Opinion

SPOTLIGHT ON NATUROPATHIC MEDICINE: Poor memory a fear of many

By Dr. Andrea Hornyak, Spotlight on Naturopathic Medicine

Losing our memory is the number one health fear of Canadians. Memory refers to the ability to store, retain and retrieve information.

Symptoms of memory decline:

- losing your train of thought while speaking

- difficulty prioritizing tasks

- saying “you know what I mean” frequently as you are unable to express yourself

- not recalling names of people or places you have known for a long time

- being more distracted

- forgetting something you just did or why you walked into a room

- missing important appointments

Common causes of memory loss:

Pharmacuetical Drugs – side effects from many different kinds of medications can affect memory by causing sedation or disorientation. Decrease in memory is a side effect of common drugs such as sleeping pills, antihistamines, anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, painkillers, blood pressure medication, cholesterol-lowering medication, and diabetes medication.

Stress – feeling overwhelmed makes it difficult to concentrate on new tasks or lock things into memory by affecting attention span.

Heavy Metal Toxicity - chronic low-level exposure of lead or mercury can lead to memory loss, depression, irritability, and fatigue.

Hormonal Imbalance – PMS and menopausal symptoms are common but not normal, indicating hormonal imbalances which often also lead to a decrease in memory.

Tobacco Smoke – cigarette or cigar smoking reduces the amount of oxygen that the brain can access leading to memory decline.

Low Energy – adrenal fatigue and chronic low energy can contribute to poor memory.

Insomnia – difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep can lead to anxiety or depression, which contributes to problems with memory.

Hypothyroidism – undiagnosed thyroid conditions can affect memory, which is why I order specific blood tests for thyroid function for all of my patients with memory concerns.

Alcohol – more than two alcoholic drinks per day interferes with short-term memory as well as liver function.

Depression – forgetfulness, lack of motivation, general sadness, or decrease in happiness from things that used to bring you joy are common signs of depression.

Vitamin Deficiencies –I order specific blood tests to rule out deficiencies in thiamine, vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, essential fatty acids, and calcium which can lead to memory problems. I also make a list of the nutrient deficiencies caused by all prescription medications that my patients are on.

Treatments to Help Boost Memory:

Workout your Brain – daily memory training exercises like memorizing lists, trivia games or puzzle solving helps the brain with memory retention.

Botanical Medicine – herbs are an excellent treatment to improve cognitive function and increase blood flow to the brain. When I prescribe botanical medicine to my patients, I have the education to make sure it is not contraindicated by any of their medical conditions, drugs they are taking, or other treatments. It is also important to take the proper dosage of a herb for it to be beneficial, which depends on the form of the medicine (tablet, tincture, capsule), the patient’s ability to absorb supplements, and which part of the plant the medicine is made from.

Anti-oxidants - organic green tea is rich in antioxidants that help prevent damage to the nervous system. Also incorporate organic cranberries, blueberries, blackberries and grapes into your diet.

Water – drink at least eight cups of water divided equally throughout the day, as dehydration can cause memory problems. Also reduce beverages that dehydrate your body like coffee, black tea, alcohol and cola.

Physical Activity - exercise is vital in increasing oxygen and nutrients to the brain as well as elevating mood and decreasing cortisol. Get your heart pumping at least 3x/week for 25 minutes. The increase in blood flow and oxygen to the brain will help improve your memory.

For more information on Mercury Toxicity and Fish to Avoid, check out my Blog at www.vitalforcenaturopathic.ca

Dr. Hornyak has been in private practice as a Licensed Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine since 2006. To book an appointment, phone the Norwich Medical Centre at 519-863-2338 or visit www.vitalforcenaturopathic.ca.