Forget Me Not Pt. 1: A Conscious Look at Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

May 9th, 2016







There are lots of people who mistake their imagination for their memory.”


– Josh Billings





Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and dementia are on the rise, particularly in so-called first world countries. This initially seems confusing as one might think that the possibility of a healthier lifestyle would be greater in countries less ravaged by disease, famine or war.  Today we will take a look at several reasons why this might be so.



The sweet life: Alzheimer’s and the diabetes link



Source: armourbeauty

Source: armourbeauty


What many may not know is that Alzheimer’s disease is also classified as diabetes type 3:



“We conclude that the term “type 3 diabetes” accurately reflects the fact that AD (Alzheimer’s Disease) represents a form of diabetes that selectively involves the brain and has molecular and biochemical features that overlap with both type 1 diabetes mellitus and T2DM.(type 2 diabetes mellitus)” 1


– Journal of Diabetes, Science and Technology, November 2008



This suggests that dietary imbalances like a high refined sugar diet not only can create a diabetic state over time but can adversely affect brain and memory function as well. This is not so surprising when one considers that the brain and central nervous system uses blood glucose as its fuel. That makes it vulnerable and dependent upon a stable blood sugar level to function properly.



The rise of the processed food industry has led to sugar being part of almost every food, whether we are aware of it or not. For instance in Australia, an affluent ‘first world’ country, every man, woman and child consumes an average of 40 teaspoons of sugar per day – usually hidden in seemingly normal (but processed) foods.





Chronic high blood sugar states results in the eventual inability for the brain to utilise glucose as an energy source. This has critical consequences for healthy brain functions like learning and the creation of new memories.



The Earth element, digestion and memory

The energy model of traditional Chinese medicine allocates digestion, blood sugar regulation and the organs of the stomach, spleen and pancreas to the Earth element (Click here for a blog investigating our Earth element). Interestingly the function of memory is assigned to this element as well.



Ideas are seen as a form of incoming energy or food that need to be digested and absorbed in order to be retained as memory. If this process is weak we are less able to learn and retain new information. This supports the above idea that a destabilised sugar regulating system (overseen by the pancreas) is a factor in poor memory function.



At this point I am sure many of you may also be making the connection between a high sugar diet and learning, concentration and attention deficit disorders in children. That could well be the subject of another blog but in any case, it will take at least a generation of research to tell whether this group goes on to become a high risk group for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease later in life.



The cortisol-stress link to dementia

Most of us are aware that stress is not good for our health. There are some specifics of the mechanism of stress that we need to understand in the context of dementia, AD and how our brain works under stress.





Cortisol and adrenaline are stress hormones which means that they are secreted in large amounts when we are under physical or emotional stress. Both are insulin antagonists – which means they suppress insulin’s ability to remove glucose from the blood. The result is a sustained rise in blood sugar. 



Chronic stress creates further health complications beyond the stress itself. Unnecessarily overworking the nervous system with stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline – which are also a neurotransmitters – is known to cause symptoms similar to dementia:



  • Shrinking of the brain, specifically the hippocampus, which reduces our ability to create new memories. Over time this can lead to conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Poor concentration
  • Inability to multi-task
  • Inability to learn new skills
  • Poor judgment
  • Emotional swings, tiredness and frustration



This suggests the possible connection between a mentally stressful lifestyle and eventual breakdown of proper brain and nervous system functioning. Like any organ or body area, if we abuse our brain and nervous system we can lose it.



stress and the body


Just like our muscles, our nervous system needs periods of rest and stillness in between bouts of activity in order to maintain optimal functioning. Becoming caught up in an ascending spriral of stress denies us this and it would seem the result is our ‘electrics’ simply start short-circuiting and eventually burn out.




Low grade inflammatory states: The secret root of major diseases

A while ago the Monday Conscious Health Blog featured a three-part series on Immunity. The final part focused upon the effect of chronic, low-grade inflammatory states on our health (click here). To quote from that blog:


“In the body, these ‘wars’ take the form of major diseases that share a common root: inflammation. These include:


  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Arteriosclerosis and heart disease
  • Inflammatory arthritis
  • Low grade inflammatory states are even being linked to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and autism.


We saw how various factors contributed to a chronic, low-level, background state of inflammation in the body. Foremost of these was highly processed foods in the modern diet featuring heavily in sugar and gluten which irritated and hindered our digestive system including raised acidity, unstable blood sugar levels and poor concentration.”



Osteoporosis and ‘postural dementia’

Some dementia-like symptoms in the elderly may not be due to the disease at all. Postural change  from degeneration of the spine due to the effects of osteoporosis and muscle shortening from a lack of exercise and movement can result in sustained pressure upon the circulation to the head.






What may appear as symptoms of dementia may in fact be reduced oxygenation to the brain resulting in tiredness and confused thought and expression. Regular massage, joint mobilisation and stretching can go a long way to alleviating this.



The Water element, ageing and dementia

In traditional Chinese medicine, the Water element controls both the ageing process and the central nervous system along with structures like the bones and bone marrow. (for more on the Water element click here). We have just seen the effect skeletal degeneration can have on posture and oxygenation to the brain.


The brain itself can degenerate with the ageing process too. This is yet another reason to not ‘slow down’ in retirement but instead keep learning and growing through new challenges (For a blog specifically about the ‘trap of retirement click here).



Don’t forget next week

In the second and final part of this look at Alzheimer’s and dementia we will look at some of the behavioural and psycho-emotional aspects involved and perhaps most importantly, what we can do to keep our mind and body young and limber.



After all, an under-stimulated and bored mind trapped in a prison of repetitive, ‘pensioner habits’ may find it just a little too tempting to ‘check out’ early.



Till the memory of Mondays past makes us want to check in on a new week



1 The link to the full article is here


© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:

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