Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimers Disease

 

Alzheimers disease is a progressive brain disorder that begins with memory loss and eventually leads to dementia and death. In the United States, it affects up to 10 per- cent of people over sixty-ve and almost half of those over eighty-ve. Scientists pre- dict that in the coming years, these percentages are likely to rise. Such an increase, combined with the rapidly growing size of the older population, could very well result in an epidemic of Alzheimers cases.

Where Did I Put My Sunglasses?

 

We all have occasional  memory lapses, and many people notice that by late middle age, its harder to remember details than it used to be. If youve mis- placed the remote control again or for- gotten to pick up milk at the grocery store—even if you cant remember  the names of your new neighbors—youre probably not suffering from Alzheimers. More likely, you just need to boost your nutritional intake and follow a few other brain-boosting  steps. See Memory Prob- lems for further details. And your sun- glasses? Theyre on top of your head.

Alzheimers disease targets a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is the seat of memory and intellect. In a person with Alzheimers, the neurons in the hippocampus become entangled. The resulting forma- tions, often called plaque, result in the loss of brain cells, especially those that make new memories and retrieve old ones. And memory problems characterize the symptoms of Alzheimers.

In the beginning stages of the disease, people will experi- ence some mild memory problems. They may struggle with complex tasks like planning a party or balancing a check- book. As the disease progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to remember events that occurred very recently—say, the day before, or even just a few hours prior to the present time. Memory loss at this point looks more and more like dementia: affected people may not recognize others close to them or be able to recall appropriate words. Eventually, com- plete dementia sets in. Personal memories disappear and, with

them, the ability to recognize beloved people and places. Functional memories also become irretrievable. The person forgets how to perform daily functions, which include getting dressed, brushing the teeth, and using the toilet. Hallucinations or episodes of violence often attend this stage of the disease. At this point, it is rarely possible for a family member or a close friend to look after the sufferer, who needs twenty-four-hour-a-day care.

 

any disorders cause  symptoms that are quite similar (or even identical)  to those of Alzheimers. Before your doctor makes a diagnosis of Alzheimers, make sure that he or she rules out the following possibilities:

Depression

Anemia

Heart disease

Stroke

Allergies, either food or environmental

Dehydration

Hypothyroidism

Metabolic  disorders

Nutritional  deficiencies of vita- mins B12 and folic acid

Alcoholism

Brain tumor

Not keeping mentally active (by reading,  etc.)

Head injury

Drug abuse

 

In addition,  certain pharmaceutical medications, whether  alone or in combination, can cause  significant memory problems,  disorientation, and even dementia. Bring a list of all your current  medications, including  overthe-counter drugs (better yet, bring all the pill bottles with their labels), to your doctor so that he or she can examine  them for potential  side effects.



Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimers, largely because no one is quite sure of the cause. Heredity certainly plays a factor, but as with most inherited diseases, a certain gene probably does not result in Alzheimers all on its own: it is likely that environmental causes must be present as well. The most promising research into Alzheimers has discovered that free radicals (the unbalanced molecules that destroy or damage cells of the body) play a significant role in the disorder. Since we know that good nutrition and herbal therapies effectively prevent and fight much free rad- ical damage, its wise for anyone in the early stages of Alzheimers (or who has a fam- ily tendency toward the disease) to follow the recommendations given here. Environmental toxins seem to be an important factor as well. Although the link between Alzheimers to toxins like aluminum and mercury has not been rmly estab- lished, it is certainly prudent to avoid these poisonous substances as a preventative measure. In addition, stress appears to be a major factor with the development of this disease. Many researchers also feel that prolonged elevation of the stress hormone cor- tisol is a major causative factor. And finally, elevated levels of the protein metabolism by-product homocysteine is known to contribute to Alzheimers disease.

Although there is distressingly little that conventional medicine can do for Alzheimers sufferers, it is very important to see a doctor if you think you may have the disease. One reason is that many elderly people take several different medications at once, and these combinations often result in memory loss, confusion, or even dementia—side effects that can easily be mistaken for those of Alzheimers. The first step for anyone suffering from memory problems should be a rigorous examination of prescription and other drugs. Furthermore, the symptoms of Alzheimers mimic those of several other disorders that are quite treatable; many people who believe they have Alzheimers are actually suffering from depression, hypothyroidism, B12 or folic acid deficiency, or other conditions. Only after your doctor has ruled out all other pos- sibilities will he or she make a diagnosis of Alzheimers. If your doctor diagnoses you with Alzheimers after just one or two visits, make an appointment to see someone else—preferably a doctor with a strong background in geriatrics or neurological dis- orders. If you do have Alzheimers, its important to work with a good specialist. Although theres no cure, there are ways to help you improve your health, comfort, and independence.

