Ayurvedic treatment for Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease

Know More on Psychiatry/Mental diseases

  • Definition
  • Causes
  • Symptoms
  • Diagnosis
  • Management
  • FAQS
  • References

Definition

Alzheimer’s disease Ayurvedic treatment

Alzheimer's disease refers to a condition which causes loss of memory and other important mental functions. The condition starts with some incidences of confusion and difficulty in remembering by slowly people tend to forget important things in their lives.1

Alzheimer’s disease does not find a specific mention in Ayurvedic texts, but symptomatically it can be considered under the aegis of Smritivibhransha (memory loss) and vata vyadhi.2

Ayurveda mentions the concept of Tridosha (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) and credits all diseases due to imbalance of the tridoshas. Correlating Alzheimer’s disease with Ayurveda can be under the nervous system disorders mentioned under Vatavyadhi - caused due to imbalance of vata. 2

The samprapti (pathophysiology) of Alzheimer’s disease, vitiation of vata in the tissues of body and the brain, causes it to gradually move in a stage of imbalance. Alternatively, the balance of three manasik gunas - satvik, rajasik, tamsik, gets disturbed and cause imbalance of mental faculties. 2

Causes

Alzheimer’s disease

The cause of Alzheimer's disease is thought to be a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors.1

While the exact causes of Alzheimer's are not well understood, it is known to destroy the cells in the brain. As more and more brain cells are destroyed, there is significant brain shrinkage in this condition.1

Many factors can eventually lead to Alzheimer’s. These are1 -

  • Increasing age.
  • Past family history.
  • A condition called Down syndrome.

Some cardiovascular risk factors.

Symptoms

Alzheimer’s disease

The initial symptom, and often the only symptom, is forgetting things/places or names. Slowly, more memory is affected and symptoms start to worsen. 1

People with Alzheimer's have trouble with 1 -

  • Recent memory
  • Proper thinking and logic
  • Making a decision

Diagnosis

Alzheimer’s disease

Although memory loss can be generally easily identified, it is also most commonly attributed to Alzheimer’s based on the age and history. Accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is only done post death by microscopic examination of the brain.1

Some tests are done to estimate the disease in the living, these are1 -

  • Physical and neurological exam: This is performed to check the overall neurological health and reflexes1
  • Lab tests: Tests for blood help rule out other causes like thyroid disease and nutritional deficiencies.1
  • Mental status and neuropsychological testing: Detailed testing for mental functions may be performed.1
  • Brain imaging: This helps identify neurological conditions like a stroke, trauma or tumors — that may be responsible for memory loss.1

Management

Alzheimer’s disease

In Ayurveda, management of Alzheimer’s is done using herbs that act as Medhyarasayana . Additionally Panchkarma is prescribed for improving quality‑of‑life of the patient and family members.3

Intellect promoting or Medhya drugs such as Mandukaparni (Centella asiatica Linn.), Yastimadhu (Glycirrhiza glabra Linn.), Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia (Wild) Miers) and Shankhapushpi (Convolvulus pleuricaulis Chois) can offer help. Biopurificatory measures like Snehana-svedana, Vasti and Nasya may be beneficial. Satvajya (councelling), Daiva Vyapashraya Chikitsa (Worship Enchanting etc) that may be beneficial.4, 5

Diet Recommendations (Aahar)

Alzheimer’s disease is an outcome of the ageing process. Diet should be aimed at slowing the aging process and nourishing the nervous system.

Dry vegetables, meat, sesame, germinated cereals, pulses should be used in diet.

Avoid our, saline, pungent and alkaline food items. Also avoid contradictory food, unwholesome and Abhisyandi (those which obstruct the channels of normal circulation) putrid and stale food.3

Lifestyle changes (Vihar)

Activities that accelerate ageing should be avoided. These are - day time sleep, sexual enjoyment and heavy alcohol intake etc. Those who expose their physique to the strain of irregular and excessive exercise and those who are subjected to excess of fear, anger, grief, greed, infatuation and overwork are also having risk of premature aging.3

Some asanas that are helpful are as follows -

  • Suryanamaskara:

It is a whole body exercise and is particularly helpful because it encourages you to breathe deeply and rhythmically.

  • Pranayama

Paroxysmal gamma waves produced in brain during the Bhramari Pranayama which is associated with positive thoughts, feelings of happiness and acts as a natural antidepressant.

FAQS

Alzheimer’s disease
  1. Why is stress bad for my health?
    Stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. If left unchecked, stress can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Some of the common effect that stress can cause but we may not realize are -
  • Headache,
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Stomach upset
  • Sleep problems etc.

Hence it is very important that stress should not be ignored as a condition and immediate medical support should be sought for it.

  1. What are the reasons for depression/How does depression happen?

There are no specific reasons that can lead to depression. Every person responds to any situation in different ways.

Yet, depression can happen to anyone and at any age, but often begins in adulthood. Depression is now being diagnosed in children and adolescents too. There are no specific risk factors, but following things increase the chances of someone to have depression -

  • Personal or family history of depression
  • Major life changes, trauma, or stress
  • Certain physical illnesses and medications
  1. What is addiction? How does it affect someone?

Addiction refers to the dependence on a legal or illegal drug, alcohol or medication. When addicted, people are not able to control their use of the substance, and may continue using the drug despite the harm it causes. Alcohol/drug addiction can cause serious, long-term consequences, including problems with physical and mental health, relationships, employment, and the law.

