Alzheimer’s: Herbal and Nutritional Support
According to the Alzheimer’s Association is a growing epidemic. More than 5 million Americans now have Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, nearly 14 million (13.8 million) Americans could be living with the disease, unless scientists develop new approaches to prevent or cure it according to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. Alzheimer’s is the only leading cause of death that is still on the rise.
It is estimated that more than 200,000 people have early onset, early onset is considered to be people 65 years and younger.
Alzheimer’s is projected to cripple America’s healthcare system. Total payments for health care, long-term care, and hospice for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are projected to increase from $200 billion in 2012 to $1.1 trillion in 2050 (in 2012 dollars). This dramatic rise includes a six-fold increase in government spending under Medicare and Medicaid and a five-fold increase in out-of-pocket spending.
Alzheimer’s has a distinct progression of disease generally starting in the hippocampus.
BRAIN 75% of our brain weight is myelin, fatty matter that creates each nerve fiber.
The hippocampus is part of the limbic system, and located in the inner temporal lobe. Limbic is a Latin term which means border. Like the word “limbo”, it means an intermediate or transitional state, which is a border. The limbic system is particularly important in producing emotion, converting short-term memory to more permanent memory, and for recalling spatial relationships in the world around us. Here long term memory is stored, and is a compilation of data in our conscious memory and all of our gathered knowledge and experiences. The hippocampus is influenced by stress. Small changes in the blood flow or oxygenation levels of this region of the brain can serve as quantifiable markers for the emotional recognition of and response to stress. In addition, some neurons in the hippocampus are continually being formed. Therefore the hippocampus is one of only a few regions of the brain that serves as a source for neural stem cells.
Plaques form when protein pieces called beta-amyloid (BAY-tuh AM-uh-loyd) clump together. Beta-amyloid comes from a larger protein found in the fatty membrane surrounding nerve cells. Beta amyloid is a peptide of short chain amino acids. Beta-amyloid is chemically “sticky” and gradually builds up into plaques. Evidence has been found that Aβ is a highly multifunctional peptide with significant non-pathological activity.
The most damaging form of beta-amyloid may be a group of a few pieces rather than the plaques themselves. The small clumps may block cell-to-cell signaling at synapses. They may also activate immune system cells that trigger inflammation and devour disabled cells.
The transport system is organized in orderly parallel strands somewhat like railroad tracks. Food molecules, cell parts and other key materials travel along the “tracks”. A protein called tau helps the tracks stay straight. In areas where tangles are forming: tau collapses into twisted strands called tangles. The tracks can no longer stay straight. They fall apart and disintegrate. Nutrients and other essential supplies can no longer move through the cells, which eventually die.
Two types of abnormal lesions clog the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease: Beta-amyloid plaques—sticky clumps of protein fragments and cellular material that form outside and around neurons; and neurofibrillary tangles—insoluble twisted fibers composed largely of the protein tau that build up inside nerve cells. Although these structures are hallmarks of the disease, scientists are unclear whether they cause it or a byproduct of it.
Alzheimer disease is not a single disorder in spite of a common clinical phenotype. At its origin, two different types or even more exist. As Alzheimer’s progresses, brain cells die and connections among cells are lost, causing cognitive symptoms to worsen.
WESTERN/PHARMACETICUAL TREATMENT AND SIDE EFFECTS
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of medications — cholinesterase inhibitors (Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne, Cognex) and memantine (Namenda) — to treat the cognitive symptoms (memory loss, confusion, and problems with thinking and reasoning) of Alzheimer’s disease. While current medications cannot stop the damage Alzheimer’s causes to brain cells, they may help lessen or stabilize symptoms for a limited time by affecting certain chemicals involved in carrying messages among the brain’s nerve cells. Doctors sometimes prescribe both types of medications together. The body has a natural system of creation and decay. From my research it appears that pharmaceuticals reduce the rate of decay of specific chemicals, leaving old chemical compounds in the body/brain to function
Cholinesterase Inhibitors: Cholinesterase inhibitors prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine (a-SEA-til-KOH-lean), a chemical compound that works as a neurotransmitter in the Central Nervous System. People with dementia usually have lower levels of this chemical, which is important for the processes of memory, thinking, and reasoning. Cholinesterase inhibitors slow the breakdown of acetylcholine. It does this by preventing the action of acetylcholinesterase, the compound that normally breaks it down. Delays worsening of symptoms for 6 to 12 months, on average, for about half the people who take them. Are generally well tolerated. If side effects occur, they commonly include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and increased frequency of bowel movements.
Donepezil (Aricept) is the only cholinesterase inhibitor approved to treat all stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Mild side effects: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite/weight loss, dizziness, drowsiness, weakness, trouble sleeping, shakiness (tremor), or muscle cramps may occur as your body adjusts to the drug. These effects usually last 1-3 weeks and then lessen. Serious side effects: slow/irregular heartbeat, fainting, trouble urinating, severe stomach/abdominal pain, black stools, vomit that looks like coffee grounds, seizures. A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare: rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing.
