Are you looking for alternative treatment to treat Alzheimer’s Disease naturally? These 11 natural remedies are potentially bringing some benefits to this condition, such as for improving the symptoms, decreasing the cognitive decline, or cognitive impairment.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a degenerative disease of the brain that affects mostly older adults. The cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown at this point.
Treatments exist to modify the course and limit symptoms, but unfortunately AD always progresses.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia. Dementia is defined as deterioration of both cognitive and intellectual ability. This includes memory and can also include other functions such as movement and other senses.
Inflammation and Alzheimer’s Disease
There is a connection between inflammation and dementia, but the exact mechanisms have yet to be worked out. Several studies note higher levels of certain inflammatory markers are present in patients with dementia.
There is a variety of other medical conditions that contribute to the risk of developing dementia. Some of those have inflammation at their core and are also tied to heart disease risk factors:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Metabolic syndrome
- Dietary fat intake
Researchers are still working out the exact pathophysiologic mechanisms related to inflammation and Alzheimer Dementia. It seems to reason that if the heart and vascular system are adversely affected by inflammation, the brain and central nervous system would be as well. The volume of blood flow required to sustain neural function can be upwards of 20% of cardiac output in some studies.
Most patients diagnosed with Alzheimer disease are 60 or older. AD affects women slightly more than men. It is interesting to note that those with Down’s syndrome can have the onset 10-20 years earlier than the norm.
There are some genetic factors involved, but this is the minority (5%) of cases. Vascular disease, which inflammation is a strong component, is linked to all types of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease.
Signs and Symptoms Of Alzheimer’s Disease
- Memory impairment
- Cognitive impairment
- Memory loss
- Visuospatial skill loss - difficulty navigating in unfamiliar places and misplacing items
- Lack of insight
- Apraxia - difficulty performing motor tasks
- Decreased executive function - loss of motivation, focus and decreased ability for abstract thought
- Neuropsychiatric problems - personality changes
Changes that suggest AD can be broken down into early and late changes.
Early changes are quite often subtle and gradual in onset. Difficulty remembering recent events is often the first thing family members notice. Other changes include: confusion, not being able to find the right word, difficulty with concentration and reasoning, trouble paying bills or addressing letters, getting lost on the way home or in familiar locations such as a grocery store.
As AD progresses, the ability to think clearly declines at a progressive rate. Personality and behaviors change. AD patients can be angry, hostile, aggressive, while others may shift in the opposite direction and become very docile and passive. Hallucinations or delusions can occur along with disorientation.
As Alzheimer disease progresses, simple daily tasks become more difficult such as dressing and bathing. These patients go on to require full daily care around the clock.
Treatment Goals For Alzheimer’s Disease
- Minimize symptoms
- Treat memory problems
- Treat behavioral symptoms
- Minimize disordered sleep patterns
Anti-inflammatory Drugs for Alzheimer’s Disease
NSAID’s and other anti-inflammatory drugs have been shown to decrease the likelihood of developing AD. These epidemiologic studies suggest an inflammatory process causing a release of cytokines from microglial cells.
In essence, these cells are stimulated to release a substance that is felt to contribute to the development of Alzheimer and other types of dementia. The exact mechanism and pathways are still being worked out.
It must be pointed out that in these studies, patients using prescription anti-inflammatory medicines had an increase in cardiovascular events. Physicians and researchers have previously pointed out the link between certain prescription NSAID’s and cardiac death. With that in mind, natural anti-inflammatories may be able to fill this role.
Vitamin B supplementation (folate, B6, B12) is linked to homocysteine metabolism and is currently being studied as a treatment for reducing the progression of cognitive decline experienced by AD patients.
Vitamin E has been widely studied in cardiovascular projects. It has shown some promise in delaying the deficits of Alzheimers, but there are growing concerns in patients who have heart disease. The current recommendation is to reserve Vitamin E supplementation for those that already are suffering from AD are at high risk of developing AD.
There are several ongoing trials of Vitamin E and Selenium supplementation for both the prevention and treatment of AD.
The University of Arizona is involved in a project using anti-oxidant treatments including Vitamin E, C, alpha-lipoic acid and Coenzyme Q (CoQ). They are hoping to prove the safety and effectiveness of this combination for Alzheimer patients.
Any search of the literature will produce several articles linking aluminum and mercury to AD and other causes of dementia. This makes intuitive sense as physicians know that heavy metal exposure can result in an accumulation of these toxic substances in various parts of the body. Reports of chelation therapy and treatment with activated charcoal exist, but the validity of these results has yet to be proven in relation to AD.
Cinnamon has been studied due to its bioactive properties. Cinnamon has a number of pharmacologic properties including: fighting inflammation, controlling blood sugar and acting as an anti-oxidant. There is some research evidence that cinnamon can help prevent some of the pathologic changes that occur in the brains of those affected by AD.
Coffee consumption has been shown in multiple studies to have a positive effect on decreasing the cognitive decline those with AD experience. Other findings suggest that long term caffeine intake may have a protective effect against developing Alzheimer’s disease.
4. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are well known to combat inflammation. Their use in heart disease has been well documented. Several observational studies have found a lower risk of dementia in people consuming oily fish due to the omega-3 fatty acids.
5. Gingko biloba
Gingko biloba has been used for cognitive impairment. While studies did not show a clear benefit, Ginko biloba was felt to be safe.
6. Huperzine A
Huperzine A has a mechanism that is similar to prescription therapies for AD. It appears to work similar to cholinesterase inhibitors. Huperzine A is derived from Chinese club moss. Additional studies are being conducted by the National Institute on Aging.
7. Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 was hoped to be beneficial for AD patients due to it’s anti-inflammatory effects. Current studies have not yet shown any definite benefit for coenzyme Q10 supplementation.
As mentioned above, sleep disturbances are very common for AD patients and other types of dementia. Melatonin supplementation has been shown to help improve sleep patterns in those with AD. It has the added benefit of restoring natural circadian rhythms and also has been shown decrease daytime fatigue.
9. Valerian root
There are a few reports of the use of Valerian root supplements before bed to help promote improved sleep patterns in those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Curcumin is the active ingredient found in the spice tumeric. It’s anti-inflammatory benefits are well established as is its use for other health conditions related to inflammatory pathways.
11. Muira puama
Muira puama has been shown to have some acetylcholinesterase activity. This is one of the cornerstones of pharmacologic treatment for Alzheimer prescription drug therapy. While used primarily for sexual enhancement, anecdotal evidence suggests it may have some benefit for AD.
Diet and Exercise For Treating Alzheimer’s Disease
Proper nutrition, diet and exercise are essential cornerstones for healthy living. The additional stress reduction benefit of exercise is helpful in the treatment of AD. As with many common diseases, diet and nutritional support and supplementation can modify the disease process itself.