One of the topics that cause concern for people as they age is memory loss lack of focus and concentration. This is especially true if there is a parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Unfortunately, the latest drugs only improve performance when used and do not make any permanent change, have many side effects and decrease in effectiveness over time. Lack of memory can be caused by many things such as inconsistent sleep with either lack of sleep, difficulty getting to sleep, waking at night and having a hard time getting back to sleep, inconsistent sleep patterns due to shift work or anything that disturbs a regular sleep rhythm. It can also be compromised with having too many stressors happening at the same time with resultant scattered focus. It can also be affected by hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, environmental toxins, vitamin/mineral deficiencies or a deficiency of cholinergic neurotransmission.
1. Rule out any environmental causes such as mercury toxicity (often from dental fillings) or aluminum toxicity. This can be analyzed by a heavy metal hair analysis which will show long term accumulation of heavy metals. Toxic exposures to chemicals (such as weed killers, pesticides, insecticides and herbicides) can contribute and should be considered if prolonged past exposure. This should also be considered with those that work with petrochemicals (such as mechanics). Also, consider if any drugs that are being taken could be contributing to the condition. You would need to talk to a pharmacist to see if any may be interacting or if they deplete important nutrients. For example, certain heart medications deplete CoQ 10 which is strong anti-oxidant. If depleted, brain cells are more prone to breakdown due to toxins in the system. Diuretics (like hydrochlorothiazides and chlorothiazides), high blood pressure meds (such as methyl-dopa, reserpine and the beta-blocker timolol can compromise absorption. Gastro-intestinal drugs (like ranitidine-Zantac and cimetidine-Tagamet), anti-depressants (like Prozac), barbiturates, tranquillizers and sleeping pills (like Valium, Xanax, Ativan and oxazepam) anti-psychotic drugs (like thioridazine and haloperidol) and the anti-convulsant clonazepam can all cause symptoms of what is often categorized as dementia. Alcohol and other drugs deplete B12 and folic acid which are required for concentration, focus and memory and are often mistaken for alcoholic confusion.
2. Have your levels of vitamin and mineral checked. Often low selenium, calcium, vitamin C, E, D, folic acid, B6 and B12 have been linked with memory, concentration and focus problems. These should all be evaluated and corrected, either by food or nutrient supplementation. High doses of thiamine have been shown to help. Some studies show that some people don’t absorb tryptophan well, therefore, supplementing tryptophan or 5HTP may also be helpful. Another nutrient, phosphatidyl serine (95% pure) may increase choline uptake. This is a nutrient the brain requires for memory and therefore delays progression of the disease. Also, zinc is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the elderly and may be a major contributor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Have your absorption of nutrients evaluated. It is not uncommon as people age that this decreases and needs to be optimized. If you are getting any bloating or gas, you are not absorbing the foods as well as you could be. One of the best ways to improve absorption of nutrients is adding about 2 tsp of rice vinegar to soups, stir-fries or salad dressings. This optimizes the release of the stomach acid to break the foods down properly and absorb the nutrients efficiently.
4. Consider using herbs. Ginkgo biloba has been shown to delay mental deterioration and increase circulation to the brain. Another herb is Centella asiatica. It has also been shown to increase blood flow.