Sunday, February 28, 2016

Are You Concerned About Your Memory?

By Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND

Do you ever think that your memory is not as strong as it used to be?  You're probably right. Memory loss is becoming one of the greatest concerns in the 21st century. No longer is memory loss something associated just with those that are older, it is becoming a growing concern for those middle-aged and even younger.

According to the 2015 World Alzheimer's Report, memory loss - and Alzheimer's Disease specifically - is the most significant social and health concern of the twenty-first century.  With all the money spent on research, the one factor that everyone agrees on is that you want to focus on prevention and supporting overall brain health as much as you can, because there are really no prescription medications that work once memory loss becomes a problem.

How is Memory Loss Diagnosed?

True memory loss is difficult to diagnose. Most people have moments of forgetfulness. The challenge is knowing when those moments become too frequent or signify a deeper problem. Tools that are used to diagnose memory loss include:

  • Observation. Paying attention to those moments of forgetfulness and determining whether or not they are concerning is generally the first step. Family and friends can be helpful in identifying a problem. 
  • Questionnaires are often used by health professionals as a way of determining whether or not concerns of memory loss indicates an underlying pathology.
  • Lab tests can help to identify metabolic conditions that contribute to memory loss such as chronic inflammation, high blood sugar or signs of chronic stress. 
  • Electroencephalography is generally reserved when an underlying problem is suspected.
  • Brain scans are not very accurate at determining memory loss or dementia, but can identify if an underlying brain pathology is contributing to signs of memory loss.
It is important to remember that forgetting is, in some ways, healthy. Also, memories are a strange thing. They can be implanted, rehearsed, refurbished and modified over time. Not all memories are real and sometimes forgetting is the natural way that the body "prunes" memories that are not required or not accessed frequently.

It is also natural for accessing memories, words or events to take longer as you age. The struggle sometimes is determining whether or not signs of memory loss are natural or indicate a deeper problem.

Factors That Contribute to Memory Loss

Memory loss is not inevitable. There are a number factors that contribute to memory loss and many of them are things that you can easily address with lifestyle and dietary changes. Environmental factors require more effort both from an assessment perspective and treatment approach. Some of the common factors include:
  • Over-medication and drug interactions
  • Chronic dehydration
  • Vitamin and nutritional deficiencies
  • Diet high in sugar or simple carbohydrates
  • Alcholism or excessive drinking
  • History of recreational drug use
  • History of chronic insomnia or poor sleeping patterns
  • Excessive depression, stress or anxiety
  • Multi-tasking and being active but not attentive
  • Environmental toxins including heavy metals, environmental chemicals, proximity to cell-phone towers and the growing impact of wireless networks.
  • History of frequent falls, head injuries or difficulty with balance
  • Underlying infections
  • Chronic conditions such as thyroid imbalances, diabetes or heart disease
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Family history of cognitive impairment, stroke, Parkinson's disease or dementia - especially if the onset was before the age of 60.

Your naturopathic doctor can assist in determining the best treatment options to address each factor that is relevant for you.

How Do You Prevent Memory Loss

For many people, memory loss can be prevented or at least delayed and slowed down.  The key is to address the factors that are relevant to you and to follow these simple steps:

  • Stay active. Ongoing movement ensures adequate blood flow to the brain. It also helps to flush out toxins. Staying active is essential, not only for memory loss but every other health condition.
  • Challenge your brain. Use-it-or-lose-it really does apply to cognitive health. Use your brain in as many ways as possible - solve puzzles, take a class, play board games, play cards, read, be creative and learn something new. There are a number of on-line programs that can also help. My favorite is 
  • Stay engaged. Socialization is really important. Dementia is strongly associated with isolation and loneliness. The mind needs to engage with others. If you don't share those memories and stories you will lose them a lot faster.  
  • Healthy nutrition. Nutritional deficiencies will always make memory loss worse. Your naturopathic doctor can assist in determining if you are eating adequate nutrients and if you are able to properly digest and metabolize them.
Other treatment recommendations that your naturopathic doctor may recommend include:
  • Antioxidants - there are specific antioxidants that cross the blood-brain-barrier and can assist in "cleaning up" the brain. Some common ones include: l-Carotine, melatonin, glutathione.
  • Anti-inflammatories - if chronic inflammation is a problem, then it is important to include supplements that will decrease inflammation.  Turmeric, or Curcuma longa has been found to be effective in the prevention of dementia. 
  • Omega- fatty acids - the brain is primarily fat. Ensuring adequate healthy fats, such as Omega-3 Fatty Acids is essential.
  • Herbal remedies - there are a number of herbal remedies and gemmo-therapies that can assist with cognitive function including: Ginkgo (Gingko biloba)Turmeric (Curcuma longa) and Ginseng (Panax ginseng) and Gemmotherapies such as Alnus glutinosa
  • Other therapies - acupuncture, homeopathy and other naturopathic therapies may also be beneficial.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is to take a look at your life and determine whether or not you are at risk of memory loss. Prevention is the key.  Once memory loss is really apparent it is difficult to reverse. For those that are young, I strongly encourage you to have our environmental burden assessed and addressed. If you have a history of contact sports it is important to be on an anti-inflammatory and to address any postural alignment concerns. If you know that your lifestyle is not great then start there. There is a lot that can be done - but, you want to start before symptoms become too severe.

