Our Integrative Approach to Alzheimer's Disease

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Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly.  

AD is defined as memory loss with at least one other area of cognitive impairment (e.g., language, attention, orientation, self-monitoring, judgment, motor skill, inability to perform daily activities). Memory loss usually begins at about age 65 and slowly progresses to severe impairment over 8 to 10 years, but it may present earlier and advance at a faster or slower rate; early onset of Alzheimer's disease heralds a particularly aggressive form.

Typically, language deficits are prominent, including word finding (especially nouns), comprehension, repetition, and fluency. Social graces, which may remain surprisingly intact for years, eventually deteriorate to a loss of inhibition with periods of aggression or withdrawal. Personality and behavioural changes as well as problems in judgment occur with increasing severity. Death usually occurs from malnutrition, heart disease, or infection. Approximately 20% of cases of Alzheimer's are actually attributable to another disease process; definitive diagnosis can only be confirmed at time of autopsy.

Source : IM Gateway

 

New Insights into Alzheimer's Disease - Dr Dale Bredesen

Dr Dale Bredessen.

Source: http://www.buckinstitute.org/bredesenLab

Much of the new pioneering work in the field of Alzheimer's Disease research and treatment, has come from Dr Dale Bredesen, pictured above.  

He served as Chief Resident in Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) before joining Nobel laureate Stanley Prusiner’s laboratory at UCSF as an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow.  Dr. Bredesen directed the Program on Aging at the Burnham Institute before going to the Buck Institute in 1998 as its founding President and CEO.

Dr. Bredesen’s research has led to new insights that explains the erosion of memory seen in Alzheimer’s disease, and has opened the door to a new therapeutic approach.  

He has found evidence that Alzheimer’s disease stems from an imbalance in nerve cell signaling. 

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In the normal brain, specific signals foster nerve connections and memory making, while balancing signals support memory breaking, allowing irrelevant information to be forgotten. But in Alzheimer’s disease, the balance of these opposing signals is disturbed, nerve connections are suppressed, and memories are lost.

This model is contrary to popular dogma that Alzheimer’s is a disease of toxicity, caused by the accumulation of sticky plaques in the brain.  Dr Bredesen believes the amyloid beta peptide, the source of the plaques, has a normal function in the brain -- promoting signals that allow some of the nerve connections to lapse.  Thus the increase in the peptide that occurs in Alzheimer’s disease shifts the memory-making vs. memory-breaking balance in favor of memory loss.

Source: http://www.buckinstitute.org/bredesenLab

For further information on Dr Bredesen, click here

 

Amyloid Beta Protects the Brain from infection

The amyloid beta peptide, which Dr Bredesen has researched, is an anti-microbial peptide in the brain.  It is a potent, broad specturm antibiotic that targets;

  • certain types of bacteria
  • mycobacteria
  • enveloped viruses
  • fungi
  • protozoans

Amyloid Beta is also a potent immune modulator, that can release inflammatory chemicals in the brain. 

Amyloid Beta is then part of a normal protective response in the brain, which is produced when provoked by;

  • inflammation (from infections, and/or diet)
  • exposure to toxins (from heavy metals such as mercury, aluminium) 
  • withdrawal of brain growth support (from hormones, low vitamin D)

 

Alzheimer's Disease - Our Central Concepts for Evaluation and Treatment

Based on Dr Bredesen's work, our core goal is identify what the driving force is behind the Alzheimer's Disease in our presenting patient.  This is because, as we have explained above, "Alzheimer's Disease" is actually a protective response to three major metabolic and toxic insults:

  • inflammation/infection
  • lowered brain growth support (atrophic)
  • toxin exposure & accumulation
  Source: metagenics.com.au

Source: metagenics.com.au

There are approximately 100 biochemical, genetic, functional and historic parameters that characterize each patient or person at risk.  This make it obviously extremely important to be as thorough with any investigations as possible, to ensure that the correct drivers of AD are identified. 

Once the drivers have been identified, then a nutritional treatment plan can be implemented.

 

Our Naturopathic and Nutritional Medicine Treatment Options for Alzheimer's Disease

 

provide Core brain health nutrition

Providing key foundational nutrition for brain health is fundamental in Alzheimer's disease management.  This can be done with certain nutrients in the correct forms and doses, such as phophatidylserine, tocotrienols, CoQ10, magnesium, and Omega-3 Fatty acids.  Bacopa, tumeric, saffron and gingko are herbs which may enhance brain health also. 

Omega 3 Fatty Acids are essential for your all aspects of your health. The body can't make them, so you need to get them through your diet.

Geelong nutritionist Adrian Stone details the best foods for getting more Omega 3's into your diet.

 

manage the drivers - Inflammatory

This will largely come from reducing the pro inflammatory components in the diet, especially the amount of trans fats, sugars and refined carbohydrates.  

Blood sugar imbalances and insulin resistance can drive the inflammatory process, and can largely be controlled through a well designed low carbohydrate style diet.

