Cayce Health Database
OF ALZHEIMER'S DEMENTIA
WHAT IS DEMENTIA?
is a medical term referring to a deterioration of mental functioning
due to progressive organic disease of the brain. Persons suffering
from dementia typically experience loss of intellectual abilities,
such as memory, language use, and the ability to learn, solve problems,
and make judgments. In its more severe forms, dementia may also
produce disorientation, hallucinations, and paranoia. Social
functioning is impaired and emotional responses may be atypical or
inappropriate. For example, irritability and agitation may be
present, with occasional verbal and physical aggression toward family
members often describe the deterioration of a demented relative as
a gradual death - as a loss of the higher qualities of the mind
which distinguish us as human beings. This is an ironic observation
since dementia often strikes while the individual still has good physical
health. Eventually, even the body succumbs.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ALZHEIMER'S
In the past, dementia was viewed as a normal consequence of the aging
process. Just as the body tended to lose its strength and suppleness
with the passage of time, aging was also thought to naturally result
in brain degeneration and decline in mental abilities. This
view was (and still is to some extent) reflected in the term "senility."
Although in our daily lives we commonly associate senility with aging,
technically it is not a useful medical term. With the increased understanding
of the role of the dementias in the aging process, senility has fallen
from favor. It is simply too vague in its implications to be
useful to health care professionals.
a few years ago, senility was employed for diagnostic purposes.
To understand how the change in medical terminology took place, we
must look back almost a century. In 1907, Dr. Alois Alzheimer published
research findings based on a case study which indicated that biological
deterioration was linked to the psychological symptoms of certain
forms of dementia. This important demonstration of biological
causation was a crucial step in recognizing that mental illness can
have a physical origin. His description of the tangled and degenerated
nerve fibers clearly established the biological dimension of a process
then labeled senility.
curious feature of Alzheimer's case study was that the patient was
only fifty-one years old. The woman's age was far too young
to be considered normal for such extensive degeneration. Alzheimer
believed that he had discovered a separate illness occurring before
old age. Therefore, he called the disease "presenile dementia"
- dementia before old age.
his findings were controversial, his diagnostic category was eventually
accepted. An arbitrary age limit (sixty-five) was chosen.
Sixty-five years of age was thought to reflect the age at which "normal"
senility began. Thus, cases of dementia of unknown causation before
the age of sixty-five were diagnosed as presenile dementia, while
those sixty-five or older were considered senile dementia.
bit of historical information is very important to our consideration
of Edgar Cayce's perspective. Alzheimer's disease was
not a formal diagnostic category during Cayce's lifetime. As
one would expect, when he did use diagnostic labels, Cayce tended
to use terms commonly in use among the health care professionals of
many of the readings which appear to be describing Alzheimer-type
pathology, simply mention senility as the problem. Apparently,
he did recognize the generally accepted medical distinction between
presenile and senile dementia. For example, he used the term "premature
senility" to distinguish dementia with an earlier onset. However,
in terms of treatment, he adopted a position more in line with modern
medical thinking. He tended to ignore the distinction by treating
them as one disorder.
the late 1960s, arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) was viewed
as the major cause of senile dementia. This view changed when researchers
established that large amounts of fatty deposits could be found in
the brain's arterial walls of both demented and normal elderly individuals.
Furthermore, approximately half of the brains of persons suffering
from dementia showed no signs of significant arteriosclerosis.
So, while some cases of dementia could be attributed to vascular disease,
it was not viewed as a major factor.
also clarified the nature of the brain lesions in both presenile and
senile dementia. The brain pathology was identical. Apparently,
the age distinction of sixty-five years was not relevant in making
a diagnosis. Medical terminology was modified to reflect this
recognition. The two groups were combined and called dementia
of the Alzheimer type (DAT).
further research, this nomenclature could change again. While medical
science tends to focus on diseases as specific conditions (with specific
causes and specific cures), there is a growing recognition of the
complexity of major illnesses such as Alzheimer's dementia.
In other words, this dementia may consist of a group of related diseases
with different causes and course of illness which result in the characteristic
destruction of brain tissue associated with Alzheimer's dementia.
possibility that a variety of factors may be involved in Alzheimer's
dementia is apparent from the list of suspected causes. We will
briefly consider the most prominent of these suspects.
SOME POSSIBLE CAUSES OF ALZHEIMER'S
the cause of Alzheimer's dementia is unknown, there are several theories
which have attracted considerable attention. Researchers have proposed
that it may result from viral infections which attack brain cells
and cause slow deterioration of nerve tissue. Parallels have
been drawn to two similar diseases of the brain (kuru and Creutzfeldt-Jakob
disease) which are known to result from viral infection. Scientists
at the National Institute of Health have explored the possibility
of a viral link in Alzheimer's dementia by taking brain cells from
deceased victims and placing the diseased cells in laboratory dishes
containing normal cells. In certain cases, the diseased tissues appeared
to cause the normal cells to die.
