Natural Health News


Naturopathic Health Care Inc.

Dr. Jon Dunn, Licensed Naturopathic Doctor
SEPTEMBER  2008
Alzheimer's - A Natural Approach
Pharmaceutical treatment for AD is transient, minimally beneficial and marked by side effects.  The five drugs approved for AD therapies can only briefly slow progression for 6-12 months in half of the patients.  Certain nutrients have been shown to match or exceed pharmaceutical benefit with increased safety, however still are only marginally beneficial once the diagnosis has been made.  

There is no medical solution to Alzheimer’s disease because it is not a medical issue.  It is a devastating illness born of the condition of our times.  Contaminated air, water and food supplies expose us to countless unregulated synthetic compounds and an array of heavy metals such as lead, mercury and fluoride.  The unquantifiable synergistic effects of these chemicals with their rich reservoir of free radicals cause inflammation in the brain which results in neurologic degradation and AD.  That is why there is no pill to correct AD; it is a causality disease of our toxic environment.  The good news is that we can minimize our risk for AD with the aide of natural medicine.

Early intervention for AD is essential, and holds promise for a positive outcome.  Early signs of potential AD appear years before an actual diagnosis can be made.   Typically we think of bacteria or virus causing illness, however in the 21st century, whether it is thyroid disease, autism, cancer or Alzheimer’s, the primary culprit is not biologic but synthetic.  This is exemplified in the Nun’s Study.

The Nun Study began in 1986 at the Catholic Order School Sisters of Notre Dame.  The study included on-going functional assessments, blood sampling and other monitoring including autopsy.  The nuns did not exhibit AD as a consequence of aging in contrast to the general population.  Only 3 of 13 nuns who passed age 100 showed severe AD.  Another significant finding was the lack of AD symptoms despite marked deterioration of brain tissue in some of the order as found on autopsy.  The relative absence of AD in this community has been attributed to their meaningful spiritual orientation, low stress lifestyle and relatively clean environment.  They enjoyed a nutritious diet with ample vegetables and fruit, engaged in regular yoga and aerobic exercise, and kept their minds engaged and active.

The human brain has limits in coping with the inflammatory nature of stress whether metabolic, chemical, electromagnet or emotional.  Avoidable and unavoidable toxins include: non-organic food items, processed foods, excess sugar, alcohol, nicotine, polluted air and water.  Free radical inflammatory nerve damage from these toxins can be especially pronounced in the brain for two reasons.  

First, the brain relies on a high volume of oxygen for its activity.  Oxygen metabolism yields a free radical oxygen molecule as a waste product, thus demanding a good compliment of antioxidants to protect the brain even at the best of times.  Second, the brain has a low antioxidant capacity making nerve cells particularly susceptible to injury from inflammatory compounds.  

Lifestyle Prevention

Regular exercise helps prevent obesity, heart disease, insulin resistance (see my newsletter Diabetic Syndrome) and high blood pressure, all known risk factors for AD.  Individuals who exercise (i.e. walking more then one hour 3 times a week) have a significantly lower risk for dementia while enhancing cognitive capabilities.  

Mental exercise enhances new neural growth while lack of mental exercise allows neural connections to die out.  Neurobics is the term used for brain fitness activity accomplished with memory tasks, video games, online courses, cross word puzzles, Sudoku and other cognitive challenges.  The brain is capable of rebuilding lost circuits.  Just like muscle tissue: use it or loose it.  Both physical and mental activity has been shown in animal studies to create new nerve tissue, new neuronal connections, new capillaries and new support networks for the nervous system, regardless of age.  For more information on the topic of brain plasticity see The Brain That Changes Itself by Dr. Doidge.  

Along with exercise, good quality sleep is an essential component of an AD preventive protocol.  Please see my newsletter on Insomnia to learn more on this subject.

A diet rich in variety (all the colors of the rainbow) in as close to its natural state as possible (organic) in naturally packaged containers (not plastic: See my Plastics newsletter) is one of the best preventive measures against AD a person can take.  

These lifestyle measures are essential in preventing AD, and can be augmented with the following natural therapies.

