Gut inflammation travels up the vagal root to the brain. (1)

Neurodegeneration vs Neurodegenerative disease


Neurodegeneration is the loss of neurons or connectivity. Neurodegenerative disease is the buildup of tau proteins, amyloid beta plaques and alpha-synuclein Lewy bodies; it leads to progressive and distinctive changes in brain chemistry. Dementia is the umbrella term for all neurodegenerative diseases. The best measure for addressing dementia is catching it early. The earlier the detection, the better the prognosis. Upper cervical care has a powerful effect on reversing or significantly slowing down the dementia process when treatment begins in the early stages. There are many different types of dementia including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, frontotemporal or vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, hypothyroid and hormone deficiency dementia, B12 dementia, autoimmune and AIDS dementia and alcohol and drug related dementia.



Warning signs of neurodegeneration: 

  • Forgets recently learned information, memory lapses in the middle of conversations
  • Forgets dates, appointments, events and location
  • Slowness of thinking and speaking, mental fatigue
  • Loss of smell, especially in the left nostril– neurodegeneration begins in the left side of the brain and affects the olfactory bulb as one of its earliest target sites. The olfactory nerve is ipsilateral so the left side nostril loses sensitivity first. 
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Clumsiness in hands and feet, tripping
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble moving or walking (slow, uncoordinated, stiff or cramping muscles, history of frozen shoulder, loss of muscle endurance, arm or leg heaviness) 
  • Dizziness, fainting, disorientation or a sensation of shifting in environment
  • Constipation
  • Soft or low voice (hypophonia) 
  • Balance that is worse on one side or prone to sway to one side while walking or standing
  • Masked face (appearing upset or emotionless) 
  • Inability to convey emotion while speaking (aprosody of speech)
  • Reduced blinking
  • Stooping, hunching over or head tilted away from weak side
  • Micrographia- particularly if the end of the sentence has letter smaller than at the beginning of the sentence
  • Macrographia- handwriting larger than normal and or erratic, difficult to read
  • Postural instability and bent spine syndrome (camptocormia) 
  • Need to hold handrail and watch step carefully while walking downstairs
  • Wide stance, feeling unsteady and prone to falling in the dark, sometimes heel to toe walking
  • Hyperkinetic uncontrolled muscle movements and ataxia such as restless legs, dystonia, hemiballism, chorea and tics
  • Intense need to clear throat regularly or contract a group of muscles
  • Constant nervousness, anxiety, restless mind and OCD
  • Nausea, car sickness or seasickness
  • Poor planning, motivation, organization, attention span, focus, concentration, impulse control, social behavior, creativity, imagination and judgment
  • Depression, laziness, apathy, difficulty making decisions



Requirements for a Healthy Brain


Activation & Oxygen: A healthy brain needs ample oxygen and activation. Make sure to enable access to clean air and water since these are your two sources of oxygen. The five most common causes for lowered oxygen and activation are: 1.) Dehydration 2.) Anemia and iron deficiency 3.) B12 and/or folate deficiency 4.) Low thyroid 5.) Chronic inflammation 6.) Sedentary lifestyle- exercise produces large quantities of oxygen and activates the brain. High intensity, short exercise activates fast twitch and super fast twitch muscle fibers and shows the greatest neurological benefits. 


Stress management: The three most common causes of physiological oxidative stress are: 1.) Blood sugar imbalances (see “Glucose”)  2.) Chronic infections and an overactive immune system (see “Controlling the microglial immune system”) and 3.) Food sensitivities (see “GI inflammation control”). Stress has an undeniable detrimental effect on brain function, but emotional stress in one person reacts differently in another. For this reason, stress management could never be a one size fits all prescription. Learning your own stress limits and understanding how your body responds to different relaxation techniques is key to personalizing your stress management routines. See “Deep Relaxation” blog for ideas HERE. 


Low Toxic Load: There are too many environmental neurotoxins to cover in this article, but here are two basic tips that will dramatically defend your family’s brain health. 1.) Know the ingredients in your household and body care products. 2.) Be conscientious of any additives in your water and food supply. Excitotoxins such as MSG and aspartic acid break down neurons at a dangerously accelerated rate. Source: “Excitotoxins- the Taste that Kills” by Russel Blaylock (A recommended read). 


Nutrition: Vitamin E, Vitamin D, B12, and thiamine deficiencies are strongly linked to neurodegeneration. Take a full B complex so B vitamin balance is not altered. Not getting enough B vitamins due to malabsorption or alcohol abuse can lead to ataxia. Vitamins D and E are fat soluble and need to be paired with healthy fats for proper absorption. Consuming healthy, unaltered fats instead of trans fats are imperative to fat soluble vitamin absorption in addition to reducing plaque build up– the plaque coating that forms in artery walls is the same plaque that also coats brain cells. 


Glucose: Blood sugar management is vital to neuron health. In fact, Alzheimer’s and diabetes are so closely related that is now referring to Alzheimer’s as Type 3 Diabetes. The two most common causes of blood sugar dysregulation are 1.) A congested liver and 2.) Insulin resistance. With any blood sugar imbalance, it is always recommended to limit refined carbohydrates (especially sugar), exercise regularly and detox the liver. The cerebellum (see also “Basal ganglia / frontal lobe / cerebellum communication loop”), especially the purkinje system, is susceptible to blood sugar and oxygen imbalances. The purkinje system is the braking system for cerebellum output. Without it, there is too much activation. For example, if the fastigial nucleus is not properly gated, it can influence the limbic, autonomic and vestibular systems. A failed purkinje system will not activate deep nuclei and results in an excess need for fuel to maintain the overactive state. Whether the overactive state is nausea, car sickness, digestive distress, panic attacks, anxiety or emotional issues… all of these symptoms result from a failing purkinje system. The need for more fuel further throws off blood sugar balance; low blood sugar then further complicates the purkinje system and so forth. It is a vicious cycle that is difficult and crucial to rebalance. Anything disrupting cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow and blood flow at the base of the brain, including a misalignment in the top neck bones, will interfere with the purkinje system, blood sugar and oxygen. The top neck bones can be evaluated and corrected via upper cervical care. 