In related experiments, diseased cells were injected into the brains
of chimpanzees. Two of the six experimental animals developed
a progressive neurological disease.
further research failed to support the results of either of these
types of experiment. As we shall see, this pattern of apparent
initial breakthrough followed by failure of experimental confirmation
is common in research of this disorder.
example, it is widely accepted that aluminum toxicity can produce
brain degeneration similar to the lesions of Alzheimer's dementia.
Findings on experimental animals have shown that injections of aluminum
compounds produce neurological tangles in the brain similar to those
found in Alzheimer's dementia. Early in the 1970s, researchers
at the University of Toronto explored a possible connection between
aluminum and Alzheimer's dementia. Their findings were dramatic.
Autopsies of brains from patients who had been diagnosed as Alzheimer's
dementia contained as much as 30 times more aluminum than normal brains.
However, subsequent research has clouded these findings. Investigators
at the University of Kentucky failed to find significant amounts of
aluminum in the brains of Alzheimer's patients even though these individuals
had spent a life time drinking local water containing high levels
are left with the question of whether aluminum toxicity might be a
cause of Alzheimer's dementia. This is a particularly fascinating
aspect of the Alzheimer's puzzle since the Edgar Cayce readings were
cautioning against the use of aluminum cooking utensils decades before
researchers became aware of its potential link with a major brain
scientists are focusing a great deal of attention on the genetic aspects
of Alzheimer's dementia. Research indicates that children of
parents with the disease have a 50% chance of developing the illness.
Furthermore, these individuals are more likely to exhibit the symptoms
much earlier with a more rapid progression in the degenerative process.
genetic link is further emphasized by studies connecting Alzheimer's
dementia with Down's syndrome. Down's syndrome is a developmental
disorder in which a child is born mentally retarded. It is caused
by a flaw in the genetic material of the afflicted person. These
individuals have an extra copy of chromosome 21.
with Down's syndrome who survive beyond the age of forty typically
suffer brain degeneration similar to Alzheimer's dementia. Furthermore,
the frequency of Down's syndrome is 10 times higher among families
of persons who experience early onset Alzheimer's dementia.
as the genetic studies are, we should be cautious in interpreting
their meaning. Genetics is not likely to hold all the answers
to the Alzheimer's puzzle. For example, even with identical
twins, one twin may develop the disease while the other does not.
Obviously, there are additional factors at work here. Perhaps
certain genetic factors can make an individual vulnerable to developing
Alzheimer's dementia while other factors (such as environment or lifestyle)
can increase a person's vulnerability. We will address this
possibility in a later chapter which focuses on preventing dementia.
brain insult is another possible cause of Alzheimer's dementia.
It is known that persons whose brains have been seriously jarred or
who have experienced repeated blows to the head may develop the symptoms
of Alzheimer's. For example, prize fighters who have received
numerous punches to the head over a period of years may develop "boxer's
dementia," an irreversible dementia with symptoms and brain degeneration
very similar to Alzheimer's.
abnormalities have been linked to Alzheimer's dementia. Researchers
at Duke University have found a significantly higher frequency of
prior thyroid disease in women patients suffering from Alzheimer's
than in control subjects. Furthermore, studies at the University
of Minnesota suggest that the immune system may play a part in Alzheimer's
findings result from statistical analysis of biographical data collected
from patients and control subjects. Correlating life history
patterns with specific biological pathology has been more difficult.
One of the most promising models links certain forms of Alzheimer's
dementia with disorders comprising the "thyroid-gastric-adrenal-thymic
autoimmune syndrome." It is likely that future research will
uncover more extensive connections between glandular dysfunction and
looked at only a few of the most prominent theories explaining the
causes of Alzheimer's dementia. New hypotheses and variations
on the older theories are being proposed continually. The bottom
line at this point in time is that we really do not know what causes
SYMPTOMS OF ALZHEIMER'S DEMENTIA
many of the other dementias, Alzheimer's disease results in the progressive
loss of "higher" functions, such as thinking, reasoning and memory.
It destroys the distinctive qualities of mentality which make us human.
deterioration is usually gradual, beginning with mild symptoms (such
as forgetfulness of minor things like phone numbers or dental appointments).
This decline is often accompanied by difficulty in learning new information.
As the nervous system becomes more incapacitated, patients may have
difficulty controlling their bodies or moving smoothly. Emotional
problems commonly develop. The degeneration in functioning may
produce deep depression, crying spells or temper tantrums.
