Understanding Alzheimer’s from a Naturopathic View
Updated: Sep 7, 2022
Alzheimer’s on the Rise
Many of us know a family member or friend who has been struck with Alzheimer’s Disease – and know the emotional, financial and physical toll this disease takes.
According to a recent issue[i] in The Institute for Natural Medicine Journal, the baby boomers are at increasing risk for getting dementia. And more than five million people now live with Alzheimer’s – “a degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia.”
Why is this Disease Increasing?
Lifestyle, especially food choices and activity level, can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and other diseases associated with the risk of Alzheimer’s – think diabetes, heart disease, depression and stress. With bad food choices – too much sugar and refined carbohydrates, eating out at restaurants – as well as not being active enough – increase risks for Alzheimer’s and many other diseases. And lack of sleep and stress also play a huge role.
Prevention is the Key
Unfortunately, there are no effective pharmaceuticals or natural supplements to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, only treat the symptom. The best way to deal with this disease is preventing it. The role of exercise and understanding what foods are good for you (think whole foods with lots of color). And knowing your genetic predispositions for certain diseases (especially metabolic diseases, like diabetes) is important to know. [iii]
The Naturopathic Way
Optimizing your diet and cooking for yourself are a great start to decrease systemic inflammation and balance any sugar abnormalities. Using certain supplements can also aide your body – think curcumin[iv], resveratrol[v], Bacopa monnieri[vi] – especially your brain in reducing inflammation. It is best to consult with your Naturopathic Doctor for a complete set of diagnostics and treatments if you have a concern.
Importance of Sleep
Current research shows that lack of sleep can be a huge risk for developing Alzheimer’s and using sleep aid medications can make it worse for getting over insomnia and increasing the risk for cognitive decline. New research shows that using melatonin can help increase the brain’s resilience against neurodegeneration.
Besides melatonin, hydrotherapy and blue-light blocking goggles can help if falling asleep or staying asleep is a struggle. I swear by Epsom salt baths (2 cups) and lavender drops to help relax and give me the magnesium I need to sleep.
To learn more on preventative foods and supplements, see this research. [vii]
Social Connectedness is Crucial
Being social today is a lot about interacting on social media, through email and text messaging. First, there isn’t as much in-person get-togethers or even working together because of technology. And second, technology is great but it can’t replace our need for real social interaction. And this lack of in-person interacting can hurt our brain.
Stress Hurts the Brain
Stress mimics our flight/fight autonomic systems and in today’s world there is constant exposure to keep these systems on, all the time. Many naturopathic doctors recommend mindful meditation and Dr. Porter and her colleague offer a class to teach you how to use your mind to heal – Mastering Your Mind
Reducing stress is important to protect your brain and your body. Think of activities that relax you like, reading, gardening, writing, music and incorporate them in your daily life. I recently discovered box breathing[viii] as a type of meditation and use it as my morning routine. This technique, also known as “resetting your breath” or four-square breathing can be done in four steps:
Sit comfortably, close your eyes and breathe in through your nose while counting to four
Hold your breath while counting to four
Exhale for 4 seconds (count to 4)
Repeat steps 1 to 3 at least 3 times. Work your way up to 4 minutes.
Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease and preventing it is the best strategy. Think about how the Naturopathic view can help you incorporate good habits and get you closer to strengthening your mind, body and spirit.
Integrative Health Coach