Most of us tend to think of medical treatments as being straightforward. You break a leg, cast it. You get bacterial pneumonia, take an antibiotic. You have hayfever, take an antihistamine. Often this approach works, no matter the type of medicine. Frequently, however, it’s the multi-faceted approach that has the strongest impact.
One place we see a layered approach having exceptionally strong benefit is in the treatment of cognitive decline. Naturopathic physicians are trained to treat the whole person, meaning that while we treat the problem at hand we are also treating the reasons the problem occurred in the first place. For cognitive decline this means taking a hard look at a patient’s lifestyle as well as recommending supplements.
In the September 2014 edition of the journal AGING an important study analysis written by Dale Breseden, MD details a healthy multi-pronged approach to treating cognitive impairment that shows solid benefit. It is gratifying to see this published because it gives recognition and attention to strategies that have long been employed by naturopathic physicians and that are largely free of negative side effects. The therapeutic system outlined has 25 different points which sounds intimidating, but what is exciting is that benefit was derived even without adhering to each recommendation, and the longer the changes were implemented, the greater the improvement in memory function.
The top 5 lifestyle enhancements that anyone can embrace are the following:
- Clean up diet to minimize refined carbohydrates and maximize vegetables.
- Fast 12 hours each night between dinner and breakfast, including 3 hours after dinner before bed.
- Get at least 8 hours of quality sleep. (treat sleep apnea, use melatonin if needed)
- Exercise 30-60 minutes daily, 4-6 days per week.
- Reduce stress (daily meditation, yoga, music therapy)
Additional therapies to discuss with your naturopathic physician include:
- Herbs such as curcumin, ashwagandha, bacopa and lion’s mane mushroom.
- Nutrients like reservatrol, CoQ10, n-acetyl-cysteine, or coconut oil.
- Optimizing lab values such as serum B12 above 500, HgA1c under 5.5 and CRP under 1.0.
The more of these changes you can integrate into your life the better your memory will likely function.
Dr. Alethea Fleming, ND is a passionate advocate for naturopathic geriatric medicine. A 2007 Bastyr University graduate, she also earned a certificate in Gerontology from the University of Washington. Dr. Fleming is the owner and lead physician of the Vital Aging Clinic in Anacortes, Washington where she provides primary care to all adults as well as adjunctive geriatric care. Dr. Fleming is active in multiple community organizations as well as a member of WANP, AANP and OncANP. In her off hours, Dr. Fleming can be found hiking the beautiful trails of Fidalgo Island, spending time with her wonderful husband and son, or with her nose firmly in a good book.