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An Integrative Medicine Approach to Alzheimer's Disease: Testing, Nutrition, and Supplements

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An Integrative Medicine Approach to Alzheimer's Disease: Testing, Nutrition, and Supplements

The number of American adults living with Alzheimer's is increasing rapidly. Currently, there are over 6 million Americans with Alzheimer's, spanning across different age groups. In 2023, it is estimated that around 6.7 million Americans 65 and older have Alzheimer's. Among them, 73% are 75 years old or above. Around 1 in 9 people aged 65 and older (10.7%) have Alzheimer's. It is more common among women, with nearly two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer's being female.

As the population of American adults 65 and older continues to grow, the number and proportion of individuals with Alzheimer's or other dementias will also increase. By 2050, it's projected that the number of people 65 and older with Alzheimer's may reach 12.7 million unless significant medical advancements prevent or cure the disease. Continuously, more research is being conducted to prevent or improve the symptoms associated with Alzheimer's, including functional medicine approaches. This article will discuss what Alzheimer's Disease is, the symptoms of Alzheimer's, the possible causes, and some evidence-based integrative approaches used in preventing Alzheimer's.


What is Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer's disease is a condition affecting the brain and slowly causes problems with memory, thinking, and doing simple tasks. It usually starts showing symptoms in people around their mid-60s. There's also a rare form of the disease that can affect people as young as their 30s to mid-60s, called early-onset Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's disease is known to be the most common cause of dementia in older adults.

The disease is named after a doctor named Alois Alzheimer. In 1906, he noticed and reported changes in the brain of a woman who had a strange mental illness and had passed away. She had problems with memory, language, and unpredictable behavior. Alzheimer found plaques and tangled bundles after examining her brain. These tangles and plaques in the brain are still considered important features of Alzheimer's disease. Another feature is the loss of the connections between nerve cells in the brain. Nerve cells send messages between various brain regions and also from the brain to the organs and muscles in the body. There are also other complex changes that happen in the brain with Alzheimer's.

At first, this damage affects parts of the brain that are important for memory, like the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus. Later on, it affects areas in the cerebral cortex, which are responsible for reasoning, language, and social behavior. Eventually, many other brain areas are also damaged.

Alzheimer's Disease Symptoms

In the early stages of Alzheimer's, memory problems are often the first sign. However, the initial symptoms can vary from person to person. Other aspects of thinking may also be affected, such as having trouble finding the correct words, experiencing vision or spatial issues, and having impaired reasoning or judgment. A condition called mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can be an early indication of Alzheimer's, but not everyone with MCI will develop the disease.

As Alzheimer's progresses, everyday tasks become challenging for people with the disease. They may struggle with activities like driving a car, cooking a meal, or managing their finances. They may repeatedly ask the same questions, become easily disoriented, misplace items in unusual locations, and have difficulty understanding simple things. As the disease worsens, some individuals may become worried, angry, or display violent behavior.

What Causes Alzheimer's Disease?

The exact cause of Alzheimer's disease is not fully understood by scientists yet. It is believed that there isn't a single cause but several factors that can affect each person differently.

One well-known risk factor for Alzheimer's is age. Getting older increases the chances of developing the disease. Family history is also thought to play a role, as genetics may contribute to the development of Alzheimer's. However, having a family history of the disease doesn't mean that someone will definitely get it. Leading a healthy lifestyle, including regular physical activity, a nutritious diet, limited alcohol consumption, and not smoking, might help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Changes in the brain can start many years before the first symptoms appear. The brain consists of billions of various nerve cells that communicate with each other. They have different jobs, including thinking, learning, remembering, and processing sensory information. The brain cells need energy and oxygen to function properly, and they rely on coordinated processes within the cells to maintain their health.

In Alzheimer's disease, certain parts of the cells' processes start to malfunction, although it's unclear where the problem begins. When one system fails, it affects other areas. As the damage spreads, the cells lose their ability to function correctly and eventually die, causing irreversible changes in the brain.

There are two abnormal structures, plaques and tangles, that are believed to contribute to damaging and killing nerve cells. Plaques are deposits of beta-amyloid (a protein fragment) that accumulate between nerve cells, and tangles are twisted fibers of tau, a protein that builds up inside the cells. Autopsy studies have shown that most people develop some plaques and tangles as they age. But those with Alzheimer's tend to have far more and in a specific pattern, starting in memory-related areas before spreading to other regions of the brain.

The exact role of plaques and tangles in Alzheimer's disease is still not fully understood. However, most experts believe that they disrupt communication between nerve cells and interfere with vital cell processes, leading to the destruction and death of nerve cells. This ultimately results in memory loss, changes in personality, difficulties with daily activities, and other symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

Integrative Medicine Evidence Based Research on Alzheimer's Disease Prevention

Integrative medicine approaches for Alzheimer's Disease prevention focus on combining various approaches to promote brain health and decrease the risk of developing the condition. Research shows that lifestyle modifications, such as dietary changes, physical exercise, mental stimulation, socialization, music therapy, and stress reduction techniques like meditation, can be beneficial for preventing Alzheimer's and improving cognitive function. Integrating these approaches into Alzheimer's prevention programs shows promise in enhancing brain health and overall quality of life for individuals at risk of developing the disease.

