Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease in which healthy brain tissue degenerates, resulting in problems with memory, behavior, and other mental abilities. Learn how to approach treatment naturally.It is the most common cause of dementia (the loss of memory and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life) and the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States. Alzheimer’s disease currently affects an estimated four million older Americans, a number that is expected to triple by the year 2050.

Symptoms

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are more serious than the mild memory changes that typically accompany aging. Symptoms may start gradually but eventually become severe enough to interfere with activities of daily living. They include:

  • Increasingly worse memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks, such as cooking or making a phone call
  • Difficulty finding the right words
  • Problems with abstract thinking, such as trouble balancing a checkbook
  • Poor judgment, such as dressing inappropriately for the weather or overspending money
  • Misplacing things or putting them in unusual places, like putting car keys in the freezer
  • Disorientation, such as getting lost in familiar surroundings
  • Loss of initiative
  • Changes in mood, behavior, and personality.

Although the course of Alzheimer’s disease is individual and highly variable, most people with the condition will survive about eight to ten years after being diagnosed.

Causes

The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease isn’t yet clear. However, scientists know that the brains of people with the condition contain abnormal clumps and knots of brain cells, called plaques and tangles. These plaques and tangles are made up of proteins that may be involved in the neuron (nerve cell) death that occurs in Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers also believe that the inflammation observed in the brains of some people with the disease may play a central role.

Risk Factors

Alzheimer’s appears be influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental, and other factors. Some major factors that appear to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Age. Alzheimer’s disease is most common in people older than age 65.
  • Poor Nutrition. Alzheimer’s is caused by deficiencies of calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper and iron.
  • Family history. Having a parent or sibling with the disease slightly increases risk.
  • Genetic mutations. Three genetic mutations are known to cause early onset Alzheimer’s, while a form of the APOE gene increases risk of late-onset disease.
  • Gender. Women are more likely than men to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Other conditions. The same factors that raise the risk of heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, also increase Alzheimer’s risk.
  • Education. Research shows a link between lower education levels and higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Head injury. Some studies show a link between traumatic head injuries and Alzheimer’s risk.
  • Aluminum Toxicity. Consumption of flour, which can contain aluminum, can cause aluminum toxicity, as well as using commercial antiperspirants, drinking from soda cans, aluminum cookware, and aluminum foil for cooking.

The Neurotoxin Theory – Aluminum

Aluminum is unquestionably toxic to the nervous system. Although there appears to be a link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease, it is not certain that aluminum is the causative agent. The following is known:

  • Brain tissue of patients with Alzheimer’s disease contains more aluminum in certain structures than brain tissue from healthy individuals. At least 8 studies confirm excessive accumulation of aluminum salts in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
  • Aluminum is considered to be the primary agent in ‘dementia dialactica’, dementia due to kidney dialysis. Patients on kidney dialysis often develop seizures that are similar to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The syndrome may be prevented by using deionized water.
  • Recent studies have shown that in areas of England where drinking water contains a high concentration of aluminum; the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is significantly higher.
  • Aluminum accumulation is known to be associated with neurofibrillary tangles in some animal species. Not all species develop these tangles when exposed to aluminum. Humans with Alzheimer’s disease develop a different kind of tangle (twisted helix) that is not identical to the tangles induced by aluminum in other species.
  • When aluminum replaced calcium in as low a concentration as 0.03 mEq/L in in-vitro neuron studies, the action potential was blocked. It is thought that aluminum decreases spontaneous nervous discharge, thereby reducing nervous activity.
  • Over the past several decades, along with an increase in Alzheimer’s disease there has been a significant increase in the use of aluminum in anti-acids, antiperspirants, aluminum cans and aluminum cookware. This may be a coincidence, but significantly higher levels of hair tissue aluminum have been noted on hair mineral tests over the past 12 years.

Other Toxic Metals

The majority of the toxic metals, including lead, mercury and cadmium, are known to be neurotoxic. W. D. Ehmann, W. R. Marksbery, M. Alauddin, T. I. M. Hossain and E. H. Brubaker reported in Neurotoxicology 7(1):197-206 (1986) that levels of bromine and mercury were elevated in AD brains and the mineral rubidium was depleted.

