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This week, Dr. Zach Papendieck spoke to The Wellness Way student club about “Neuronal Plasticity & Inflammation.”

Dr. Zach Papendieck, D.C. on “Neuronal Plasticity & Inflammation”

In the Wellness Way, we are taught to address all three T’s — thoughts, traumas, toxins — of each patient that walks through our doors. We get thorough training on how to address traumas and toxins, but how do we address thoughts?

Dr. Zach emphasized if there is inflammation in the body, there is inflammation in the brain. He used the “brain on fire” as a common phrase he uses with patients to help better paint the picture. By lowering the inflammation and stressors on the body it allows the body the ability to adapt better.

Dr. Zach gave an example of how poor digestion can lead to inflammation in the brain. He said if the body is in fight or flight mode constantly due to chronic stress, the body will naturally dampen the digestion of food leading to lower stomach acid and mucosal lining. But what do people do when they’re stressed? EAT. Leading to poor digestion and inflammation in the body leading to inflammation in the brain. Everything is connected and working together in unison just like the Swiss Watch Principal shows.

Neuronal plasticity, characterized by the nervous system’s capacity to react and adjust to environmental shifts, plays a crucial role in various physiological processes. This concept is exemplified by Wolff’s law, which underscores the neuronal remodeling, formation of new synapses, and generation of fresh neurons in response to stimuli. Often seen are psychiatric conditions with impaired neuronal plasticity, as seen in individuals with depression who struggle to cope or adapt to their surroundings. These individuals commonly experience issues with blood sugar regulation. Brain deterioration can begin in childhood. Early childhood traumas can disrupt the maturation of brain function. By addressing all three T’s—thoughts, traumas, and toxins—we can reduce inflammation, facilitating better adaptation to stressors. Remarkably, children often exhibit rapid improvement upon addressing these factors.

What testing should be run to give us an understanding of someone’s thoughts?

  • Examine the patient’s spine and make sure they are well adjusted.
  • Comprehensive blood testing to get a picture of overall function of the body is a good place to start. Common markers to pay attention for are: dyslipidemia, hypertension, low HRV, high chronic stress load (high cortisol), inflammation (hsCRP), blood glucose , oxidative stress, poor methylation. This can show cognitive decline if the patient is not adapting well in these areas.
  • DUTCH testing can show hormone levels as well as a well understanding of cortisol function. Hormones are key to check because they derive many thoughts.
  • Food allergy testing can show the immune system and digestive function. Identifying foods for the patient to avoid is a great place to start reducing overall inflammation.


Our brain requires sugar for proper functioning, yet excessive intake can result in insulin resistance, a condition where cells become less responsive to insulin. This resistance can lead to a cascade of effects, including the interaction of inflammatory cytokines with mood-regulating pathways, resulting in impaired sleep, cognitive dysfunction, and fatigue. Furthermore, increased levels of glucocorticoids, such as cortisol, due to hippocampal reduction in neurons, can disrupt signaling between the hippocampus and adrenal glands. Glucocorticoids also significantly impact neurotransmitter levels in the brain. It’s crucial to examine overall lab results to understand how the body adapts to stress, as seen in diabetics experiencing neuropathy or even toe amputation due to poor sugar regulation and subsequent reduced neurological function. This dysregulation of blood sugar, often termed Type 3 diabetes, can contribute to conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s, characterized as Type 3 diabetes, involves an inability to adapt to stressors, leading to blood sugar dysregulation, which affects insulin and cortisol levels. In Alzheimer’s, excessive blood sugar demands stress insulin, resulting in insulin resistance, which downregulates brain insulin uptake across the blood-brain barrier, ultimately reducing insulin levels in the brain. However, insulin plays a vital role in brain plasticity and the clearance of amyloid plaques. The insulin-synapse axis is a key player in brain plasticity, as insulin strengthens synapses and connections between neurons, highlighting the intricate relationship between insulin, cortisol, glucose, and neurological function in the context of Alzheimer’s disease.

Advice to patients to help with neuronal plasticity

  • No Sugar Diet
  • Short term memory= repeat to remember
  • Long term memory= remember to repeat
  • Brush your teeth with the opposite hand
  • Play the memory card game
  • Drive to work a different way
  • Supplements
    • Blood sugar glandular
    • Gymnema
    • Oregon Grape
    • Goldenseal

Submitted by Maddie Eager


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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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