Sleep: Autophagy is the process that the brain uses to clean up metabolic waste and inflammatory proteins. It is essential to brain health and occurs while sleeping. If the autophagy process becomes weakened from less sleep or interrupted sleep, neurological consequences will inevitably arise. Harvard Medical School concludes in their article “Alzheimer’s Wake up Call,” that sleeping pills do nothing to improve autophagy; and, therefore are no solution for autophagy improvement. Congestion of CSF flow at the base of the brain inhibits autophagy and sleep. Fortunately, upper cervical care routinely improves both sleep and CSF flow by unlocking the joints that these fundamental messages and fluids need to pass through (see “CSF flow and reducing brain inflammation”). A specialist can determine whether the upper cervical spine is playing a role in inhibiting these functions.


Controlling the microglial immune system: The immune system in the brain is called the microglial system. A chronically activated microglial system results in a chronically activated inflammatory response and degenerates the brain at a faster rate than the normal aging process (see “CSF flow and reducing brain inflammation”). The microglial system is activated and doesn’t shut off with recurrent concussions. Following a concussion, there are usually enough antioxidant reserves in store to calm the brain’s immune response. It is repeated blows to the head, unhealthy antioxidant reserves, inflammation from the GI tract (see “GI inflammation control”) or a misaligned upper neck / craniocervical junction that interferes with the return of normal CSF flow and brain physiology. Encephalitis commonly occurs with concussion and translates to “inflamed brain.” The top three symptoms of encephalitis are fatigue, depression and brain fog. Increasing CSF flow by reducing head injury related inflammation requires making sure the upper cervical spine and craniocervical junction are in alignment. 


GI inflammation control: Chronic inflammation from the gut can cause chronic inflammation in the brain. Inflammation can travel up through the vagal root (vagus nerve). The top 2 causes of gut inflammation are food sensitivities and GI infection. There are blood tests that can tell you which foods are irritating to your system. If you don’t want a blood test, most people do well from eliminating gluten and dairy. Hard cheese and butter seem to be less problematic than milk and cream. 


Basal ganglia / frontal lobe / cerebellum communication loop: Smooth and coordinated cognitive function is fulfilled by the cerebellum / basal ganglia / frontal lobe network loop. Dysfunction in any of these three (cerebellum, basal ganglia or frontal lobe) causes problems throughout the cognition process. Signals are started and stopped via basal ganglia nuclei, making these the on / off switch for cognitive function. The two basic conditions seen with basal ganglia malfunction and lesions are: 1.) Slow or no movement such as Parkinson’s. 2.) Hyperkinetic (too much) movement including disorders such as tics, ADHD and OCD. The frontal lobe to cerebellum loop occurs between 8 and 10 times. The cerebellum receives information from the frontal lobe and refines it. It sends that message back to the frontal lobe, and the frontal lobe sends the newly packaged information to the cerebellum where it is refined even more. This process occurs for the purpose of coordinating refined cognition delivery. The cerebellum and frontal lobe are contra lateral to each other. This means the left side cerebellum communicates with the right side of the frontal lobe and vice versa. The cerebellum activates the frontal lobe, and the frontal lobe, in turn, activates the cerebellum. They need each other for normal cognition and movement. It is not always clear if it is the cerebellum slowing the frontal lobe or vice versa. Fronto-cerebellar dissociation is characterized by ataxia, noticeable difference in strength / function between different sides of the body, difficulty with response initiation and ADHD. ADHD in adults is better known as “general anxiety disorder,” which illustrates how common it is for these neurological communication disturbances to occur.


Frontal lobe activation of the brain stem: Lack of activation from the frontal lobe or an inability of the brain stem to receive the activation will result in an alternating rotation of an underactive and overactive nervous system. This is why the frontal lobe and brain stem communication network is a prominent feature for balancing the autonomic nervous system and all nerve function, including cognition. If the brain stem is compressed or inflamed due to a misaligned upper cervical spine, the brain stem cannot communicate effectively with the frontal lobe; therefore, the frontal lobe cannot communicate with the basal ganglia or the cerebellum. 


Cerebellum / Upper Cervical Spine communication: As the cerebellum develops, it grows from the midline out laterally. The most midline structures of the cerebellum are activated and controlled by the midline structures in the body… the spine and postural muscles. Thus, a healthy communication loop between the cerebellum and spine is key to maintaining coordinated movement of the body and coordinated cognition of the brain.


CSF flow and reducing brain inflammation: Spinal integrity, especially in the upper cervical spine, is essential to a healthy brain because a misalignment in this area disrupts communication and CSF flow. CSF inhibition reduces the brain’s ability to clear naturally occurring inflammatory proteins from the brain (see “Sleep”). To have a healthy brain, chronic inflammation must be prevented or stopped because low inflammation increases efficient CSF flow which is required for maintaining brain health (see “Controlling the microglial immune system”). 



It is important to clarify that all of the “Requirements for a Healthy Brain,” are interrelated; each neurological function and system is inherently dependent on all other functions and systems. From a metabolic standpoint, inflammation is at the epicenter of all chronic degenerative diseases such as diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and anything under the dementia umbrella. 





DCCJP Clinical Neurology

Robert Kessinger, DC, DABCI, DACBN

“Excitotoxins- the Taste that Kills” by Russel Blaylock

“Alzheimer’s Wake up Call,” Harvard Medical School