Our holistic doctors and good naturopaths are serious about doing our best to prevent and treat dementia on the Sunshine Coast!
Memory loss amongst older people is common, and is often almost accepted as normal, in the Western world. Yet dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia. Dementia patients occupy more than half of nursing home beds on the Sunshine Coast. What is more, the number of people with dementia in Australia is expected to double by 2025. This is a deplorable state of affairs, and we all need to take responsibility for preventing dementia, both to protect ourselves and our loved ones. We also need to do our best to help stop Australia’s finances drowning in a sea of spiralling health care costs. So Australia needs holistic doctors and good naturopaths to best help avoid a looming health crisis.
Many quite elderly people experience very little decline in their cognitive function. They achieve that by leading a healthy lifestyle throughout their lives. We all need to recognise a fundamental truth; cognitive deterioration as we get older is not inevitable.
The causes of Dementia on the Sunshine Coast
Dementia is a disease caused unwittingly, yet primarily by lifestyle choices. The main culprits are
1. Excessive sugar.
Diabetes and obesity both increase the risk of dementia. Contrary to popular belief, the ideal fuel for your brain is not glucose, but ketones. Ketones are what the body produces when it converts fat (as opposed to glucose) into energy. One of the best ways of treating dementia is to reduce your overall sugar consumption.
2. Gluten consumption.
It can be argued it is best to avoid gluten, even if you you have never been diagnosed with coeliac disease or gluten intolerance. This is because gluten can make our gut lining more permeable, which allows substances to get into our bloodstream when they shouldn’t. That then stimulates our immune system and promotes inflammation and autoimmunity. Both of these conditions play a role in the development of dementia. What is more, research also shows that our blood-brain barrier is negatively affected by gluten. This makes our brains more susceptible to damage. What is more, the increased consumption of genetically engineered grains, which are now common in most processed foods, may increase our risk of dementia. So it is prudent to avoid all processed food, and particularly gluten. Hence there are very sound reasons why good naturopaths so often advise people to get off gluten.
3. Lack of exercise.
Exercising every day, if possible, is a very simple tool in the armoury for preventing and treating dementia.
4. Nutritional deficiencies and toxicities,
Every adult should have a “cognoscopy;” a general, but thorough examination of their risk factors for dementia. Holistic GP’s or good naturopaths are ideally suited to do this. Perhaps in a perfect world this should happen in our 20’s. However in the real world an acceptable compromise might be in our mid 40’s. Yet it is never too late. Good naturopaths such as Danielle or Gina or an holistic GP such as Nicole, Mark or Tracy here at Pulse Holistic on the Sunshine Coast are passionate about preventing and treating dementia.
We will take a full family, dietary, medical and exercise history. If the patient has memory issues, a close relative should be present.
We calculate the body-mass index, as the more overweight we are, preventing dementia gets increasingly difficult.
There are many more very helpful specific tests; here are some of them.
– ApoE4 status.
ApoE4, an allele of the ApoE gene, is implicated in several chronic diseases, such as atherosclerosis and dementia. This gene allele may lead to increased levels of inflammation, insulin resistance, and synapse dysfunction. Interestingly, many patients with dementia do have at least one copy of this gene. Yet many whom are homozygous (2 copies) never go on to develop the disease. Knowing you have it can help highlight the importance of managing other risk factors. This may help in preventing dementia.
– HbA1c level. We determine this by a simple blood test
(should be less than 5.5.) This is one way we recognise excess sugar consumption. Another is by measuring triglycerides.
– We often do gene tests for coeliac disease.
These can give clues to the presence of gluten intolerance, a genetic condition which may not produce any symptoms, yet may exacerbate the risk of dementia. So if we are serious about preventing dementia, we need to be aware of gluten intolerance.
– hs CRP, as determined by a blood test,
(should be less than 1.) This is a measure of inflammation. Only an experienced clinician may know what to do about this if it is elevated, and even they may be guessing.
