June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, so it is to give an overview of how this disease impacts us both personally and as a nation.
In this article we’ll look at the prevalence of Alzheimer’s, CranioSacral Therapy as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s, how a proposed program may offer hope to millions of people suffering from this disease, and how massage therapists can make a difference in this effort.
Most people who are interested in this subject have had some personal impact from Alzheimer’s on their lives. That is certainly true in my case, where both my stepmother and sister in law died of this disease some years ago.
That led me to investigate both the causes and origin of this disease, and, as an instructor of CranioSacral Therapy, how this modality might have an impact on both prevention and even reversal of this disease. This is what I found:
There are about 5.4 million Americans currently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and about 44 million worldwide. That number is expected to triple in the next 20 years.
In my experience, these numbers don’t tell the entire story about the impact. In a casual conversation with the average student or person, it seems like every three to five people will say something like “My grandmother or mom died of Alzheimer’s.”
If you think of all the family members who are impacted by this loss, this can easily translate into 30 million Americans, or one in 10, who have had some direct or secondhand experience with this disease.
And then there is the statistic, which says that Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.
However, in 2014 a researcher at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, did an analysis of death records nationally, which are not always carefully documented, and found that most people who die of this disease actually die of respiratory or cardiac disease, which would raise the number from 84,000 to over 500,00 deaths a year—actually making Alzheimer’s the third leading cause of death in the US.
Then there is the economic impact. It is estimated that direct and indirect costs of Alzheimer’s care (which in later stages can be 24-7 care) total over 500 billion annually.
In an interview I did two years ago Jack Canfield, best known as the co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, he quoted an article from CNN stating that Alzheimer’s care, could, if left unchecked, bankrupt the entire Medicare and Medicaid budget, which currently totals over $1.1 trillion annually; just for this disease treatment and nothing else.
As a bridge to looking at the causes or potential causes of this disease, there is one other number I’d like to share.
Several years ago, I met with a gentleman on the board of directors of the Southern California Alzheimer’s Association. He told me, “You know, Mike, about 40 percent of people in an Alzheimer’s unit have diabetes.”
I was a bit surprised, until I started to look into functional medicine (doctors who believe food and various supplements can heal the body) and found out that many of these doctors are calling Alzheimer’s Type 3 diabetes. This is a sobering thought when you consider that over 100 million Americans (of all ages) are diabetic or pre- diabetic.
The research into the causes of Alzheimer’s has become a hot topic, and one functional medicine doctor, Dale Bredesen, has written a book entitled The End of Alzheimer’s
In this book he summarizes his theories as to the causes of this disease, which parallel my own observations. It turns out in his opinion it is not just one cause, but can be a complex combination of factors that include the following five major categories:
- Atropic (glycotopic) or hormonal or functional imbalances in the body
- Toxicity as in heavy metals
- Vascular as observed in cardiovascular disease (of which diabetes can be a major risk factor)
- Trauma-as in concussions, head trauma, motor vehicle accidents and other physical assaults to the body.
So, in this analysis there can be a number of ways one can arrive at an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and furthermore, he asserts that “We have asked the drugs to do too much.”
In other words, there is no one magic pill on the horizon to combat this disease.
For some time, my analysis led me to look at what I call the diseases of aging, many of which are inflammatory in nature, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, cancer, and auto immune diseases.
The observation is that many of these conditions develop over decades, until, at least in a certain number of cases, the inflammation overflows from the body into the brain, and cognitive decline begins to manifest itself.
The idea here is that many of the five factors previously discussed can cause inflammation in some way, shape or form in the brain, and this inflammation can disrupt normal brain functioning, resulting in the formation of the amyloid plaque and neurofilbillary tangles which are the hallmark signatures of this disease.
One way to approach this problem is CranioSacral Therapy.
CST as a Treatment for Alzheimer’s?
Many years ago, John E. Upledger, DOO, OMM (1932–2012), discovered and documented the existence of the craniosacral system, which comprises bone and the menengial system in the brain and spinal cord, which helps to transmit the flow of cerebralspinal fluid throughout the central nervous system.
Upledger observed that the turnover, or circulation, of cerebralspinal fluid decreases as we approach middle age, by as much as 50 percent.
I took this research a step further and found out that in people with senile dementia their flow of cerebralspinal fluid was 75 percent less than that of a normal adult.
This would mean that as we age, due at least in part to inflammatory and other conditions caused by a diet high in excess sugar, carbohydrates or heavy metal, or even head trauma; and that insults to the brain physiology can impact the flow of cerebralspinal fluid to the brain and spinal cord.
Essentially this could mean that the brain dries up as we age, resulting in the opportunistic formation of plaques and tangles, much in the same way as the sludge and slit are deposited in a dried-up river bed.
A Program for Hope
So far this has been a discussion of theory. In CranioSacral Therapy there is a technique called the still point, which we applied to initial research over 10 years ago to see if application of this simple technique could reduce agitation, a common problem with dementia patients.
Our theory was that this simple technique could increase the flow of cerebralspinal fluid to the brain, which would help to wash away accumulated toxins.
We applied this simple technique 10 minutes a day for six weeks and found that after about three weeks we began to see changes, including a decrease in agitation, an increase in memory and recognition of caregivers, and in most recent findings, the ability in some cases for word finding and speech to return.
In the past year we have been duplicating this protocol with a number of CranioSacral therapists around the country to see if the results can be replicated, and initial results seem to indicate that this is the case.
We are also planning the first ever one-week intensive program for Alzheimer’s at the Upledger Institute Clinic to see if we can accelerate the affects of our treatment.
This brings some exciting possibilities to the area of senior care, whether someone is at risk, or in early to mid-stage dementia.
Imagine if, in addition to this program of simple CranioSacral Therapy techniques, we could also apply more advanced CST techniques, and add a program to improve diet and exercise with our seniors?
This is what we call the bodyenergy longevity prescription, and we are working in the initial stages with senior care facilities across the U.S. to evaluate this program in their facilities.
Of course, all this has taken place over several years of development. As the program expands, we would like to include more therapists in this program, considering there are over 100 million people in the U.S. over 50 years old, and many of the more health-minded among them have an interest in improving their brain health.
Massage therapists are ideally suited to undertake specialized training in this program, and we are excited to share the continued results of this program with you.
Our goal is to significantly reduce the deaths from Alzheimer’s world wide in the next five years. We invite you to be part of this new journey.
About the Author
Michael Morgan, LMT, CST-D has a background as a long-term meditation teacher (TM), Reiki master practitioner and corporate business consultant and entrepreneur. In the 1990s he transferred his knowledge of technical engineering to the healthcare field. He has been a practitioner of Craniosacral Therapy since 1991 and has been an Instructor for the Upledger Institute since 1998.
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