Tag Archives: McMaster University

Easing Alzheimer’s-Related Sundowning

I have always had an interest in the workings of the human brain.  While at McMaster University, I completed my research thesis on the ability of vitamins and minerals to off-set cognitive decline, which peaked my interest in the subject matter early on in my educational career.  The combination of my work in retirement homes, my clinical experience working with persons with dementia who are sun downing (a common finding whereby confusion and disorientation in persons with dementia tend to increase when the sun starts to go down, hence its name), as well as my work with their loved ones, has further fueled my interest in the ability to hail the later years of our lives with all of our cognitive faculties in tact and my interest in examining strategies to improve quality of life for persons with dementia as well as our much-loved and appreciated caregivers.

Selected Naturopathic Strategies to Ease Sundowning

Check-in to see if the person is trying to communicate hunger, thirst, discomfort or a need to toilet and therapeutic touch to bring reassurance and remind the person of who you are and your presence.

If the person is ambulatory, or able to walk with assistance safely, try to incorporate exercise earlier on in the day to reduce restlessness later in the afternoon and early evening.

Expose the patient to natural light in order to maintain their vitamin D stores and to help entrain circadian levels needed for sleep-wake cycles. As the sun goes down, ensure the person’s surroundings are well-lighted to reduce shadows that can mask common objects and create confusion or disorientation.

Minimize sugar intake, which can lead to an aggravation in moods due to the fluctuation in glucose levels.

Experiment with soothing herbal teas, including chamomile and passion flower.

Encourage feelings of self-efficacy by providing persons with bite-sized foods, in smaller meal proportions. The act of eating may help soothe agitation.

Ask your Naturopathic Doctor about nutrients including melatonin, which are safe alternatives to sleeping aids because they don’t interfere with REM sleep or produce that groggy “morning-after hangover”.

Forget Me Not – Alzheimer’s Dementia

The World Health Organization recently released a news piece, stating that 35.6 million people worldwide live with dementia.  By 2030, this number is expected to double to 65.7 million, and by 2050 it is expected to triple to 115.4 million (a number which is astonishingly high!)

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.  Dementia is a progressive, irreversible decline in cognitive function, which is marked by memory and language impairment, behavioural changes, deficits in reasoning, judgment, abstract thought, comprehension, learning and an inability to perform everyday activities.

Some helpful tips on brain health, which I have acquired over the years,
1.  Your brain is a muscle – use it, or lose it!  Give your mind a work out and try to memorize some phone numbers, fill your mind with new bits of information or try using your non-dominant hand to complete a task to flex your brain muscle each day.
2. Detoxify and rejuvenate!  Treat yourself to infrared sauna treatments to sweat out toxins, such as aluminum and other heavy metals in your body.  Speak with your healthcare provider about an appropriate and supervised food-based cleanse at least once per year.
3. Healthier oils, healthier brain!  Omega-3 essential fatty acids can help patients with mild cognitive dysfunction, while you also get the added benefits of lowering blood pressure, reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (I like to think of them as “lousy cholesterol”), while thinning out your blood.
4. “B” smart!  Ensure optimal amounts of vitamin B1 (thiamine) and vitamin B12 (cobalamin).  Thiamine can potentiate the effects of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter for the healthy functioning of your brain. Addressing a vitamin B12 deficiency, ensuring the adequacy of vitamin B12 body stores and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) stores.  Speak with your healthcare provider about the most readily bioavailable forms of these vitamins, as all vitamin products are not created equal.  Ask your Naturopathic Doctor about the option of receiving intramuscular (IM) vitamin B12 injections in-office, which can bypass a digestive system that is not able to absorb the B12 you need to feel your best.

Walk for Memories

On May 27, 2012 I will be participating in the 5K Walk for Memories with the Alzheimer Society of York Region. I will be walking with a team of other young professionals who are also passionate about raising awareness for this cause! If you are a young professional in the Richmond Hill, Thornhill, Markham, North York region who is also interested in walking with inspired like-minded young professionals, please feel free to contact me directly to arrange to walk with us.  See you at the finish line!

Your “Brainy” Tip of the Day:  minimize your exposure to aluminum where possible.

Aluminum toxicity appears to play a significant role in the development of the neurofibrillary tangles of persons with Alzheimer’s.  Some ways of minimizing repetitive exposure includes swapping your aluminum foil with glass containers when storing food.  Your antiperspirants, deodorants and makeup can also be sources of aluminum; while present in minuet amounts, can add up over time with continuous exposure over a lifetime.  There are supplements that may be appropriate to chelate aluminum from the body and brain, which you can discuss with your healthcare provider.