I did a talk recently on disease and nutrition, and while I was researching for it, I came across a staggering statistic.
AS OF 2017, DEMENTIA IS THE BIGGEST KILLER OF AUSTRALIAN WOMEN.
IT IS THE 2nd BIGGEST KILLER OVERALL (MEN AND WOMEN COMBINED)
I found this quite difficult to believe to be honest. So I checked, double checked, triple checked. Every time I checked, the answer was the same.
So where are we going wrong, that such a horrible disease can now be the leading cause of death for Australian women?
And what can we do to help prevent this terrible disease?
According to Dementia Australia “Dementia is the umbrella term for a number of neurological conditions, of which the major symptom includes a global decline in brain function.”1 Dementia is a symptom of disease, it is not a normal part of ageing.
The most common form of Dementia is Alzheimer’s (70%), with Vascular Dementia being the second most common (17%).2
Because Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia are the 2 most common forms of Dementia, I will be focusing on these. These 2 topics alone have filled various books, so this will have to be just an overview of the possible causes and what can be done to minimise your chances of Dementia.
Vascular Dementia: The most common cause of Vascular Dementia is a series of mini strokes, caused by blockages in the blood vessels that lead to the brain. These blockages deprive the brain of blood and therefore of oxygen. The lack of oxygen kills the brain cells. This can affect very specific parts of the brain, depending on where the blockages are. Someone can be having multiple mini strokes and not be aware of it until dementia symptoms start to become obvious.
The most obvious solution to reducing your risk of Vascular Dementia is to ensure that you have good blood circulation and that your blood vessels are healthy and clear of plaque. This can be done following the guidelines below:
- Do you suffer from cold hands and feet even when those around you don’t? If so, you most likely have poor circulation and you need to find out why. As mentioned above, poor circulation to the brain can lead to Vascular Dementia. Poor circulation can be caused by a number of health conditions so it is important to rule out certain conditions such as Hypothyroidism, low blood pressure, high blood pressure, diabetes, a heart condition or atherosclerosis (the build up of plaque in your blood vessels).
If you have poor circulation there are various things you can do to improve it:
- Eliminate sugar, refined grains (processed foods) and trans fats which all contribute to atherosclerosis. Eat a whole food diet, consisting of moderate amounts of protein, fat, nuts, seeds and fruit and high amounts of vegetables. This will stabilise your blood sugar levels, look after the health of your blood vessels and feed your body and brain all the nutrients it needs.
- Control your blood sugar levels, in particular if you have diabetes, by eating the food mentioned above. Intermittent fasting is also a great way to control blood sugar levels.
- Check your thyroid function. If you have hypothyroidism, this needs to be treated. There are natural ways to treat hypothyroidism so you won’t be reliant on medications
- If your blood pressure is low or high, you need to work on stabilising it
- Make sure you get plenty of aerobic exercise to get that blood flowing
Alzheimer’s Disease: If you are concerned about Alzheimer’s, either because your memory is declining or because of a family history of Alzheimer’s, you need to read “The End of Alzheimer’s” by Dale E. Bredesen, MD. He is an internationally recognised expert in the field of Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and his book offers treatment protocols to help prevent and reverse cognitive decline.
In his book, Dr. Bredesen tells us that there are 3 different processes that combine to form Alzheimer’s. These are inflammation, poor nutrition and toxic overload. There are multiple causes of these 3 processes and he goes on to say that there are a total of 36 different contributing factors to Alzheimer’s. He uses a great analogy of a house with 36 leaks in the roof. If you plug just 1 or 2 leaks, the roof will still be leaking and your house will still be damaged. I cannot possibly go through all of these contributing factors, and it is important to address all of them. But I will discuss some of the more important ones to give you an idea as to the sort of health issues that can lead to this terrible disease.
Toxic Exposure including heavy metals:
Dr. Hugh Fudenberg is a world leading Immunogeneticist and the Founder and Research Director of Neuroimmuno Therapeutic Research Foundation. He has over 850 research papers published in peer reviewed publications. At a 1997 NVIC International Vaccine Conference in Arlington, USA, he stated
“If an individual has had 5 consecutive flu shots between 1970 – 1980 (the years of the study) his/her chance of developing Alzheimer’s Disease is 10 times greater than if they had 1, two or no shots.”
This is due to the mercury7,8,9 and aluminium5,6 the vaccinations contain. It is not only mercury and aluminium that have been linked to Alzheimer’s. Cadmium3, copper4 and lead10,11 have also been implicated.
