Sunday, November 2, 2014

curcumin may hold promise for its anti-inflammatory impact on Alzheimer's

Sadly in September 2014, I lost my dad to Alzheimer Disease (AD), a sneaky and devastating disease.  My father was a rocket scientist with Grumman, managing the lunar module team that got the astronauts back to earth on Apollo 13.  So watching this brilliant man slowly slip away was very, very painful experience that endured for over an 8-10 year period.  That said, it gave me 8 years to prepare for his passing.
     Growing up, I saw my dad do everything that was possible to avoid getting dementia, having a very rich holistic and active lifestyle, doing chelation therapy 20 years ago, reading lots, using herbs and always seeking new challenges.  But once he got atrial fibrillation and was placed on coumadin (warfarin) and amiodarone to minimize the occurrence of stroke, I think his fate was set.  According to Ciccone (2013), amiodarone is a class III antiarrhythmic with many side effects that are known to significantly impact the thyroid, neuropathy, confusion, disorientation with the more severe adverse reactions being pulmonary fibrosis, abnormal liver functions and pulmonary toxicity.   And according to a study by the Intermountain Medical Center (2014), the difficulty in managing blood levels of warfarin doses can lead to a higher incidence of dementia. That said, my dad was always diligent with utilizing a warfarin clinic, so I can only imagine what is happening out there with the rest of the population that is not so attentive.
     I have personally found that this disease is not only dreaded by the patient, but also by the family.  It was very, very painful admitting my dad to the Veterans home when his “sun downing” made him a bit difficult to handle during night time attempts at assisting him or changing the bedding.  Amazingly, all through his decline, he remained mild, polite and kind throughout the daytime, except during those moments with night time “sun downing”, so with consideration for their long term care insurance, the choice for  the Veterans home was the best, safest choice although emotionally traumatic for all of us.  I think we all had more difficulty with his nursing home admission than with his death, although both felt pretty bad.
     My wisdom for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease is to include family or friends in the rehabilitation process, my dad always did better in my presence, both as a PT and daughter, as I stimulated him and worked with whatever I could.  I worked to en-train my dad's nervous system as he was still somewhere in there.  Both my family and his aide learned about exercise and respiratory techniques, and they read up on activities and music commonly used with dementia patients.  Up until his death, I was able to get him to smile, respond and even chatter.  But as typically stated in the literature, infection is one of the leading causes of death in Alzheimer’s, and in my dad’s case, a few frequent bouts of aspiration pneumonia finally took its toll in spite of the special soft diets, tooth care, suctioning, respiratory therapy and IV antibiotics. 
     In retrospect, and as a result of my research papers required for graduate school, I feel my dad had foci of infections that did not respond to the chosen antibiotics, as his typical pattern would be to do well for several weeks after its discontinuation and then just vomit for “no apparent reason”.  This last pneumonia event was 2 weeks after a previous bout, having had a good week and a nice lunch, he simply vomited after saying goodbye to my mom.  He was immediately suctioned and had respiratory therapy within 45 minutes, but the infection never seemed to respond, and he passed away several days later on his 82nd birthday and 60th anniversary, having had all of us around him. 
     As a holistic therapist, I did use some turmeric (curcumin) with my dad, but his swallowing difficulty (mild dysphagia) made that an arduous endeavor unless mixed into his food, but that probably limited its bioavailability.  According to Morales, Guzman-Martinez, Cerda-Troncoso, Farias and Maccioni (2014), they found that curcumin may hold promise for its anti-inflammatory impact on AD by disrupting the inflammatory response and self-aggregation of the τ protein.  
     What is the answer, do more aggressive antibiotics for repeated bouts of resistant pneumonia that can ravage a person's health or simply let this horrible mind sucking disease take them?
Ciccone, C. D. (2013). Drug guide for rehabilitation professionals. Philadelphia, PA: F.A.  Davis Company.
Intermountain medical center (2014). Patients with atrial fibrillation at higher risk of developing dementia when meds are out of range.  Retrieved from
Morales, I., Guzman-Martinez, L., Cerda-Troncoso, C., Farias, G. A. & Maccioni, R. B. (2014). Neuroinflammation in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. A rational framework for the search of novel therapeutic approaches.  Front. Cell. Neurosci.   doi: 10.3389/fncel.2014.00112

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