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Alzheimer's Disease

What is Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain that ultimately results in dementia. Because dementia is a symptom of many disorders, a diagnosis is usually made when all of the other diseases have been eliminated. Although usually seen in elderly people, Alzheimer's disease may begin in middle age. Patients exhibit widespread cognitive deficits, including memory loss (particularly for recent events), shortened attention span and disorientation, and eventual language loss. Formerly good-natured individuals become irritable, moody and confused. Mental deterioration occurs to the degree that it interferes with the person's ability to function socially and at work. Ultimately, hallucinations occur.

Alzheimer's disease is associated with a deficit of Acetylcholine (Ach) and with structural changes in the brain, particularly in the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus, areas involved with cognitive functions and memory.

These changes develop over a period of several years, during which time the family members watch the person they love "disappear". Death will usually occur within 5 years if the patient is not treated.

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Alzheimer's runs in families...

Individuals with two genes for APO-E4 are eight times as likely to develop Alzheimer's as those who inherit APO-E3 genes, the more common gene variant for the APO-E protein. APO E4 directs the synthesis of a protein called apolipoprotein E, which helps process cholesterol, plays a role in atherosclerosis, and is linked to at least one type of heart disease. Microscopic examinations of brain tissue reveal the presence of apolipoprotein E bound to beta amyloid protein deposits in senile plaques (aggregations of cells and degenerated fibres around a protein core) and neurofibrillar tangles (twisted fibrils within neuron cell bodies). These tangled nerve fibres surround the hippocampus, the brain's memory centre. The hippocampus is not destroyed, rather the entanglement prevents the brain accessing information from it.

Currently there are no laboratory procedures or biochemical markers that can confirm Alzheimer's disease. Toxic reactions to drugs or small clots to the brain, advanced syphilis, brain tumours, and hypothyroidism often exhibit the same symptoms as Alzheimer's. Dementia may result from arteriosclerosis when the blood supply to the brain is slowly cut off. Loss of brain tissue from a series of minor strokes or from an increased amount of fluid accumulation in the brain might cause dementia.

Environmental Factors and Alzheimer's...

Recent evidence has been presented that some common dementias, including Alzheimer's, are induced by environmental factors. Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Alzheimer's disease are mainly due to some type of toxic exposure - according to Clinical Nutritionist Henry Osiecki.

Research has revealed a strong correlation between Alzheimer's disease and excessive amounts of aluminium concentrated in the brain. Autopsies of victims of Alzheimer's disease reveal excessive amounts of aluminium and silicon in the brain. The hippocampus area and cerebral cortex of Alzheimer's patients contained not only excess amounts of aluminium, but also of bromine, calcium, silicon, and sulphur. In addition, a deficiency of Boron, Potassium, Selenium, Vitamin B12, and Zinc was found. These results may suggest excessive amounts of aluminium in the diet, combined with a lack of several essential minerals, directly or indirectly predispose one to Alzheimer's. In Alzheimer's disease, aluminium has been shown to accumulate in neurofibrillar tangles.

Inflammation in the brain may cause the symptom's of Alzheimer's disease, and is possibly due to oxidative stress. Attack on specific neurons, as a secondary response to the production of free radicals, due to trauma, viral infection, radiation, high copper and iron levels, and low antioxidant levels in the brain contribute further to this oxidative stress.

According to Marcus Welbourne, Senior Science Editor, at the same time you develop age spots in your skin, a brown slime (lipofuscin) begins to form on the neurones in your brain, and short-term memory starts to deteriorate. Age spots, or lipofuscin, are well accepted by medical science as the first warning that we progressing in the direction of senility or dementia. As we age, lipofuscin accumulates in the brain, retinal nerves of the eyes, heart muscle, liver and other organs with spots surfacing on the skin. Nerve cells communicate with each other electrochemically through the microscopic gaps between them called "synapses". The brown, slimy lipofuscin apparently prevents, alters or slows the communication through these synapses. Many scientists are certain that a deficiency of some essential brain nutrients is the cause. A deficiency of Vitamin E, Selenium, Glutathione, Chromium and dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) have been correlated with substantial increases in lipofuscin deposits in the brain and retina.

Detoxification is an important first step...

