5 min|Dr. Taylor Green
A Naturopathic Approach to Alzheimer’s DiseaseWellness, Mind Health, Health
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, devastating to sufferers and their families.Evidence suggests the disease process evolves 10-20 years before symptoms begin to manifest as beta-amyloid protein slowly accumulates in the brain. Unfortunately, current medication shows little efficacy at slowly or reversing disease progression. It is therefore imperative to understand the root causes of AZ and the factors that may protect the brain from this devastating condition. Furthermore, AZ is nearly three times as common in women as men (read blog post here).
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) often starts in our early thirties and begins as very subtle shifts in memory recall, focus, thinking, judgement, planning, directions, language, and our mood. Fortunately, most, if not all symptoms of MCI are reversible when efforts to address underlying health concerns contributing to AD development are taken with early dietary, lifestyle and nutraceutical interventions.
Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Disease
- ApoE4 gene
- Blood sugar dysregulation & diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Elevated LDL cholesterol
- Lack of physical activity
- Toxins: smoking, alcohol, drugs, heavy metals, chronic infections, pesticides
- Lack of participation in mentally or socially stimulating activities
- Hormone deficiency, especially estrogen in women
- Gut dysbiosis
- Head trauma
Symptoms of AZ include:
- Decreasing mental clarity by the end of the day
- Decreased recognition of faces
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks, problem solving
- Trouble maintaining conversation
- Forgetting recently learned information, words, dates, events, & use of vocabulary
- New anxiety especially when driving, finding directions
- Social withdrawal & Depression
Naturopathic Strategies in Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention & Support
Feed Your BrainAZ is being recognized as “type 3 diabetes of the brain”. Insulin resistance plays a pivotal role in amyloid plaque formation in the brain, the hallmark of AZ. Additionally, high blood sugar levels impact cognition and brain health by impairing oxygen supply to the brain and damaging neurons. Nutritional goals for cognition are to focus on low glycemic index, high antioxidants, and high fiber foods. Excellent brain foods include nuts & seeds, sweet potatoes, legumes, berries, gala apples, oranges, wild fatty fish, organic eggs (excellent source of choline – the backbone of the neurotransmitter, Acetylcholine that is affected in AZ), spices such as rosemary & turmeric, and green tea. MCT oil daily can also supercharge the brain by boosting ketone production.
Get Your ZZ'sWhen we sleep, our brains flush away toxins and waste products associated with AZ. Research shows that poor, fragmented sleep actually increases AZ risk as the brain cannot perform this clean-up process that occurs during deep sleep. Meditation has also been shown to improve brain function and reduce inflammation. Even 5-10 minutes is highly beneficial.
Workout Your Body and Brain
It is well-known that regular exercise reduces inflammation and prevents many chronic diseases by increasing oxygen uptake, moving the lymphatics, boosting mitochondrial health, and detoxification via sweating. Exercise that requires hand-eye coordination is optimal for brain health. Try activities like tennis, squash, racquetball, and dancing. Just like the body, the brain needs regular exercise to stay sharp. Reading, learning a new skill, and puzzles put your brain to work. Brain training apps such as Lumosity make brain training exercises convenient in the palm of your hand.
Stay HydratedWater, and optimal hydration is essential. The brain is 80% water and is essential for all chemical reactions and energy production. Even a 2-4% water loss can cause neurological symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, brain fog, etc. Coffee, alcohol, and sugary drinks significantly increase dehydration.
Supplement Your BrainAddressing nutrient & hormonal deficiencies as well as other potential underlying causes of AZ is imperative. This means supplementation is individual to one’s unique needs. While there are many nutrients and supplements that are beneficial for cognitive health & AZ, below are my favourites based on research.
- Acetyl-L-Carnitine – antioxidant that boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF, a key. Molecule involved in neuroplasticity related to learning & memory. Acetyl-L-carnitine also supports fat metabolism and mitochondrial function, helping prevent mental fatigue.
- Gingko biloba – a well-known herb than enhances memory, Gingko increases blood flow and oxygen to brain tissue while protected brain cells from damage.
- Phosphatidylcholine – while a mouthful to pronounce, this nutrient provides the fatty lipids used to repair brain and nervous system neurons (cells) and promote proper communication between cells. It is estimated that only 10% of the population is reaching their daily choline needs. Organic free-range eggs are the best dietary source of choline!
- Resveratrol – prevents AZ and dementia progression by playing a role in beta-amyloid plaque clearance.
- Omega-3’s EPA & DHA – helps to reduce neuro inflammation and promote positive mood.
- Huperizine A- derived from firmoss plant, this antioxidant acts to keep acetylcholine (the memory & language neurotransmitter) around in the brain longer.
- Honorable mention also goes to: lions mane, curcumin, CoQ10, vitamin D, E, B vitamins, bacopa, and alpha-lipoic acid.
References1. Bredesen, D. E. (2020). The end of alzheimer's: The first program to prevent and reverse cognitive decline. Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
2. Duarte, A., Santos, M., Oliveira, C., & Moreira, P. (2018). Brain insulin signalling, glucose metabolism and females' reproductive aging: A dangerous triad in Alzheimer's disease. Neuropharmacology, 136, 223-242. doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2018.01.044
3. Mcgurran, H., Glenn, J., Madero, E., & Bott, N. (2020). Risk Reduction and Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease: Biological Mechanisms of Diet. Current Alzheimer Research, 17. doi:10.2174/1567205017666200624200651
4. Mosconi, L. (2020). The XX brain: The groundbreaking approach for women to prevent dementia and Alzheimer's disease and improve brain health. Strawberry Hills, NSW: ReadHowYouWant.
Dr. Taylor Green
Dr. Taylor Green has always been fascinated by the intricacies of nature, the human body and health sciences. For her, health is not defined by the absence of disease, but the balance between mind, body, and environment.