20 Ways to Beat Alzheimer’s Disease
One of the fastest growing diseases in the industrial world is Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This is characterized by massive degeneration of the brain that causes disruptions in memory, cognition, personality that finally culminates with brain death.
Approximately, 5.9 million Americans have Alzheimer’s and that number is expected to go up to 15 million by the year 2050 (1). Take action now to prevent and reverse Alzheimer’s disease with natural strategies.
The Alzheimer’s Burden:
Alzheimer’s disease cripples the individuals’ brain to the point where they cannot form new memories. They are a danger to themselves because they are entirely unable to take care of even the most basic needs. Most individuals survive for 5-10 years with AD.
These individuals need constant care-giving which creates a massive economic burden on the family. New reports show there are more than 15 million Americans providing care for someone with AD. This is a tremendous financial, physical and emotional burden to help care for a loved one with AD.
The Neuro Degenerative Process:
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are characterized by massive neuronal loss in the temperal lobe hippocampus region of the brain (3 4). The hippocampus is the major region where we process and create short term memory. This causes problems with short term memory, behavioral changes, depression and irritability, balance problems and disorientation.
AD is also associated with damage to the Amygdala and limbic regions of the brain. These areas are responsible for our response to fear, our emotions and behavior. This is why AD patients struggle with irritability, anxiety, mood disorders and depression (5).
AD diagnosis is made by observing neuron loss of medium and large sized pyramidal cells and the presence of intraneuronal neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) and extracellular deposits of amyloid filaments that are surrounded by altered neuritic processes and glia cells. These NFT’s with amyloid are called senile plaques and they are found in greater abundance in the hippocampus, amygdala and other limbic regions (6).
Poor Blood Sugar Signaling
Research has shown that Alzheimer’s disease development and progression is highly influenced by lifestyle factors. A recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease confirmed earlier reports that AD is characterized by chronic inflammation and insulin resistance in the brain. Researchers have titled this pathophysiological pattern type-3 diabetes (7, 8, 9).
These researchers found that as blood sugar signaling patterns are disrupted it leads to elevated blood sugar and the formation of Advanced Glycolytic End Products (AGE’s). The AGEs destroy cell membrane function and damage insulin receptor activity creating a vicious cycle of elevated blood sugar and inflammatory stress. AGEs cause massive destruction throughout the body and have an affinity for neurological tissue (10, 11).
Blood Brain Barrier and Alzheimer’s:
The blood brain barrier (BBB) is a tight network of blood vessels that is designed to only allow small nutrients to pass into the brain. The BBB is a mechanism the body uses to protect the brain from oxidative stress, infectious microbes and chronic inflammation.
Individuals with Alzheimer’s have alterations in the BBB where they have increased permeability which therefore allows greater stress on the brain (12). This happens through 3 major mechanisms
1) Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar causes a partial starvation of the brain tissue and the body responds by opening up the BBB to allow for more nutrients to cross. This also allows for more toxins and oxidative stress to effect brain tissue (13).
2) Hyperglycemia: High blood sugar causes more oxidative stress that damages the endothelial lining of the BBB, weakening this protective shield and making it more permeable to larger compounds. This causes increased stress on the brain tissue and leads to insulin resistance in the brain. Increased insulin levels are associated with the neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaque found in Alzheimer’s disease (14, 15).
3) Magnesium Deficiency: Blood sugar imbalances deplete magnesium and many B vitamin stores in the body. Magnesium plays a key role in the capillary tone of the endothelial membrane. Magnesium deficiency weakens the endothelial lining and makes it more permeable to heavy metals such as aluminum which is classically found in Alzheimer’s disease (16, 17, 18).
The MicroBiome and Alzheimer’s
There has been a tremendous amount of research linking the gut microbiome and neurological health. Research has indicated that low levels of healthy lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are linked with increased brain excitability and neurological inflammation (19, 20).
These microbes help to break down the excititory neurotransmitter glutamate into the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. Low levels of GABA production are associated with anxiety, seizures, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s (21, 22).
Additionally, it has been shown that some microbes secrete amyloid as a byproduct of their metabolism. This endotoxin is linked to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. It is thought that high levels of amyloid producing bacteria are a significant factor in the development of Alzheimer’s (23, 24).
Aluminum and Alzheimer’s:
Aluminum is found in high amounts within the neurofibrillary tangles of Alzheimer’s disease patients. How does it get in there? Through a combination of blood sugar dysregulation, gut dysbiosis and chronic inflammation and environmental aluminum exposure.
Aluminum is used in the processing of many different industrial products. We are exposed to aluminum in vaccines, deoderants, medications, canned foods and tap water. Aluminum has an affinity for brain tissue due to 2 major mechanisms (25, 26, 27)
1) Slow Absorption and Uptake Rates: Because aluminum is absorbed by the body slowly and the uptake into the brain is progressive, many scientists believe it is a safe additive in food and drinking water treatment.
2) Aluminum’s Ionic Size: This particle is similar to iron in size and uses iron-evolved mechanisms to enter the highly active, iron-dependent cells responsible for memory processing. Aluminum accumulates in these iron-dependent cells and dysregulates the iron homeostasis which causes brain hypoxia and neuronal cell death.