Environmental toxins and endogenous stimulators of inflammation (free radicals, allergies, infection) are able to induce nerve damage and impaired cognitive function. Specifically targeting heavy metals is vital. Primadophilus should be used to restore gut flora after a cleanse. Correcting any underlying digestive problems is important also to encourage proper elimination of toxins and absorption of nutrients. Repairing gut permeability is vital to prevent autointoxication and absorption of molecules too large to normally cross the gut barrier. Liver detoxification of xenobiotics is also an important part of cleansing.

Brain inflammation can cause excessive nitric oxide (NO) production. Excessive NO depletes intracellular B12 in the central nervous system, and can cause brain lipid oxidative damage - resulting in deficits which may be mistaken for senile dementia. L-Citrulline, L-Lysine, Glutathione and Tocopherols all serve to modulate NO levels. Bioflavonoids such as Rutin and Quercetin may be of some value as they decrease high protein oedemas associated with brain inflammation. Decreasing free radical production and protein glycation is important as they are potentially neurotoxic. Following an eating plan such as the Zone Diet will correct hyper-insulinaemia and insulin resistance, resulting in balanced blood sugar levels.

Dementia may be associated with the following nutritional deficiencies; Vitamin B1, B3, C, D, E, Tryptophan, Zinc, Selenium, Calcium, and elevated brain tissue Copper. Ensure that these nutrients are present in the diet through supplementation. Vitamin C and Zinc should lower brain Copper levels. Disruptive behaviour in demented patients can be reduced by Tryptophan.

Antioxidants are very important to reduce free radical mediated inflammation. Vitamin E, C, Glutathione, and Super Oxide Dismutase - SOD (high potency antioxidant improves utilisation of oxygen - contains glutathione peroxidase) are good choices. Germanium enhances immune function and Kelp supplies trace minerals. Good quality protein intake is essential - particularly in the elderly - the amino acids are required for brain function and tissue repair. A B complex is also essential for brain function and digestion. Vitamin C is necessary for immune function and may increase energy levels.

N-Acetyl-Carnitine (NAC) increases energy production in nervous tissue. The carnitine increases fatty acid transport across the mitochondrial membrane and can also reduce the damage caused by ischaemia/reperfusion events. It is important to note NAC can cross the blood brain barrier but L-carnitine cannot. NADH (activated Vitamin B3) also increases neuronal energy production.

Phosphatidylserine is an excellent supplement and an optimum dose is 300mg daily for 8-12 weeks minimum. Phosphatidylserine facilitates the production and release of acetylcholine, dopamine, protein kinase c and nerve growth factor (it also enhances nerve growth factor). It prevents the age related decline in inter-neurone dendritic connections, restores EEG patterns, and improves brain glucose metabolism - resulting in improved cognition and memory recall.

Huperzine A, 50-100 ug 2xdaily, has been shown to benefit Alzheimer's sufferers. It is an alkaloid from the club moss found in India and China. Alzheimer's disease is associated with a deficit of Acetylcholine (Ach). It has been found to inhibit acetylcholine esterase (AchE), an enzyme which breaks down acetylcholine. Studies have shown 82% of recipients experience benefits.

Improve oxygenation of tissues by improving circulation parameters. Vitamin E, Coenzyme Q10, and Fish oil all assist circulation. Coenzyme Q10 also carries oxygen to cells, is responsible for generating cellular energy, is an antioxidant and is a mitochondrial cofactor (essential to protect neural cells from oxidation). Ginkgo, Gotu kola, Ginger, Butcher's Broom, Garlic all encourage circulation to the brain. Gotu kola revives the mind, aiding memory and focus. Ginseng improves memory, and helps the agitation and confusion. Rosemary stimulates and nourishes the nervous system, improving memory and concentration. Ginkgo is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, increases peripheral circulation (particularly to the head) improving neurovascular function. Bacopa is a nerve tonic, relieving nervous exhaustion and stress - combined with Withania and Gotu kola, Bacopa forms a potent formula for coping with, and recovering from, the effects of stress, nervous exhaustion and debility. Skullcap, Oats, Valerian, and St Johns Wort may also be useful.

