Have You Ever Thought About Alzheimer’s disease (AD)?
You always think that when you finally go, that you don’t want to go of cancer, a stroke, or a car accident. But did you ever think that you could be one of a growing number who develop AD as they grow older? Perhaps you are like me, the thought hardly ever crossed your mind that when you turn 85, you have an almost 50% chance of developing AD. The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease increases as you age, and in many developed countries almost half of all elderly over 85 years of age are eventually diagnosed with AD. (47.2% of all Americans over 85yrs in 1999) So, inspite of the fact that we would all like to think that dementia will never happen to us, the odds are 50/50 if you get over 80yrs of age.
Probably the most characteristic symptom of AD is a profound impairment of a person’s recent memory. Individuals begin to misplace everyday items, typically the car keys or sunglasses, and become disoriented and get lost in familiar surrounds (such as when driving on well-known streets). As the disease progresses they may experience mood swings with anxiety, depression or aggressive behaviour. They often become uninterested in usual activities, and in the terminal phase there is apathy and an inability to communicate.
Ok, by now you are thinking that you are pre-AD, right? You have memory loss, you lose your car keys, forgot which street you parked the car and got anxious the other day. Wrong, you’re probably stressed, more like it! Relax, short term memory loss is one of the first things to occur when you are stressed. Many stressed people have difficulties sleeping well, and can often have subsequent poor energy and brain power levels. Whilst you rarely develop AD at an earlier age, (3% of persons aged 65 to 74), it is much more commonly developed as you age. An older person is more likely to have accumulated more toxins over their lifetime. All the more reason for you to schedule a detox in your day planner for the up coming spring!
Stress and toxic burden are main causes of much chronic ill health today; they can potentially cause major nervous system and immune dys-regulation. We all know that toxins which build up in our systems is not the best, but prolonged stress is no good, whether you have AD, or not. Recent research is America has found that AD patients should not be subjected to excessive or prolonged stress, because stress causes the release of too much of the hormone cortisol that is implicated in the development of AD, which in turn can accelerate the progression of AD.
Complementary Treatments for AD
ALL AD patients generally are treated with specific proven treatments, and any natural therapy which increases an AD individual’s sense of well being or wellness is likely to be of benefit, alongside conventional care.
Whilst many naturopaths will never see AD patients, others will encounter them from time to time. Complementary treatments such as nutritional therapy, diet, exercise, massage or acupuncture should be used to the extent that they work for each individual patient, on a case for case basis. The same principle holds for any chronic or acute condition.
Various cultures have their own AD treatment and care practices, which many people find helpful and which can often provide additional benefits to health and well being. If natural treatment involves the use of herbs or other strong preparations, care should be taken as the person with AD may be more susceptible to the preparation, and may be more likely to experience unwanted side effects. AD patients can be less forthcoming with complaints about aggravations too, making treatment more difficult to gauge adequately. Dementia, particularly when advanced, is best treated by the experts, but natural medicine can always play a most supportive role, regardless of the phase an AD patient is in..
Areas which I feel need extra support for the AD patient are their digestive and nervous system systems. As one might expect, the dementia patient are at a higher risk of malnutrition which in its own way can be associated with the apathy, disorientation, poor concentration and very poor memory. AD patients are quite prone to B12, folate and essential fatty acid deficiencies. The B Vitamins are very important for them, as well as zinc, another common deficiency.
Suspected Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease
- Very likely Advanced age, family history, head injury, depression, poor blood flow, stroke, oestrogen imbalance, poor word fluency, apolipoprotein E-4.
- Likely Emotional stress, toxic damage, too much alcohol, nutrient deficiencies, neurotransmitter deficits, metabolic defects, under-activity, lower educational level, electromagnetic exposure.
- Possible Aluminum, latent viruses, high sugar consumption, olfactory deficit (can’t smell), coronary artery disease.
Standard tests for Alzheimer’s disease
Important blood markers in particular are for Homocysteine, B6, B12, and folate levels along with markers of inflammation, including C-Reactive Protein (CRP). High homocysteine levels in the blood may accelerate the deterioration of the body’s immune system. Other studies have shown that increased levels of homocysteine are associated with poor cognitive skills, dementia, kidney disease and even cancer. C-Reactive Protein is a type of protein that is produced in the liver and released in response to acute injury, bacterial & viral Infection or other stimulants of inflammation, such as those which occur as part of the AD process. It is important for the AD patient to get CRP and Homocysteine tested, as part of their blood panel.