D. E. Vance, W. D. Ehmann and W. R. Marksbery reported in Neurotoxicology 9(2):197-208 (1988) that bromine and zinc was elevated in AD hair tissue, while calcium and cobalt levels were reduced.

These and other studies indicate that several toxic metals may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. A complicating factor is that perhaps several metals play a role, but no single toxic metal is responsible for all cases. In cases such as these, studies would be inconclusive if only a single toxic metal is studied.

Neurotransmitter Deficiency

Serious deficiencies of the neurotransmitters acetylcholine, norepinephrine and serotonin have been observed in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Most research has focused on the deficiency of acetylcholine. A deficiency of acetylcholine could help explain symptoms of Alzheimer’s such as memory loss and loss of motor functions.

Acetylcholine is produced at nerve synapses from choline and acetyl Coenzyme A. The reaction is catalyzed by the enzyme choline acetyltransferase. Although studies are underway to help restore acetylcholine activity by supplying precursors, as of this writing, results have not been encouraging.

A possible connection exists between aluminum and acetylcholine deficiency. Research shows that aluminum inhibits cholinergic activity. Compounds used in antiperspirants may inhibit synaptic uptake of dopamine, norepinephrine and 5 hydroxytryptamine. Aluminum has also been shown to inhibit Na-K-ATPase and hexokinase. These are critical enzymes for energy metabolism.

Calcium Deficiency

A calcium deficiency may directly cause symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease, or may be important indirectly by allowing aluminum to accumulate in brain cells.

There are indications that aluminum increases parathyroid activity that reduces calcium levels and causes calcium to be withdrawn from brain tissue. The loss of brain calcium may be the major cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Mayor and coworkers reported that increased parathyroid hormone activity can increase intestine and brain absorption of aluminum.

The calcium/aluminum connection could help explain why other biochemical imbalances which interfere with calcium metabolism – lead poisoning, phosphates in soda pop, copper imbalance, manganese deficiency which affects thyroid function, etc., could contribute to the causation of Alzheimer’s disease.

Magnesium Deficiency

A principal way that aluminum appears to express toxicity is that it replaces magnesium ions at critical target sites in the cell. A researcher named Berthoff said:

…chemically, aluminum is quite similar to magnesium… aluminum can compete effectively for magnesium binding sites in biological systems… aluminum binding to ATP is 7 to 10 times stronger than magnesium, so even at very low concentrations (nanmolar) aluminum can potentially interfere with magnesium-dependent systems.

Diagnosis

Alzheimer’s disease is typically diagnosed after doctors rule out other conditions. There is no specific test used to diagnose or confirm the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. General tests that can help doctors determine whether a patient has Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Mental and memory tests
  • Brain scans

Conventional Treatment

Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease at this time, medications can help treat symptoms of the condition. Conventional doctors may recommend one of five prescription drugs currently approved to treat Alzheimer’s, depending on the severity of the illness. These medications are:

  • Razayne (galantamine)
  • Exelon (rivastigmine)
  • Aricept (donepezil)
  • Cognex (tacrine)
  • Namenda (memantine)

These drugs affect brain chemicals and may help improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s and allow patients to perform daily activities longer than they otherwise would be able to.

Wendy’s Recommendations for Natural Treatment and Prevention

There are so many things you can do to prevent or reverse Alzheimer’s.

Lifestyle

  • Avoid Aluminum. Aluminum toxicity is a strong factor in developing Alzheimer’s. It must be removed from your life as much as possible. Avoid antiperspirants with aluminum, aluminum cookware (used in most restaurants), cooking with aluminum foil, and drinking from aluminum cans. All metals can be detoxed in an Infrared Sauna.
  • Exercise. Research indicates that regular physical exercise can lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 50 percent. A Japanese study found that among 265 people with both normal mental function and mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s, after one year of moderate exercise intervention, 70 percent of participants showed significant improvement in memory function. And the more the participants exercised, the greater the improvement. Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity such as walking, cycling or swimming on most days of the week.
  • Avoid Smoking. Smokers have twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s as nonsmokers.
  • Healthy Weight. Maintain a normal weight; a study in Neurology online in March, 2008, revealed a potential link between excessive belly fat among people in their 40s and the onset of Alzheimer’s about 35 years later. Of the 6,583 people studied, those in the highest 20 percent in terms of belly size were three times more likely to develop dementia than were those in the lowest 20 percent.
  • Prevent Head Trauma. Protect yourself from head trauma, which has also been linked to increased Alzheimer’s risk, perhaps due to low-grade inflammation as the brain attempts to heal itself. Wear a helmet when on a motorcycle, bicycle, skates or skis, and high-traction footwear when surfaces are icy.
  • Mind/Body. People who participate in mentally stimulating activities such as reading and playing cards are at lower risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Other research shows that the more years of formal education you have, the less likely you are to develop the condition. The theory is that challenging intellectual activity builds up rich neural connections that function as insurance against later brain-tissue losses, just as well-developed muscles maintain their integrity longer during periods of inactivity than atrophied muscles.