Side effects are more common with oral forms of rivastigmine than with the patches.
Common side effects: nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite/weight loss, diarrhea, indigestion, weakness, dizziness, drowsiness, and shakiness (tremors), sleepiness, headache, increased sweating, fever, skin reactions such as irritation, worsening of Parkinson’s symptoms, anxiety or agitation, depression, difficulty sleeping (insomnia), hallucinations, delirium, fainting, ulceration in the stomach or intestines, seizures, chest pain (angina), abnormal heartbeats, increased blood pressure (hypertension), pancreatitis, hepatitis.
Patches side effects: itching or redness at the site of application of patch, rash, shaking, usually of the hands (tremor),
Serious side effects: chest pain, slow heart rate, black, bloody, or tarry stools; coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds; weakness, confusion, decreased sweating, extreme thirst, hot dry skin; or urinating less than usual or not at all.
Regulates the activity of glutamate, a different messenger chemical involved in learning and memory. Delays worsening of symptoms for some people temporarily.
Some doctors prescribe high doses of vitamin E for cognitive changes of Alzheimer’s disease.
Galantamine: 75% is metabolized in the liver
Rivastigmine: Metabolized by enzymes in the liver
Donepezil: Metabolized by enzymes in the liver
Memantine: Metabolized in the liver
Herbal hepatic, alterative, cholagogue, and bitters can aid in harm reduction and the metabolism of Alzheimer’s medication. All nutrition suggestions apply.
Alterative: burdock, wild indigo, black cohosh, Echinacea, cleavers, goldenseal, chaparral, Oregon grape, bog bean, poke, pasqueflower, yellow dock, figwort, sarsaparilla, red clover, nettle
Cholagogue: wild indigo, barberry, celandine, artichoke, wild yam, boneset, gentian, rosemary, yellow dock, sage dandelion, lemon balm
Bitters: mugwort, yarrow, boneset, centaury, gentian, goldenseal, horehound, chamomile, rue, tansy, dandelion
Hepatics: Dandelion, verbena, milk thistle, artichoke, yarrow, aloe, celery seed, wormwood, horseradish, turmeric, cleavers, gentian, goldenseal, motherwort, oregon grape, yellow dock, prickly ash, dandelion, wild yam
Antihepatotoxic: licorice, milk thistle, schisandra
HERBAL AND NUTRITION COMPLIMENTARY MEDICATION
VIT. E/ANTIOXIDANTS Vitamin E refers to a group of fat-soluble compounds with strong antioxidant properties. An antioxidant is a substance that reduces oxidative damage, damage caused by oxygen, which can harm human tissue, cells and organs.
FOODS HIGH IN VIT. E Almonds, asparagus, avocados, blue crab, brazil nuts, broccoli, cod liver oil, egg yolks, green leafy vegetables, like lettuce, spinach, turnip, beet, collard, and dandelion greens, hazelnuts, mangoes, mayonnaise, olives, papayas, pine nuts, pumpkin, grape seed oil, rockfish, sweet potato, tomato, walnut, wheat germ oil.
HERBAL ANTIOXIDANTS Hawthorne, green tea, ginkgo, elderberry, cinnamon, ginger, burdock, turmeric
TURMERIC A study conducted at UCLA found that curcumin may help the macrophages to clear the amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer’s disease. Macrophages are white blood cells within tissues, suggesting weakened immune system. Due to the lipophilic (tending to combine with or dissolve in lipids or fats) nature of curcumin, it crosses the blood brain barrier and binds to plaques.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781139/Ann Indian Acad Neurol. 2008 Jan-Mar; 11(1): 13–19. doi: 10.4103/0972-2327.4022
The vast majority of the fats and oils eaten, whether they are saturated or unsaturated or come from an animal or a plant, are composed of long-chain triglycerides. Probably 98 to 100% of all the fats we eat consist of LCT. Coconut oil is unique because it is composed predominately of MCT. The size of the fatty acid is extremely important because physiological effects of medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are distinctly different from the long-chain fatty acids more commonly found in our diet. Almost all of the medium-chain triglycerides used in research, medicine, and food products come from coconut oil. Unlike other fats, they put little strain on the digestive system and provide a quick source of energy necessary to promote healing.
Magnesium protects and restores synaptic density. In a series of laboratory experiments, a highly absorbable form of magnesium was shown to not only increase magnesium blood levels, but it also substantially increases magnesium brain concentrations. In response to this elevation in cerebral magnesium, there were significant increases in synaptic density and corresponding improvements in synaptic functioning and neuronal signaling. These improvements in synaptic structure and function translated into improvements in measurements of cognitive function.
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