Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in North America, and affects over 30 million people worldwide. The disease can be extremely debilitating, and is characterized by memory loss, cognitive decline, motor skill impairment, issues with orientation ability, and loss of language.
|Causes||Heavy Metals, Environmental Toxins, Dietary Factors, Stress|
|See Also||Neurological Conditions, Dementia, Parkinson's Disease, Aging|
|Books||Books on Neurological Conditions|
|Articles||Articles on Neurological Conditions|
- 1 Naturopathic Assessment
- 2 Characteristics
- 3 Naturopathic Treatment
- 4 References
|Check out this book||The Everything Alzheimer's Book: Reliable, Accessible Information for Patients and Their Families|
|Check out this book||Alzheimer Disease: A Naturopathic Approach|
In order to stimulate the innate ability of the body to heal the causes of disease must be identified and addressed. In the case of Alzheimer's disease the causes are variable and include lifestyle and environmental factors. A detailed assessment is required to determine which factors are contributing to the development and progression of Alzheimer's disease.
|Article||Alzheimer's Disease, Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment, and Age-Associated Memory Impairment: Current Understanding and Progress Toward Integrative Prevention, Alt Med; 2009;Vol14(4)|
|Article||Alzheimer’s Disease: The Pros and Cons of Pharmaceutical, Nutritional, Botanical, and Stimulatory Therapies, with a Discussion of Treatment Strategies from the Perspective of Patients and Practitioners , Alt Med; 2010;Vol15(3)|
|Article||Prevention and Treatment of Alzheimer's Disease with Orthomolecular and Lifestyle Interventions J Orthomolecular Med 2012;Vol27(1)|
|Article||The Prevention of Memory Loss and Progression to Alzheimer's Disease with B Vitamins, Antioxidants and Essential Fatty Acids: A Review of the Evidence J Orthomolecular Med 2012;Vol26(2)|
- Diets high in saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids may increase aluminum induced damage to neurons.
- Nutritional deficiencies, especially deficiencies in B vitamins, espcially Vitamin B12, iron, zinc, calcium or omega-3 fatty acids can increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
- Diets high in sugars, both glucose and fructose, contribute to Alzheimer's disease.
- Regular physical exercise, including aerobic conditioning, is beneficial and been shown to decrease the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's.
- Cognitive exercises including crossword puzzles, music, art, and headline discussion can help to preserve cognitive function. Just as physical exercise is important in preventing dementia and Alzheimers, cognitive exercise is protective against cognitive decline. Interestingly, AD risk declines based on years of formal education, further suggesting that cognitive stimulation decreases risk of Alzheimer's disease.
- Studies have shown that increased stress has significant impacts on development and progression of cognitive decline. Stress causes the release of cortisol which has been shown to inhibit learning and memory. Techniques used to reduce stress, such as meditation, have been shown to positively benefit cognitive function in AD patients.
- Economic Status
- It has been suggested that the correlation between education level and AD risk factor may actually represent socioeconomic status or early childhood medical and psychosocial environment.
- There is evidence that decreased exposure to sunlight in early mornings may increase risk of AD.
- Aluminum There is some post-mortem evidence of increased aluminum levels in AD sufferers. The neurofibillary tangles considered a hallmark of AD contain up to four times the normal level of aluminum compared to brain tissue in unaffected individuals. It is postulated that aluminum interferes with transport and synthesis of acetylcholine, and the production of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
- Brain injury in early life doubles the risk of AD development, moderate head injury triples the risk of AD, whereas serious, severe head injury quadrupled AD risk.
- AD has a strong genetic component - there are several known genes associated with AD. The gene for the amyloid precursor protein occurs on chromosome 21 which explains the link between Down's syndrome and AD.
- Like many chronic diseases, while genetic components are important, lifestyle and environmental factors remain crucial in determining AD risk.
A diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is one of exclusion, and can be made after ruling out other possible causes of dementia.
- Assessment and monitoring of AD can be performed using mini-mental status examinations.