Natural therapies should be employed to prevent or help slow down the disease and to improve life quality.

 

SYMPTOMS

 

Alzheimers is a progressive disease. Its symptoms are listed here in the order in which they usually occur.

 



n vitro studies at the University of Calgary have shown that mercury vapors cause a degeneration of brain neurons  and also cause  lesions similar to those found in people  with Alzheimers disease.



Memory problems

Confusion and disorientation

Mood swings

Depression

Paranoia

Inability to manage basic tasks

Inappropriate behavior

Hallucinations and delusions

Episodes of violence and rage or childlike passivity

Dementia

 

ROOT CAUSES

 

Although researchers are not yet sure what causes Alzheimers, it is likely that a com- bination of the following factors plays a significant role in the disease.

Genetics (including elevated homo- cysteine levels)

Free radicals

Nutritional deficiencies (especially

of vitamins B1, folic acid, and B12)

Smoking

Environmental toxins, especially aluminum and mercury

Chronically elevated cortisol levels

 

 TREATMENT Diet

Recommended Food

Eat a wholesome diet of basic, unprocessed foods. Because conventionally grown foods often contain toxins, buy organic whenever possible. If organic food is unavail- able or too expensive, wash your food thoroughly before eating.

The antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E will combat damage from free radicals. Fresh fruits and vegetables are among the best sources of antioxidants, so have a couple of servings at every meal. For vitamin E, add wheat germ to salads, cereals, or juices. Nuts and seeds are other good sources of this vital nutrient.

The consumption of fish is very important. Salmon, hal- ibut, cod, sole, and others are healthful sources of DHA,



Fish is medicine for the brain.

 

The Archives of Neurology published a study of 815 participants, ages 64 to 94 years. Over a seven-year  period, researchers reviewed  food frequency  ques- tionnaires  to quantify fish consumption

and dietary intake of the essential fatty acids DHA and EPA. Researchers  found that people  who ate fish only one to three times a month had a 40 percent  lower risk of Alzheimers than those who never ate fish. Those who consumed fish one time per week had a 60 percent  lower risk.

an essential fatty acid involved in brain function and GPA, which reduces inflammation.

A deficiency of the B-complex vitamins can both cause the disease and imitate its symptoms. Brewers yeast is a potent source of B vitamins, as are wheat germ, eggs, and spirulina.

Use turmeric as a spice when preparing meals.

Many people with Alzheimers are found to be deficient in zinc. To boost your intake, snack on pumpkin seeds reg- ularly.

To improve circulation, increase energy levels, and detoxify your body, drink a glass of clean water every two waking hours.

Eat plenty of fiber to keep toxins moving through your digestive tract and to prevent them from taking up resi- dence in your body. Whole grains, oats, and raw or lightly

cooked vegetables are good sources of fiber that are also nutritionally dense.

If youre older, your digestive system may not be able to absorb nutrients as well as it used to. Fresh fruit and vegetable juices are easily absorbable and packed with the vitamins you need, so have several glasses daily.

 

Food to Avoid

If you have Alzheimers or have a family tendency toward the disease, it is impera- tive that you stay away from all foods containing toxins and additives. Eliminate processed and junk food from your diet. Alcohol and excessive caffeine are also too toxic for you to consume.

This book never recommends drinking tap water, but in your case it is even more important that you avoid it. Tap water is full of environmental contaminants, includ- ing those that are linked to Alzheimers.

 



Testing Techniques

 

Conventional testing, such as a CT scan, an MRI, and an electroencephalo- gram, as well as routine  blood work, are standard.  Additional helpful testing includes

Toxic metal testing for elements  toxic to brain tissue, such as aluminum, mercury,  lead, arsenic,  and others. The best test is a toxic element challenge urinalysis. The patient takes a chelating  agent such as DMSA or DMPS, which pulls toxic metals out of tissue storage. Urine is then collected, usually for twenty-four hours.

Oxidative  stress analysis—urine or blood testing Antioxidant testing (urine, blood,  or skin scanning) Stool analysis

Hormone analysis by saliva, urine, or blood (estrogens, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, melatonin, IGF-1, thyroid panel)

 

It may surprise you to learn that many foods, especially baked goods, contain alu- minum. Read all food labels carefully. Dont use self-rising flour, choose nonalu- minum baking powder, and avoid pickling salts. Youll also need to avoid food cooked in aluminum pots and pans, as well as beverages that come in aluminum cans.

