How can Functional Medicine help with Cognitive Decline
With 850,000 UK citizens suffering from Dementia. Read below how Functional Medicine can help you.
How Can Functional Medicine Help with Cognitive Decline?
Cognitive decline refers to a reduction in brain cell function, affecting not only memory but also behaviour, thinking and reasoning. In short, the brain isn’t working as well as it should.
In cognitive decline, brain function deteriorates at a greater level than would have been expected takin into account your age.
Dementia is a term used for general cognitive decline affecting the ability to perform everyday tasks, with at least 850,000 sufferers in the UK. There are many types of dementia, the most common of these being Alzheimer’s disease.
Symptoms of Cognitive Decline
The symptoms of cognitive decline are due to damage to the nerve cells in the brain. Symptoms usually come on gradually, and may initially be put down to natural ageing.
- Trouble concentrating and remembering
- Mood changes like anger, anxiety, suspicion or confusion
- Not recognising loved ones and forgetting names
- Inability to complete basic tasks
- Difficulty walking or speaking
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Losing and misplacing items
- Problems with balance and co-ordination
It can be heartbreaking to watch a loved one slowly develop cognitive decline, as well as it being bewildering and upsetting for the sufferer.
Causes of Cognitive Decline
Your brain contains billions of nerve cells known as neurones transmitting information to and from each other.
As you become older, your brain function naturally declines because blood flow reduces, the production of neurotransmitters is reduced, and the protective sheaths around your nerves deteriorate. In the case of cognitive decline, these processes happen more rapidly.
Proteins known as beta-amyloid occur naturally in your brain but when they accumulate they can form hard insoluble plaques, blocking the mechanism your brain cells use to communicate with each other. This can occur because the protein are not cleared away or they’re produced in greater amounts. The build-up of plaques is thought to be a result of infection, toxins, inflammation, and oxidative stress.
Increased inflammation is also thought to cause healthy brain cells to be destroyed. Inflammation can be due to a permeable gut lining, a pro-inflammatory diet, obesity, or because of infections such as Lyme disease, herpes virus or from dental disease.
Gut health has a huge effect on brain health because certain gut bacteria release messenger molecules acting to increase inflammation or directly as nerve cell irritants.
Other factors affecting brain health include insulin resistance, gluten sensitivity, nutrient deficiencies, stress, lack of sleep and a sedentary lifestyle. Your brain is very susceptible to the effects of toxins including metals like mercury and lead, environmental pollutants or mycotoxins from mould.
Some people have one or more gene mutations which, if activated by environmental factors, may make it more likely they’ll develop Alzheimer’s Disease.
Conventional treatment of Cognitive Decline
Despite millions of pounds of research into developing a cure for Alzheimer’s, no drugs have been found to cure the disease or stop its progression.
Conventional medicine sees cognitive disease as being progressive and ultimately fatal.
On the other hand, even people who have noticed the onset of cognitive decline have found their symptoms have been reversed or arrested with functional medicine. Some studies have even seen increases in brain volume, particularly in the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning. However, prevention of cognitive decline is best, because by the time symptoms are noticeable, the disease will be fairly far advanced.
Functional Medicine and Cognitive Decline
Functional medicine aims to find the causes of ill-health and cognitive decline is no exception. Because of the many possible causes of cognitive decline, your therapy will involve a lot of detective work to determine what has contributed in your particular circumstances.
Functional tests can examine gut health, detect the presence of toxic metals and uncover your personal genetic susceptibility.
Therapy will aim to reduce inflammation by healing your gut and removing inflammatory foods and lifestyle factors; reducing oxidative stress on brain cells by providing your body with plenty of antioxidants; and detecting and correcting any nutritional deficiencies.
Supporting your liver can aid your natural detoxification processes, while protocols may be adopted to reduce the load of toxic metals in your body.
Lifestyle modifications include stress reduction, restoring healthy sleep patterns and exercise. Targeted supplements and herbs can help support brain function.