-S. Interestingly, one preliminary clinical trial based on an intravenous administration of 200 mg a day of DHEA-S for 8 weeks suggested slight and modest improvements in cognition and behavior in patients with Alzheimer’s dementia and cerebrovascular dementia, respectively. The current thinking is that ecreases in plasma levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) may contribute to the development of some age-related disorders. Along with neuroprotective and memory enhancing effects, DHEA has been shown to display antioxidant properties. Moreover, oxidative stress is known to cause lipid peroxidation and degenerative changes in the hippocampus, an area involved in memory processes and especially afflicted in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). It will be decades away before anyone absolutely can show exactly how DHEA works and the long term reminifications. Vitamin C has been researched for closed to 50 years, and there is still tremendous debate within mainstream medicine on what is the optimum dose, for example.
You have asked an excellent question, and I think the answer to your question does not rest with any single study, positive or negative, but with a global perspective on the body and reading enough article on your own to come to an consensus yourself on what is the right thing to do. No amount of “science” can convince a skeptical mind.


Question:
My mother had a stroke three years ago which has taken the use of the left hand side of her body. Under Doctors orders she takes one aspirin a day. She also takes a Garlic Tablet a day as she has done for a number of years. Recently I read that aspirin and garlic should not be taken together is this correct and should she stop taking the garlic. she is aged 75.

Answer:
Garlic has some blood thinning properties, and so does vitamin E and gingko. Taking high doses of these concurrently with aspirin or other blood thinning drugs such as coumadin should be under the supervision of a physician. Normal garlic capsules are low in potency and one capsule a day generally does not cause any problem. The best thing to do if you are concerned is to ask your doctor to check out her clotting time and see if it is ok.