Alzheimer’s Disease; On Conventional and Homeopathic Perspectives

It is worldwide Alzheimer’s day, today September 21st.  Every year organisations focus on raising awareness about Alzheimer’s and dementia. This short article explores the condition, from possible causes, through to both homeopathic and conventional treatment. In addition, adjunctive advice is given on lifestyle and other possible routes to healing. Alzheimer’s disease is currently at epidemic proportions, with 5.4 million Americans — including one in eight people aged 65 and over — living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.

About Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a cruel, insidious, degenerative disease, the most common form of dementia.  It most commonly affects those over the age of 65, but it is not uncommon for it to occur in younger people. As women’s life expectancy Is longer, there is a greater prevalence statistically in women, and those who have a close relative with the disease have three times the risk. For every additional five years, the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s doubles.

The cause

According to Alzheimers UK, the exact cause is unknown, ‘but ‘plaques and tangles’ form in the brain due to two proteins called amyloid (plaques) and tau (tangles). Amyloid is a naturally occurring protein which for a reason that is not yet understood begins to malfunction, creating beta amyloid which is toxic to the brain cells. Plaques form consisting of dead cells and amyloid protein. Tau protein naturally occurs in the brain and helps brain cells communicate with each other but for a reason that is not yet understood it can become abnormal and “clump together” leading to death of the brain cells affected.

People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s may additionally have a reduction of a chemical in the brain (called acetylcholine). This functions as a chemical messenger to take information to and from brain cells (neurons), so a reduction in this chemical leads to information not being transmitted.’

Also, potentially implicated are lifestyle habits such as lack of exercise, smoking, poorly controlled diabetes, and a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables. Research is ongoing into the affects that glyphosphates, GMO’s and other modern day pollutants such as amalgam fillings, the adjuvants in vaccines and the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs are having. This is an article in itself and will be explored fully at a later date with a view to possibly exposing the links with degenerative illness.  Conversely, a stimulating job, mentally challenging leisure activities, such as reading, playing games or playing a musical instrument, and frequent social interactions are known to play a role in prevention.

Symptoms

Research suggests that changes in the brain can occur up to 10 years before specific, obvious symptoms are noticed by the patient. The Mayo Clinic, in consultation with the Alzheimer’s Association, highlights the following list of 10 symptoms that give an indicator that dementia/Alzheimer’s is taking hold, and in each case, the question ‘what is different from typical behaviour?’ needs to be asked. The list is basic, but highlights what needs to be investigated further.

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps, often a patient will put items in strange places, at times they may accuse others of stealing.
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood and personality, including confusion, suspicion, and feelings of anxiety and depression and fear. They do not like being out of their comfort zone and will become further afraid and confused.

The conventional approach

In addition to pharmaceutical drugs, lifestyle changes are suggested, including take advantage of ‘well-person health checks’ at the GP surgery so that blood pressure, weight and cholesterol levels are well managed. Smoking cessation programs are recommended as is keeping as physically fit as possible. Social interaction and the maintaining or development of new hobbies encouraged.

Medications called cholinesterase inhibitors, are most like to be prescribed, these are Donepezil, Rivastigmine and Galantamine.

‘These medications can delay worsening of memory, thinking, language and thought processes for six – 12 months although there is now some evidence showing that they can benefit a person for much longer. They support the communication between the nerve cells in the brain by stimulating the production of acetylcholine. Memantine can also be prescribed in the moderate to severe stage of Alzheimer’s disease alongside one of the above medications.  This medication blocks the effects of excess glutamate in the brain. Memantine can assist memory, reasoning, language and attention.’

(Dementia UK /Alzheimer’s)

The Homeopathic approach

There are several problems and symptoms under the dementia heading that can be gently and effectively treated homeopathically. Confusion, restlessness, agitation, poor sleep can all potentially be improved, and if treatment begins early in the disease, progression may be preventable. A homeopath would take a full consultation and prescribe the simillimum, the remedy that reflects the unique presentation of the patient in every sphere, physically, mentally and emotionally and what is ‘peculiar to them.’ Consultations would be on a regular basis and prescriptions tailored to symptoms and hopefully addressing the underlying susceptibilities.

There are obviously many remedies that could be prescribed, as there are so many aspects to the disease. I have highlighted below a few remedies that resonate well with many of the symptoms outlined above; this list is not exclusive. A fully qualified, registered homeopath should be consulted: www.findahomeopath.org.uk

Alumina

Alumina is an excellent remedy for patients who have difficulty expressing their ideas and thoughts, make mistakes when speaking and writing, are easily panicked and suffer mental confusion with reference to their identity. In other words, they forget who they are and can also forget where they are. They are often depressed and are afraid of losing their minds.

Baryta Carbonicum

Baryta Carb helps those who have often regressed back to behavior which is childish. They may be fearful, timid and shy and lack confidence. There is loss of memory and some patients may suffer from chronic glandular disorders.

Baryta Carb is used to treat those suffering from dementia and degenerative conditions of the circulatory system, such as atherosclerosis, which affects blood flow to the brain. It is effective in treating memory loss, mental impairment, timidity, childish reactions to various circumstances, indecision and physical and mental fatigue.