Supplements

  • Turmeric. One particularly promising spice is turmeric; one of its components, curcumin is strongly anti-inflammatory. Elderly villagers in India have one of the world’s lowest rates of Alzheimer’s; the reason may be the turmeric that they consume in their daily curries. I take Integrative Therapeutics Theracurmin. This is a therapeutic strength of turmeric extract – curcumin – that is 27 times more absorbable than most turmeric supplements.
  • Calcium. Low calcium levels allow aluminum to accumulate in the brain. Always take chelated calcium and magnesium togther. A wonderful calcium magnesium supplement called Paramin can be found in the Liveto110 Store.
  • Magnesium. Magnesium is needed for over 3700 processes in the body. It is imperative to take for any health condition. I carry an array of great magnesium supplements in the Live to 110 Store.
  • Vitamins E and C. Some studies suggest that vitamins C and vitamin E, either in foods or supplements, are protective against Alzheimer’s. In a January 2004 study published in the Archives of Neurology, researchers reported that older people who took daily supplements containing at least 400 IU of vitamin E and 500 mg of vitamin C were 64 percent less likely to develop the condition.
  • Ginkgo. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), a traditional herbal preparation made from the leaves of the ginkgo tree can increase blood flow to the brain. Some clinical evidence suggests that ginkgo can be useful in slowing the progression of early Alzheimer’s disease and age-related dementia. If you want to try ginkgo for memory enhancement, take 40 mg of a standardized extract with a ratio of 24% ginkgo flavone glycosides and 6% terpene lactones three times a day with meals. Give it a two-month trial.

Food

  • Anti-inflammatory diet. An anti-inflammatory diet like the Modern Paleo diet is generally protective against a wide range of diseases, and Alzheimer’s disease is believed to have an inflammatory component.

Alternative Treatments

detox heavy metals, lose weight and heal your body, nutritional balancing

Many doctors and scientists believe that Alzheimer’s is indicative of toxicity, meaning that heavy metals and industrial chemicals, accumulated over a lifetime, have poisoned the brain and body. Lead, aluminum, mercury and cadmium, ever-present in our environment, are known to be neurotoxic. The first system that is affected is the immune system – presenting as allergies and asthma in youth. The endocrine system (the hormonal system) is attacked next, which is why we have an epidemic of insulin resistance and diabetes in people’s forties and fifties. Next, the neurological system is attacked, which is why you see such a prevalence of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s in the later years. It’s a matter of progression.

Mineral Power with Hair Mineral Analysis is the program I would recommend to anyone faced with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. The underlying cause of most disease and health conditions is mineral deficiency exacerbated by chemical and heavy metal toxicity. Alzheimer’s is associated with aluminum toxicity and many mineral deficiencies. A calcium deficiency may directly cause symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease, or may be important indirectly by allowing aluminum to accumulate in brain cells. This program offers targeted remineralization of your body and suggests methods of detoxification. I offer extensive information on this site on how to detox from heavy metals and chemicals. For more information see Mineral Power.

This material is for educational purposes only. The preceding statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

in Articles/Health Conditions/Survive

Wendy Myers, FDN, CHHC, is a functional diagnostic nutritionist, certified holistic health coach and founder of Live to 110. Her passions include getting you healthy, Modern Paleo, retoxing and detoxing. Discover her Mineral Power Program and enjoy freedom from fatigue and brain fog with metal detox.