Brain Nutrients at a Glance to: Protect, Repair & Enhance Neuronal Tissue

EPA and DHA fish oil: 1,000mg up to three times a day 
Phosphatidylserine: 200-300mg daily
Glycerophosphocholine: 1,200mg daily
Vitamins and minerals to include: C, E (mixed tocopherols), Folic acid, B12, Thiamine,         Selenium, Zinc
Acetyl-L-Carnitine: 1,500 mg daily
N-Acetyl-Cystiene: 500mg daily 
Ginkgo: 100-200mg daily

Oils
The largest portion of a nerve cell is its cell wall, composed primarily of fatty compounds which are especially vulnerable to inflammatory oxidative compounds.  Healthy fats including those in organic meats and fish, seeds, grains, nuts, avocados, coconut, hemp oil, and flax oil are essential to form healthy nerve cell walls.  

The old adage, “Eat your fish, it’s good for the brain” really does have merit.  Omega 3 and omega 6 fish oil in excess of 1,000 mg daily of EPA and DHA seem to have the most benefit for prevention, reduced progression and generalized age related cognitive declines. One study looked at 65-94 year olds over a period of several years and found a 60% decrease in the risk for AD with those who consumed one meal a week with fish versus those who rarely or never consumed fish.

Phosphatidylserine, found at highest concentrations in the brain, is another essential oil to ensure healthy nerves and makes an excellent complement to the fish oil.  

Glycerophosphocholine helps maintain healthy nerve tissue both inside and outside of the cell improving orientation, attention, memory, language and mood.  Studies have shown this nutrient to perform better then donepezil (Aricept) a popular synthetic prescription for AD.

Vitamins and Minerals
The value of a good quality multiple vitamin and mineral such as my Complete Life whole food multiple is that they provide a host of essential nutrients to complement a healthy diet.  Vitamin C, E, folic acid, B12, Thiamine, and minerals like selenium and zinc are required for healthy nerve tissue.  Antioxidant vitamins including C, E, beta carotene and their co-factors such as zinc and selenium further protect against inflammatory nerve damage. Additionally, the calcium, magnesium and zinc in a multiple help prevent aluminum build-up in the brain, a controversial heavy metal when it comes to AD.  

Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALC) is a form of amino acid that provides energy to nerve cells and helps maintain cell wall integrity.  While benefits for AD have been mild with ALC, it is often included in a preventive natural treatment protocol.  N-Acetyl-Cystiene (NAC) is an important amino acid to help reduce toxic overload, including reduction of heavy metals. It transforms into glutathione the quintessential detoxifier; especially protective for lung, brain and liver. 

Herbs
Standardized leaf extracts of Ginkgo biloba are the most studied for AD and dementia.  Typically you are looking for 24% flavone glycosides and 6% terpene lactones by weight. Ginkgo has merit not only for prevention but also treatment for mild to moderate AD without side effects.   Ginkgo has been shown to be quite safe; with no adverse effects on bleeding times as some assert, yet too much too soon may show with headaches which resolve readily with a lowered dose.   

The herbal extracts vinpocetine and huperzine have not shown to benefit in the treatment of AD with clinical trials, but may hold merit for prevention. 

Several other nutrients under study showing promise for cognitive support with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity include: curcumin from turmeric, green tea catechin extracts, blueberry, resveratrol, dark pigmented fruit, sage, rosemary and lemon balm.

Summary
All of the nutrients mentioned in this article have been validated in double blind studies to aid in the prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.  Synthetic medicine offers little in the way of preventive measure when it comes to AD, while natural treatments offer a significant risk reduction for AD.  Lifestyle factors play the most important preventive role, with natural supplements further decreasing risk not only for AD, but other neurologic and chronic health concerns.  

A solution to this pandemic of synthetic based illness is unlikely to come from the American Medical establishment.   Conventional medical practitioners are unable to properly advocate for public health and safety, because they are paralyzed from their illegitimate marriage to corporate enterprise.  The solution will come from citizens who in increasing numbers are taking more responsibility for their health and well being, and by electing public officials who will support and demand sane environmental and public health policies.

I hope you have enjoyed this month’s newsletter. Comments and questions are always welcome.

In Health,
Jon Dunn, ND

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common form of dementia, was first identified in 1901 by Dr. Alzheimer.  Today, by age 65, 1 in 8 Americans will develop AD, and by age 80, half of the population is afflicted.  First signs show with memory deficit with an insidious progression to total destruction of the brain, mind and sense of self.  
The unquantifiable synergistic effects of these chemicals with their rich reservoir of free radicals cause inflammation in the brain which results in neurologic degradation and AD. 
The brain is capable of rebuilding lost circuits. 
"Eat your fish, it's good for the brain" you may be endorphin deficient.