Toxic exposure can also include poisons produced by microbes such as moulds, viruses and bacteria.
Lack of exercise:
A sedentary lifestyle is now regarded as our biggest overall killer. The impact a sedentary lifestyle has on our brain is best summarised as follows:
A 2018 study published in the “Neurology” Journal followed 1,400 women over 44 years, monitoring their fitness levels. Results showed that the highly fit women were 90% less likely to develop Dementia12.
I guess that says it all, doesn’t it!
Inflammation: Inflammation is at the core of ALL disease and Dementia is no different. We need to reduce the inflammation in our system and this can often be achieved through nutrition. Inflammatory foods are foods such as sugar, processed grains, dairy products and animal protein.
The sugar needs to eliminated from our diets – it is toxic! The processed grains also need to be eliminated. Whole grains can be consumed but need to be reduced – most people are far too reliant on grains to “fill us up”.
We are the only species on earth that still drinks/eats milk after weaning – and we eat another species’ milk. Dairy, whether it is from cows, sheep or goats, is not meant for human consumption so should be eliminated. It is very inflammatory and acidic.
Protein is essential for life, but if you eat a whole food diet a lot of the protein you need can come from vegetables – so just moderate amounts of animal protein are required.
Blood pressure: Blood pressure, either high or low, needs to be addressed and preferably through nutrition rather than medication. In saying that, if you are taking medication for high blood pressure, only stop taking your medication with the support of your Doctor. Low blood pressure can mean that your circulation is poor and high blood pressure can damage the blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis. Read my article on blood pressure for some natural ways to help reduce it.
Insulin resistance: Research is now pointing to the fact that a major contributing factor in Alzheimer’s is insulin resistance in the brain14,15,16. In fact, Alzheimer’s is now being called “Type 3 diabetes”. Diabetics have double the risk of getting Alzheimer’s compared to non diabetics17. Although this is certainly not the only cause, research is showing that it is a major contributor. Just like a diabetic can become insulin resistant, where the insulin receptors in the body don’t “accept” insulin, this can happen in the brain as well. When this happens, the brain cannot access glucose, it’s fuel. Eliminating sugar is therefore an extremely important part of prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s.
Poor nutrition: Without the correct nutrition, your body cannot possibly function properly. You need good levels of nutrition to boost your immune system to fight off infections, to help your organs detoxify heavy metals and other toxins, to help your pancreas produce sufficient insulin, to help your lungs supply oxygen, to help your kidney filter toxins, and of course your brain needs these nutrients to function properly. It is essential that you go back to eating as nature intended – whole, unprocessed foods. Research has shown that various nutritional deficiencies are linked to Alzheimer’s, in particular, deficiencies in Omega 3’s (especially DHA), Vitamin B12, C, D, E and K, amongst others.
Infection: The herpes virus (Herpes Simplex HSV-1) that causes cold sores has now been linked to Alzheimer’s13. A study published in June 2018 showed that Alzheimer’s brains had up to twice as much of two common strains of herpes viruses than the non-Alzheimer’s brains. There have also been many studies over the years linking other pathogens to the onset of Alzheimer’s. There is more and more scientific evidence pointing to the fact that the brain produces amyloid plaque (the key indicator of Alzheimer’s) in response to various pathogens crossing the blood brain barrier. And it is not just the herpes virus that has been implicated. Research is pointing to the fact that there may be a number of viral, bacterial and fungal infections that can contribute to Alzheimer’s.
Use it or lose it: Stimulate your brain by remaining socially active and by doing puzzles and activities on a regular basis.
Neurogenesis: Neurogenesis is the process by which new neurons are formed in the brain. In the past it was thought that the brain was incapable of growing new neurons, but research has now debunked that theory. Listed below are some of the ways that new neurons can be regenerated.
- Calorie Restriction
- Intermittent fasting
- Curcumin (turmeric)
- Various medicinal herbs
- Flavonoids (Blueberries and dark chocolate)
- Omega 3
- Folate (Never use Folic Acid)
Dementia is an extremely complex condition so I am unable to cover all of the contributing factors to this horrible disease in just one article. If you are concerned that your memory is declining, NOW is the time to do something about it. People do not just wake up one morning with Dementia. It progresses very slowly – usually taking decades before symptoms arise. Be pro-active and take your health into your own hands.
A good starting point is always diet – as Hippocrates said “Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food”
By Andrea Southern, Naturopath, Clinical Nutritionist, Herbalist.