Here in the UK there are currently 850,000 people living with dementia. Because we are an ageing population, this figure is set to grow massively over the next few years, placing a huge strain on our already beleaguered healthcare system.
Last week I had the privilege of attending a lecture by Dr Dale Bredesen, a Professor of Neurology at the Buck Institute in America. He is pioneering research into dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease (which accounts for 62% of all dementia) and achieving incredible results.
His protocol combines nutrition, lifestyle, supplement and medications – a truly holistic approach for what is a complex condition. You can read more about his work here at the Dementia Alliance International website.
The problem with all the new dementia drugs that keep hitting the headlines is they are only focusing on 1 aspect of the problem: the accumulation of protein tangles in the brain. Stopping these protein tangles will not halt or reverse the progression of dementia in the long term because this is only part of a much broader picture.
Dr Bredesen likens dementia to a leaky roof that has 36 holes in it. The drugs plug 1 or 2 of these holes but the roof will still leak! Taking nutrition, exercise, lifestyle and key nutrients into consideration is crucial in order for the roof to become watertight again.
The causes of dementia vary from person to person, but 3 main areas have been identified:
1. Inflammation in the brain
2. Exposure to brain-damaging toxins such as aluminium, mercury – and for some individuals, gluten – and infections
3. Chronic lack of nutrients needed to maintain brain function
So, if you’re concerned about cognitive decline or simply want to keep your faculties as sharp as possible for as long as possible, what can you do?
Investigate your genes
The presence of the homozygous APOE-4 gene variation causes a 90% increased risk of developing dementia. This is an increased risk – it’s not a definite destiny! How your genes are expressed is determined by your diet and lifestyle: you have the power to positively influence your genes.
For more information on genetic investigations and nutritional support please contact me.
Balance your blood sugars
Alzheimer’s has been termed ‘diabetes in the brain’ because the brain cells lose their ability to respond to insulin and use sugars effectively for fuel. If your diet is high in refined sugars and processed foods, cut these out. Switch to wholegrain versions and include a wider variety of naturally gluten-free carbohydrates like buckwheat, quinoa and brown rice. Include good quality protein with each meal. Aim to have a mini-fast each night by not eating for 12 hours e.g. 8pm to 8am.
Go for full fat!
When brain cells struggle to utilise sugars properly, they can still use a type of fat called MCT (medium chain triglycerides). Coconut oil is an excellent source of these fats, and anecdotal evidence demonstrates improvements in dementia symptoms from including 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil each day.
Your brain also relies on ample levels of cholesterol: 25% of your body’s cholesterol lives in your brain. This works alongside omega-3 oils from oily fish, nuts and seeds to keep your brain cells communicating properly.
Check your Vitamin D
Vitamin D receptors are found throughout the brain and low levels of this nutrient are linked with increased inflammation – a key trigger for dementia.
Reduce your exposure to toxins by switching to natural cleaning products and bodycare products. Stop smoking (that’s obvious!), avoid aluminium pans and utensils and include plenty of antioxidant foods: coriander, spirulina, chlorella and dark green leafy vegetables, eggs and onions are some of the best sources of powerful antioxidant nutrients.
Movement and mental stimulation!
Movement of all kinds improves circulation and blood sugar balance. Including movement each day, whether its walking, swimming, yoga, Tai Chi or a full on gym workout is vital.
Keeping your brain stimulated by learning new things is just as important. Your brain cells grow and restructure themselves each time you learn new information or have to solve problems. Learning a new language, doing a daily crossword or Sudoku puzzle can all help stimulate ‘neuro-plasticity’ – the reshaping and growth of brain cells.
Concerned about your mental wellbeing?
Looking for naturopathic nutritional support for depression, anxiety or poor memory?
Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more…