Dementia is affecting an ever-growing number of seniors, with Alzheimer’s disease cases in particular expected to triple in the coming decades.
With the increasing prevalence of cognitive conditions related to dementia, the question from the scientific community is a predictable one: can dementia be reversed?
The answer to that question depends on the context of the dementia in question. Some dementias are in fact reversible, but this is in part due to their causes being something temporary rather than a larger systematic issue. Reversible dementias can be caused by medication, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, trauma, dietary deficiencies, hormone dysfunction, metabolic disorders, infections, environmental toxins and heart disease.
How to Turn Back Reversible Dementias
If caught early enough, many dementia cases can be reversible, but it takes an individualized approach from care providers to address the person’s specific needs that are causing the symptoms of dementia.
Once the cause has been identified, there are certain things that a person can do begin the processing of reversing the course of their dementia. These include:
- Eating a low sugar diet to balance blood glucose
- Regular exercise
- Enhance relaxation with yoga and meditation
- Supplements to consider include B12, B6, folate, a multivitamin, vitamin D and omega-3s.
Research on Reversing Dementia
A study published in the journal Molecular Neurobiology looked at decreasing Tau protein levels in mice. Tau is one of the primary actors in the development of Alzheimer’s and has been something that scientists have been keen to manipulate in recent years.
The researchers looked closely at leukotriene levels in the mice, a family of inflammatory mediators produced in leukocytes by the oxidation of chemicals within the brain. During the early stages of dementia, leukotrienes attempt to protect nerve cells, but as the condition progresses, they actually cause them damage.
In an attempt to stop the leukotrienes from doing this damage, the researchers gave mice a drug called zileuton, which inhibits leukotriene formation by blocking enzymes that cause it to form. The results were promising, with mice that were treated with the drug for 16 weeks performing significantly better on tests designed to examine memory and tasks related to spatial learning than those who didn’t receive the treatment.
Further examination revealed that the treated mice had seen a 50% reduction in tau protein levels and had a higher level of integrity in their synaptic connections.
The belief that dementia can be reversed is leading to new research and new groups dedicated to taking it on. The ReCODE (Reversal of Cognitive Decline) program is a treatment approach based on addressing the mechanisms responsible for the expression of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s an approach that aligns with the principles of integrative and functional medicine.
Neurons, or connections between brain cells are vital to healthy brain function. When healthy, our brains maintain a balance between creating new connections (synaptoblastic activity) between brain cells and cutting out old ones (synaptoclastic).
Alzheimer’s patients find themselves experiencing an imbalance between the two with far more synaptoclastic activity going on. The goal of the ReCODE treatment strategies is to use a combination of diet, lifestyle, supplements, herbs and medications—usually in that order, to restore balance to these processes and thus slow down or altogether halt the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Whether or not the program finds success remains to be seen. But the approach is one of a handful of promising areas of research that could lead to a realistic way to treat dementia in the long term, whether it’s Alzheimer’s or one of the reversible versions of the condition that physicians are already helping patients deal with.