– We check for Pyroluria
in anyone with a history of even mild mental dysfunction. This very common condition means affected individuals need more that the usual amounts of zinc and vitamin B6 to achieve optimal levels of brain functioning. It is also often the underlying cause of depression, anxiety and other psychological problems. What is more, it may cause neurological copper toxicity, particularly in women.
– Cu;Zn ratio
(should not be greater than 1.3.) as measured via a blood test. Copper toxicity is a debilitating condition that seriously effects neurological function. It effects mainly women. Copper toxicity typically causes lethargy, brain fog and symptoms of depression and anxiety. We always consider this diagnosis. At Pulse we usually check every patient’s blood copper level, (although we are also aware that copper toxicity may not show up on a blood test.)
– We check folate
levels with a simple blood test.
– We check MTHFR
genes via a simple blood test. If there are mutations in these genes, we can help. This is probably not only important in preventing dementia, the treatment may help reduce cancer risk too.
– Thyroid function; as measued via a blood test…including fT3
( very important to be optimal, should be greater than 3.2 ) and TSH ( should be 0.4 – 2.0. ) Australian pathology laboratories quote so called “normal” results for TSH of 0.4 – 4. Many practitioners claim this range is not narrow enough.
– Testoserone level in men
( should be 21 – 33 nmol/l. )
– Red blood cell magnesium
( there is a good correlation between this and free magnesium.) The level should be >5.2. Low magnesium increases the risk of dementia.
– High homocysteine,
( as determined by a blood test ) is a genetic risk factor for dementia and for cardiovascular disease. The ideal level should be less than 10. Lowering homocysteine is usually not difficult, and is an important part of treating dementia.
Preventing Dementia and Treating Dementia on the Sunshine Coast
There is no one magic pill, no panacea, for dementia. So treating dementia and preventing dementia has to be a symphony in which we pull out all the stops. That is best done early, even before there are any signs or symptoms of dementia. This is why good nutrition, appropriate supplementation and exercise are the keys.
So the following advice is for everyone of any age interested in minimising their risk of dementia.
We all should start with a good nutritional program. That means getting most, if not all, our nutrition from REAL FOOD, ideally organic (to avoid toxic pesticides,) fresh, and locally grown.
We should all stop eating sugar and processed foods to help prevent dementia. In addition, we should eat good quality, fresh, unprocessed food instead.
Besides that, many of us should supplement with optimum doses of vitamins and minerals, preferably starting before age fifty. If we did this, the incidence of dementia in Australia would drop precipitously.
An holistic GP like Mark, Tracy or Nicole, or good naturopaths like Gina and Danielle. are very happy to discuss specific treatments and preventative measures. Here are some of them.
– Stop all simple carbohydrates.
That means no sugar, including soft drinks and minimising fruit juice.
– Stop gluten.
Many people think gluten intolerance or coeliac disease means suffering from digestive complaints. Yet only a minority of people with gluten intolerance complain of significant digestive issues or pain. Some have no gastrointestinal symptoms whatsoever. So gluten can silently wreak havoc in the brain for years or decades without overt symptoms. This is why our good naturopaths have a high index of suspicion for gluten intolerance.
– Stop all processed food.
That includes deep fried fat, crunchy breakfast cereals, biscuits, cakes, bread, pop corn, bars and crackers. The sugar and the trans fats in most processed food is dangerous. It is probably wise to not blindly trust the labels on these products.
– Optimize healthy gut flora
by regularly eating fermented foods. It is probably sensible to take a high-potency high-quality probiotic supplement.
– Increase consumption of all healthy fats, particularly animal-based omega-3.
Beneficial health-promoting fats that your brain needs for optimal function are easy to find. These include organic butter from raw milk, olives, organic extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, free-range eggs, fish from rivers or the sea, and avocado. Good naturopaths like Gina or Danielle can help you pick the best foods.
We should store omega 3’s in the cold and in the dark, which means in the refrigerator. Omega 3’s quickly turn rancid in our hot weather and light on the Sunshine Coast.
