If you are 65 years old, you have a one in eight chance of suffering from significant cognitive decline. By age 80 the chances are that one in two of you will suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia. Conventional medicine has very little to offer for prevention and treatment of the aging brain. In fact, most of the drugs prescribed by conventional doctors for other conditions actually cause premature brain aging, memory loss and confusion.
Causes of Mental Decline
You might say that prescription drugs are one of the major contributors to accelerated brain aging. Chief amongst these are the statin drugs for high cholesterol, fluroquinolone antibiotics, prescription tranquilizers, antidepressants, and electroconvulsive shock therapy. Concussions will do the same. Statin drugs, for example, deplete the brain of the important antioxidant CoQ10 as well as numerous steroid hormones, including vitamin D. The longer you use statin drugs, the greater will be your cognitive decline. A few years ago I reported on the dangers of these overprescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs in this magazine (find the article archived online at: http://vitalitymagazine.com/article/challenging-the-statin-drug-dogma/)
Another major issue is the growing problem of mercury toxicity from dental fillings, industrial pollution, and fish of all types. Mercury and other toxic heavy metals play an increasingly large role in damaging the brain. To rid the body of these toxins, consider using the far infrared sauna (which causes the release of toxins through sweating), cilantro (a culinary herb that pulls heavy metals out of the tissues), chlorella (a superfood that detoxifies the cells), bentonite clay (a substance that pulls heavy metals out of the body through the bowels and should be taken within hours of cilantro), and other detoxifying strategies regularly.
Commonly prescribed drugs for Alzheimer’s or dementia rarely benefit an aging brain and serve primarily to keep agitated patients with dementia quiet or muzzled. The good news is that evidence supports the use of many nutrient supplements that can enhance brain function and prevent brain tragedies in later life.
Following a healthy organic diet and lifestyle while controlling stress can go a long way towards preventing brain damage. This includes avoiding gluten-containing grains and other personal food allergens, as well as sugar (including high fructose corn syrup) and refined carbohydrates, while getting plenty of essential fatty acids in daily meals. According to neurologist, Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain, the main culprits responsible for Alzheimer’s Disease are excessive sugar and genetically engineered grain (gluten) consumption. Not only are grains and refined carbohydrates associated with the obesity epidemic but they may also be one of the chief causes of brain aging. Aside from a healthy diet and lifestyle, there are key supplements that virtually anyone can use to help enhance brain function and stave off the neurological problems of aging. Here are my top 10 favourites based on the most recent studies and my clinical experience:
Top 10 Supplements
1) Omega-3 fatty acids – 4000 mg (combined DHA and EPA) daily. Some food sources include free-range eggs and wild Pacific salmon. Omega-3 fats prevents brain cell damage and lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s primarily by controlling chronic inflammation.
2) Magnesium Glycinate – 400 to 800 mg daily. Evidence shows that higher brain levels of magnesium in the brain improve Alzheimer’s symptoms. Receiving high doses intravenously appears to be most effective in calming an agitated brain.
3) Curcumin – 1000 to 2000 mg daily. This powerful antioxidant extract from the spice turmeric is one of the most powerful natural brain protecting substances ever documented. Known as a potent anti-inflammatory for the whole body, curcumin boosts overall cognitive function and has recently been shown to be an effective antidepressant. Make sure the brand of curcumin you buy is the natural BCM95 type (this should be specified on the label) due to its very high absorption and bioavailability. Some other brands use synthetic curcumin derived from petrochemicals, which are poor copies of natural curcumin and do not have the same benefits.
4) Vitamin D – 5000 to 10,000 IU daily. I mentioned in my book on vitamin D that receptors do exist in the brain for this hormone-like vitamin. Vitamin D is anti-inflammatory, and the evidence is clear that vitamin D levels are tied intimately to optimal brain function. It helps nourish brain glial cells that help damaged neurons. Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of abnormal mood, memory and behaviour problems. Unfortunately, it is still ignored as an important brain booster by most of the conventional medicine world.
5) Vitamin B12 – 5000 mcg methylcobalamin daily dissolved under the tongue. It’s long been known that vitamin B12 injections and sublingually dissolved oral supplements will boost mood, energy and sharpen thinking in general. There is now good evidence from neurology journals that regular vitamin B12 consumption can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Of course, if you take high doses of vitamin B12, it’s important to take a B complex along with the B12 in order to prevent a relative B vitamin deficiency.
6) Coconut oil – 20 grams daily of MCT (medium chain triglycerides) is a type of healthy fat that nourishes the brain and has reportedly reversed Alzheimer’s symptoms in some studies (20 grams = 4 tsp; if your skin gets too oily, cut back on the intake). Coconut oil contains 66% MCT which contain ketone bodies (ketoacids) that actually both nourish and regenerate diseased brain cells. Aside from improving Alzheimer’s, MCT has a potential in the treatment of Parkinson’s, MS and ALS.
7) Lithium orotate – 10 to 20 mg daily. High doses of the mineral salt lithium (1200 – 1500 mg daily) are often used to treat bipolar disease (manic-depressive illness) but few people realize that low dose lithium can do wonders for brain function at virtually any age. Low dose lithium enhances nerve cell DNA replication. In actual studies, shrunken brains as seen on CAT scans and MRIs in patients suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s can be grown back over time to their original size. Lithium prevents damage to the brain by toxic molecules (heavy metals, drugs, pollutants, etc.) and normal brain erosion occurring over time. In other words, it prevents typical brain aging. Lithium prohibits beta-amyloid secretion, a substance found to be associated with Alzheimer’s. Lithium also protects the brain from damage by aluminum, another purported cause of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
8) Coenzyme Q10 – 600 to 1200 mg daily. Best known for its benefits for cardiovascular disease and cancer treatment, CoQ10 may slow down and help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s. Recent studies do show enhancement of brain function after using high doses of CoQ10. CoQ10 has also been reported to help symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, skin aging as well as periodontal disease.
9) Phosphatidylserine (PS) – 300 mg or more daily. This is a natural substance used by the brain to basically improve communication between neurons. It has been used effectively for any type of age related mental functioning decline as well as for Alzheimer’s, ADHD, depression and for the improvement of athletic performance. Phosphatidyl choline (aka lecithin) is a similar but weaker version of PS, and one needs at least 24 grams of the stuff daily to accomplish the same benefits.
10) Ginkgo biloba extract – 120 mg daily of the standardized extract. One of my sons was fond of saying “no ginkgo, no thinko,” and I thinko he may have been right! This extract from the ancient ginkgo tree has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain and can be used to both prevent and reduce the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Despite what conventional medical authorities will tell you, evidence suggests that the brain can change for the better with the use of natural remedies. Brain injury and degeneration is NOT permanent and you don’t need ANY drug to fix the problem. It takes years, and not weeks or months, to see the beneficial effects with the natural approach because the brain takes a much longer time to heal than any other organ.
Aside from these top 10 natural remedies, let’s also be aware of the fact that severe imbalances in various hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, insulin, thyroid, pituitary and several others) can have profound effects on brain aging. So can chronic stress, your personal genetics or family history, and the amount of time you exercise and have restorative sleep. Further, all antioxidant supplements and herbal remedies that control inflammation will work to prevent brain aging. For all these and other brain aging concerns, see your natural health care practitioner.