Support for Alzheimer’s Disease

How can Alzheimer’s be supported from a functional medicine perspective? In this article we look at comprehensive treatment protocols for the disease.

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Posted

July 14, 2022

Alzheimer’s has become a big problem in the West. Since 2000, deaths from heart disease have fallen by 14% but Alzheimer’s has increased by 89%.

Alzheimer’s affects both men and women but interestingly approx 65% of Alzheimer’s cases are in women.

 

We now know that much of Alzheimer’s can be attributed to metabolic processes. In some circles Alzheimer’s is known as Diabetes type 3. However, mainstream medicine has not shown any real significant benefit so we have to look outside the box.

Personally, neurodegeneration is a field of much interest. Science is mapping advancements in neuroplasticity and some of this research bodes great hope for neurodegeneration issues.

As with most chronic illnesses in the West, they are by and large a result of how we have been living over the last 100 years. The advent of the chemical revolution, stressful lifestyles, living longer, sedentary lifestyles, working indoors rather than outdoors all combine to create a perfect soup for suboptimal brain function.

The key though is that we can modulate many of these things in our life. We can start eating Organic. We can reduce stress in our lives. Through Functional Medicine, we can target specific pathways in the brain that support neurogeneration. There is technology that helps us augment the deterioration of neurons and brain tissue.

I personally rejoice in the potential we have as a society and for all its woes technology, the internet and scientific progress is making the impossible possible…

 

Treatment pathways

In a treatment pathway, the following is key and fundamental.

 

grey haired woman drinking a glass of water

 

 

Eliminate all simple carbohydrates

By removing foods that raise your blood sugar levels, you may be helping to support your cognition. In a 2018 study, 5,189 people over 10 years were observed and the results comprehensively showed that the higher the blood sugars the faster the cognitive decline (1).

 

Eliminate Gluten and processed foods from the diet

The omission of processed foods is hopefully an obvious task but why Gluten? Simply, gluten activates a zonulin pathway in the gut and this creates ‘leaky gut‘ or intestinal permeability. This sets up unnecessary immune reactions in the bloodstream and can lead to unwanted metabolic by-products getting into the system such as lipopolysaccharides (bacterial toxins).

 

Diet and intermittent fasting

To enhance autophagy and get those cisk cells out of the body it is a really useful practice to start intermittent fasting. A minimum eating window should be 8 hrs, but if this can be reduced to 6 hours then all the better.

Following a high fat diet will start pushing the body towards ketosis which will help the body produce ketones and the brain loves to burn ketones for fuel. They burn much cleaner than glucose. Fasting for a minimum of 3 hrs before bed is also really important. The goal here is to reduce insulin levels.

 

Manage stress

Stress means cortisol release, and elevated cortisol levels can have very detrimental effects on neurochemistry. In my high-flying clients who are burning the candle at both ends in high-stress jobs, a most common complaint is poor short-term memory. This is the effect that elevated cortisol is having on their frontal cortex. Cortisol also stimulates the release of insulin which again has a negative impact on blood sugars.

Some practices for managing stress include meditation, yoga, and tai-chi. Read more about ways to manage your stress here.

 

woman with pink turban with man in background closing eyes with arms by his knees

 

Sleep

This is a biggie. Sleep is essential to rest and repair. Melatonin is my go-to here. In one study, 6 mg of melatonin per day reduced sundowning (onset of behavioural changes in the evening – anxiety and mood changes are common for Alzheimer’s patients in the evening) and it also slowed the evolution of cognitive decline (2). If melatonin is not tolerated then it is worth trying tryptophan or other herbal sleep supports. Weighted blankets are well researched to increase deep sleep so these are worth using.

 

Exercise

Yup, If you have memory decline you gotta move. Aim for about 30-60 mins a day 4-6 days a week. High intensity is very beneficial but do what you can. Combining exercise and intermittent fasting are useful hacks to increase brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF), a protein that supports the survival of neurons.

 

grey haired man in a plank position whilst he watches his laptop screen

 

Near infrared (NIR) light therapy

I have such a love for this brain hack, and I try to include it with every neurodegeneration case I work with.

NIR is the light that best supports the mitochondria in the body. We get it at sunrise and sunset. NIR also structures water in the cells. The hypothesis is that structured water has a greater electrical potential in the cells than de-structured water.

This is a big topic and if you want to dig deeper have a look at Jack Kruse’s work online. In any case, studies are showing the benefits of NIR therapy for neurodegeneration issues. You can make your own head kit with NIR lamps or if your budget permits you can purchase some of the more cutting-edge gadgets (check out vielight).

 

Balance hormones

I have already mentioned cortisol and insulin but add to the list your thyroid hormones. Thyroid regulates metabolism in the body and slow thyroid function is not going to help in the energy or cognitive department.

At the clinic, we offer thyroid testing with our practitioners taking a functional medicine approach to assessing your thyroid health identifying possible causes and related mechanisms.

 

Optimise vitamin and mineral status

Dysregulation of brain metals/minerals is a cofactor for Alzheimer’s. Getting a detailed lab run covering all of the vitamins is important. When you have a consultation with one of our practitioners they can recommend the best tests for you, explain the results in full, and provide a comprehensive protocol to optimise what your body is lacking.

 

Detox

Our cells are literally constipated with industrial and chemical toxins. I have not run an environmental urine test or glyphosate test yet in the clinic that has not come back with trace or greater amounts of chemicals/pesticides.

Heavy metals are strongly linked with cognitive decline. These accumulate in our fat cells. As we age cells break down and these long-held toxins are released and can accumulate in the brain. A thorough screening of toxins is so important with cognitive issues.

Saunas, ionic foot baths, binders, liver support etc are all key to this treatment objective. One study shows that men who took a sauna 4-7 times a week were 66% less likely to have dementia and 65% less likely to get Alzheimer’s than men taking 1 sauna a week (3).

 

Personalised support

Wherever you are on your journey I wish you well and many blessings on the road to recovery. Get in touch with our team to learn how we can support you further using a functional medicine approach.

 

 

Author: Paul Foley

Paul is a registered Nutritional Therapist, qualifying with College of Naturopathic Medicine in London in 2014. The longer Paul worked post-studies, the more complex health issues he began to attract, which led Paul to gain certification with the Functional Medicine University in America, where he graduated as a Functional Medicine Practitioner.

 

 

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