- There are no laboratory tests available to confirm a diagnosis of AD. Some MRI and PET findings may suggest a diagnosis but are not specific or sensitive and are not routinely used., 
The criteria is based on the DSM-IV include the following: 
- The course of AD is gradual with continuing cognitive decline
- The deficits do not occur only during the course of a delerium.
- The deficits are not better accounted for by another disorder such as depression or schizophrenia.
Related Symptoms and Conditions
- Dementia with Lewy bodies presents similarly to AD, and suggest the presence of parkinsonism, hallucinations, and sleep disorders. This correlation between AD and Lewy bodies suggests overlap between the diseases.
- Mild cognitive impairment is a risk factor for developing dementia, and dementia sufferers have a high rate of transition to AD. Mild cognitive impairment is characterized by impairment of episodic declaritive memory with normal cognitive function and no substantial interference with work, ADLs, or social activities.
It is now clear that changes in the brain occur 30 to 40 years before the onset of dementia and AD. Information from PET scans have demonstrated lesions in individuals' brains long before they are symptomatic. The main lesions implicated in AD are known as plaques and tangles. A protein called beta amyloid is found in abundance in AD patients, and forms plaques on the outside of brain cells. These plaques initiate an immune resonse which ultimately leads to the death of neurons. Tangles are formed by the Tau molecule, which structurally supports neurons. When this molecule changes shape it causes tangles which also eventually causes neuronal cell death.
- Oxidative Stress. There is also evidence that increased free radical damage may increase risk of AD.
The symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease includes:
- Progressive mental deterioration
- Loss of memory and cognitive functions
- Inability to carry out activities of daily life (ADLs)
- Anterograde amnesia typically presents first and most intensely
- Apathy and loss of intitiative
- Delusional thinking
The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies. Alzheimer's disease is a chronic disease and requires consistent and comprehensive treatment in order to delay its progression. The earlier the treatment is started the more effective it seems to be.
It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.
- The AD patient's caregiver needs to be very involved in any treatment, including managing supplementation and medication. The nature of AD results in patients not being able to care for themselves as the disease progresses.
- Home caregivers need to be prepared for, and accepting of, erratic behavior, anger, frustration, confusion, and general upset.
- Patients will require increasing levels of assistance with activities of daily living.
Lifestyle recommendations include:
- The diets that have been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of MS include:
- Ensure you drink adequate water.
- Studies have demonstrated that aerobic exercise can increase mental function and slow the progression of AD. It is postulated that this is due to increased blood flow to the brain and production of growth factors important in nerve health.
- Stress relief is important in AD treatment. In particular, meditation has been shown to decrease cortisol levels, thus preventing further damage to hippocampal neurons. In general it has been shown that meditation has positive benefits on cognition, and meditators have a greater life expectancy than nonmeditators.
The prescribing of naturopathic therapies requires the guidance of a naturopathic doctor as it depends on a number of factors including the causal factors, a person's age, prescription medications, other conditions and symptoms and overall health. It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor prior to taking any natural therapies.
Naturopathic Therapies for Alzheimer's Disease includes:
|Article||Citicoline: Applications in Alzheimer's disease, IHP, , September 2010|
|Article||Amyloid β -protein of Alzheimer’s Disease: More than Just a Plaque , 2010 April Natural Medicine |
- Vitamins including: vitamin B1 or thiamine, vitamin B12, folic acid, vitamin E, vitamin C, Choline.
- Minerals including: zinc, calcium, magnesium, selenium.
- Amino Acids including: L-Acetyl-carnitine (see L-Carnitine)
- Other supplements such as melatonin, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Phosphatidylcholine, Phosphatidylserine, Malic acid, DHEA, lecithin, Glutathione, L-Carnitine, Pregnenolone.
- Herbs including:
|Article||Ayurvedic Approaches to Prevent and Manage Alzheimer Disease, NDNR; 2012 May|
- Traditional Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture recognizes the different disease patterns in Alzheimer's Disease and the following strategies are commonly employed based on individual presentation:
- Tonify the spleen and strengthen the intellect.
- Tonify the kidneys, nourish Essence and marrow and strengthen memory.
- Tonify the heart, strengthen the mind and memory.
Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND 
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