Dementia can be prevented and its symptoms reversed
We all know that dementia is a terrible condition. And when it is predicted that by 2025 around 1 million people in the UK will be living with dementia, it is quite terrifying that the conventional view is that little if anything can be done to prevent the condition and that dementia cannot be reversed. The NHS states: “Although there is no cure for dementia at present, if it’s diagnosed in the early stages, there are ways you can slow it down and maintain mental function.” But according to some health professionals, far more can be done to stop and reverse the symptoms of this terrible decline in brain health.
Anna Betz is a Medical Herbalist, Nutritionist & NHS Senior Practitioner in Mental Health. Find out more about her research, and that of other medical professionals, showing how dementia CAN be prevented and its symptoms CAN be reversed.
Signs that the field of dementia is finally shifting towards prevention
Narrow perspectives have lead to poor outcomes
by Anna Betz
Alzheimer’s drug trials
“Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results” – that was Einstein’s definition of insanity. But look around you and reflect on how often we find this madness? Why is that we have such a habit of doing the same thing over and over again, even when we keep getting poor outcomes?
When Alzheimers drug trials have a 99.6% failure rate which is much worse than the failure rates for any other drug, then wouldn’t we do well to rethink and look at areas where we can make a difference and where others have been making a real difference already? (1)
Understanding the neurodegenerative process
For example the work of Dale E. Bredesen, a professor of neurology at the Easton Laboratories for Neurodegenerative Disease Research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has culminated in the development of a protocol to reverse cognitive decline. It is called ReCODE and currently used by over 3,000 patients with the goal of not just preventing, but reversing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment. Dr.Bredesen already has evidence of having reversed the symptoms in over 100 people. I don’t know of anyone else who could match that yet. His laboratory focuses on identifying and understanding basic mechanisms underlying the neurodegenerative process and the translation of this knowledge into effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.
I agree with him when he claims that Alzheimers is a complex disease that can be prevented and the symptoms reversed in the majority of people if treated early enough. (2)
Recognising possible triggers
As the disease process begins in the brain decades before the first symptom of memory loss, it is important for all of us to pay attention to possible triggers for inflammation and learn what to do about them. Such triggers are often complex and could include anything that causes undue stress to the individual person for a prolonged period of time. They could include a combination of physical, emotional, spiritual and environmental factors as well as a genetic predisposition that together overwhelm the individual system and eventually lead to a breakdown. (3)
My work as a Medical Herbalist
Working in the NHS with dementia sufferers for over a decade, I have become starkly aware of the need for some fresh thinking.
My 30 years of experience in Natural Medicine have told me that chronic inflammation is a sign of an imbalance created by the body’s inability to ‘digest’ the stress it was dealing with.
I felt compromised in my work with dementia patients who were given a diagnosis of dementia and told that there were no disease modifying treatments.
In 2013, I went for a coffee with Dr.Claudia Cooper, a researcher at UCL and explained my thinking about slowing down or reversing chronic inflammation based on the work I had been doing as a Medical Herbalist for several decades. Before agreeing to embark on a joint project, she tested me out by sending some patients to my herbal practice. When their conditions had resolved within a short time, she agreed to work with me on the project now known as ‘Brainfood’.
The start of our work coincided with new research findings in many parts of the world including the Finger trial and a systemic review by Exeter university where 9 of 12 trials had found a Mediterranean style diet successful in preventing or slowing down memory decline. (4)
In 2014, the Camden Memory Service became the first Memory Service in the UK to offer a 5 session manualised programme for patients with mild dementia, MCI and SMI. Then in 2017, our work was featured on BBC London. (5)
Much has happened since then. One of the outcomes is The APPLE Tree programme: sActive Prevention in People at risk of dementia through Lifestyle, bEhaviour change and Technology to build REsiliEnce. In fact one of the sites for this programme will be St.Margarets Hospital in Epping, Essex. (6)
My Brain Health programme
In my practice as a herbalist and as a licensed nutritionist, I use the Bredesen approach (7) and also offer an online Brain Health programme. (8). One of my patients with a diagnosis of Alzheimers didn’t actually have a history of any chronic inflammatory disease. By testing for toxins we discovered that her body was suffering from a heavy burden of mould toxins and a special blood test showed that her adrenal hormones were very low.
By treating the mould in her home, taking supplements to bind mould toxins, taking herbs to support her adrenal function and adhering to a diet very low in carbohydrates and high in good fats with lots of leafy green vegetables and practising some relaxation she is making good progress.
In other patients the common causes for their cognitive decline could include one or more of the following: poor blood sugar control, lack of sleep, eating too close to bedtime, leaky gut, consuming too many high carb foods and drinks, consuming trans fats, drinking too much alcohol, lack of social or mental stimulation, poor dental hygiene, heavy metal overload or too much emotional and psychological stress.
Maintaining individualised programs
It is important to emphasise that the symptoms of dementia can be reversed provided people keep to an individualised program. Once people stop following the prescribed program or advice their symptoms may return more or less gradually, depending on age and how aggressive their individual condition is.
Dr.Bredesen makes it very clear that it is not about a cure but that the symptoms can be reversed to some degree in most people and in many they can be reversed totally.
Case study: a dementia patient in her 80’s who was doing very well for about 6 months and then stopped all the natural supplements assuming she was fine…
My patient’s initial blood tests showed that she was a borderline diabetic and that her inflammatory markers were too high. Her GP told her not to worry! She used to go to sleep around midnight and was becoming easily anxious and panicky.
Once she had seen me, her memory and mood improved quite quickly once she adopted the advice I had given her which meant adjusting her diet, attending pilates classes, going for regular walks and taking natural supplements. She looked and felt much better when I saw her again a month later.
Then 6 months later, she reported that her anxiety had returned and that her memory had gotten worse again. She told me that after a couple of months of feeling really good she thought she was fine and stopped the treatment. I had to remind her of what I had made clear right at the beginning, that she couldn’t just stop her supplements, go back to her old diet and go to sleep so late and then expect to maintain the improvement.
When she restarted what I had advised initially, she noticeably improved within a couple of weeks, feeling her usual self again.
We need to change course before it’s too late…!
As our population ages, and the number of people diagnosed with dementia continues to rise, we must avoid the fate of the Titanic and change course whilst we still can. We tend to forget that we can change perspective and habits, no matter what age we are. There might be sanity in a more holistic perspective on disease.