Chromium, and cinnamon have shown benefit in helping to balance blood sugars also.

Photo by armano777/iStock / Getty Images

Anti-inflammatory herbs like turmeric, boswellia, and hops can help to reduce the inflammation in the brain also.  Highly purified Omega-3 Fatty Acids are able to do this also.

 

Manage the Drivers - chronic Infection

Persistent chronic infections, be they bacterial, viruses, yeasts, parasites or moulds, need to be assessed and dealt with if necessary in Alzheimer's disease, to reduce the amount of Amyloid Beta being generated.  Natural anti-microbials can be very effective at doing this.

Persistent Chronic infections are one of the main factors which can cause the development of autoimmune conditions, like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer's disease.

Geelong Nutritionist Adrian Stone, from Living Holistic Health, explains how this can happen.

Certain herbal anti-microbials and essential oils, such black walnut, berberine, thyme, oregano oil, and garlic, can reduce the chronic infection load, and help to break down any persistent biofilms.

If there is a viral component, herbs such as astragalas, echinacea, garlic and elderberry can be used.  Reishi mushooms also have excellent anti-viral activity.

Nutrients such as lysine, zinc and Vitamin D will help to boost the immune system to fight off infections also.

Zinc and Vitamin D are crucial for immune health.

Watch this video as Nutritionist Adrian Stone explains the importance of these 2 nutrients.

manage the drivers - toxic metals

Toxic metals, often called ‘Heavy Metals’, may enter the human body through food, water, air, or absorption through the skin in agriculture and in manufacturing, pharmaceutical, industrial, or residential settings.

Heavy metals become toxic when they are not metabolised by the body and accumulate in various tissues.  When collected, the body tends to "hide" them in fatty tissue, and the brain is a very fatty organ.  As these metals accumulate over the course of our lives, if not expelled from the body then issues may arise, with Alzheimer's disease.

Sources of toxic metals can include;

  • Occupational: e.g. plumbers, miners, welders, renovators etc. 
  • Household: e.g. lead plumbing, aluminium utensils etc.  
  • Personal care: e.g. aluminium deodorants, amalgam (mercury) dental filling
  • Lifestyle: smoking, high seafood intake

We can assess the levels of toxic metal body storage with a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis, for more information on this click here

If toxic metals are found to be an issue,  then helping to eliminate them from the body can be done using certain nutrients and herbs.  These bind to the metals, safely remove it from the nerve tissue, and take it out of the body, (when you go to the toilet!).  

To help assess whether you might be at risk of toxic metal accumulation, click here to access our Detox Questionnnaire.

It is important to get professional medical advice when seeking to remove toxic metals from the body, as the process can be quite dangerous if not adequately controlled.

 

Manage the drivers - lowered brain growth support (Atrophic)

 Hormone support, including sex hormones such as oestrogen, can be crucial in Alzheimer's disease management.

Hormone support, including sex hormones such as oestrogen, can be crucial in Alzheimer's disease management.

Evaluating hormone levels, including thyroid, oestrogens, testosterone, DHEA, pregneolone, and cortisol is a key component of Alzheimer's disease evaluation.  

Once evaluated, it can be determined which parts of the body need more support (thyroid, stress, sex hormones).

Ensuring a diet high in cruciferous vegetables and good fats is a key component of balancing hormone production in the body.  Lots of leafy greens, avocado, raw nuts and seeds, olive oil and regular fish meals are crucial for this.

Herbs such as vitex, withania, rehmannia, tribulus and zizyphus in the correct forms and doses can help to support sex and thyroid hormone production.  Nutrients such as tyrosine, B6, zinc, tocopherols, selenium and iodine can also assist.  

Stress hormone production can be supported with the correct nutrition also, click here for more information.

SAFETY WARNING - PLEASE NOTE

As with any health advice from the internet, (or anywhere else), please make sure you follow the advice of your health care professional primarily.   If you would like to try any of the options listed above, please talk to your healthcare practitioner, (including us), about this first.  We have seen so many clients come through our clinic, who have tried to self medicate with natural therapies, and have gotten into worse problems, or have not received any benefits.   There are plenty of cheap, dodgy supplements on the market these days, so please be wary as cheaper is definitely not better!

 

SOUNDS GREAT, NOW HOW CAN I IMPLEMENT THIS?

You can hopefully get some take away points from this information, but if you need further assistance, then we are here to help you. Seeing a qualified practitioner can take the guess work out of the equation for you, saving you time and money in the long run, and get you feeling better much faster.

You will get the benefit of our skills and expertise to correctly identify the best nutritional treatment options for you.  You will be prescribed only the best quality herbs and nutrients, which means that you know that you are taking only the nutrients that you really need, and that they are the best quality available. 

With guidance from us and these simple tips, you can become less inflamed – strengthening your body to become more resilient to the effects of Alzheimer's disease.