The following describes the knowledge gained by Sharlene in the course of caring for both her parents with Alzheimer’s. It is not necessarily a reflection of my views, but I thought it good to publish the research of someone who has an insider’s view of Alzheimer’s dementia.
Sharlene Spalding is a naturopathic consultant in the village of Casco, ME. She is a former primary caregiver for two parents with AD. She holds a master’s degree in natural wellness. Sharlene is an excellent resource in natural healing and a hound dog when it comes to research. Because of what she knows now, she is committed to a pharmaceutical-free home that revolves around organic foods and herbs. You can visit her website at The Village Naturopath.
When I Knew Better, I Did Better
The receptionist had left me on hold too long. I had hoped to talk to my mom and dadʼs alzheimerʼs doctor, but I could hear my parents downstairs arguing. I quickly switched options and left my message. “Hello Dr ____. This is Sharlene Spalding. We wonʼt be making our appointment next month or any months. My parents are living with me now. The trip is just too far, and my dad will most likely refuse to go see you anyway.” Cheerfully I added, “Give us a call sometime!”
It is true the trip was much longer now. It is true that my father would have fought about going to see the doctor. But the real reason–after seven years of the three of us dutifully keeping our appointments–was that I had determined the doctor visits were pretty much a big waste of time and energy. My energy was better spent either engaging my parents or studying this Alzheimer’s disease.
For seven years I had been studying how the broken brain still works, as well as how it fails. My motivation stemmed from the Alzheimer’s diagnosis of my parents. My obsessive study evolved for two other reasons: 1) I was working on my master’s degree as a naturopath and the study gave me endless material to write papers on, and 2) I was (and still am) determined to prevent Alzheimer’s for myself. With two parents and both my motherʼs sisters with Alzheimer’s, I did not need a genetic test to determine if I carry the genetic marker for Alzheimer’s.
Epigenesis is the study of gene expression. The molecular basis of epigenesis is complex. It involves modiﬁcations of the activation of certain genes, but not the basic structure or sequence of DNA. The proteins associated with DNA can be activated or silenced. This theory claims environmental and other choices can inﬂuence these proteins, therefore inﬂuence a set of observable characteristics. It is a relatively new scientiﬁc study.
Everyone is searching for the one thing that causes diseases like Alzheimer’s. The three of us did anyways, but we no longer think Alzheimer’s is caused by one thing or can be ﬁxed by one pill. Believe me, no one has to tell us how complex this disease is. We live it every day. We know there are lots of multiple factors from our lifestyle and environment that interact with our genes. As complicated as it is, we have decided to tackle all factors to help rewire our brains:
• We believe foods tell our cells what to do and how to repair DNA. One of us studied that DNA is a nucleic acid. Always self-replicating from new amino acids. Fancy name for protein molecules. We believe we can inﬂuence these molecules and therefore our cells of the DNA. Therefore, we eat almost all organic food, certainly all vegetables, most fruit, coffee and milk. All our meat is from local farms. We believe that pesticides are toxic to our cells and our digestive system. We believe all our genes get confused from all the toxins. We would never eat farm-raised ﬁsh. We never eat anything that is reduced fat or salt, cholesterol free, enriched, fortiﬁed or artiﬁcially sweetened. We avoid all foods that man has altered. We believe God intended for our time here on earth to be healthy, and He placed everything we need to be able to do just that. We see all medications as toxic, and got off all meds. No more anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, statins or high blood pressure meds. Nothing, zero. One of us was a little bit fat and lost 10 lbs and reduced cholesterol numbers signiﬁcantly once off their statin. Psychoses and anxieties disappeared when we settled into our new environment. For one of us, depression still occasionally reared its ugly head every time “she” remembered “she” could no longer remember. Blood pressure was never really a problem for any of us (not sure why those doctors had any of us on that).
• We live spiritually, and make extra effort to center and harmonize our energy. We exercise. We play in the lake. We listen to music. We love to listen to a live piano player. We tell the Jesus birth story from November till January over and over. We listen and sing Christmas songs over and over too. We sometimes go across the street to a special service for old people who want to hear about Jesus. We sometimes recite the “ Our Father” together. We talk and play with our cat even though one of us thinks it is a dog.
• We get ample amounts of vitamin D, always striving for more vitamin D through sunlight without any use of sunscreen. Sunscreen blocks 97% of vitamin D. We think the daily requirement for vitamin D is around 500 IU. We get closer to 5000. We use relaxation techniques. Techniques such as lavender aromatherapy, valerian root, medical marijuana in brownies. Brownies and ice cream time is always a favorite for us three.
