Natural health: Memory loss and autoimmune disorders

Megan Sheppard answers your questions on Memory loss and autoimmune disorders and gives suggestions for dealing with them naturally.

Natural health: Memory loss and autoimmune disorders

Q. I have a serious case of brain fog, although I can recall events clearly from decades ago, I walk into a room and can’t for the life of me remember what I came in to do. 

I’m always losing my keys, glasses, phone, and such things.

I admit to never having the greatest of memories, but it really does seem as if I am suffering more memory loss than I used to.

Is there anything that can help to sharpen or restore my memory, or is this simply a natural case of ageing?

A. While most of the situations you describe are all events that we accept as a normal part of the ageing process, it really doesn’t have to be this way. 

There are indeed steps you can take to minimise brain fog and improve your ability to recall information, along with having a healthy balanced diet and exercising regularly.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are crucial to brain function. DHA (Docosahexanoic Acid) is an omega-3 EFA that is crucial to the structure of cell membranes in the brain, and as an added bonus is also important to protect against macular degeneration.

You can get DHA by eating oily fish, or you can choose to supplement with specific DHA formulations.

GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric Acid) is another game changer when it comes to memory and brain function. It is found naturally in our brains, a neurotransmitter that is key to neuron activity — basically helping your brain cells relay and communicate effectively. GABA is thought to help with stress and anxiety disorders, sleep issues, and depression.

There are certain types of tea, in particular oolong tea, that have been shown to contain significant levels of GABA. This tea is purported to keep your brain sharp and energy levels high, while relaxing your nervous system and balancing your endocrine system.

The South American Yerba Mate tea (Ilex paraguariensis) is worth a mention when it comes to memory and brain function.

Yerba mate is reputed to stimulate the mind, increase concentration and ease depressive moods without interfering with sleep.

It is widely used by students preparing for exams as it appears to stimulate the brain by aiding understanding, recall, and clear thinking — all the while soothing nerves and balancing the immune system.

There are a couple of herbal remedies that I highly rate when it comes to brain health — Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), and Ginkgo biloba.

Brahmi is reputed to help with concentration, attention span, memory, and cognition; Ginkgo works by improving blood flow to the brain, increasing the nutrients and oxygen available to the brain cells.

Unfortunately, these herbs are now only available by prescription, but I can confirm that they are worth the effort.

Q. Why are there so many people — across all ages — with autoimmune disorders?

Is it something we are doing differently, or is it just a case of over-diagnosis?

A. There are a great number of theories and hypotheses around the ever increasing numbers of autoimmune sufferers, and we are yet to be presented with an answer that is definitive (or that everybody agrees on).

What basically happens with autoimmune disorders is that the body can no longer differentiate between healthy and unhealthy cells. The immune system effectively attacks your own body.

Currently, there are around 80 autoimmune disorders that are officially acknowledged, and this has led to a significant and ongoing body of research as to potential causes and treatments.

Commonly diagnosed autoimmune disorders include (but are by no means limited to) Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Grave’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, vitiligo, diabetes mellitus (Type 1), Crohn’s disease, Coeliac disease, and pernicious anaemia.

Many of these conditions seem to appear more often in females than males, and, as you mentioned, they don’t tend to discriminate based on age.

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