OHP: Brain Health & Successful Aging
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Brain Health & Successful Aging

When most people think of inflammation they think of arthritic joints, or maybe a sprained ankle. But did you know your brain can become inflamed, too? The problem is an inflamed brain won’t hurt. Instead you should look for other symptoms of brain inflammation. These include brain fog, slow thinking, fatigue, and depression. Brain fog is a hallmark symptom of brain inflammation. The inflammation slows down communication between neurons. This is what causes you to feel foggy, dull, and slow. Brain inflammation is serious because it means nerve cells in the brain are dying. In other words, brain inflammation is causing your brain to atrophy and age too fast.

A common cause of brain inflammation is head injury. Injuries cause immune cells to turn on in order to begin the healing process. But unlike immune cells in the body, the brain’s immune cells do not turn off. This means brain inflammation can continue to be a problem long after the injury. This is one reason football players have high rates of the chronic degenerative brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Other common causes of brain inflammation include chronic inflammation in the body, leaky gut, high blood sugar and diabetes, hormone imbalances, hypothyroidism food intolerances (gluten is a notorious brain inflamer), stress, and brain autoimmunity — a disorder in which the immune system erroneously attacks and damages brain tissue. It is more common than people realize.

The term “NeuroEndocrine Dysfunction (NED)” refers to a variety of conditions caused by imbalances in the body's hormone production directly related to the brain. There are two areas of the brain responsible for regulating the production of hormones, the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. Damage to the hypothalamus or pituitary gland caused by TBI (including vascular damage, rupture, brain swelling, vasospasm, pituitary swelling or inflammation), may impact the production of pituitary hormones and other neuroendocrine functions of the brain.

NED following TBI is the result of direct trauma (e.g., coupcontrecoup injury), or biochemical response to a blast exposure, that interferes with the normal production and regulation of hormones produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus

The most common hormonal deficiencies associated with TBI include:

  • Pituitary deficiencies (TSH/FSH/GH/IGF-1)
    • TSH-Thyroid-stimulating hormone
    • FSH-Follicle-Stimulating hormone
    • GH-Growth hormone
    • IGF 1-Insulin-like growth factor 1

  • Gonadotropin deficiencies (LH/FSH/testosterone/estradiol)
    • LH-Luteinizing hormone
    • FSH-Follicle-Stimulating hormone

Adrenocorticotropic hormone, thyroid deficiency and prolactin deficiencies are also seen among patients with neuroendocrine involvement following TBI.

Hormone Deficiencies Symptoms

  • Growth hormone: Increased abdominal fat mass, fatigue, decreased vigor and concentration, decreased lean body mass, dyslipidemia, anxiety, depression, impaired judgment
  • Gonadotropin: Males –– infertility, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, decreased muscle mass, decreased exercise tolerance, anemia and testicular atrophy. Females –– amenorrhea, sexual dysfunction, breast atrophy
  • Corticosteroid: Adrenal crisis, hypoglycemia, hyponatremia, myopathy, anemia, depression, fatigue, anxiety, apathy, weight loss, loss of libido
  • Thyroid hormone: Decreased energy, depression, cold intolerance, weight gain, fatigue, poor memory, muscle cramps, constipation, myopathy, hypotension, bradycardia, neuropathy, skin, hair and voice changes
  • Prolactin: Males –– decreased libido, impotence. Females –– amenorrhea, oligomenorrhea, galactorrhea, infertility, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, hirsutism (in post menopausal women). Both –– sudden onset of depression
  • Antidiuretic hormone: Excessive urination, dehydration, excessive thirst, hypernatremia (potentially leading to weakness, altered mental status, coma, seizures)

Overlap of Symptoms

Symptoms Suggestive of NED

  • Behavioral, Emotional and Sleep Related Symptoms
    • Depression
    • Emotional Stability
    • Anxiety
    • Fatigue
    • Poor Memory
    • Lack of Concentration
  • Symptoms Related to Reproductive Function
    • Loss of Libido
    • Infertility
    • Amenorrhea
  • Somatic Symptoms
    • Loss of Muscle Mass, Increased body fat around the waist, weight gain/loss
    • Low Blood Pressure, Reduced Heart Rate, Anemia
    • Hair Loss, Dry Skin
    • Constipation
    • Cold Intolerance

Hormone production and nutritional needs in individuals can change at any age. Stressors in life can impact our physical, mental, and emotional states. These same stressors can also wear on our environmental health and make demands on our hormonal system.

Hormonal imbalances can affect men as well as women. More recent therapies offer ways to decrease the effects of aging and slow the disease processes associated with aging. More energy, better quality sleep and overall feeling of wellness can be achieved by addressing the issues of hormone imbalances.

Symptoms of an imbalance may include hot flashes, insomnia, irritability, memory loss, fatigue, low energy, mood swings, dry skin, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, and erectile dysfunction. Decrease or loss of immune system responses, slow or incomplete healing after a sprain, strain or related musculoskeletal injury, muscle aches, loss of bone density, blood pressure changes, increased blood sugar levels, constipation and an overall feeling that you “just don’t feel right” can all be symptoms of hormone imbalance.

When approaching hormonal balance and wellness, the physicians at Optimal Health Physicians recognize that male and female sex hormones, thyroid function, insulin production, and adrenal stress can all play a role when it comes to an balance of the entire hormonal system. The interrelation of hormones mean that the over or under production of any hormone can adversely affect another hormone level or effectiveness.

Abnormal adrenal function can influence: energy, bone health, immune system responses, sleep quality, healing, pain threshold, skin regeneration, thyroid function, muscle and joint health.

Our management of these symptoms uses a full body medical approach. The use of pharmaceutical grade supplements and physician prescriptives allow the body to re-pattern and supply the elements necessary to balance the system according to the test findings.

Bioidentical hormones are prescribed if indicated. Treatment plans include lifestyle changes regarding nutrition, weight management, physical activity and stress management. Making these adjustments assists the body in healing and repair. Ultimately this allows the individual to be responsible for their health. The treatments used are scientifically based and validated in current medical literature.

Bioidentical hormones are plant based hormones with a chemical structure identical to human hormones produced by the body. Men and women have the same hormones but are differently proportioned by gender. Using bioidentical hormones allows individualization of dosage to meet the needs of the body at the lowest possible dosage.

A comprehensive metabolic and endocrine evaluation is done to address concerns and symptoms while taking into consideration medical conditions, current medications and supplements. Saliva testing may be used to evaluate current hormone levels and body demands. Saliva testing provides information regarding the hormones available at a cellular level versus what is in the blood levels. Blood testing may be indicated for further evaluation.

The goal of treatment is to provide support for individuals to achieve and sustain optimal health, and highest level of function possible.

In an individualized approach like the one we use at Optimal Health Physicians, patients are prescribed precise dosages of bio-identical hormones based upon their specific and particular needs. Nutritional supplementation may be needed to aid the body in balancing its process depending on lab results. The hormones, prescribed by the doctor, are then custom created especially for you at a compounding pharmacy. We will follow your progress and help you obtain your desired results. Our goal is to get positive results with the lowest possible dose. This applies to both hormones and nutritional supplements.