Conventional treatment of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease only offers temporary relief of some symptoms and only for a limited number of patients. Mainstream treatment does not greatly slow the progression of Alzheimers.
Caregivers searching for alternative Alzheimer’s remedies may find greater hope in natural treatments, alternative therapies, preventative measures. These remedies are most effective in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, particularly at the onset of symptoms.
These natural treatments seek to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and its progression. They include lifestyle, diet, cardiovascular health, hormone imbalance, environmental factors, and chronic inflammation.
Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia
Alzheimer’s and dementia are closely related, but different.
Dementia is a broad category of symptoms that affect memory, skill, and cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s disease is a specific type of dementia that accounts for two-thirds of dementia cases.
The five most common types of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and mixed dementia. Dementia is not considered a normal part of aging although 1 in 3 seniors suffer from dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is a specific type of dementia that leads to nerve cell death. It affects more than 5.5 million Americans. Around 50 million people around the world are living with dementia symptoms, the majority of which are Alzheimer’s disease cases.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Difficulty remembering new information
- Trouble organizing and planning
- Decreased thinking skills
- Problems with simple arithmetic
- Loss of balance, depth perception
- Poor judgment
- Personality changes
- Mood swings
- Severe memory loss
- Propensity to wander
Causes & Risk Factors of Alzheimer’s
The traditionally recognized cause of Alzheimer’s disease is the build-up of beta amyloid plaque and tau tangles in the neurons of the brain. This inhibits communication between nerve cells, which leads to symptoms like memory loss, confusion, and other declines in cognitive function.
However, medications designed to remove the plaque build-up from the cells do not cure the disease. They may actually worsen the condition.
The build-up of plaque and tau tangles might be the body’s protective response to chronic inflammation, though the research behind this idea is still developing. This would open up new possibilities to prevent and treat dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The following risk factors act as “holes in the roof” that let inflammation build up, like rain can flood a home with a damaged roof. The more risk factors that can be patched, the lower the risk of developing the deluge of Alzheimer’s disease.
Risk factors include:
- Advanced age
- Genetic predisposition and family member history
- Chronic diseases associated with vascular injury
- Inflammatory diet
- Heavy metal toxicity and other environmental toxins
- Chronic stress
- Sleep issues
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Hormone imbalances
- Head injury
- Dysbiotic gut microbiome
- Gum disease
- Female gender
- Cellular function problems
10 Natural Remedies for Alzheimer’s & Dementia
The side effects and low effectiveness of current Alzheimer’s disease medications may cause patients and families to look for alternative medicine for Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The following are 10 natural remedies for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia that are based on peer-reviewed scientific evidence:
- Lowering stress
- Healthy sleep
- Vitamin and nutrient supplements
- Improving heart health
- Social interaction and an active mind
- Proper oral hygiene
- Removal of environmental risk factors
FDA-approved Alzheimer’s treatments include acetyl cholinesterase inhibitors like donepezil, galantamine, and rivastigmine. They only slightly improve dementia symptoms, and only in some dementia patients.
One of the greatest risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease is obesity. People with a high BMI and the tendency to store fat around their waistline are 3.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
One of the biggest culprits for this link may be the consumption of sugar, particularly added sugar.
A diet high in healthy fats, whole grains, fish, lean proteins, nuts, fruits, and vegetables has been shown to combat obesity, diabetes, and improve cognitive function.
Healthy dietary changes, such as following the Mediteranean diet, can combat high cholesterol, high blood glucose, and other diet-related risk factors that increase our risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Eat foods that help reduce chronic inflammation, which can contribute to obesity and risk of dementia. Berries, leafy greens like spinach and kale, as well as cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts contain loads of excellent antioxidants.
You could follow a 12-hour fast, during which you do not eat. This allows the brain to enter autophagy, the body’s natural “self-cleaning” window during sleep. Begin your fast at least 3 hours before bed for the best results.
The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the MIND diet (a combination of the Mediteranean diet and the DASH diet) may help prevent Alzheimer’s.
The Bredesen diet (a specific type of ketogenic diet with set fasting windows) has shown effectiveness in preventing and reversing cognitive decline.
Research shows that dietary restriction increases the numbers of newly-generated brain cells in adults. The implication is that this dietary manipulation can increase the brain’s capacity for plasticity and self-repair.
Increasing physical activity in seniors by as little as 25% could prevent 1 million cases of Alzheimer’s disease worldwide. Exercise combats plaque buildup, prevents obesity, maintains the body’s muscle mass, and fights inflammation.
150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week for those over 65 is shown to protect cognitive performance. Walking 30 minutes each day increases the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
Small choices today, such as taking the stairs or parking farther away, can make a big difference tomorrow. Preventing Alzheimer’s disease through increased exercise is a positive choice we can make to improve cognitive function for years to come.
3. Lowering Stress
Clinical trials have found a link between depression, stress, and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Lowering your daily levels of stress can improve your mental health, reduce inflammation, and decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Mindfulness practices like yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises help reduce stress. Being in the moment is another mindfulness practice that reduces stress levels during daily living.
Spend more time outside in green spaces. It’s proven to decrease stress, and it encourages exercise. Moreover, staying inside seems to contribute to risk of dementia.
Prayer, laughter, and investing time with a loved one can all help lower your stress levels, lowering your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Hans Selye once said, “It’s not stress that kills us. It’s our reaction to it.”
4. Healthy Sleep
Sleep is our body’s way of resetting. Proper restful sleep allows our body and brain the time needed to restore balance to our systems. This helps reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Healthy sleep tips to help prevent dementia:
- Maintain a proper sleep schedule
- Don’t exercise within 3 hours before sleep
- Decrease caffeine intake within 8 hours of sleep
- Reduce blue light before bedtime (turn off electronics)
Beta-amyloid accumulation associated with Alzheimer’s disease has been shown to increase with just one night of sleep deprivation. Getting enough sleep is one way to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Light therapy has shown effectiveness in retraining the brain’s circadian rhythm. This 24-hour lighting scheme can improve sleep effectiveness, allowing the brain to receive the full benefit of sleep.
5. Vitamin and Nutrient Supplements
Many of the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease can be negated by the increase or introduction of vitamins, herbal medicine, and dietary supplements into your diet.
Researchers and the Alzheimer’s Association have even performed randomized controlled trials on the treatment of Alzheimer’s with some of these natural remedies:
- DHA is a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in eggs, fish, algae, and organ meats. Omega-3 supplementation may be helpful in suspending the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Turmeric (curcumin) and other members of the ginger family have a positive effect on inflammation and oxidation of cells.
- Coconut oil can improve communication in the brain, as well as overall brain function. This anti-inflammatory healthy fat helps restore the lining of nerve cells.
- Vitamin B-12 can contribute to overall cognitive function by restoring nerve passageways in the brain.
- Ginkgo biloba extract is one of the most used complementary therapies that typically works better than placebo. Ginkgo’s beneficial effects include improved memory and overall neurology.
- Ginseng may also have an enhancing effect on cognitive function.
- Cinnamon extract helps improve blood flow to the brain by reducing arterial plaque.
- Sage may improve cognitive function.
- Ashwagandha has been found to inhibit the growth of beta-amyloid plaques. It may also reduce oxidative stress in the brain.
- Gotu Kola may inhibit oxidative stress in the brain and improve mental clarity.
- Lemon balm (most often taken in tea form) showed significant improvement in cognitive function in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
Even though it originated in traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture improves cognition in dementia patients, according to published research. Acupuncture also improves pain and insomnia.
This ancient practice of inserting thin needles into specific parts of the body has shown health benefits in immediate and long-term pain relief and improved cognitive ability. Acupuncture may also improve mood in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
7. Improving Heart Health
Cardiovascular well-being is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Maintaining a healthy heart can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
High blood pressure, heart disease, and high cholesterol during middle age significantly increase the risk of developing dementia later in life.
Dietary changes and maintaining a healthy BMI are factors that can improve your heart health.
8. Social Interaction and an Active Mind
Social interactions can lead to happiness, exerting a positive effect on patients with Alzheimer’s disease and their families.
Ensuring constant social contact improves the quality of life for patients in every stage of Alzheimer’s disease.
Keeping your mind active reduces the risk for cognitive decline. Learning a new activity, such as dancing, creates new pathways of communication in the brain. Acquiring new skills and reminiscing on cherished life events are excellent ways to help prevent loss of cognitive function.
Maintaining an active mind is a very important lifestyle choice. Challenging oneself with problem solving activities, maintaining friendships, and learning new sensory skills help stimulate the mind.
9. Proper Oral Hygiene
The connection between proper oral hygiene and the overall health of the body and brain cannot be overstated. Inflammation associated with gum disease can increase the beta-amyloid plaque in the brain.
Regular check-ups, brushing, and flossing can stop the bacteria associated with gum disease from getting to your brain. A healthy oral microbiome can have far reaching positive effects on overall brain health.
10. Removal of Environmental Risk Factors
Environmental risk factors such as mold, biotoxins, pollution, and other environmental neurotoxins can greatly increase the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Neurotoxicants like heavy metals can build up in the body. As these neurotoxicants build up, they contribute to cognitive decline and impaired cognitive function in older adults. Regular exposure to these toxins increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Hormone imbalance may also be a significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Hormone replacement therapies may be an effective way to reduce this risk.
PrimeHealth’s Approach to Alzheimer’s Disease
Prevention is always the best medicine. PrimeHealth’s approach to Alzheimer’s disease is to improve the function of the brain through lifestyle changes, hopefully during mild cognitive impairment before the early stages of Alzheimer’s take hold.
Our individualized approach allows PrimeHealth to identify unique risk factors through lab testing and counseling. Then lifestyle changes necessary for prevention will be introduced.
Combining science-based lifestyle changes, medicinal plants, and stress reduction, our own Dr. Ward has seen encouraging results with many of his patients.
Schedule your appointment at PrimeHealth today.
- Grant, W. B., Campbell, A., Itzhaki, R. F., & Savory, J. (2002). The Significance of Environmental Factors in the Etiology of Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease, 4(3), 179-189. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12226537/
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- Shokri-Kojori, E., Wang, G. J., Wiers, C. E., Demiral, S. B., Guo, M., Kim, S. W., Lindgren, E., Ramirez, V., Zehra, A., Freeman, C., Miller, G., Manza, P., Srivastava, T., De Santi, S., Tomasi, D., Benveniste, H., & Volkow, N. D. (2018). β-Amyloid Accumulation in the Human Brain After One Night of Sleep Deprivation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(17), 4483–4488. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5924922/
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- Hooijmans, C. R., Pasker-de Jong, P., de Vries, R., & Ritskes-Hoitinga, M. (2012). The Effects of Long-term Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation on Cognition and Alzheimer’s Pathology in Animal Models of Alzheimer’s Disease: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 28(1), 191-209. Full text: https://content.iospress.com/download/journal-of-alzheimers-disease/jad111217?id=journal-of-alzheimers-disease%2Fjad111217