• Turmeric. Some one told the three of us that there are areas of rural Nigeria that show a much, much lower incidence of Alzheimer’s. High amounts of the turmeric are eaten in curry in these areas. As these natives move closer to the cities and eat more westernized diets, the incidence of Alzheimer’s rises. Turmeric is a famous anti-inﬂammatory. Autopsy of Alzheimer’s brains always show a great amount of inﬂammation. Different studies have claimed inﬂammation is the root cause of all diseases.
• Omega 3. We choose pure Krill Oil. Omega 3 is the main structure of our brain cell membranes. There is no way a brain can be healthy without healthy brain cell membranes. The beneﬁts of omega 3 are just too numerous to mention.
• Hemp Seed. Hemp seed is probably the most complete amino acid food on earth. Acetylcholine is amino acid molecular structure. Acetylcholine is the famous neurotransmitter that fails in Alzheimer’s Disease. Thousands of them are situated on the brain cell membrane.
• Milk Thistle. This herb promotes glutathione production. Glutathione is also required genetically for synthesis and repair of DNA as well as a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals that go around damaging cells. Immune function, nerve function and cell signaling functions are also heavily inﬂuenced by glutathione.
• Coconut Oil. We know coconut oil to be a Medium Chain Fatty Acid. MFCAʼs stimulate metabolism and glucose absorption to the cell. Glucose needs to enter and feed the cell through the mitochondria. The mitochondria is where the earliest transformation of food to fuel occurs in the cell. Most foods require insulin for this job. Coconut oil does not. MCFAʼs can penetrate the mitochondria membrane even in absence of insulin. It is extremely low on the Glycemic Index table. Certainly all diabetics and people with Alzheimerʼs should know about this extremely efﬁcient delivery of glucose to the cell. FYI- extremely delicious in a pineapple-banana smoothie.
• Cholesterol. We all eat moderate amounts of animal saturated fat. We love crock pot beef stew with vegetables from the garden. It is a favorite with homemade bread and real butter (one of us occasionally tried to butter her napkin thinking it was bread). Cholesterol is the lipid that makes up a big part of the brain cell membrane–second after Omega 3. It is also needed for countless hormonal actions.
• Barley Grass. We eat organic barley grass in capsules. Barley Grass does not contain every nutrient, but it comes closer than any other food. All the B complexes, C, E, beta carotene, betaine, biotin, boron, copper, iron, lutein, magnesium, manganese, zinc, niacin, riboﬂavin, thiamine, methionine, valine, chlorophyl, glutamic acid, linoleic acid, potassium, selenium, calcium, and more. Two of us complain about these capsules but most of the time cooperate in taking them.
My mom died August 22nd, 2011. She fell and broke her hip on July 27th and although she made it through the surgery well, her Alzheimer’s was too advanced for rehab. She died in hospice with me by her side. My mom always knew there was something terribly wrong with her brain and she verbally agonized about it till the day she stopped talking, which was toward the end of hospice. Above is a true presentation of goals we strived for everyday. Me, my mom. my dad. They moved in with me on Oct 26, 2009. We had incredibly difﬁcult days, especially at the beginning. We had some incredibly good hours and some days that would be good from start to ﬁnish. Obviously on many levels my caregiving was really “out of the box” and “off the cuff.” But I never wafﬂed from the fundamental commitment to nutrition each day. My goal was always to maximize our metabolisms and balance our energy ﬁelds, so our brain cells would behave intelligently and cooperatively. I hope I donʼt have to tell you how fundamental the love was, although there were hours I did not even like them. Just today, when I reflected back, I thought, “I wish I knew then what I know now.” I have done that almost everyday for seven years. I do know that when I knew better, I did better. I know I did the best I could with what I knew at the time.
My dad is doing wonderful. It is miracle how well he is doing. And by the way, the doctor never did call us back.
I am Sharlene Spalding, a naturopathic consultant in the village of Casco, ME. I am a former primary caregiver for two parents with AD. I hold a master’s degree in natural wellness. I am an excellent resource in natural healing and a hound dog when it comes to research. Always “out of the box” research. Because of what I know now, I am committed to a pharmaceutical-free home that revolves around organic foods and herbs. You can visit my website at http://www.thevillagenaturopath.com.