Sometimes food allergies cause reactions that are similar to the symptoms of Alzheimers. See the Food Allergies section and the elimination diet discussed there, to determine whether youre allergic to any foods.

 

 Detoxification

 

A three-day juice fast once a month will help flush toxins out of your body. Support your fast with a wide variety of juices so that you get the nutrition you need.

If you do indeed suffer from heavy-metal poisoning, consider oral or IV chelation therapy to rid your body of these toxins. Make sure you find a qualified, reputable practitioner.

 
Super Seven Prescriptions—Alzheimers Disease

 

Super Prescription #1    Acetyl-L-carnitine

Take 1,000 mg three times daily. It improves brain cell communication and memory.

Super Prescription #2    DHA

Take a fish oil supplement that contains a daily dosage of 1,000 mg of DHA. It supplies essential fatty acids for proper brain function.

Super Prescription #3    Ginkgo biloba (24 percent flavone glycosides)

Take 120 mg two to three times daily. It improves circulation to the brain, improves memory, and has antioxidant benefits.

Super Prescription #4    Club moss (Huperzia serrata)

Take a product standardized to contain 0.2 mg of huperizine A daily. This compound has been shown to increase acetylcholine levels in the brain and to improve memory in people with Alzheimers disease.


 

HA is the primary component  of the cell membranes of neurons. It also pro- motes nerve transmis- sion in the central nervous system and protects the mitochon- dria (energy ware- house of cells). Studies have shown that low levels of serum DHA are a risk factor for Alzheimers disease.

 

The herb ginkgo biloba  has been shown to be helpful for people  with early- stage Alzheimers dis- ease. It has been approved for the treat- ment of this disease by the German  gov- ernment.  A study done in 1994,  involv- ing forty patients who had early-stage Alzheimers disease, found that 240 mg of ginkgo biloba  extract taken daily for three months produced measurable improve- ments in memory, attention,  and mood. In addition,  three other double-blind studies have demon- strated that ginkgo is helpful for the early stages of the disease.



 

Several clinical trials have found that supple- mentation of acetyl-L-carnitine delays the progres- sion of Alzheimers disease,  improves memory,  and improves overall performance in some people  with Alzheimers disease.

 

ne placebo- controlled trial found that 58 percent  of people with Alzheimers disease had signifi- cant improvement in memory,  as well as in mental and behavioral func- tion, from taking 200 mcg of huperzine A twice a day for eight weeks. This was considered a statis- tically significant improvement, com- pared  to the 36 per- cent who responded to placebo.

Super Prescription #5    Phosphatidylserine

Take 300 mg daily. This naturally occurring phospholipid improves brain cell communication and memory and has shown benefits for early-stage Alzheimers disease.

Super Prescription #6    Vitamin B12

Take 800 to 1,600 micrograms daily. Consider using a sublingual form. Vitamin

B12 deficiency mimics the symptoms of Alzheimers disease.

Super Prescription #7    Vitamin E

Take 2,000 IU daily of a complex with added tocotrienols. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that protects against free radical damage. Studies show that it slows the progression of Alzheimers disease. Do not take this high a dosage if you are on blood-thinning medication.

 
General Recommendations

 

Ashwagandha (Withania somniferum) is used as a brain tonic in Ayurvedic medicine. It reduces stress hormone levels. Take 100 to 3,000 mg daily.

Panax ginseng improves memory and balances stress hormone levels. Take a stan- dardized product containing 4 to 7 percent ginsenosides at 100 to 250 mg twice daily. Do not use it if you have high blood pressure.

DHEA is an important hormone for cognitive function. If your level is low, talk with your doctor about starting at a 15 mg dosage.

Cordyceps sinensis is used in Chinese medicine for poor memory. Take 2 to 4 capsules daily.

DMAE helps the body produce acetylcholine for memory, and it also has antiox- idant properties. Take 600 mg daily.

An antioxidant formula to use should contain a wide range of antioxidants, such as selenium, carotenoids, vitamin C, and others.

Chlorella speeds up the detoxification of toxic metals that may be causing free rad- ical damage. Take as directed on the container.

Phosphatidylcholine increases acetylcholine levels to improve memory. Take 1,000 to 1,500 mg daily.

