Our winter issue is out now. Editor Alison McEvoy shares the latest scientific research on the role of nutrition for cognitive function and brain health. Dive on in to find out more…
A New Horizon
Preventative measures for Alzheimer’s disease.
By Gavin Ryan
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. We may have come to see it as a normal part of ageing, but it’s not. While ageing is the number one risk indicator, it seems to be caused by a complex interaction of factors including health and wellness, genetics and medical history. Research has speeded up greatly in recent years due to the advent of technologies such as PET scans which help scientists see what is happening in the brain. This has brought new hope into the field of Alzheimer’s treatment and prevention. BBC’s Horizon programme reported on some of this groundbreaking research. One of the discoveries was that Alzheimer’s reduces brain synapses and also stops new ones being formed. Professor Robert Wurtman, from MIT, has found that extra doses of the brain building nutrients, Uridine, Choline and DHA can change all that. An Irish company, Revive Active, have launched a supplement containing high doses of these three ingredients (Uridine, Choline and DHA) proven to promote the formation of synapses for memory development, focus and mental performance. The supplement is called ‘Mastermind’ and testimonials for the product have been rolling in from customers and health care professionals. Suitable for vegetarians (the DHA is sourced from marine algae rather than fish), Mastermind is aimed at people of all ages, from students to parents and seniors. The supplement is designed to improve cognitive function and who wouldn’t want to be able to think a little sharper?
Book Excerpt: A Deeper Perspective on Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias – Practical Tools with Spiritual Insights.
Understanding the Profound Gifts and Lessons Alzheimer’s Provides
An abridged excerpt from ‘A Deeper Perspective on Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias – Practical Tools with Spiritual Insights, by Megan Carnarius
The brain is a vehicle. It is not us. The mind functions. It is not us. What is the most “you” of your “you-ness”? What is the “me” of my “I-am-ness”? In the largest sense, what survives? What does not? What is shed? What is gained? Even within the overlay of Alzheimer’s, I strongly believe the work of the soul is continuing—that learning at very deep levels is occurring, and that these life experiences accompany the soul as it departs this life.
Some of us lead frenetic, fast-paced, busy lives, at a pace that is full steam ahead. Some of us lead purposely focused lives, filled with solitude and pragmatism.
Whatever the life has been, Alzheimer’s changes it. It slows certain things down. It changes one’s ability to focus. It turns life review into a visceral recapitulation. We are not just reviewing our life in our thoughts, our brain and body are reviewing each developmental step we made in our life and physically shedding it. Yet at the same time, whoever the person has been, there is an essence that remains.
In many ways, the necessary transformation that a person with Alzheimer’s undergoes is akin to being initiated into a new spiritual path. Some individuals experiencing the dementia process may display strong similarities to individuals who consciously choose a faith-based contemplative path and enter a cloistered monastery or convent. They are having a similar experience, although the causation is very different.
Consider the scope of change required to do that. You lay down your worldly possessions and work really hard for a period of time on multiple mundane tasks. Your spiritual commitment takes you away from family and friends with whom you love to spend time, to a meditation centre and into the company of the spiritual order. Once there, you have to stay really still for hours at a time in meditation, moving deep into the recollections of the past—sorting, forgiving, and letting go within the context of this present life, so that you feel completely resolved and at peace. You dispense with all mind-chatter and move into spaces in your meditation that you cannot articulate to others—places that make you feel so connected to the Divine that describing it doesn’t matter.
I want you now to imagine that you are an elder with dementia and have had a longing to follow a spiritual path, but your life took other turns and required other tasks. While these all felt very good and normal to you, you still need this opportunity to feel complete. For some people, the silence of dementia may allow this. I have worked with individuals with dementia who have felt that they have moved into a deep place within and are working at another level in themselves without the mundane, the chatter. They are, in essence, “cloistered” by the experience of dementia.
“After one of my mother’s angry rants, a hospice worker asked her, “I see you are angry, and I wonder why?” She said, “I am having a conversation with God and people keep interrupting.” (Hands on a pretend wheel.) “It’s like I’m driving along with four passengers in the car, and I’m trying to talk to the person in the front seat, and the two people in the backseat keep talking over us.”” – Linda, Daughter.