– Improve (ie increase) our magnesium levels.
Supplements are the easiest way to do this. Yet it is best to avoid magnesium oxide in some cheaper supplements, as it is poorly absorbed and therefore of little benefit.
– Optimize our vitamin D levels with safe sun exposure on the Sunshine Coast.
This is very important because are strong links between low levels of vitamin D and dementia. Vitamin D exerts some of its beneficial effects through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. We should aim for a blood level of 100 – 150 nmol/l. Unfortunately, most people on the Sunshine Coast are way below this. This is why our good naturopaths are very diligent at correcting patients’ vitamin D deficiency.
– Eat a diet rich in folate.
Vegetables are undoubtedly the best source of natural folate, which is an extremely important vitamin. So we should all eat plenty of fresh raw vegetables every day. This should be easy to do, as there are plenty of markets on the Sunshine Coast that sell fresh vegetables.
– Eat blueberries.
Wild blueberries, which have a high anthocyanin and antioxidant content, may help in treating dementia and other neurological diseases.
is a natural pigment with unique properties and many clinical benefits, including some very potent antioxidant activity. What is more, as a fat-soluble nutrient, astaxanthin readily crosses the blood-brain barrier. We can get some astaxanthin by taking krill oil, which is also a good omega-3 fat supplement. Or we can add a pure astaxanthin supplement to our nutritional regimen.
is a potent anti-inflammatory that promotes neuroplasticity. So it may also help in treating dementia.
– Gingko biloba
is antiinflammatory and a good antioxidant that may help in treating dementia too.
– Alpha lipoic acid (ALA)
is a pro-energy and antioxidant supplement that may help in preventing dementia. What is more, it can also help reduce copper toxicity.
– Vitamin B-12
B-12 deficiency is an often unrecognised cause of dementia. B-12 deficiency is common in the elderly. This deficiency causes a loss of appetite. What is more, there are many factors that decrease B12 in the body. These include poor diet, poor intestinal absorption, digestive tract surgery, pharmaceutical interference, notably from proton pump inhibitors.
Marginally low levels of B12 in the blood are a good clue that levels may be too low in brain cells. So even marginal B-12 deficiency over a long time period produces an increased risk of dementia.
At Pulse our holistic doctors and good naturopaths are very pro-active in treating even marginal B12 deficiency. Of note, it is amazing how many patients feel better after an intramuscular injection of intramuscular standard or methylated B12.
– Vitamin E and carotene
may help in preventing dementia. Interestingly, many patients with dementia have abnormally low levels of these nutrients in their bodies. This could simply be because they don’t eat well, or because the disease increases their nutrient need, or both. 400 – 600 iu of vitamin E daily is a good dose. What is more, a good naturopath may also prescribe vitamin E to help prevent cardiovascular disease.
(vitamin B3.) Overt deficiency is rare, yet some individuals require bigger than average doses to achieve optimal neurological function.
– Vitamin K.
Some researchers claim that most of us are deficient in this, and that is not good for our brains (or our blood vessels or bones.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ejzyt2Jp_bo Yet unfortunately at present there is no good test for it, so it may be safest to just assume we are deficient. Interestingly, taking probiotics helps maintain vitamin K levels in the body. Good naturopaths are staying up to date with the latest research as we learn more about this fascinating vitamin.
Some dementia patients have a deficiency of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This substance is involved in memory and cognition. Of note, increasing dietary choline raises blood and brain levels of acetylcholine. Interestingly, choline is readily available in cheap, non-prescription lecithin. http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-lecithin.html Yet a large quantity of choline (from lecithin) is necessary for clinical results.
– Vitamin C and Tyrosine;
Increasing the body’s level of the neurotransmitter noradrenalin may also help in preventing dementia. Interestingly, noradrenalin is made from the amino acid tyrosine, which is made from phenylalanine. Of note, we get plenty of phenylalanine from protein in our diets if we eat meat. Yet the conversion to tyrosine and noradrenalin may not take place if there is a deficiency of vitamin C. This is because vitamin C increases noradrenalin production. So vitamin C may therefore be of special value when treating dementia.