AD is a human form of chronic aluminum neurotoxicity. The causality analysis demonstrates that chronic aluminum intake causes AD.
Every cell of the body has mitochondria within it that produce energy for the cell. The mitochondria are the battery packs of the cell and they are extremely important. High levels of oxidative stress wear down the mitochondria and cause a dysfunctional state. Studies have found that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease have an advanced state of mitochondrial dysfunction (28, 29).
Individuals suffering from AD are evidenced to have massive cell death of the hippocampus and amygdala regions of the brain (30). Research has shown that this is initiated by a profound glutathione (GSH) decrease and a mitochondrial dysfunction.
Glutathione Depletion and Nrf2:
In AD, the cells are under so much stress that there main protective shield (GSH) gets worn down and oxidative stress damages the mitochondria and the DNA leading to cell death. Poor blood sugar control and high environmental toxin exposure are known to deplete glutathione levels and impair mitochondrial function (31).
A key pathway that maintains cellular glutathione levels and the ability of the cell to adapt to stress is called Keap1-Nrf2. When this pathway breaks down it causes increased levels of oxidative stress within the cell that leads to the glutathione depletion and mitochondrial dysfunction (32).
This pathway must be addressed in order to prevent or reverse AD symptoms (33).
An anti-inflammatory nutrition plan that is low in carbohydrate and rich in healthy fats and anti-oxidants is critical to preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease. The brain is primarily water, fat and cholesterol. These are all key building blocks for promoting healthy brain function and rebuilding a damaged brain.
The proper nutrition plan to beat AD is rich in phytonutrient dense vegetables, healthy fat and clean protein sources. Healthy fat sources such as coconut, avocados, olive oil & sprouted nuts and seeds must take a central role in the diet to promote healthy brain function. I recommend a ketogenic diet for Alzheimer’s patients and you can read about why in this article.
Healthy Proteins & Anti-Oxidants:
Healthy proteins include wild-caught fish, grass-fed red meat and organic chicken, turkey and eggs. Grass-fed beef is loaded with long-chain omega 3 fatty acids, saturated fat, cholesterol, vitamin B12, and conjugated linoleic acid which are all necessary for healthy neurological function.
Additionally, grass-fed beef contains carnosine, wild salmon contains astaxanthin and organic pasture-fed eggs have retinol, lutein & zeaxanthin. These fat-soluble anti-oxidants protect the brain and neurological tissue from AGEs and other damaging free radicals. Superfood herbs like turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, oregano, rosemary, thyme, ginger, basil, etc. should be used as much as possible.
Critical Nutrients for Brain Health:
Regular exercise and sun exposure are extremely critical factors to boost oxygenation, anti-aging hormones and vitamin D3 levels. Vitamin D3 supplementation of 10,000 IU daily is often needed. High quality multi-vitamins, magnesium, extra B complex vitamins, zinc & selenium as well as probiotics and purified omega 3 fatty acids should be used as well.
Individuals at risk for AD have sleep challenges throughout their lives and have reduced melatonin signaling systems in their brain. Establishing regular sleep cycles by going to bed early and getting a full 8 hours of sleep each night is essential. Adding in certain teas such as valerian root, chamomile and passionflower can be especially helpful.
Additionally, you can use lavendar, chamomile and peppermint essential oils to relax the nervous system, oxygenate the body and induce deeper sleep. Healthy melatonin levels help the brain to clean up damaged cells (autophagy) including the NFT’s that are characteristic of AD.
Good sleep and optimal melatonin secretions also positively influence healthy genetic expression, circadian rhythms that improve anti-aging characteristics and human growth hormone levels which boost immunity, reduce inflammation and build lean body tissue and a healthy physique.
One of the biggest breakthroughs in neuroscience over the last 20 years has been the discovery of neurogenesis. This refers to the ability of the brain to generate new healthier and stronger cells and synaptic junctions. The brain can literally re-wire itself. In the case of AD, the brain is breaking down faster than it can rebuild which is called neurodegeneration.
In order to grow stronger and healthier neuronal cells the neurons secrete a compound called Brain derived neurotrophic growth factor (BDNF). BDNF encourages the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses. In the brain, it is most active in the hippocampus and cortex and is vital to learning, memory and higher thinking (34).
Key ways to simulate BDNF include regular exercise, novel movement patterns such as using your non-dominant hand for activities, doing cross-crawl style movements, aromatherapy, learning new concepts, listening to classical music, social interaction and laughing. Read this article on neurobics, which are specific exercises to stimulate BDNF production.
Action Steps to Beat Alzheimer’s:
Here are the best action steps to get started with on your journey to prevent and/or beat Alzheimer’s disease. You should always consult with your physician before stopping or changing medications or taking on new health strategies.
Additionally, you should be working with a functional health practitioner to help guide you through these strategies. This is not an exhaustive list and there are other natural therapeutic strategies that I and functional health practitioners will utilize to help individuals with Alzheimer’s.