Nutrition for the Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease

Nutrition plays a crucial role in preventing Alzheimer's disease by supporting healthy communication between brain cells and reducing the risk of synapse loss. Two scientifically researched diets, the MIND diet and KetoFLEX 12/3, have shown significant benefits in slowing down synapse loss and decreasing the risk of Alzheimer's.

The MIND diet focuses on consuming foods from 10 healthy groups, including leafy green vegetables, berries, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and olive oil. It limits red meat, sweets, cheese, butter/margarine, and fast/fried food. Following the MIND diet closely has been associated with a lowered risk of synapse loss and slower cognitive decline. Observational studies suggest that following the MIND diet closely can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's by up to 53%.

The KetoFLEX 12/3 diet is a plant-based, mildly ketogenic diet emphasizing whole, nutrient-dense foods, including non-starchy vegetables, adequate protein, and healthy fats. It also involves a 12-hour fasting period, with at least 3 hours of fasting before going to bed. Preliminary results from clinical trials conducted by Dr. Bredesen, a renowned neuroscientist, have shown improved cognitive outcomes in 84% of participants.

By adopting these nutrition-based approaches, individuals can potentially protect their brain health and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Supplements and Herbs for Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease

Dietary supplements are often promoted for improving memory and brain health. However, at this time, there is limited evidence to support the effectiveness of most supplements being considered in preventing Alzheimer's disease, and more research needs to be conducted to give conclusive evidence. For example, research suggests that consuming omega-3s through fish consumption may have some positive effects on preventing cognitive decline. However, omega-3 supplements have not been proven to be helpful in treating Alzheimer's. With vitamin E there are limited studies on its role in preventing or treating Alzheimer's. However, moderate-quality evidence from a single study suggests that vitamin E might slow functional decline in people with this condition.

In the case of herbal medicine, the latest research is promising for these medicinal plants as potential complementary treatments for Alzheimer's. These natural sources have shown anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cognitive-enhancing effects. Here are some of the promising herbals for improving Alzheimer's:


Curcumin acts as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and lipophilic agent, which can improve cognitive functions in patients with AD. Several factors contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease, including oxidative stress, free radicals, beta-amyloid plaques, bio-metal toxicity, and abnormal inflammatory reactions. Curcumin's effects, such as reducing beta-amyloid plaques, protecting neurons from degradation, chelating metals, reducing inflammation, acting as an antioxidant, and inhibiting microglia formation, have been shown to enhance overall memory in patients with AD.


Ashwagandha has been shown to support neural tissue regeneration and reverses mitochondrial dysfunction, enhancing energy production in brain cells. Studies have shown that Ashwagandha can improve various cognitive functions such as auditory-verbal working memory, executive function, processing speed, and social cognition in Alzheimer's patients.

Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, protecting the brain from damage. It improves memory, attention, and executive function, enhancing cognitive abilities. Additionally, Bacopa blocks the production of Aβ, a protein associated with Alzheimer's disease, and prevents neural cell death. It also helps delay brain aging.

Gotu Kola

Gotu Kola acts as a neuroceutical and cogniceutical, meaning it supports brain function and cognition. Gotu kola reduces oxidative stress, Aβ levels (associated with Alzheimer's disease), and apoptosis (cell death). It promotes dendritic growth (connections between brain cells) and supports mitochondrial health. Additionally, it improves mood and memory, enhancing overall brain performance.

Lion's Mane

Lion's Mane has been shown to be neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory while improving cognition, blocking Aβ production, and stimulating neurotransmission outgrowth.


Saffron acts as an antioxidant, protecting against cell damage. Saffron is also anti-amyloidogenic, meaning it helps prevent the formation of harmful amyloid plaques in the brain. It possesses anti-inflammatory properties, reducing inflammation in the brain. Additionally, saffron has antidepressant effects, helping to improve mood. It aids in immunomodulation, supporting the immune system's functioning. Lastly, saffron provides neuroprotection, helping to safeguard the health of brain cells.

Overall, while some natural products and supplements have shown clinical effects in preventing cognitive decline and improving Alzheimer's, further research is needed to discover their exact effects and mechanisms. Discussing any supplement use with a healthcare provider to ensure safety and effectiveness is important.


Meditation has been researched for its potential to prevent Alzheimer's. Meditation, specifically Kirtan Kriya (KK), has been shown to improve cognition and well-being and reduce the risk of neurodegeneration. KK is a simple form of meditation that only requires 12 minutes a day and has been shown to improve memory. The studies found that this technique enhances sleep, reduces depression and anxiety, regulates genes related to inflammation, strengthens the immune system, improves genes involved in insulin and glucose regulation, and increases telomerase activity (an enzyme that keeps cells alive longer) by 43%, which is the largest increase ever recorded. KK also enhances psycho-spiritual well-being, which is crucial for maintaining cognitive function and preventing AD. KK is easy to learn and practice, making it suitable for older individuals.