Conium

Conium is used to treat symptoms such as of depression, shyness and fear of being alone, particularly in the elderly. It treats memory loss, as well as mental confusion and loss of cognitive function that sets in as a result of grief over the loss of a spouse. Conium often helps people regain the ability to concentrate and focus.

Lycopodium

Where a patient is in very low spirits; often despondent; perhaps worried about his salvation; about being able to perform his duties; about passing in examination, fretful, irritable, morose, very vehement and angry. Constipation, eructations of sour food. Makes errors when speaking, reading and writing and generally lacking confidence, confused and frustrated. This makes them angry to the point of tyrannical behavior.

Nux Vomica

Nux Vomica patients are often angry, quarrelsome and irritable, faultfinding and insensitive to other’s feelings, invariably vindictive; however, they themselves are extremely sensitive to everything, becoming easily hurt and insulted.

Phosphorus

Because phosphorus helps improve the circulation in people with atherosclerosis increasing blood flow to the brain, it can be a very useful remedy for those with Alzheimer’s.  It’s used to stimulate cognitive function, reduce memory loss and help a person overcome the fear of death. It helps with absent-mindedness, confusion, daydreaming and anguish over being alone.

Staphysagria

Where a patient has difficulty sleeping, feels shame and disgust, humiliated doe whatever reason, often leading to despair. Cowardly with a desire for solitude.

Tarantula

A wonderful remedy when the patient goes into rages, and throws anything they can get their hands on. Hitting people, particularly those that have offended him is not unusual, particularly when contradicted.

Adjunctive Advice

Due to the complexity of the disease, there are many other treatments coming to light that could ease symptoms

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a small evergreen perennial herb that grows up to nearly 5 feet tall. It is what is known as an adaptogen, common names include winter cherry, withania somnifera and Indian Ginseng to name a few. It is part of India’s Ayurvedic medical system and has been for thousands of years. It has always been known for its ability to help reduce the symptoms of stress, and to improve energy and vitality.  Recent research suggests it could now help to stave off many of the distressing effects of Alzheimer’s. In short , studies on mice suggest ashwaganda extract may reverse memory loss and improve cognitive abilities in those with Alzheimer’s disease. ‘Ashwaganda works by boosting a protein in the liver, which enters the bloodstream and helps clear amyloid from the brain. Past research also revealed ashwaganda may help manage cell damage in the brain, offering even more potent antioxidant activity than vitamins A, C, and E. Other strategies that are protective against Alzheimer’s disease include dietary changes, optimizing vitamin D levels and exercise.’ (Mercola, 2012)

Curcumin

Curcumin, which is found in the spice turmeric, is another notable herb for brain health. It has recently been revealed as effective in helping to stop the protein clumping that is the first step in diseases such as Parkinson’s. Curcumin may help inhibit the accumulation of destructive beta amyloids in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients, as well as break up existing plaques.Research has found that: ‘Curcumin is more effective in inhibiting the formation of the protein fragments than many other potential Alzheimer’s treatments.’ (Mercola, 2012.)

Vitamin D

There is ongoing research about how effective Vitamin D is in the treatment of Alzheimers. Large doses in trials have suggested that cognitive function is dramatically improved in those that were seen to have a deficiency. Optimal vitamin D levels may enhance the amount of important biomolecules in your brain and protect brain cells.

Optimal nutrition

Basically, maintain a healthy diet, supplement where necessary with vitamins, specifically D and B. (Very high doses of B vitamins have also been found to treat Alzheimer’s disease and reduce memory loss.) In addition a high intake of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA helps by preventing cell damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease, thereby slowing down its progression, and lowering your risk of developing the disorder. More than anything it is imperative to reduce sugar and fructose consumption, which can be beyond detrimental to health, including that of the brain.

Clearly, there is much that can be done to help, the above just scratches the surface, but is a comprehensive guide to treatment. To find a homeopath in your area, please search www.findahomeopath.org. I leave you with this poem written by Owen Darnell, for his wife, who suffered from the disease.  It is a moving tribute which sensitively captures how someone affected must feel.

‘Do not ask me to remember,
or try to make me understand,
Let me rest and know you’re with me,
Kiss my cheek and hold my hand,
I’m confused beyond your concept,
I am sad and sick and lost,
All I know is that I need you to be with me at all cost,
Do not lose your patience with me,
Do not scold or shun my cry,
I can’t help the way I’m living,
Can’t be different though I try,
Just remember that I need you,
That the best of me is gone,
Please don’t fail to stand beside me,
Love me till my life is done.

Gill Graham, BSc (Hons), BA (Hons) RSHom, DHMHS

www.consultanthomeopath.com

 

References

Alzheimer’s Association 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s: available at:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/expert-blog/warning-signs-of-alzheimers/bgp-20055898

Dementia UK, Alzheimers Disease, available at:

https://www.dementiauk.org/understanding-dementia/about-dementia/alzheimers-disease/?gclid=CjwKCAjwo4jOBRBmEiwABWNaMTCuW_-lLVbR3RRnK4vLzmqK6ajAq2PnznPvo4NF9VF3kUC0DzRlxRoChnMQAvD_BwE

Ashwaganda: Ancient Herb Proven to be a Potential Cure for Alzheimer’s, available at:

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/04/07/ashwaganda-effect-on-alzheimers-disease.aspx

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