Inflammation on body and mind
Regular adjustments and integrative treatment can address many of the health challenges of your patients, but when questions about cognitive impairments or Alzheimer’s disease crop up, how can practitioners guide their patients to an understanding of nutrients that could help save their minds?
In the past, we have tended to view the brain as a chemical-based natural computer; and if we simply adjusted the chemical balance, all would be well. But that certainly isn’t the whole picture—inflammation is a major cause of cognitive-related diseases. Because practitioners are well-versed in how inflammation affects physical health, it is perfectly appropriate for them to discuss with patients how it can affect the mind as well.
Curcumin: The power player
Not surprisingly, one of the best nutrients for preserving the mind is one you may already be familiar with for treating acute joint pain, chronic arthritis, and any number of common complaints—curcumin (Curcuma longa).
In experimental models of Alzheimer’s disease, curcumin was able to reduce beta amyloid levels and shrink the size of accumulated plaques that interfere with neural processing by over 30 percent.1
Other studies have shown that curcumin plays a role in regenerating neurons, creating new brain cells, and refreshing cells that may have once been considered irretrievable.2,3
Curcumin also boosts levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a must for neural plasticity, learning, and emotional resilience. The amygdala, cerebral cortex, and hypothalamus typically have the highest levels of BDNF, but stress can really affect their levels.4-6
While curcumin and turmeric are certainly well-publicized, there is a lot of confusion regarding the type of curcumin that works best. A clinically-studied form that shows remarkable absorption and blood retention is when curcumin is blended with turmeric essential oil, which is also a source of beneficial turmerones.7
Two other botanicals that help preserve neural connections are the concentrated plant oils from rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and Spanish sage (Salvia lavandulifolia).
Rosemary oil can neutralize dangerous free radicals that destroy brain cells. Once it crosses the blood-brain barrier, it does not activate until free-radical stress occurs, so it’s safe and doesn’t act indiscriminately.8
Both rosemary and Spanish sage inhibit the activity of acetylcholinesterase and preserve acetylcholine, a messenger in the brain that supports memory and learning. This is similar to how prescription drugs work, but without the serious adverse effects. 9-11
In a study in New Zealand, sage oil improved focus and other symptoms in patients with Alzheimer’s. While more research needs to be done, no significant side effects have been reported for either of these plant oils.12
Vitamin D for the brain
Aside from these botanicals, one of the best nutrients for the brain (and one many of your patients are probably familiar with for bone and joint health) is vitamin D.
Compared to people who have optimal levels of vitamin D, having low levels of vitamin D at age 65 makes someone twice as likely to experience mental decline. But vitamin D3 can stem the tide. In fact, a Dutch study found that patients with Alzheimer’s disease but high serum levels of vitamin D3 scored significantly higher on cognitive testing than those with low levels of the nutrient.13
Another clinical study, published in the journal Neurology, tracked adult volunteers age 65 and older for six years, their vitamin D levels, and their elevated risk of dementia. At the end of the study, they found that even moderate deficiencies in vitamin D increased the risk to 53 percent. For Alzheimer’s, the risk was 69 percent—and that was for those who were only moderately deficient. For anyone with severe deficiencies, the risk of dementia was 125 percent, and the risk of Alzheimer’s was 122 percent. Vitamin D is absolutely essential for the brain.14-16
Additionally, research at the UCLA School of Medicine published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed that vitamin D works with curcumin to protect the brain from damaging inflammation and clear the brain of amyloid plaques by stimulating a type of immune cell called a macrophage to more aggressively seek out and clean up beta-amyloid fragments in the brain. Curcumin and vitamin D work synergistically—they strengthen one another’s impact—and are a potent protective force for the brain.17-19
Your patients appreciate the holistic treatment you provide. If any of them are concerned with cognitive health, the nutrients outlined here can help them preserve their well-being in body and mind.
Terry Lemerond is a natural health expert with more than 45 years of experience. He has owned health food stores, founded dietary supplement companies, and formulated more than 400 products. A published author, he has appeared on radio and television, and is a frequent guest speaker. He can be contacted through euromedicausa.com.
1 Garcia-Alloza M. Curcumin labels amyloid pathology in vivo, disrupts existing plaques, and partially restores distorted neurites in an Alzheimer mouse model. J Neurochem. 2007;102:1095-1104.
2 Yang F, Lim GP, Begum AN, et al. Curcumin inhibits formation of amyloid beta oligomers and fibrils, binds plaques, and reduces amyloid in vivo. J Biol Chem. 2005;280(7):5892-901.
3 Baum L, Lam CW, Cheung SK, et al. Six-month randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, pilot clinical trial of curcumin in patients with Alzheimer disease. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2008 Feb;28(1):110-3.
4 Xu Y, Ku B, Tie L, Yao H, Jiang W, Ma X, Li X. Curcumin reverses the effects of chronic stress on behavior, the HPA axis, BDNF expression and phosphorylation of CREB. Brain Res. 2006 Nov 29;1122(1):56-64.
5 Huang Z, Zhong XM, Li ZY, Feng CR, Pan AJ, Mao QQ. Curcumin reverses corticosterone-induced depressive-like behavior and decrease in brain BDNF levels in rats. Neurosci Lett. 2011;493(3):145-8.
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8 Antony B, Merina B, Iyer VS, et al. A Pilot Cross-Over Study to Evaluate Human Oral Bioavailability of BCM-95 CG (Biocurcumax), A Novel Bioenhanced Preparation of Curcumin. Indian J Pharm Sci. 2008;70(4):445-449
9 Cheung S, Tai J. Anti-proliferative and antioxidant properties of rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis. Oncol Rep. 2007;17(6):1525-31.
10 Satoh T, Kosaka K, Itoh K, et al. Carnosic acid, a catechol-type electrophilic compound, protects neurons both in vitro and in vivo through activation of the Keap1/Nrf2 pathway via S-alkylation of targeted cysteines on Keap1. J Neurochem. 2008;104(4):1116-31.
11 Ozarowski M, et al. Rosmarinus officinalis L. leaf extract improves memory impairment and affects acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase activities in rat brain. Fitoterapia. 2013 Dec;91:261-71. Epub 2013 Sep 27.
12 Tildesley NT, Kennedy DO, Perry EK, et al. Salvia lavandulaefolia (Spanish sage) enhances memory in healthy young volunteers. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003;75(3):669-74.
13 Perry NS, Bollen C, Perry EK, Ballard C. Salvia for dementia therapy: review of pharmacological activity and pilot tolerability clinical trial. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003;75(3):651-9.
14 Oudshoorn C, Mattace-Raso FU, van der Velde N, Colin EM, van der Cammen TJ. Higher serum vitamin D3 levels are associated with better cognitive test performance in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2008;25(6):539-43.
15 Balion C, Griffith LE, Strifler L, et al. Vitamin D, cognition, and dementia: a systemic review and meta-analysis. Neurology. 2012;79:1397-405.
16 Annweiler C, Rolland Y, Schott AM, et al. Higher vitamin D dietary intake is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease: a 7-year follow up. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2012;67:1205-11.
17 Littlejohns TJ, Henley WE, Lang IA, et al. Vitamin D and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease. Neurology. 2014 Sep 2;83(10):920-8.
18 Mizwicki MT, Liu G, Fiala M, et al. 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 and resolivin D1 retune the balance between amyloid-β phagocytosis and inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease patients. J Alzheimers Disease. 2013;34:155-70.
19 Masoumi A, et al. 1alpha,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 interacts with curcuminoids to stimulate amyloid-beta clearance by macrophages of Alzheimer’s disease patients. J Alzheimers Dis. 2009;17(3):703-17