NADH has been shown to improve mental function in one clinical trial. Take 10 mg daily.

Vitamin B1 has been shown to improve mental function in people with Alzheimers disease. Take 3 grams daily.

 

Homeopathy

 

Although homeopathy cannot cure Alzheimers, it can reduce or alleviate many of its symptoms. Consult with a licensed homeopath for a constitutional remedy. In the meantime, here are a few temporary suggestions.

Alumina can clear confusion and reduce memory impairment. The person often suffers from constipation. Take 30C daily for three or four days, and see if improve- ment occurs within a week.

Lycopodium (Lycopodium clavatum) can help if youre fearful and have trouble recalling words. Take 30C two times daily for two weeks.

 

Acupressure

  Stomach 36 tones the entire body, while improving the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream.

Governing Vessel 24.5 is easy to reach (its at the center of the forehead, between the eyebrows), and it strengthens both memory and concentration.

To relieve anxiety or nervous tension, work Pericardium 6.

Lung 1 will ease depression and encourage deep, slow breathing.

 

Bodywork

 

Massage

Lymphatic massage detoxifies the body, while improving circulation (including cir- culation to the brain). Because it is a gentle therapy, lymphatic massage is ideal for people in the later stages of Alzheimers, who may be upset by more vigorous manip- ulation. If your skin is dry, you may want the therapist to use a little lubricating oil during treatment.

 

Reflexology


To detoxify cells and tissues, work the area corresponding to the lymph system. Encourage blood flow to the brain by working the heart.

Work the lungs to oxygenate the blood.

 

Other  Bodywork  Recommendations

Hot and cold hydrotherapy is invigorating and stimulates blood ow to the brain. Try alternating hot and cold baths for the best effect.

 

Aromatherapy

Juniper helps break down toxins that reside within fatty deposits. Add it to your bath or use it during a lymphatic massage.

Black pepper will stimulate digestion, which can improve the absorption of nutri- ents. Dilute it in some carrier oil, and rub directly onto the abdomen.

The changing mood states of people with Alzheimers may sometimes call for relax- ing oils; at other times, oils with a stimulating effect are in order. Oils that have relax- ing, calming properties include lavender and melissa. To rouse the mind and raise the spirits, try geranium, jasmine, neroli, bergamot, or rose.

 

Stress Reduction

 

A diagnosis of Alzheimers is an extremely stressful event, especially when you are still quite capable and aware of the challenges to come. During these early stages, its vital that you find stress-reduction techniques that work for you; they will increase the quality—and perhaps even the quantity—of the time you have left.

 

General Stress-Reduction Therapies

Alzheimers can make you feel alone, even if youre supported by a loving family. Join a support group of other people who have Alzheimers, to share your feelings. (You may also want to encourage your loved ones to attend a support group of their own. Theyre coping with the shock, too.)

Meditation and prayer will help you manage stress and will also keep your mind and memory functioning at their optimum level for as long as possible.



Bach Flower Remedies

 

Select the appropriate remedy, and place 10 drops under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.

Rescue Remedy will help you deal with any crisis calmly, including the initial diag- nosis or the difficult times afterward.

If you are so afraid of what the future holds that you tend to cling to the past, take

Honeysuckle.

If you usually handle obstacles with aplomb and courage but just cant find the strength to face the challenges posed by your illness, take Oak.

  

Other Recommendations

 

Regular exercise will keep blood flowing to the brain. A daily walk in the morning sunlight can also do wonders for your spirits.

If youre trying to prevent Alzheimers, keep yourself active and learning. A

lack of mental engagement may be connected to loss of brain function.

Avoid sources of aluminum and mercury. Some food sources of aluminum

were listed earlier, but you must also read the labels on antacids, diarrhea med-

ications, buffered aspirin, deodorants, and douches. You may want to consider having dental fillings composed of a silver-mercury amalgam replaced with a nontoxic substance.

Simple routines are quite helpful to many people in the early and middle stages

of Alzheimers. Make a schedule for your day, and plan to perform more com-

plicated tasks during the hours when you usually feel your best.

Although it is very difficult to face the inevitable, many people with Alzheimers feel much better when they plan ahead. If you work out your legal and financial arrangements now, and discuss your wishes for the future with your family, you may find that you can enjoy a stronger sense of peace and well-being.

If you are the caregiver of a person who has Alzheimers, you probably need some help. Contact local support groups to find low-cost assistance with trans- portation, meals, and even day care for the elderly.

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