Many elders with memory loss who move into this spiritual phase begin with the usual vigorous denial and ego-engaging will strategies. Later, around Middle Stage, that changes and the person appears blissfully serene. Illnesses resulting from anxiety melt away. Medication ceases for these maladies. The person no longer suffers from asthma, high blood pressure, and digestive disorders that were very physical and clinically documented—without the emotional stress triggered by their earlier coping methods, such problems disappear. They enter the present so fully that the cares and concerns that plagued them no longer have a handhold. A kind of gentle gratitude starts to manifest, along with appreciation for others in daily interactions. Wrinkles disappear, and aging seems to recede—the youthful countenance conveying the presence of a timeless aspect of this person. They are known to smile insistently. Sitting on their own, their face still reflects this baseline of harmony. When someone interacts with them, the smile broadens.
Family members will comment that this is the happiest they have ever seen their mother. Or that their father is so positive and just wants to hug them or hold their hand. Spouses sometimes experience this as well, but it tends to be a bit harder for a spouse. That’s because of all the personal work they have to do to assimilate what is different in their own reality and their own expectations and losses. At times, though, I see spouses make that leap and enjoy the time they spend with this person, feeling their peacefulness and letting it soak in.
About Megan Carnarius:
Alzheimer’s specialist Megan Carnarius, RN, is known for her warm human touch in working with people with dementia and those who love them. Trained in Europe and the United States, she has international perspective and 25 years’ experience in designing and running memory care settings. She started consulting in memory care design in 1996 and continues to assist owners with building designs as well as program and operational development. Megan also served on the Alzheimer’s education committee for 15 years. She is a works as a family consultant, professional trainer, and lecturer.
Published by Findhorn Press, February 2015, £11.99, ISBN: 978-1-84409-662-6. Distributed by Deep Books
The Apple Farm in Tipperary was set up in 1968 when William and Ali Traas moved from Holland to grow apples. At that time a lot of Dutch farmers left Holland, as there was not enough land to farm.
In the early years in Ireland, the family grew many crops, including fields of flowering tulips and vegetables such as peas and brassicas. However, the flavour of the apples here was spectacular, and the farm came to specialise in fruits such as apples, pears, plums, strawberries, raspberries and cherries, most of which are sold directly from a shop on the farm.
When Con Traas took over the farm in the 1990’s, he began making apple juice, which became an instant success, thanks to the unusual collection of apple varieties from around the World that were grown on the farm. The juice won awards on a regular basis, including the Bridgestone Award, which has recently been received again for 2009, the best European juice in the UK National Fruit Show competition, and a Blas na hEireann silver medal just last October.
Con has for a long time been interested in traditional and natural medicines, and he had often been asked by farm shop customers why he did not make a cider vinegar from his apple juice. So about ten years ago he began on the slow process. Cider vinegar takes a long time to make and mature, and Con’s oldest stocks have been ageing in oak barrels for the last eight years. “It’s worth the wait” says Con, “when you see the quality of the end product.”
“Cider vinegar has been recommended since Hippocrates used it, and probably for much longer” continues Con, “It has antibiotic properties and is also said to ease arthritic pains, along with many other beneficial properties. I have horse trainers and dairy farmers who come to buy it in bulk as they really find it beneficial for the health of their animals.”
The good news about the health-promoting effects of Con’s produce does not stop with the cider vinegar however. According to a study published in the latest January 2009 edition of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, two glasses of apple juice each day can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Thomas B. Shea, PhD, of the Center for Cellular Neurobiology & Neurodegeneration Research, University of Massachusetts-Lowell, and his research team carried out a number of laboratory studies demonstrating that drinking apple juice helped mice perform better than normal in maze trials, and prevented the decline in performance that was otherwise observed as these mice aged.
In the most recent study, Shea and his team demonstrated that mice receiving the human equivalent of 2 glasses of apple juice per day for 1 month produced less of a small protein fragment, called “beta-amyloid” that is responsible for forming the “senile plaques” that are commonly found in brains of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Shea commented that “These findings suggest that regular consumption of apple juice can not only help to keep one’s mind functioning at its best, but may also be able to delay key aspects of Alzheimer’s disease and augment therapeutic approaches.”
Since this study was publicised on Sky News, Con says the response has been unbelievable, and that his juice sales have almost doubled. He says he is delighted as it will enable him to expand and provide more secure local employment, both in growing the apples and making the juice.
The shop at The Apple Farm is open all year round 7 days a week from 8am to 6pm. The farm is located on the main N24 (Limerick/Waterford road) between Cahir (6km) and Clonmel (9km). Juices, jams and cider vinegar are available to buy online at www.theapplefarm.com and in selected retail outlets.
Phone 052 744 1459