Ageing + Parkinson’s + Alzheimer’s
As we age, we collect more toxins over the years and the effects of poor diet and lifestyle can start to catch up to us and affect the way we age. Processes that stimulate inflammation and oxidative damage will cause premature ageing of cells in the body and hasten the ageing process.
Additionally, as we age our body can experience signs of ageing such as arthritis, fatigue, reduced stamina and endurance. Our brain can show signs of ageing such as poor memory and concentration, reduced capacity to learn new tasks and, at the severe end of the spectrum, may develop diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Natural medicine can provide approaches that help to optimise nutrition and antioxidant status, reduce oxidative damage, support liver detoxification, reduce systemic and neuroinflammation and may enhance optimal brain function as we age.
Unfortunately a common approach to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is that there is little that can be done to treat it and it is expected that AD patients will worsen without any real hope of effective treatment. Drug strategies focus on the formation of Beta-Amyloid plaques, but may only slow decline by a short period.
However, new research suggests that the brain produces plaque as a means of protecting itself from damage – due to several main factors: infections, toxicity, nutritional deficiencies, low neurotrophic support, chronic inflammation, microvascular bleeds and metabolic issues (such as diabetes).
Understanding that AD may be as a result of the brain trying to protect itself from damage, gives an understanding of new options that may assist in preventing or treating it. This approach addresses what may be causing the plaques to form in the first place. By testing for various markers to determine if any of these issues are present and providing treatment to correct imbalances, it may help to slow the progression and even achieve regression of symptoms in AD patients.
Of course, no one treatment currently provides a “cure” for Alzheimers or Parkinson’s Disease. This natural medicine approach should be viewed as a measure that can assist some patients as part of their overall management plan. This will be discussed by your practitioner.
Alzheimer’s risk factors
Chronic Inflammation causes activation of microglia and increases permeability of the blood-brain-barrier (BBB). This then allows pro-inflammatory chemicals, called cytokines, to infiltrate the brain leading to excessive glutamate (a neurotransmitter) signalling and subsequent dendritic retraction – resulting in the production of Beta-Amyloid plaques and shrinkage of brain tissue. Testing patients for signs of chronic inflammation is essential for all AD patients, which can be effectively treated with high-grade natural medicines.
Low levels of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) can lead to shrinkage of the brain and reduced neuroplasticity and is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
Heavy Metal Toxicity – heavy metal accumulation can lead to increased irritation, inflammation and oxidative damage in the brain – resulting in the production of Beta-Amyloid plaques and result in shrinkage of brain tissue. Testing AD patients for heavy metal toxicity we consider to be essential.
Infections – specific chronic infections and “stealth pathogens” have the ability to cross the blood-brain-barrier (BBB) and infiltrate the brain, such as multi antibiotic resistant coagulase Staphylococci (MARCoNS), helicobacter pylori, periodontal infections, EBV, mycoplasma and Lyme disease amongst others. These infections can stimulate the production of Beta-Amyloid plaques and result in shrinkage of brain tissue.
Prolonged Depression – can lead to reduction in hippocampal volume. The hippocampus is responsible for learning, memory and spatial navigation. Treating underlying depression with natural medicines and psychological counselling is essential for many AD patients, if this is a triggering factor.
Genetics – whilst possessing certain genetic mutations such as the APOE4 gene or having multiple family members with AD may increase the risk, by addressing other risk factors listed above, and taking a proactive approach to prevention, there are things that can be done to reduce the genetic risks from becoming a reality.
Oxidative & Nitrosative Stress – oxidative and nitrosative stress leads to increased damage to the brain which leads to reduced synaptic function, reduced mitochondrial function and poor energy metabolism in the brain which increases the rate of cognitive decline and plaque formation. Addressing oxidation with specific high-level antioxidant prescription, as well as increasing nitric oxide production, can reduce these factors.
Insulin resistance – just like we can present with insulin resistance in the body that can result in metabolic issues and diabetes, we can also have insulin resistance in the neurons in the brain. This creates more inflammation leading to deterioration in synaptic function, reduces BDNF and impairs mitochondrial function. Addressing insulin resistance with appropriate exercise, diet and natural medicine treatment can resolve insulin resistance.
Microvascular Damage – the brain is not as protected from high blood pressure as the rest of the body, because the brain is a priority for blood flow. High blood pressure can cause small micro-haemorrhages in the brain and reduced blood flow to the associated regions. This then causes shrinking and ischemia in the brain which upregulates Beta Amyloid plaque production and oxidative stress. Plaques then form at the sites of the haemorrhages to control the spread. Loss of elastin as we age causes the artery walls to become less flexible and stiffen. The association is higher in AD and is linked with reduced cognition. Protecting blood vessels with specific herbs, antioxidants and nutrients is an essential part of treatment for AD patients with high blood pressure – as well as for prevention.
A similar multi-faceted approach can also be taken when addressing Parkinson’s disease. Whilst improving dopamine levels with drug treatments is helpful and necessary at some stage for most Parkinsons patients, addressing the underlying drivers may help lead to improved outcomes.
A comprehensive naturopathic medicine approach includes:
- addressing nutritional deficiencies
- identifying any toxins that may affect brain function and nerve transmission
- providing Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) support
These treatments may provide additional improvements for Parkinson’s patients to help slow progression, improve quality of life and overall wellbeing.
If you are interested in what you can do to support both your body and mind to age healthily, please contact us for an appointment.