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Alzheimer's Disease in Ayurveda – Part 2
11-30-2012

Ayurveda concepts state that as humans age, the body and brain begin to dry up, causing agitation and shrinkage, which are hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease (AD). These effects of aging can be addressed through rejuvenation programs, which were covered in part 1, and through proper diet, digestion, and routine. Also, certain Ayurvedic herbs have been found to aid those who already have AD.

The most important factors for nourishing your brain and promoting health and longevity are proper diet and exercise. When the diet is tailored specifically to one's constitution or dosha type (vata, pitta, kapha, or a mixture thereof), a major benefit is proper digestion. An Ayurvedic practitioner or questionnaires found in Ayurvedic cookbooks can help determine one's particular dosha.

The Ayurvedic diet suggests eating a wide variety of green vegetables and consuming milk products. Milk contains significant levels of vitamin B12, which is essential for nervous system functioning. The B vitamins aid in increasing mental capacity. Ghee, or clarified butter, is a staple in the Ayurvedic diet and a good oil to use in cooking as it does not break down into harmful chemicals the way other oils can. Majja, the Ayurvedic name for nervous system tissue, is nourished by oils, especially ghee. Oils are important in the diet as the brain is over 50% fat in composition. The addition of black pepper to ghee helps the ghee get past the blood brain barrier and nourish the brain. As with most healthy diets, foods high in antioxidants are stressed, as free radicals and oxidative stress are major factors in premature aging. Along with green vegetables, fresh, organic fruits and other vegetables specific to one's dosha are important in maintaining balance and overall health.

Developing an active lifestyle, both mentally and physically, will keep the body and mind lubricated. Activities that help with cognition include reading, playing cards, solving crossword puzzles, and writing. Choose television programs wisely. Programs such as BBC's Horizon introduce the mind to new discoveries in the world and new ideas which help stimulate the synapses. Exercise is vital in maintaining physical and mental juiciness. Walking, swimming, gentle yoga, and gentle toning techniques can be done at any age and suited to one's physical capacity. Svaroopa® yoga (www.svaroopayoga.org) is one such yoga modality that is both gentle and focuses on unwinding the spine from the sacrum.

Finally, in vivo and in vitro studies suggest that ashwagandha (Withania somnifera; Solanaceae) may be beneficial in the treatment of AD.

Lori Glenn,  Managing Editor