Adrenal function test, including cortisol and DHEA done through the saliva also are quite useful tests. Often the thyroid and adrenal glands are adversely affected with AD, and when supported correctly can make a marked difference to the quality of life of an AD patient. Liver and kidney function tests (creatinine clearance) are very handy when done 6 monthly for those on medications, to determine how effective the liver and kidneys are at clearing any drug residues from the body. Often an EKG is performed to assess the heart function. A CT or MRI scan of the head may be ordered by the neurologist to determine how the symptoms may have been caused – by neuronal plaques or neuro-fibrillary tangles. Complete blood hormone profiles also give the doctor understanding of the hormone imbalances affecting the AD patient, and their possible correction.
Why Should You Consider A Hair Analysis?
Naturally, we cannot forget the link between aluminium, heavy metals and other toxins in the cause of AD.
Regular monitoring of the blood and at least annual hair analysis are important in improving the outcome of a person developing AD. You may have read the recent article on hair analysis in the Healthy Options magazine. Hair analysis is becoming an increasingly popular and low cost way of discovering a person’s toxic and nutrient element load in the body. In advanced cases of AD, it is more important of course to correct and nutritional imbalances or deficiencies, rather than worry about detoxification of any heavy metals. Heavy metal detoxification is more appropriate and important in terms of prevention and possibly the earliest of stages of dementias such as AD.
Aluminium is long known to be suspected trigger in AD, and it is surprising how many people’s hair test results come back with high levels of aluminium, along with other heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead. What I have come to the realisation with many chronically unwell patients is the sheer amount of toxic load they are carrying, I wonder, what if they had regular cleanses or detoxifications over the years, what if? What if you changed the oil and the oil filter in your car’s engine every ten years? I guess you probably know the likely outcome in that case.
Eric’s Alzheimer Recommendations: The Best 8 Things To Take*
*Please Note: Treatment early in the course of the AD is likely to be much more effective than later treatment. Whilst there are many theories about the neurological development and progression of AD, I’d like to focus on what has been shown to work well in a natural medicine sense to support the AD patient, particularly when treated at the onset.1. Ginkgo biloba extract (best to be the standardised extract containing 24% ginkgo heterosides), dosage is 40 mg, 3 times per day, for at least 3 months (numerous controlled studies; some results are conflicting, but most studies show moderate to good benefit).Ginkgo biloba may well help to alleviate the poor blood supply to the brain that usually accompanies age associated memory impairment and improves various aspects of mental function. A 1997 Journal of the American Medical Association study confirmed the successful use of ginkgo in improving cognitive performance, mood and social functioning in Alzheimer’s patients. This study noted ginkgo’s potential for improving short term memory, longer attention span and oxygen metabolism in the brain with improved transport of oxygen and glucose, the energy source of the brain. I believe that Ginkgo is one of the top herbs for AD patient, but quality is essential, and do use the standardised herb for best effect. I also like using this herb in a potent liquid form in those who have had a stroke, it helps to prevent further strokes and has too many benefits for the brain to mention.
2. Vitamin B 12 Have 1,000 mcg intramuscularly, once a week for 6 weeks; continue as needed, if improvement is seen. This is very important, I feel that most AD patients can benefit to some degree with this most important nervous system vitamin. In some cases, the addition of basic B-complex vitamin formula when given along with the injection may really enhance the efficacy of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 may improve some aspects of frontal lobe function and language skills of the dementia patient- Dementia may actually occur as a result of Vitamin B12 deficiency, and it has long been speculated that B12 deficiency may contribute to the development of AD.
3. DHEA (orally), 5-25 mg/day for women, 10-50 mg/day for men, if levels are low: This treatment appears to reverse cognitive decline in some cases, as has been observed by physicians overseas. Intravenous administration of DHEA (200 mg/day for 4 weeks) resulted in improvement in 3 of 7 patients with multi-infarct dementia (uncontrolled trial). In a double-blind study, 50 mg/day of DHEA for 6 months resulted in a non-significant improvement in cognitive function, compared with placebo, in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (Neurology 2003;60-1071-1076). You can get it over the internet, but self-prescribing is not recommended. Please consult with your health care professional before taking any DHEA yourself, it is not available in NZ without a prescription.
4. Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) This amazing amino acid can have most positive effects in AD. As little as 500-1,000 mg, 3 times per day, may in some cases significantly improve cognitive function or slow the rate of deterioration in cases of AD or cognitive decline. ALC (2,500 – 3,000 mg per day) at a higher dose may more deeply inhibit the deterioration in mental function associated with AD and may actually help to retard the progression of AD. Acetyl-L-Carnitine may increase alertness, inhibit any toxicity of Amyloidal-Beta Protein (ABP) to nervous tissues, and help to improve the attention span, concentration and short term memory of the AD patient.
5. Lecithin has been shown to improve some measures of cognitive function in patients with early (but not advanced) Alzheimer’s disease. However, the optimal dosage is unknown, and there appears to be a “therapeutic window,” above which the beneficial effects of lecithin treatment are lost. A reasonable dosage recommendation would be 1-2 tablespoons per day, depending on the phosphatidylcholine content of the lecithin (i.e., lower dose for higher quality lecithin (higher phosphatidylcholine content). Henry Osiecki, one of Australia’s leading nutritional medicine experts, recommends to sprinkle 3 – 4 dessertspoons of lecithin granules over foods every day for AD patients. I quite like the sweetish taste of lecithin, and it tastes ok on top of warm porridge in the morning. Some people won’t touch it because it comes from soy, and they are allergic to it.
6. Vitamin E (1,000 IU twice a day for 2 years) slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (double-blind trial). Almost 50% of Alzheimer’s disease patients often exhibit low blood Vitamin E levels and Vitamin E helps to prevent AD. Vitamin E may help to restore the enzyme that generates acetylcholine activity in AD patients.
7. Phosphatidylserine (PS), 100 mg, 3 times per day: Soy phosphatidylserine is the more common form of supplemental phosphatidylserine. Soy Phosphatidylserine is equally effective as (and possibly more effective than) bovine phosphatidylserine for therapeutic purposes. There were 16 clinical trials completed with PS for cognition (11 double-blind, 5 less stringently controlled) consistently indicating that PS provides metabolic support for memory, learning, concentration, and behaviour. This one is well worth taking, with any cognitive decline. People who are using pharmaceutical anticoagulants such as warfarin or heparin should consult their practitioner before using supplementary phosphatidylserine. Phosphatidylserine enhances the effectiveness of anticoagulant drugs and phosphatidylserine use may well necessitate a lowered dosage of an anticoagulant.
8. Melissa officinalis(lemon balm) extract (60 drops/day of a 1:1 tincture, standardised to contain at least 500 mcg/ml of citral): In a double-blind study, AD treatment with melissa extract for 16 weeks produced a significantly better outcome on measures of cognitive function, and significantly reduced agitation, compared with placebo.The objective of a study done in Iran, was to assess the efficacy and safety of Melissa officinalis extract using a fixed dose (60 drops/day) in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. This was a four month, placebo controlled trial. Melissa officinalis extract was found of value in the management of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease and has a positive effect on agitation in such patients. And, it smells nice too!
- Akhondzadeh, S., et al. Melissa officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled trial. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 74(7):863-866, 2003.
- Clarke, R., et al. Folate, vitamin B12, and serum total homocysteine levels in confirmed Alzheimer’s disease. Arch Neurol. 55(11):1449-1455, 1998.
- Graves, A. B., et al. The association between aluminum-containing products and Alzheimer’s disease. J Clin Epidemiol. 43(1):35-44, 1990.
- Crawford, J. G. Alzheimer’s disease risk factors as related to cerebral blood flow: additional evidence. Medical Hypotheses. 50(1):25-36, 1998.
- Little, A., et al. A double-blind, placebo controlled trial of high-dose lecithin in Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. 48(8):736-742, 1985.
- Nijst, T. Q., et al. Vitamin B12 and folate concentrations in serum and cerebrospinal fluid of neurological patients with special reference to multiple sclerosis and dementia. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 53(11):951-954, 1990.
- Hershowitz, M., et al. Long-term treatment of dementia Alzheimer type with phosphatidylserine: effect on cognitive functioning and performance in daily life. In: Bazan N. G., et al (eds). Phospholipids in the Nervous
Author – Eric Bakker ND Article written – July 2004 Updated – 9 February 2011