Learn the difference between Alzheimer's and other brain disorders

From a reader came the article, “It Might Not be Alzheimer’s—some Brain Problems Can be Cured”.  Since most of us know of someone who has been diagnosed with this brain disorder, or we are concerned about ourselves, this article is of special interest.

Author, Jacob Teitelbaum, MD is a board-certified internist and founder of Practitioners Alliance Network, an organization for health-care providers dedicated to improving communication among all branches of the healing arts and is the author of the book, Real Cause, Real Cure.  He begins his article with this sensible advice, “If a doctor says that you or a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, take a deep breath and get a second opinion.  Studies have shown that between 30% and 50% of people with Alzheimer’s turn out not to have it.”

            He says problems with memory and other cognitive functions are often linked to what he calls MIND—metabolism, infection or inflammation, nutrition, or drug side effects—or a combination of these factors.  He says addressing these issues improves mental function. 

            Teitelbaum says medication side effects are one of the most common causes of mental decline.  The drugs don’t have to be mind-altering drugs but can be those you are taking for common ailments.  Taking multiple medications increase the risk of drug-drug interactions.  He says doctors are far more likely to add medications than to subtract them and many older adults are taking five or more prescription medications daily.  ( I have known some taking as many as 15). 

This message from the back of a t-shirt says it all:  “I take Metformin for the diabetes caused by the Hydrochlorothiazide I take for high blood pressure, which I got from the Ambien I take for insomnia, caused by the Xanax I take for anxiety that I got from the Wellbutrin I take for chronic fatigue, which I got from the Lipitor I take because I have high cholesterol because a healthy diet, exercise and superior nutritional supplements are just too much trouble!”

This is not to say you shouldn’t have medical treatment when you need it.  It is saying that you need to take responsibility for your own health.  If you are taking medication, Teitelbaum recommends, “Ask your doctor to review all of your medications.  Make sure that you’re taking only drugs that you absolutely need—not ‘leftover’ medications that might have been prescribed in the past and that you no longer need.  Then ask for a three-week trial off each medication that is considered necessary to see if those drugs are contributing to the dementia (substituting other medications or closer monitoring during those three weeks usually can allow this).”  If your doctor is not open to this, perhaps you need a new healthcare provider.

Teitelbaum says other factors that can cause Alzheimer’s-like symptoms are hormone imbalances, especially a low level of thyroid hormone.  Recent studies reveal, thyroid levels on the low side in the normal range are associated with 240 percent higher risk for dementia in woman and borderline low thyroid hormone is associated with as much as an 800 percent higher risk in men.  He recommends a three-month trial of desiccated thyroid (30 to 60 mg) to see if it helps.  Desiccated thyroid contains two key thyroid hormones; whereas the commonly prescribed Synthroid has just one of the two.  If you have risk factors for heart disease, you should start with a low dosage and gradually increase.

Men who develop Alzheimer’s disease had about half as much testosterone in their bloodstreams as men who did not.    Teitelbaum recommends they ask their doctor about using a testosterone cream if their levels are low.  The dosage should be limited to 25 to 50 mg per day.  More than that can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Poor nutrition is another cause of dementia.  Years ago, Mark Gold wrote the book, You Mean I Don’t Have to Feel this Way, that brain is the most sensitive organ in the body; it is more easily damaged by poor nutrition, and chemicals.  Teitelbaum recommends a healthy diet, B vitamins, and fish oils to nourish the brain.

Inflammation is involved in brain disorders as well as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and other common maladies. 

Curcumin, which gives the spice, turmeric, its yellow color reduces inflammation and increases blood flow to the brain.  Besides healthy diet, Teitelbaum recommends, “Unless you live in India, you’re not likely to get enough curcumin in your diet to help, because it is poorly absorbed.  Use a special highly absorbed form of curcumin (such as BCM-95 found in Curamed 750 mg) and take one to two capsules twice a day.  Caution: taking Curcumin with blood thinners can increase the risk for bleeding”.  Do your own research and you will be amazed at what you will find exploring the benefits of curcumin.

The bottom line is take responsibility for your health and to do that, you must learn.

(Janice Norris lives in Heber Springs, has a B.S. in home economics from Murray State University, owned and operated health food stores in Illinois and Heber Springs, and wrote a weekly column in Illinois for 15 years. She can be reached at janicenorris34@yahoo.com)