– Be aware of Aluminium Toxicity
Aluminium is a known neurotoxin, and ingestion may increase the risk of dementia. This is frightening, as aluminium is part of much cookware, aluminium foil, antacids, and even anti-perspirant deodorants. So people who commonly use deodorants in hot climates like that on the Sunshine Coast may be at risk of Aluminium toxicity.
Aluminium is known to build up in the bodily tissues of persons with dementia and Parkinson’s disease. It is also a component of so-called silver amalgam dental fillings. On the other hand, composite (white) fillings do not contain aluminium (or mercury.)
What is more, much baking powder contains aluminium. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baking_powder
Calcium and magnesium significantly slow down aluminium absorption, and that’s good. Also, silica supplementation helps aluminium excretion. This is one reason why good naturopaths are very aware of how common calcium and magnesium deficiency is on the Sunshine Coast.
– Be aware of Lead Toxicity
Lead has adverse affects on brain development and function, even at very low levels of exposure. This is because lead was added to petrol for decades in the past, so it still permeates our environment.
High dosages of vitamin C are known to help the body rapidly excrete lead.
– Avoid and eliminate mercury from your body to treat dementia.
So dental amalgam fillings may need to come out, as they are one of the major sources of heavy metal toxicity.
– We can help you avoid other toxic elements… copper, fluoride, bromine, chlorine, cadmium, lead and silver. This means ideally we should not drink unfiltered tap water.
Tap water on the Sunshine Coast contains fluoride and chlorine. We think that the possible dental benefits of consuming fluoride are outweighed by the risks.
– Vitamin A
supplementation may help in preventing dementia. Of note, vitamin A deficiency is surprisingly common. In addition, good naturopaths will often give vitamin A to help strengthen immunity.
– Vitamin B6
supplementation may help in treating dementia, particularly if the patient has pyroluria or copper toxicity.
– Calcium supplementation may help.
– We address manganese
deficiency when treating dementia.
200 mg a day, may help in preventing dementia. What is more, good naturopaths know this also may help prevent cancer.
supplementation. Unfortunately, the specific test for iodine deficiency is not always accurate, and is expensive and messy. Yet Iodine deficiency is extremely common. So it is prudent to just take 2 drops of iodine a day. Our kidneys take care of any excess.
– Good naturopaths assess zinc and copper status.
We can do a simple, no charge zinc taste test that good naturopaths have successfully used for the last 30 years. This is important, as some people on the Sunshine Coast are deficient in zinc, and can be toxic from too much copper. Of note is that both of these issues seriously affect our mental health.
– Exercise is very helpful in preventing dementia
To be diligent about preventing dementia as we age, exercise should be at the top of our to-do list. With that in mind, walking at least 7,000 steps or more a day is enough. https://www.fightdementia.org.au/files/helpsheets/Helpsheet-DementiaQandA08-PhysicalExercise_english.pdf There are plenty of great places to walk on the Sunshine Coast.
– Challenge your mind daily.
Mental stimulation, especially learning something new, is helpful when treating dementia. It follows that we should take advantage of facilities on offer; we are lucky on the Sunshine Coast to have a university and hundreds of clubs.
– Avoid anticholinergic drugs when treating dementia.
Drugs that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, may increase the risk of dementia. These drugs include antihistamines, certain antidepressants, and medications to control incontinence.
– Avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
– It may be prudent to avoid statins,
which are cholesterol lowering drugs, if possible. This is because statins suppress the synthesis of cholesterol, and may deplete the brain of coenzyme Q10 and neurotransmitter precursors. These statins inhibit the production of the indispensable carrier biomolecule known as low-density lipoprotein. This can prevent adequate delivery of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble antioxidants to the brain. So if statin use is absolutely necessary, in our opinion it is best to use the lowest effective dose.