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Alternative Treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease

Alternative treatments and Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a degenerative brain disorder. It breaks down and destroys brain cells and the neurons that connect brain cells to one another. This damage causes a decline in memory, behavior, and mental capabilities.

There is no cure for AD. Science has not yet identified any treatments that can slow or halt the progression of this disorder. Researchers also do not know how to prevent the onset of AD.

Treatment focuses on creating a better quality of life for people with AD. Doctors address symptoms of the disease that can be managed. This can be done with traditional and alternative treatments.

It’s important to understand that alternative treatments for AD are not widely supported in the medical community. Some of these treatments have been found to be beneficial, while others have been debunked by studies. If you’re interested in alternative treatments, it’s important to talk with a doctor first.

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Coconut oil

Coconut oil

Caprylic acid is a fatty acid found in processed coconut oil. The human body breaks down caprylic acid into the protein ketone. A similar protein is used in a drug called Ketasyn.

Some has found that people who took Ketasyn had better memory performance and less cognitive decline. Some people are using coconut oil as a cheaper alternative to medicine that contains Ketasyn.

Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial in AD treatment. In one , researchers found that regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids reduced cognitive impairment. But, it’s important to note that this research was conducted in animals, not humans.

You can get more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet by eating fish, nuts, and some oils.

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Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10

Alternative treatment advocates claim certain vitamins and minerals can prevent or stop AD. One such antioxidant is coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10. CoQ10 supplements are available in drug stores. This enzyme is important to healthy body functions. It’s now being studied as a for AD.

Coral calcium

Coral calcium

Most people get enough calcium from their diet. But some people advocate coral calcium as a treatment for AD. Coral calcium is derived from seashells and sea life. This means the calcium supplement may contain trace amounts of other minerals. Some believe this makes it more beneficial than other sources of calcium.

Coral calcium has not been proven beneficial in treating AD. The Federal Trade Commission filed a against companies that promote coral calcium as a natural treatment for AD.

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Acupuncture

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an alternative medicine that is believed to promote self-healing by using fine, sterile needles. This therapy is thought to stimulate the body and improve the flow of energy.

According to some , acupuncture may improve mood and cognitive function in people with AD. A small also showed that acupuncture improved mood, energy levels, and pain, but more research is still needed.

There is little risk with acupuncture done by a trained and licensed practitioner. It may be worth trying for other health benefits.

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Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy uses essential oils to enhance well-being. One short-term study tested aromatherapy on a group of older adults, some with AD. At the end of the study, every person involved showed improvement in their thinking abilities. The essential oils used in the study included:

  • rosemary
  • lemon
  • lavender
  • orange

Larger studies still need to be conducted over longer periods of time to confirm these findings.

It is important to remember to never apply essential oils directly to the skin. Always dilute three to five drops in one ounce of a carrier oil such as almond oil.

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Light therapy

Bright light therapy

Alzheimer's disease affects the part of the brain that regulates the circadian rhythm, which tells the body when to sleep and wake up. AD can cause a disruption in your sleep and wake cycle. Some people have problems sleeping, which increases the risk of nighttime wandering. Bright light therapy may help.

have found that light therapy helps restore balance to the sleep-wake cycle. Bright light therapy in the morning improved the nighttime sleep pattern in some people with AD. It also increased daytime wakefulness and reduced evening agitation.

Herbal

Herbal medicine

One large found that ginkgo biloba had no impact on a person’s risk for developing AD. However, several small found that gingko biloba may benefit people with cognitive impairment caused by AD.

More research is still needed on whether there’s a positive connection between ginkgo biloba and AD. Current findings are not very convincing.

Some herbs are effective because of their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Choto-san is an herbal mixture containing 11 medicinal plants. This mixture has been used to treat dementia. Some found improvements in memory and learning. But many studies have only focused on vascular dementia. Vascular dementia and AD both fall under the dementia umbrella, but are different conditions.

According to small , the Japanese herb kami-untan-to improved nerve growth in rat brain cells. Based on these results, the herb could possibly slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. However, more studies are needed.

Be sure to report any use of herbs or alternative approaches to your doctor. Many herbs interact with other medications. Ginkgo biloba, for example, is known be a blood thinner and can be dangerous for people already on blood thinners.

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The takeaway

What you can do now

Current research does not support alternative treatments as a way to cure AD. However, your treatment plan is a personal choice.

Talk with your doctor if you are interested in any of these alternative treatments. Do not begin using alternative treatments without first consulting your doctor. You can develop serious drug interactions by mixing prescription medications with any of the supplements listed above.

Article resources
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  • Fernando, W., Martins, I., Goozee, K., Brennan, C., Jayasena, V., & Martins, R. (2015, July 14). The role of dietary coconut for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease: potential mechanisms of action. British Journal of Nutrition, 114(1), 1-14. Retrieved from
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  • Hooijmans, C. R., Pasker-de Jong, P. C., de Vries. R. B., & Ritskes-Hoitinga, M. (2012). The effects of long-term omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on cognition and Alzheimer's pathology in animal models of Alzheimer's disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 28(1), 191-209. Retrieved from
  • Jimbo, D., Kimura, Y., Taniguchi, M., Inoue, M., & Urakami, K. (2009, December). Effect of aromatherapy on patients with Alzheimer's disease. [Abstract]. Psychogeriatrics, 9(4),173-179. Retrieved from
  • Nafar, F., & Mearow, K. (2013, September 6). Coconut oil attenuates the effects of amyloid-β on cortical neurons in vitro. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 39(2), 233-237, Retrieved from
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  • Vellas, B., Coley, N., Ousset, P. J., Berrut, G., Dartigues, J. F., Dubois, B., … GuidAge Study Group. (2012, October). Long-term use of standardised Ginkgo biloba extract for the prevention of Alzheimer's disease (GuidAge): A randomised placebo-controlled trial. The Lancet Neurology, 11(10), 851-859. Retrieved from
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  • Yang, X., Zhang, Y., Xu, H., Luo, X., Yu, J., Liu, J. & Chuen-Chung, R. (2016, March). Neuroprotection of coenzyme Q10 in neurodegenerative diseases. Current Topics in Medical Chemistry, 16(8), 858-866. Retrieved from
  • Zeng, B. Y., Salvage, S., & Jenner, P. (2013). Effect and mechanism of acupuncture on Alzheimer's disease. [Abstract]. International Review of Neurobiology, 111, 181-195. Retrieved from
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