Music Therapy

Music therapy is a powerful tool for patients with Alzheimer's disease. It allows them to reconnect with their personal identity, remember important moments from their lives, and recognize their loved ones. Even though Alzheimer's is a progressive and incurable condition, music therapy offers a way for patients to hold onto reality and find joy in their lives. Regular exposure to music therapy is important for sustained improvement in symptoms. Caregivers, family members, nurses, and healthcare professionals can incorporate this beneficial intervention into the daily lives of Alzheimer's patients. The use of music therapy can greatly enhance the overall quality of life for Alzheimer's patients and bring comfort to both the patients and their families.


Exercise has been found to have multiple benefits for the brain, particularly sustained aerobic exercise like brisk walking or swimming. While the exact mechanisms are not fully comprehended, it is believed that exercise increases blood flow to the brain and improves the function and health of blood vessels, which in turn enhances brain function.

By improving blood flow, exercise helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to the critical areas of the brain responsible for memory and thinking. It also helps clear out debris like cholesterol from blood vessels, promoting their health. Strong and healthy blood vessels contribute to the brain's ability to fight disease and tolerate damage.

Exercise is already known to have numerous benefits for cardiovascular health, metabolism, mood, and stress reduction. It's now being explored as a potential medicine for the brain, offering multiple benefits with no negative side effects. It holds promise as an intervention that individuals can willingly embrace to support brain health.

Functional Medicine Labs to Test That Help Individualize Treatment for Alzheimer's Disease

There are several methods used to diagnose Alzheimer's. The diagnostic process involves gathering information from the person experiencing symptoms and their family member or friend regarding their health, medications, daily activities, and behavioral changes. Tests are conducted to assess memory, problem-solving, attention, counting, and language abilities. Standard medical tests are ordered to identify other potential causes of the symptoms, and a psychiatric evaluation may be performed to evaluate mental health conditions. Cerebrospinal fluid analysis and brain imaging scans (such as CT, MRI, or PET) are conducted to support the diagnosis or rule out alternative causes for the symptoms.

Functional medicine labs can help rule out other causes of cognitive decline. Some functional labs include:

Hair Elements Analysis

Hair element analysis is a noninvasive screening test that assesses exposure to toxic metals and the status of nutrient elements. This analysis detects over 30 elements, including essential nutrients like chromium, zinc, copper, magnesium, and selenium, as well as toxic elements like arsenic, lead, and mercury. Hair element analysis can help rule out potential factors contributing to health problems, including neurological disorders, by identifying imbalances or excesses in these elements.

Micronutrient Panel

Nutrient deficiencies, particularly in essential B vitamins such as B9, B12, and B1, have been linked to reversible causes of dementia, a common progression of Alzheimer's. These vitamins play a crucial role in cellular health and methylation, and their deficiency or suboptimal levels can negatively impact brain function.

Hormone Panel

Research has shown that insufficient levels of estrogen and progesterone in post-menopausal women are associated with the onset of Alzheimer's. By assessing and addressing hormone levels, it is possible to rule out potential hormonal factors contributing to the development of Alzheimer's disease.


The balance of the intestinal microbiome, the collection of microbes/microorganisms in our gut, is associated with the health and function of the brain and nervous system. By evaluating the microbiome and intestinal health through this test, microbial imbalances can be identified and assessed as potential underlying causes of cognitive impairment.

Neural Zoomer

The Neural Zoomer is a useful tool for investigating the presence of antigens that could potentially increase the risk of various neurological disorders. It also incorporates genetic testing for the ApoE genotype, which can provide insights into an individual's susceptibility to developing Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's LINX

The Alzheimer's LINX is a valuable tool for examining immune reactivity related to Alzheimer's disease. It can benefit patients with a higher risk of neurological disorders or those seeking to detect early signs of neurodegeneration.



Alzheimer's is a progressive neurological disease that affects memory, thinking abilities, and behavior. It's a complex condition with no cure, but research is exploring various treatment options to improve the quality of life for anyone with Alzheimer's. Integrative approaches are being studied as potential treatments for Alzheimer's disease, combining conventional medicine with complementary and alternative therapies. Some promising integrative treatment options for Alzheimer's include lifestyle modifications, including regular exercise, a healthy diet, cognitive stimulation, and some herbal medicines. Ongoing research into integrative treatment options for Alzheimer's disease aims to provide individuals with additional tools to manage their various symptoms and improve their overall well-being. While there is no cure for Alzheimer's, these integrative approaches can potentially enhance the quality of life for individuals living with this challenging condition when used in conjunction with conventional treatments.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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