THE COURSE OF THE DISEASE
the course of Alzheimer's dementia may vary in individual cases, the
ultimate prognosis is the same - incurable, with progressive decline
in functioning at all levels. Premature death can be expected,
either directly, as the result of the organic deterioration, or by
related syndromes which are caused or exacerbated by the dementia.
TREATMENT OF ALZHEIMER'S DEMENTIA
some of the other dementias are treatable (and even curable if the
cause is detected and amenable to therapy), the therapeutic options
available for Alzheimer's dementia are mainly limited to adaptive
measures. That is, when faced with an incurable progressive
illness, the usual strategy is to minimize the effects on patient
and family. Rather than directly treating the illness, therapy
involves adapting to it.
adaptive measures range from behavioral interventions (which organize
and simplify daily activities) to general physical interventions (such
as basic health maintenance). For example, basic health maintenance
might involve bowel regulation. Constipation is often a problem
for persons suffering from Alzheimer's dementia. Dietary changes,
drinking adequate water and the use of laxatives can help to address
counseling and support groups for caregivers are two additional forms
of therapy which can facilitate the process of adaptation. For
many families, institutional care (such as nursing homes) represents
the final stage of adaptation.
has yielded some promising medicinal therapies over the years.
Unfortunately, these drugs have not produced
consistent results under the rigors of scientific standards of confirmation.
Consequently, the therapeutic effectiveness of drug therapy for Alzheimer's
dementia is controversial.
medications are commonly prescribed for persons with Alzheimer's dementia
since depression is one of the most frequent and debilitating symptoms
associated with the disease. Again, however, these drugs do
not directly treat the dementia, they are only adaptive measures intended
to provide limited symptomatic relief.
EDGAR CAYCE'S PERSPECTIVE OF DEMENTIA
Edgar Cayce gave many readings
for persons suffering from dementia. The readings are
in close agreement with modern medicine on the physical pathology
of the dementias.
Repeatedly, Edgar Cayce
provided graphic descriptions of the nervous system deterioration
indicative of these disorders. One almost gets the sense that
Cayce used his consciousness as a modern researcher might use a high-tech
probe or brain scan. Often, Cayce's perspective was from the
inside of the body, moving freely among the organs and tissue.
His portrayal of the delicate interactions within and between the
nervous systems is particularly fascinating. Without going into
the technical aspects of anatomy and physiology, the important point
is that Edgar Cayce anticipated the results of modern brain research
which regards dementia as a progressive degeneration of nerve tissue
in the brain.
However, Edgar Cayce's perspective
goes beyond brain pathology. The Cayce readings discuss how
the brain is dependent upon the rest of the body for its moment to
moment existence. Without the continual removal of metabolic
waste and the supplying of nutrients, nerve cells in the brain will
die in only a few minutes. Cayce explained that the various
organs of assimilation and elimination are important in the cause
and treatment of dementias such as Alzheimer's dementia. Cayce
also emphasized the importance of "drainages" and nervous system coordination.
Edgar Cayce also recommended
the use of electrotherapy to stimulate nerve regeneration. The
use of psychological techniques such as hypnotherapy was suggested.
Finally, the spiritual aspects of treatment were also strongly emphasized.
To summarize, Edgar Cayce
provided numerous readings describing the pathological process and
giving recommendations for the treatment of dementia. In general,
his approach was to assist the body in cleansing and nurturing the
nerve tissue in the brain by a variety of physical, mental and spiritual
therapies. In fact, Edgar Cayce even provided a "formula" for
rebuilding the brain in cases of dementia.
CAYCE'S FORMULA FOR REBUILDING THE BRAIN
In reading 1800-16, Edgar Cayce
laid out the basics of a treatment approach for dementia.
The key elements are:
- Electrotherapy with gold and silver "vibratory" solutions.
- Spinal manipulations to improve nervous system coordination and
- Suggestive therapeutics (a form of natural hypnosis).
- Patience (a key spiritual attribute).
- Other activities in the system, including improved assimilations,
circulation and eliminations.
Edgar Cayce's approach to Alzheimer's disease and dementia is described
in a book titled Alzheimer's Disease and the Dementias: An Alternative
Approach Based on the Readings of Edgar Cayce written by David McMillin.
Cayce's approach to nervous system regeneration is discussed in detail
in Principles and Techniques of Nerve Regeneration. Both
books are available from A.R.E. Press.
Check, William, A. Alzheimer's Disease. New York:
Chelsea House Publishers, 1989.
Selkoe, Dennis J. "Amyloid Protein and Alzheimer's Disease,"
Scientific American (November, 1991).
Note: The above information is not intended for self-diagnosis
or self-treatment. Please consult a qualified health care professional
for assistance in applying the information contained in the Cayce Health