Increase intake of neurotransmitter nutrient precursors with their appropriate cofactors including L-Glutamine, 5HTP, Histidine and Adenosine. Lecithin may be a useful addition to the daily diet as it contains phosphatidyl choline. Phosphatidyl choline is needed for brain function, and is used to treat memory loss, and conditions of the nervous system such as dementia and Alzheimer's. For Lecithin to be of benefit it should be taken daily.

SAM-e (S-Adenosyl-Methionine) is a sole methyl donor in many metabolic reactions involving neurotransmitters including acetyl choline. It's concentration is very low in Alzheimer's disease and suggests that there is possible impairment of methylation reaction in the brain. SAM supplements have shown improvement in demented individuals. There are published studies regarding its usefulness in depression and our liquid form (SAM-e) may be absorbed up to 5 times more than a tablet.

Using homoeopathy, treatment would be constitutional, but the following remedies may help. Baryta carb is for confusion due to senile dementia, weakness, tiredness, degeneration of blood vessels. Indications are: fear of strangers/minor things/things that may happen; memory loss; tendency to dwell on past problems; confusion; lack of self-confidence; odd sensations as cobwebs on face or as if inhaling smoke. Mentally dull, may be mentally challenged, forgetful with short attention span. Symptoms are worse for the cold. Belladonna is used for acute confusion. Cannabis indica is for confusion and delusions. Alumina (homoeopathic aluminium) is for confusion, irritability, and obstinacy. Phosphorous is indicated in apprehension, cravings for salt, and accompanied by arteriosclerosis. Ignatia is for symptoms stemming from trauma/bereavement. Lycopodium is for lack of self-confidence, use of the wrong words, particularly in a person who was once sharp and ambitious. Aurum iod is indicated when there is partial paralysis.

Bach flowers may be of emotional assistance. White chestnut is for repetitive thoughts, while Wild rose is indicated for those who drift through life resigned to accept any eventuality. Gentian is used for despondency, and scleranthus is for indecision - when you cannot makeup your mind.

Neroli essential oil helps the nervous system - it counters nervous exhaustion, confusion and depression. Geranium essential oil regulates the nervous system, helps fight panic, confusion, and anxiety. Basil and Rosemary clear the mind and stimulate mental activity. Chamomile, Melissa, Marjoram, Lemon and Lavender are also useful.

Nutritional and Herbal support include:

Multipower - A broad spectrum multivitamin and mineral complex to supply optimal levels of nutrients for maximum cellular function.

Tebonin EGb761 - For improved mental sharpness, concentration, memory & cognitive activity. This product is backed by over 35 years of extensive research, including over 400 published scientific & clinical studies. No other Ginkgo Biloba can make this claim.

Advanced Antioxidant Formula - Contains Vitamin C, E, L-Cysteine, Taurine, L-Glutathione, and SOD-inducers.

Coenzyme Q10 - Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like compound also called ubiquinone. It is an essential component of cells and is utilised by the mitochondria in the normal process of energy production. This Radiance CoQ10 soft-gel has been formulated in a superior and synergistic fat-soluble base of rice bran oil and lecithin to enhance absorption of CoQ10 which is naturally fat soluble.

ENADA - Extra strength NADH (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) supplement. A co-enzyme, antioxidant from of Vit B3, used particularly in the brain & central nervous system. Helpful for Strokes, Alzheimer's or Parkinsons diseases.

Some important points on Alzheimer's disease:

  • Acid rain leeches aluminium out of the soil and into our drinking water. Consume steam-distilled water only. Using fluoridated water in aluminium pots tends to leech significantly more aluminium into the food than unfluoridated water. Diet and allergies may also play a role.
  • The drugs sandostatin and tetrahydroaminoacridine (THA) may reduce some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
  • The signs of alcoholism are much the same as Alzheimer's. Rita Hayworth, who was afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, was at first thought to be an alcoholic.
  • A hair analysis may be needed to determine whether the body contains toxic metals. Reduce heavy metal burden by chelation therapy or by supplementing with Garlic, N-Acetyl Cysteine, Vitamin C powder, Mineral Power, Taurine, and Methionine.
  • Reduce exposure to pesticides and chemicals; a detoxification diet may help.
  • Maintain high fluid intake, avoiding all tea, coffee and alcohol. If the individual has been on diuretics, check for hypokalemia. Supplement with Potassium and Magnesium.
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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.

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