  1. Why do I feel anxious without any apparent reason?

While the exact cause of generalized anxiety isn't fully understood, it's likely that a combination of several factors plays a role. Research has suggested that these may include over activity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behavior or it may be genetic in origin. Often use of drugs, smoking or alcohol can be an underlying cause of anxiety.

However, many people develop anxiety for no apparent reason and it is therefore advisable to report it to the doctor and work towards managing the condition.

  1. Do children suffer from depression?

While depression is generally associated with adults or senior citizens, it is not uncommon for children to be diagnosed with both depression and an anxiety disorder, or depression and general anxiety.

Children whose parents have depression are at a greater risk of being depressed. Depression in children often presents with irritability, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, Change in school grades, getting into trouble at school, or refusing to go to school, change in eating habits etc. These symptoms should not be ignored and possibility of depression in such children may be considered.

  1. How is Bipolar disorder caused? Is it only genetic?

A lot of research in neuropsychology has shown that there is research has shown that there is no single cause responsible for BPD. Instead, it is likely that many factors contribute to the illness or increase risk. Genetics is just one of them.

While research suggests that people with certain genes are more likely to develop bipolar disorder than others, it is also seen that genes are not the only risk factor for bipolar disorder. Studies of identical twins have shown that even if one twin develops bipolar disorder, the other twin does not always develop the disorder, despite the fact that identical twins share all of the same genes.

  1. Are phobias serious to a personal health?

Generally speaking, a ‘phobia’ is an overwhelming and unreasonable fear of an object or situation that poses little real danger but provokes anxiety and avoidance in the sufferer. Although many feel that phobias are harmless, they can be destructive to those who have them, causing the following problems that affect many aspects of life - such as social isolation, depression, lead to substance abuse, and may be the reason behind suicide too.

  1. Are there any specific herbs that are specifically used to improve mental faculties?

Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia describes the various herbs and their qualities in details. Certain herbs belonging to the class of Medhya drugs such as Mandukaparni (Centella asiatica), Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), Jatamansi (Nordostachys jatamansi) and Yastimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra) are considered amongst herbs that improve mental faculties and should be used often as a part of diet and lifestyle especially for children.

  1. What are the common symptoms of dementia? Is any memory loss called Dementia?

Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and its abilities. A common symptom is memory loss but it is not the only symptom. Other problems can be low thinking speed, diminished mental agility, problems with language, understanding and judgement.

People with dementia can become apathetic or uninterested in their usual activities, and have problems controlling their emotions. They may also find social situations challenging, lose interest in socializing, and aspects of their personality may change.

  1. I often forget things or important tasks. Do I have Alzheimer’s disease?

Occasional forgetfulness or missing things due to lack of concentration or time may not necessarily be a serious condition. But if you continuously forget things or tend to forget simple day to day tasks – this may be an indication of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Any progressive memory loss should not be ignored and bought to medical attention, even if it seems negligible or not serious.

  1. I had a road rage incident today, I feel nervous and afraid to ride on the road again. Why is this so?

It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a typical reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. This includes war veterans, children, and people who have been through a physical or sexual assault, abuse, accident, disaster, or many other serious events. This needs to be bought to medical attention and can be managed with counseling and therapy.

  1. What are the consequences of inattentiveness or weak memory of school children? Does this need to be cared for?

A weak memory leading to learning problems can have long term adverse social and economic outcomes. They include grade repetition, behavioral disorders, mood and self-esteem difficulties and school failure during the school years, and unemployment and poverty in adulthood. By using medhya rasayana, Ayurved promises improvement in working memory and improved grades ad performance among school children.

  1. What is post partum depression? Does every new mother go through it?

New mothers generally report ‘baby blues’ immediately after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms typically begin within the first two to three days after delivery, and may last for up to two weeks. But some mothers experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression (PPD). Uncommonly, an extreme mood disorder called postpartum psychosis also may develop after childbirth.

References

Alzheimer’s disease
  1. Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s disease Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/home/ovc-20167098 accessed Aug 27th 2016
  2. Favade AS, Chavan SP. A Review on Alzheimer’s disease and its concepts in Ayurveda. J Ayur Pharma Res. 2015;3(10):52-56.
  3. Tiwari RS, Tripathi JS. A critical appraisal of dementia with special reference to Smritibuddhihrass. AYU. Jul-Sep 2013; Vol. 34(3): 235-42
  4. Charak Samhita of Agnivesha. Vidhyotini Hindi Vyakhya- Sastry K & Chaturvedi G – Editors. Chaukhambha Bharati Academy, Varanasi 221001. Reprint 2011. Chapter 9.
  5. Charak Samhita of Agnivesha. Vidhyotini Hindi Vyakhya- Sastry K & Chaturvedi G – Editors. Chaukhambha Bharati Academy, Varanasi 221001. Reprint 2011. Chapter 1
  6. Dabur: Ayurvedic products and drugs. Available at http://www.daburmediclub.com/product.aspx accessed on Aug 19th 2016.

Disclaimer: The information on this page is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Do not use this information to diagnose or ayurvedic treatment of psychiatry-mental-diseases and/or alzheimer’s disease without consulting the doctor. Consult your physician before beginning an exercise regime. "While we have products /ayurvedic medicines for psychiatry-mental-diseases and/or alzheimer’s disease, you must consult an authorized physician before taking any of the products. For more information on products, visit www.dabur.com or call 1800-103-1644"