|The National Institutes of Health (NIH) concluded after some investigation that no current evidence exists which proves any alternative treatment for Alzheimer's can help prevent or slow down memory loss. Some therapies may however provide therapeutic benefits and make the disease more bearable. We discuss a range of alternative treatments in this article.
Brand name: Axona
Caprylic acid is produced by processing palm kernel oil or coconut oil. The body breaks down caprylic acid into a substance called ketone bodies. The theory is, ketone bodies derived from Axona may provide an alternative supply of energy for brain cells which have lost their ability to use glucose as a result of Alzheimer's. Glucose (sugar) is found in the blood and is the body's (brain included) chief source of energy. Brain scans show reduced glucose in the brains of people with Alzheimer's. The benefits of Axona have not been fully proven. Anecdotally a few people have reported benefits from taking coconut oil, a cheaper source of caprylic acid.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish oil. Research has linked certain omega-3s to lower risk of heart disease and strokes, but there is no definitive evidence that they may help slow down cognitive decline or other symptoms of Alzheimer's.
Some doctors prescribe high doses of vitamin E to Alzheimer's patients. Their reason is based on federally supported studies that showed high doses delayed loss of ability to carry out daily activities in patients with Alzheimer’s for a few months. Subsequent research however shows an increased risk of death in elderly patients taking high doses of vitamin E. No one should take vitamin E without doctor supervision.
Ginkgo biloba is a plant extract that some believe may have a positive effect on brain cells. It has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine. However a large phase 3 clinical trial conducted by the NIH concluded it was no better than a placebo in preventing or delaying Alzheimer’s. The Ginkgo Evaluation and Memory (GEM) Study involved 3,000 participants all over the age of 75 who displayed no signs of dementia. Half were given a placebo (empty pill) and the other half were given 120 mg of ginkgo twice a day. They were followed up every 6 months for 6 years. No statistical difference in rates of Alzheimer’s or dementia was noted between the two study groups.
This is an antioxidant that is produced naturally by the body and is needed for cell reactions. A synthetic (man-made) version called idebenone was tested on Alzheimer patients and showed little benefit. Not much is known about what dose of coenzyme Q10 is considered safe.
Tramiprosate is a type of amino acid found in seaweed. Amino acids are essential for protein and new cell development in the body. Manufacturers of ViviMind abandoned phase 3 clinical trials of their product, which if it has passed, would have resulted in FDA approval to brand it as a prescription drug. It is now marketed as a 'medical food' supplement. As it has not been fully tested, it is not considered to have any proven benefits.
Several studies have reported positive effects in treating patients who have dementia and Alzheimer's with acupuncture. Acupuncture involves sticking tiny needles into energy points in the body to improve energy flow (chi) and unblock imbalances.
There is some evidence that oils used in aromatherapy can improve memory in people with Alzheimer’s, in particular the use of lavender oil and lemon balm.
Bright Light Therapy
Bright lights have been found beneficial in treating people with sleeping disorders associated with Alzheimer's. Bright light therapy involves sitting in front of a light box for a set period of time a day. One study even showed using stronger general lighting in a home improves cognition in people with dementia by improving their sense of day and night.
Music therapy uses the sound of music or other noises (like white noise) to calm the mind and induce a sense of well-being. Treatment involves placing a person in a quiet room and playing the music for 30 minutes. If the person has Alzheimer's you should remain with them to make sure they are comfortable and happy with the level of sound. If there is a certain time of the day the person typically becomes agitated, try scheduling music therapy just before this.
Eating the right foods nourishes the brain and may help delay memory loss.
Foods To Avoid
• White bread, white pasta and white rice. These grains have lost most of their nutrients, including B-vitamins, in the refining process. In 2009, a Swedish study found raised levels of homocysteine in women with Alzheimer’s. Homocysteine is a toxic substance produced when proteins break down in the body. B-vitamins appear to keep levels of homocysteine in check.
• Artificial sweeteners and MSG. While the evidence is not sufficient, some believe they could be a neuro-toxin. Better safe than sorry.
• Reduce intake of fatty meats and dairy products.
• Avoid adding sugar to foods or eating sugary products. Sugar is particularly deadly for brain function. Former President Ronald Regan who developed Alzheimer’s ate bags of jelly babies every day.
Foods To Eat
• More fish and green/yellow vegetables. A Japanese study found that Alzheimer patients didn't eat much of these but ate more fatty meat. Patients were also lacking in vitamin C, omega-3 and carotenes.
• Oats, eggs, cabbage, cauliflower and soya beans. They contain the important brain nutrient acetylcholine which is lacking in Alzheimer patients.
• All antioxidant foods: berries but especially blackberries and blueberries, prunes and all vegetables.
• Replace table salt with nori seaweed flakes. It helps remove heavy metals from the body. Research shows Alzheimer patients tend to have a metal imbalance.
Daily exercise may help sufferers restore some function by increasing oxygen to the brain. A walk in the fresh air is perfect.
Next: How to prevent Alzheimer's.