For more information on preventing and treating memory loss talk to your naturopathic doctor.  Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND has a special interest in cognitive health.  If you have any questions, please contact her or call the clinic to book an appointment.

Healthy Bones - preventing mineral deficiency as you age

By Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

Bone health is becoming an increasing concern.  As you age, the bone structures that have been formed in the first few decades of life, begin to deteriorate. This leads to osteopenia and eventually, to osteoporosis, which are conditions characterized by a reduction in bone quality and quantity. The consequence is increased risk of fractures which has brought many seniors to the point of staying indoors due to fear of falling. However, aging is not synonymous with osteoporosis. If you take care of your health, you can keep your bones strong and resilient and enjoy wellbeing as you age.

Despite common belief, reduced bone mass is not solely due to lack of calcium. Though calcium plays a crucial role in bone formation, other minerals such as boron, copper, zinc, magnesium form bone matrix along with collagen. The underlying factor in osteoporosis is mineral deficiency - a concern that is growing in the young population. Mineral deficiency is not only linked to osteoporosis - it can predispose individuals to cancer, autoimmune conditions, cardiovascular disease and other serious health conditions if it is left unaddressed.  Causes of mineral deficiency are broad-spectrum, ranging from inadequate nutrients in the diet, to poor digestion & assimilation, and to environmental factors such as toxic heavy metals.

General tips for healthy bones:

  • Diet: Emphasize alkaline foods and eat according to your constitution. Read more about diet here
  • Exercise & movementIncorporate weight-bearing exercise into your daily exercise regime such as weight lifting, jogging, dancing. 
  • Posture: Realign yourself with yoga or pilates and ensure proper seating at work, home or in the car.
  • Supplements: Calcium, vitamin D & K are some of the nutrients that build bones. Speak to your naturopathic doctor to help customize the vitamins and minerals that are right for you. 
  • Botanical medicine: Specific herbs are available that are rich in minerals (such as nettle tea infusions). Based on your individual health status, your naturopathic doctor can select herbs that detoxify heavy metals or support hormone levels during menopause when these are factors contributing to bone loss.
  • Emotional Wellbeing: Make space for love, joy, enthusiasm and fulfilment, and move stagnant emotions through journaling, creative expression or Ayurvedic massage.
Although the general tips for healthy bones is a great place to start, a naturopathic doctor can assess your current state of health and identify internal and external factors that are specific to you and that may be contributing to mineral deficiency and to fracture risk.  Naturopathic assessment includes:
The naturopathic approach differs from the conventional approach in that we identify and address the root cause of the concern, rather than treating the symptom. The extent to which you are mineral deficient depends on factors such as: diet, smoking, stress, body weight, inactivity, medications, genetics and environment. Identifying these factors and addressing how they impact you individually is the key to health.

There are certain considerations for each individual that we take into account. During menopause, estrogen levels decline which further accelerates bone loss, therefore naturopathic treatments will address bone loss by supporting hormonal balance.  Additionally, if you are taking medications such as corticosteroids and diuretics, naturopathic treatments will aim to reduce mineral loss commonly associated with these medications.  Chronic antibiotic or antacid use can impact digestion and absorption of nutrients needed for bone health. A naturopathic doctor can assess the state of your digestion, and can help you offset the side effects of medications while taking into consideration additional health conditions you may have. 

You may be exercising regularly, eating well, and taking a calcium supplement, however you could still be losing bone mass unknowingly. Your diet should be aligned to your constitution – individuals with a constitution predominant in Vata are more prone to mineral deficiency. Your naturopathic doctor can select the supplements that have the nutrients you need while optimizing your digestion and assimilation to ensure you are absorbing what you are taking.  Sustaining bone health and preventing mineral deficiency requires an understanding of your whole picture to develop a tailored treatment plan by your naturopathic doctor so that you can enjoy good health as you age.

If you are concerned about mineral deficiency and would like to have qualified care that is customized to you, please contact Naturopathic Foundations at 905-940-2727 or email to book an appointment with Dr. Leena Athparia ND