By Gemma Hurditch for CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine).
Dementia is NOT a normal part of the ageing process. It currently affects three in ten people over 70 years of age, with approximately 70% caused by Alzheimer’s Disease . Circulatory disease (ie. stroke) accounts for the majority of other cases. The causes of Alzheimer’s Disease are poorly understood and there is currently no cure.
The naturopathic view of health, which emphasises prevention, is that all disease starts with disruption to the body’s balance, and that the two pillars governing health are toxicity and deficiency.? It is for that reason that naturopaths advocate eating a wide-ranging, healthy, balanced diet consisting ideally of organic whole foods, and reducing toxins in our everyday lives as far as we can.
Increasing B Vitamins
High blood levels of homocysteine (an amino acid connected with unfavourable health conditions) increases risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease .? Homocysteine is reduced by B-vitamins, so increasing B vitamins – in particular B12, B9 (folate) and B6 is a good step for protecting long term health. As B vitamins are water soluble it’s important to top up every day; one of the many reasons why you need a good diet.? A good quality food-state multi B-vitamin supplement can help boost levels. B12 is particularly important for vegetarians/vegans who may not get enough from plant foods, as the highest sources are from shell fish and animal produce. Keep an eye on your homocysteine levels (tests are available) as preventative medicine. ?An optimal homocysteine level is 7–9 umol/L; anything outside of that range should be addressed.
Vitamins interact with one another; excess B9 can mask B12 deficiency too – which is also a cause of dementia! That’s why seeing a naturopathic nutritional therapist can help, both to address your diet, and if supplementing, to get the levels and vitamin forms right for you, as levels required for a therapeutic effect are often well above the recommended daily amount.
Boost your fish intake
Boosting your fish intake is also preventative. Studies have shown that fish eaters (as little as one serving per week) have lower rates of Alzheimer’s Disease . Choose oily fish like sardines, small mackerel and salmon, they are rich both in healthy fats and vitamin B12. Avoid farmed fish (less nutritious and often polluted), swordfish, shark (‘flake’ or ‘rock salmon’) and Big Eye tuna as high levels of mercury in these larger fish, from pollution in our seas, are toxic to the brain and other organs. Some medication and vaccines contain mercury. Many medications can interfere with the absorption of vitamin B12 and other nutrients. Pesticides, chemicals in products, processed foods and cookware, and smoking, can all contribute disease risk factors. A naturopath can support you in reducing your toxic load.
Increase antioxidant intake, particularly vitamin E rich foods, as vitamin E is linked with reduced rates of Alzheimer’s Disease . Try more sunflower seeds, almonds and spinach.
Gemma Hurditch for CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine).