Do you worry about your memory? Forget where you put your keys, or forget peoples’ names? Worry that your mind isn’t as quick as it used to be or that you have trouble staying focused on complex tasks. These can all be signs of normal aging, or, they can be early signs of dementia.
Dementia usually develops slowly. It can destroy your memories, rob you of your independence, dissolve your personality, and ultimately, take your life. Dementia affects about 750,000 Canadians and almost 50 million people worldwide. My mom had early onset dementia, and I carry several of the risk factors. This has motivated me to learn as much as I can about this condition and how to prevent it. Fortunately, my training as a naturopathic physician allows me to look at dementia in a holistic way, and to search for potential treatments both within and outside of conventional medicine.
Dementia is a general term for memory loss and loss of other brain functions serious enough to interfere with normal, daily tasks. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for between 60 and 80% of cases. Dementia is not a condition that develops overnight. In fact it can take many years to develop. The early stages of dementia are called Mild Cognitive Impairment or MPI. This means you have symptoms more severe than those of normal aging, but, not enough to significantly interfere with daily tasks or relationships. Not all cases of mild cognitive decline go on to become dementia. People with mild cognitive decline will have the most success in reversing their symptoms if they follow a dementia prevention program.
Conventional medicine has tried, and failed to come up with a drug or procedure that can reverse dementia. Dozens of drugs have been tried, but the failure rate is over 99%. Those drugs that are considered “successful” only delay entry to a nursing home by a few months. The conventional approach of looking for one magical drug to treat this extremely complex condition will likely always fail. However, there is still hope. When dementia is approached from a naturopathic or functional medicine point of view, many new options and approaches for healing reveal themselves.
We know, through research, that there are many different factors that increase your risk of developing dementia. About 15 years ago, I started to collect this research and formulate what I called my dementia prevention plan. Other people around the world had been doing similar work, and in 2014 Dr. Bredesen of University of California published the first research paper showing he was able to reverse dementia. His approach was to apply all the information we already knew about how to reduce risk to patients who already had early stages of dementia.
This approach was very unique in conventional medicine, but it is exactly the approach that naturopathic medicine has always taken. Rather than look for one magic pill to fix a problem, naturopathic medicine looks for the underlying causes of a condition, and then attempts to fix them by addressing imbalances in areas such as sleep, diet and digestion, exercise, stress management, hormone balance, immune function, systems of elimination and any other system that is out of balance.
Dementia is the result of a lot of different things going wrong inside your brain and your body. Current estimates are that there are about 40 different factors that can contribute to developing dementia. These include things such as inflammation, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, increased burden of toxins such as heavy metals, chronic infections, nutritional deficiencies, genetic factors and hormone imbalances to name a few.
It only makes sense that in order to fix the way the brain is working, all the contributing factors need to be identified and then, corrected. There are many tools and tests that can help us figure out which things are going wrong in each person. It is very important that each person with dementia or risk of dementia identify and address their particular risk factors.
Preventing dementia, or reversing early dementia is not going to happen because you take this or that supplement or drug. Preventing and even reversing dementia is possible, but it requires a thorough investigation and a comprehensive program uniquely designed for each person. This process is complicated. There are many steps. Putting these steps together, figuring out which steps are most needed by individuals is something I love to do. I am passionate about this work, and excited by the possibilities of improving the functioning of our brains.
There are currently about 250 documented cases of dementia which have been reversed using this method, and many more people actively using this approach with good results. Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease is possible, and, we now know that reversal, in early stages, is also possible. My intention is to help as many people as I can avoid, or even reverse, this devastating condition using this naturopathic or functional medicine approach.
If you would like help working on your individualized dementia prevention or treatment program, please make an appointment by calling or emailing Hummingbird Naturopathic Clinic (604-740-8838). If you would like to receive regular emails about dementia prevention and reversal, please sign up below.
By Dr. Loreen Dawson, ND