I am constantly on the lookout for the latest, cutting-edge medical research – and I’m always excited when I can share something new with you.
Well, a month or so ago, I stumbled upon an article that really got my attention. A psychiatrist from Colorado, named Dr. Theodore Henderson, wrote a brilliant piece about the overwhelming
data linking Alzheimer’s disease to a virus that may shock you: herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1).1
In fact, it turns out that just having one simple cold sore… at any time in your life… could increase your risk of Alzheimer’s. This is incredible news because Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, affecting an estimated 850,000 people in the UK2 – and that does not include the many more thousands of people with mild memory loss (mild cognitive impairment) that could be
looked at as ‘pre-Alzheimer’s’.
On top of that, most conventional doctors will admit that the current drugs for Alzheimer’s are clearly not working… and there’s really no hope in sight for a new blockbuster drug to cure this disease any time soon.
Therefore, the conventional community should be as excited as I am by this article – because this data can really help focus our attack against this disabling disease! And, as you know, we doctors in integrative medicine are always focusing on addressing the root cause of a disease… and if the root cause of Alzheimer’s is an infection… or, more specifically, a virus… then there’s a target we can zero in on.
Is a dormant virus stealing your memories?
While the link between herpes and Alzheimer’s may surprise you, it actually makes perfect sense to me. It’s a well-known fact that stealth viruses like HSV-1 hide and live in
the nerves and nervous system.
The chickenpox virus, for example, lives in the nerves – and it will only resurface along the root of the nerve that stems from the spinal cord in which it was hiding. Some genital herpes sufferers tell me that before they get an outbreak, they feel a tingle in their tailbone or back area, which is where the virus is residing most of its time.
Since we know that the HSV-1 virus is living in the nerves of the face and head, it’s not a stretch to think that this virus could make the short trip to the brain if it were to ‘wake up’.
And according to Dr. Henderson’s article and the several studies he references, if someone’s immune system isn’t strong enough to keep this pesky virus dormant, then it could slowly but surely cause permanent damage to the brain – and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.
In total, the article listed too many prior studies to discuss here – but needless to say, they all made a strong connection between the HSV-1 and Alzheimer’s.
• Multiple studies show a positive correlation between HSV-1 showing up in blood work and the incidence of Alzheimer’s.
• At least three studies show that autopsies have found the DNA of HSV-1 in the tangles and plaques in the brains of both humans and animals with Alzheimer’s.3
• HSV-1 is more prominently found in the places of the brain that are damaged (the frontal and temporal lobes).4
• Three studies show HSV-1 induces the formation of the classic plaques seen in Alzheimer’s patients when injected into tissue in a laboratory petri dish.5
And to cap it all off, one blockbuster (yet overlooked) study from 2011 that he shared showed that when antiviral medication was placed in test tubes with nerve cells that had the classic plaque and sticky proteins of the disease, the medications actually slowed down, stopped the production of, or even erased the classic signs of
Alzheimer’s in those tissues.6
Believe it or not, this could be good news There are two ways of looking at this revelation: the glass is either half-empty, or half-full. If you’re a pessimist, this is pretty darn scary stuff. At least 34 per cent of the population has antibodies to this pesky virus, although some data sources quote the statistic to be much higher – up to 90 per cent of the population – because you could’ve easily been exposed to HSV-1 and have it in your system but never know it.
When you first acquired this virus (probably from something like sharing a cup with someone or kissing your secondary school sweetheart), your immune system was robust and strong enough to lock up the infection and throw away the key. (See page 5 in this issue for more on how our immune systems fight off these types of viruses.)
If you haven’t had any symptoms despite having been exposed, you could be a carrier of the virus and not even know it.
But I’m a ‘glass half-full’ kind of guy – and if you’re like me, you’ll remember that the integrative medical community has been treating chronic infections for many years and has
found safe and effective ways of fighting these villainous viruses and strengthening the immune system to keep them in check.
Integrative medicine is a ‘take-the-bull-by-the-horns’ kind of medicine. While we treat patients offensively, the conventional medical community sits back and waits for the horrible disease to occur. When it does, they then try to save the day with a rescue therapy… or cover the symptoms with a side effect-ridden medication.
Fortunately, most of the success that we’ve had has been with natural and holistic approaches, so you may not even need the help of a close minded conventional doctor. But imagine if the scientists behind these studies were to get what they’re requesting: that is, for antiviral medications to be used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.
Now, that would be something!
You can fight it, even if you can’t see it
I have written in previous articles about the B vitamins and glutathione for memory loss and Alzheimer’s – and these supplements still provide amazing benefit, and I still use them widely in my surgery.
But I feel that all of this research will change the way that I treat patients who are experiencing even a moderate amount of memory loss. I might even start checking HSV antibodies on some
patients as a screening tool.
You can ask your doctor to test you for the presence of HSV-1 antibodies if you’ve never been tested before – but, in the meantime, it’s a good idea to start some natural supplements that tend to slow viruses as well as improve the immune system.
I will be honest with you: I don’t claim to cure viruses in my clinic, but I would assert that it is very possible to slow them down and to at least get into a virtual stalemate between your immune system and the virus or viral infection.
There are actually many supplements that help slow viruses down. I do like the use of garlic, grapefruit seed extract, oil of oregano, and olive leaf extract… but I usually start with the simple, safe and effective amino acid called lysine for HSV and the other herpes viruses.
This amazing supplement has been very effective in many of my patients, and I really consider it the best way to slow down the herpes virus. I usually recommend
1,000 to 3,000mg a day.
But slowing down the virus is only one part of this two-pronged attack. The second prong to keeping this virus from replicating and damaging your brain is to strengthen the immune system.
I do feel that this is the ‘elephant in the room’ – not just in this scenario, but also with many other diseases, including shingles, cervical cancer, and even all of the other versions of cancer.
The issue that everyone is missing is that it’s not about the bug/infection itself. Rather, it’s really about how strong your immune system is in keeping these bugs where they belong – locked up.
Just ask anyone who suffers from cold sores. Most of them will admit that physical and mental stress, poor sleep, and poor diet (i.e. too much sugar) are the main culprits of their outbreaks.
Now, if you’re one of those chronic cold sore sufferers… or if you’re having a few too many ‘senior moments’… DON’T PANIC.
As simple as it seems, taking just 20mg of zinc and 1,000mg of vitamin C over a long period of time can be a huge ‘an-apple-a-day-keeps-the-doctor-away’ approach to keeping your immune system strong enough to fight off all kinds of infections… and maybe even prevent Alzheimer’s!
Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Nutrition & Healing
Vol. 10, Issue 8 • August 2016
Full references and citations for this article are available in the downloadable PDF version of the monthly Nutrition and Healing issue in which this article appears.