As an only child of an aging mother who was recently diagnosed with dementia, I felt it was important to me to investigate and consider alternative treatments to help slow the progression of this awful and deteriorating disease. Although there is no magic pill or cure, there are natural ways to help slow down the process such as supplements, cardiovascular exercise, and diet modifications. Most of the research articles I have read on the treatment of dementia, lead me to a low carbohydrate/high-fat diet, more respectively, the Ketogenic diet.
The Origins of Alzheimer’s Disease
From aluminum to pesticides, environmental toxins and genetically modified foods, several causes of Alzheimer’s Disease have been put forward, many of which involve harmful substances entering the body from the outside and negatively affecting cognitive function.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80% of all diagnoses. However, it’s not accurate to say that if a person has dementia, then they have Alzheimer’s disease – or that all dementias are a form of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease changes the brain and is a fatal disease that eventually affects all aspects of a person’s life – how they think, feel and act.
Each person is affected differently and it is difficult to predict symptoms, the order in which they will appear, or the speed of their progression.
Identifying the fundamental cause of Alzheimer’s Disease is critical as the financial costs for health care related to Alzheimer’s Disease are an enormous burden to our system. “With over half a million Canadians living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, chances are you know someone living with dementia. As our population ages, this number will nearly double by 2030. Last year, total healthcare system costs and the out-of-pocket costs of caring for people living with dementia were at least $10.4 billion. Unless we do something now, dementia will have an even more serious impact on our healthcare system.” (Canadian Alzheimer’s Society) Pharmaceutical treatments developed to date have been ineffective, and modern medicine has little to offer this debilitating disease. The best advice doctors are giving is to keep active, both in mind and body.
In researching Alzheimer’s Disease, we are becoming more aware that the condition results from metabolic abnormalities that start outside the brain. The brain is said to have insufficient fuel due to the brain’s inability to harness energy from glucose. As a response the neurons in the brain begin to degrade and degenerate, leading to a loss of communication among them. “The connection between glucose handling, insulin signaling, and Alzheimer’s Disease is so strong that many researchers now refer to the disease as Diabetes Type-3.” (The Alzheimer’s Antidote)
The pattern of eating that has become the Standard American Diet is lacking antioxidants, phytonutrients, healthy fats, and proteins. The majority of foods being eaten today are highly processed and laden with hydrogenated oils and sugar. This leads to metabolic syndrome wherein the body develops insulin resistance. (the body cannot process carbohydrates properly) In essence, this starves the brain of energy to perform properly. Studies also show that leaky gut syndrome and inflammation are also causative factors of dementia.
What Can be Done to Slow Down the Process of Dementia?
- whole foods nutrition is key in reducing inflammation, healing the gut, and stabilizing blood sugar levels. Vegetables, low glycemic fruits, no refined sugars, healthy grains, legumes, good sources of protein such as fish, chicken, organic tofu, grass-fed organic beef.
- foods rich in probiotics are essential for a healthy gut
- eliminate unhealthy processed foods high in sugar and trans fats
- learn to cook with healthy fats and oils such as coconut oil, ghee, and butter to boost brain function and reduce inflammation
- choose complex carbohydrates rich in B-vitamins and antioxidants
- The Ketogenic diet and Mediterranean Diet have both been shown to help with dementia
- Exogenous ketones (MCT oil): can help combat Alzheimer’s as the brain learns to use them for energy instead of glucose
- MCT oil can easily be added to smoothies, coffee, tea and provide an immediate source of energy for the brain to utilize instead of glucose when the diet is low in starchy carbohydrates. It is an easy and quick way to boost brain health!
Detoxification: Heavy metals toxicity, specifically aluminum, has been linked to decreased brain function. Detoxifying through diet and eating foods high in nutritional value and antioxidants are great and simple ways to improve the detoxification process in the liver.
Supplement suggestions to support a healthy gut, stabilize blood glucose levels, decrease inflammation and boost cognitive function.
- Genestra HMF Forte Probiotics are essential for a healthy gut
- Pure Encapsulations EPA/DHA High doses of EPA+DHA to decrease inflammation in the body and brain
- B-Complex SAP B Vitamins are often deficient in the elderly and are crucial to brain and nervous system function
- NFH Magnesium SAP Magnesium is an essential mineral for the optimal functioning of the cardiovascular, nervous, and musculoskeletal systems. Recent findings suggest magnesium may be effective in ameliorating symptoms in an Alzheimer’s disease-like pathological progression by reducing Aβ-plaque, thus preventing synapse loss and memory decline.
- Designs for Health Zinc Supreme Zinc has multifactorial functions in Alzheimer’s disease (Watt)
- Douglas Labs Chromium Chromium provides support for healthy glucose metabolism
- MCT oil as exogenous ketones
- Pure Encapsulations Curcumin 500 with Bioperine Curcumin is shown to decrease inflammation in the brain
- Ginko Biloba to be used with caution as it can cause an interaction with medically prescribed medications
- Vitamin D3 Concentrated Drops While vitamin D deficiency hasn’t yet been found to be a direct cause of dementia, research shows there is a strong link between the two. Especially for those who don’t live along the equator, supplementing with this essential vitamin may improve overall health and well-being. It also has benefits to the skeletal and cardiovascular systems.
- Pure Encapsulations NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine). NAC may be considered helpful in therapies to counteract neurodegenerative and mental health diseases. Furthermore, this compound has been evaluated for its neuroprotective potential in the prevention of cognitive aging dementia. (Tardiolo)
There are many other supplements available that can assist in slowing down the progression of dementia and help improve or maintain cognitive abilities. As with any supplements we suggest, it is important to verify for any interactions with your health practitioner.
Berger, Amy MS, CNS, NTP. The Alzheimer’s Antidote, Chelsea Green Publishing, Vermont, USA 2017
Fortier, Mélanie & Castellano, Christian-Alexandre (2019). A ketogenic drink improves brain energy and some measures of cognition in mild cognitive impairment. Alzheimer’s & Dementia. 15. 10.1016/j.jalz.2018.12.017.
Nagpal, Ravinder., Neth, Bryan. J. (2019). Modified Mediterranean Ketogenic Diet modulates gut microbiome and short-chain fatty acids in association with Alzheimer/s disease markers in subjects with mild cognitive impairment. EBioMedicine
Rusek, M., Pluta, R., Ułamek-Kozioł, M., & Czuczwar, S. J. (2019). Ketogenic Diet in Alzheimer’s Disease. International journal of molecular sciences, 20(16), 3892. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20163892
Tardiolo, G., Bramanti, P., & Mazzon, E. (2018). Overview on the Effects of N-Acetylcysteine in Neurodegenerative Diseases. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 23(12), 3305. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23123305
Watt, N. T., Whitehouse, I. J., & Hooper, N. M. (2010). The role of zinc in Alzheimer’s disease. International journal of Alzheimer’s disease, 2011, 971021. https://doi.org/10.4061/2011/971021
BLOG WRITTEN BY: KACIA MONGEAU
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