My father spent the last few years of his life crippled by Alzheimer’s. And I would dearly love to prevent you and other people from suffering as he did by taking action to prevent it. Here I describe how Alzheimer’s occurs and how it may be both prevented and treated using integral medical practices. Alzheimer’s is now being related to insulin resistance, a relationship I’ve described in my post Diabetes Type 3.
Insidious degenerative disorder disease with onset in 30’s and 40’s 
Symptoms revealed in 60’s and 70’s: loss of memory and cognitive functions, decline in vocabulary and word understanding, repeating oneself, difficulties with numbers, time and spatial awareness problems, communication and speaking impairment, depression, fatigue, disorientation, aggression and paranoia 
- Plaques formed in spaces between nerve cells that trigger inflammatory response and immune destruction of nerve cells  and dendrites (nerve connections) 
- Nerve cell structural decline leading to nerve fiber tangles  and nerve cell death
- Severing of links between brain centers responsible for thinking and memory (forebrain and hippocampus) due to nerve cell death .
Triggers and Antecedents
- Genetic disposition and family history, patient history of diabetes, metabolic disorder, cardiovascular disease and prolonged stress 
- Hormonal imbalances (thyroid, cortisol, melatonin) 
- Impaired blood flow in brain (due to coronary problems), oxidative neural damage, head injuries , high homocysteine levels , 
- High homocysteine levels associated with AD, heart disease and coronary problems , 
- Reduced levels of neurotransmitter acetylcholine (responsible for memory), nutritional deficiencies 
- Environmental toxin, mercury and aluminum exposure – note that causal role of aluminum is not definitively proven and needs further investigation 
- Testing imperative to determine cause of symptoms as Alzheimer’s confused for other forms of dementia 
- Tests include: cognitive assessment (memory, verbal, visual spatial), physical testing (thyroid function, B-vitamin and nutritional deficiencies, low DHEA and sex hormones), genetic testing (APOE4 gene status), neuro and magnetic resonance imaging
Treatment Options and Lifestyle Changes
- Stress reduction – cortisol (chronic stress hormone) inhibits memory and learning by preventing glucose uptake by hippocampus, inhibiting synaptic transmission, and excess free radical production causing neuronal injury and death (excitory neurotransmitter Glutamic acid acts as intermediary) 
- Hormonal balancing – to promote Melatonin, DHEA and Pregnenolone (hormones that promote memory but depleted during chronic stress) as well as Estrogen support in Post-menopausal women (Estrogen promotes hippocampus and memory function); nutrition optimization, physical and mental exercise 
Medications and Biomedical Intervention
- Acetylcholinestase Inhibitors increase level of memory neurotransmitter acetylcholine – Rivastigmine is best for improving memory with few side effects
- Memantine decreases toxic effects of glutamate and is effective in moderate to later stages of AD
- Rivastigmine / Exelon is moderately effective in imporving memory in early AD
- Tacrine / Cognex has side effects and little effectiveness and should not be used 
- MAO-B inhibitor Deprenyl slows progression of AD 
- Ginkgo biloba improves memory and brain blood circulation, and provides anti-oxidant protection to brain cells 
- Caution needed when combining Ginkgo with anti-coagulants (eg Warfarin / Coumadin) 
- Gingko significantly useful in early stages of AD but not in advanced stages 
- Gingko Biloba associated with promoting acetylcholine receptors in the hippocampus 
- Curcumin in Turmeric is associated with preventing AD 
- Removal of allergenic foods and environmental and dietary toxins – symptoms of allergenic response (including effects of over growth of Candida yeast) mimic symptoms of AD and may promote them 
- Chelation therapy aids removal of metals such as Mercury and Aluminum from body 
- Avoid Aluminum sources including coffee makers, pots and pans, antacids, deodorants, cans and foil 
- Limit Mercury food intake including fish (eg tuna) 
- Avoid flavor enhancer MSG and sweetener Aspartame are proven neurotoxins and should be avoided 
- Alcohol and nicotine limit brainpower and should be avoided 
- Promote liver sulfoxidation with nutrient support (eg selenium)and sulfite avoidance (eg wine) – sulfoxidation removes heavy metals and toxins that damage nerve cells and are associated with AD 
- Restrict dietary sources of refined sugars: diet high in fat and calories shown to cause oxidative stress and coronary problems and contribute to cognitive decline; low fat and calorie diet successful in preventing and treating AD 
- Promote inclusion of diet high in anti-oxidants, nutrients, fiber and healthy fatty acids – organic wholefood vegetables, pulses, grains, fruits, fish and meat 
- Fiber needed to stabilize blood sugar and promote blood alkalinity (acid blood pH inhibits neuron function) 
- Promote inclusion of dietary protein needed for neurotransmitter production 
Vitamins: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, B-complex
- Vitamin C needed for neurotransmitter acetycholine and dopamine production and anti-oxidant defense. Combine with anti-oxidant partner Vitamin E 
- B-Complex: especially B3 (promotes memory), B6, B12 and folate (reduces homocysteine) , .
Supplement: Co-enzyme Q10 for anti-oxidant nerve cell protection, improved blood circulation, and improved energy in cells .
Nutrients: Choline, Phosphatidyl Serine and DHA fatty acid
- Choline and lecithin soy products, eggs, cabbage, cauliflower, organ meats, spinach nuts and wheat germ – for production of vital neurotransmitter acetylcholine and major structural and functional components of brain cells needed to protect against cell degeneration 
- Phosphatidyl Serine in lecithin, soy products and supplements – shown to promote memory, mood and concentration  as well as lower levels of cortisol 
- DHA in fish, egg yolks, and marine tissue is predominant Omega 3 fatty acid needed in brain tissue 
- Biological feedback training promotes regulation of unconscious body functions and reduces stress, rebalances brain function, enhances brain nerve growth and allows brain function to be regained 
- Physical exercise improves blood flow and mental exercise (eg study and cognitive puzzles) promote brain function and prevent degeneration , 
- QiGong exercise promotes brain function and balances body, as well as reducing stress 
- Meditation and Spirituality reduces stress and cortisol induced hippocampal damage, enhances brain function and slows AD progression (eg Kriya spiritual chanting) 
- Detoxification lifestyle, toxin elimination and smoking cessation (smoking promotes oxidative damage to nerve cells and reduces oxygen in blood needed for brain function) 
- Maintain interest in study, projects of interest and meaningful work, people, events and issues 
Resources and Bibliography
 Rakel, D. (2007). Integrative Medicine. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders
 Trivieri, L., Anderson, J., Goldberg, B. (2002). Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide(2ndEd). Berkeley, Ca., Celestial Arts.
 Murray, M. (2005).Encyclopedia of Healing Food. New York, N.Y.: Atria Books
 Murray, M. (2001). Total body tune-up. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Press
 Holford, P. (2010). Optimum Nutrition for the Mind. London, UK: Paitkus
 Peters, D., Pelletier, K. (2005). New Medicine. New York: Dorling Kindersley Limited.
Haas, E. (2006). Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Healing Arts.
Chopra, D., Tanzi, R. (2012). Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being. New York, N.Y.: Random House.