A diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is no longer a terminal sentence, nor should we view such diseases as a terrifying one-way street of progressive brain decline. If you are encouraged by the thought that dementia and Alzheimer’s may actually be prevented and even successfully reversed, meet Dr. Carri Drzyzga, ND, DC, author, speaker and founder of Functional Medicine Ontario.
“We have new ways of looking at cognitive health in functional medicine, including new treatment approaches that delay and even reverse cognitive decline in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease patients,” says Dr. Drzyzga.
Dr. Drzyzga is part of a new vanguard of physicians approaching brain health in a more comprehensive way. “Instead of continuing to search for the ‘magic bullet’ to cure dementia and Alzheimer’s, we are instead looking at the causative factors in each individual case. What causes this particular patient’s brain to form plaques that close off synapses? Is there more than one cause? Are the causes the same for everyone?”
What Dr. Drzyzga and others are finding is that most cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s are actually a result of a faulty immune defense, where the brain is defending itself from what it perceives as ‘invaders.’ “The patient’s body is actually blocking access to brain cells as a defense mechanism. It lays down plaque as a healthy, normal response against toxins, bacteria, a virus or even proteins that it perceives could damage brain tissue,” explains Dr. Drzyzga. “The problem is, unless you treat the root underlying cause, this mechanism proves destructive over time as the body essentially destroys the same brain tissue it seeks to protect.”
As a devout student of Dr. Dale Bredesen, former chief neurologist at the University of California San Francisco who wrote the book The End of Alzheimer’s, Dr. Drzyzga has been certified by Bredesen in offering the same protocol that has reversed symptoms in more than 100 of his own case studies of Alzheimer’s patients. She is also educating patients through an email course called, “5 Steps You Need to Take NOW to Reclaim Your Brain Function.”
“What Dr. Bredesen found was that there are more than thirty-six possible triggers that contribute to the metabolic imbalances that ultimately results in cognitive decline over time,” says Dr.
Drzyzga. “With every patient, we go through the necessary detective work to find and remove their personal and unique triggers to stop the ongoing damage. After we ‘put out the fire,’ we follow up with treatment aimed to restore and rebuild brain function.”
For that reason, Dr. Drzyzga’s approach to her brain patients is very individualized. “We take a thorough health history and do comprehensive testing to look for known culprits that cause brain decline. These may include high exposure to mercury, overuse of common over-the-counter medications, household environmental toxins, possible hidden infections in the intestines or nasal passages, hormonal imbalances, and even common nutrient deficiencies.”
Because no two patient cases are alike, the treatment plan varies from patient to patient and is very individualized. “It’s like patching a roof that has more than thirty-six holes,” she says. “The holes in your roof are probably in a different place than where your neighbor’s roof is leaking and of different sizes.” Various treatments include hormone replacement therapies, dietary changes, nutritional supplements, brain exercises, lifestyle changes, exercise and traditional medications. Dr. Drzyzga often co-manages cases with other allied health professionals, including family doctors, neurologists, even nurse practitioners.
In dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s, Dr. Drzyzga warns that time is not a friend. “The earlier patients come in, the faster we see results,” she says. “If you are starting to notice that you lose your keys more often, are starting to forget names and common words, or are just concerned due to a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s, it’s good to start on the road of prevention as soon as possible. The treatments we use can delay the onset of full-blown dementia or Alzheimer’s for years. Of course, the goal is that we delay or slow cognitive decline until long after you’ve died of other natural causes!”
Known as “Dr. Carri” or “The Functional Medicine Doc” to her patients and followers, Dr. Drzyzga is the host of the popular podcast The Functional Medicine Radio Show. She is both a physician and speaker and is the author of Reclaim Your Energy and Feel Normal Again! Fixing the Root Cause of Your Fatigue with Natural Treatments. She also offers a free email course on the “5 Steps You Must Take NOW to Reclaim Your Brain Function.” She takes patients through her clinic Functional Medicine Ontario and offers phone or Skype consultations for those living beyond the Ottawa area.