1) Change Your Diet: Follow an Anti-Inflammatory nutrition plan here and avoid exposure to aluminum cans by choosing fresh or frozen organic food as much as possible.
2) Reduce Stress: Find ways to reduce stressful activities and enjoy more peace and calm. Learn to thrive under stress by reading this article here
3) Improve Your Sleep: Sleeping a high quality 8-9 hours each night is key to healing and improving brain function. Follow the steps in this article to improve your sleep.
4) Power Up Your Nrf2 Pathway: This is the key genetic anti-oxidant pathway. Adding in clinical dosages of resveratrol, curcumin, sulfuraphane and Green tea (ECGC) can be extraordinarily beneficial. I use Nrf2 Power here to improve this pathway. I always get my chronic hypertensive patients on Nrf2 Power.
5) Include Magnesium & B Vitamin Rich Foods: Magnesium helps to improve blood sugar signaling patterns and protects the blood-brain barrier. The best magnesium and B vitamin rich foods include dark green leafy veggies, grass-fed dairy, raw cacao and pumpkin seeds. You can also do Epsom salt baths to boost your magnesium levels.
6) Focus on Deep Breathing: Improving your posture, seeing a high quality chiropractor and optimizing your breathing patterns is highly recommended. Follow these tips here to improve your breathing patterns.
7) Use Anti-Oxidant Rich Herbs: Add turmeric, ginger, oregano, garlic, basil, thyme and rosemary to as many dishes as possible and drink organic herbal teas on a regular basis.
8) Ground Your Body: In our society we are surrounded by toxic electromagnetic frequency’s (EMF’s). These EMF’s increase stress within our body and alter neurotransmitter function. By going outside daily and walking barefoot on grass, dirt or sand you absorb natural EMF’s from the ground that balance your electrical rhythms. Follow the steps in this article here.
9) Supplement With Omega 3’s: Omega 3 fatty acids and in particular the long chain variety EPA and DHA are critical for stabilizing blood sugar, improving neurogenesis and neurotransmitter production (35, 36). Consume grass-fed meat, grass-fed butter, wild-caught fish and spirulina to get it in your diet.
It is also advisable to supplement with 2-5 grams daily of EPA/DHA along with 200 mg of GLA. Clinically, I use ProEFA to boost up omega 3’s.
10) Improve Your Mitochondria: The mitochondria are the energy powerhouses of every cell. When someone has a neurodegenerative disorder it is a clinical sign that they have disfunctional activity going on in the mitochondria.
Support your mitochondria with clinical doses of CoQ10, L-carnitine, N-acetyl cysteine and Lipoic acid. The supplement I use with my neurodegenerative clients is Brain Supercharge which has the clinically effective dosages of each of these key nutrients and more.
11) Juice Your Veggies: Juicing is one of the best ways to get high quality anti-oxidants and powerful phytonutrients into your system. Here is my article on Best Juicing strategies.
12) Intermittent Fasting: Going 16 hours between dinner and breakfast is one of the best ways to improve mitochondrial production. Your body improves energy efficiency by increasing and strengthening the mitochondria during periods of fasting. Consume your meals in an 8 hour window such as 11am – 7pm. Read this article for more info on fasting.
13) Optimize Your Vitamin D: Low vitamin D3 is associated with neurological inflammation and neurodegenerative conditions (37). Be sure to increase your vitamin D through good amounts of regular sun exposure and/or taking a high quality vitamin D3/K2 supplement.
14) Get a Home Water Filtration System: Very important to avoid the chloride, fluoride, pesticides, heavy metals – aluminum, etc. that are found in tap water. Use a good whole home water filtration system as discussed in this article here
15) Do Brain Based Exercises: Various brain based exercises can be performed daily to help boost Brain Derived Neurotropic Growth Factors (BDNF) that improve the health and stability of the brain. Watch my video on these here
16) Make Learning Your Hobby: Continual and life long learning is one of the best ways to improve BDNF levels. Studying new subjects, reading books, learning languages, playing new instruments and doing crossword puzzles are extremely healthy for the brain.
17) Use Essential Oils: The anti-oxidant content and aromatherapy benefits of essential oils help to reduce inflammation in the brain and stimulate BDNF. Some of my favorites include lavendar, peppermint, chamomile and sweet orange among others.
Put a drop on your hands and mix together and then cover your nose and inhale the healing vapors. This will stimulate your brain and increase blood flow to your cranium.
18) Improve Your Gut Motility: Improving bowel movement frequency and consistency is a key detoxification concept. Consuming an anti-inflammatory diet with good fiber sources such as chia seed and flax seed, using bone broths, fermented foods and probiotics will improve bowel motility.
19) Low Intensity Movement: A sedentary lifestyle reduces cerebrospinal fluid flow and can lead to increased oxidative stress in the brain. Throughout the day, get a lot of low-intensity movement such as walking, light cycling, playing, etc. Regular movement will help reduce inflammation and boost the development of new neurons in the brain.
20) Use an Advanced Brain Support Pack: Thisis designed to get you the key nutrients that are we have already discussed that are necessary for optimal brain function and cognitive processing. These nutrients help the brain to produce the right amount of neurotransmitters and other neurochemicals.