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Challenging Alzheimers, One Step at a Time
[original article at Sun-Herald.com, Oct 8 2003 edition]
By Merrily Manthey [author, Natural Medicine Handbook for People over 50]
Nearly four years after a devastating diagnosis, Tom Warren had a new CAT scan. To everyone's surprise, the disabling disease had reversed. He had the test results checked by several specialists. So shocked was one physician, Tom says in his 1991 book, "Beating Alzheimer's," that the physician's hand shook as he pointed to the new X-ray plates. "Have you ever heard of recovery before?" Tom asked. The physician answered with a simple, "No."
Another doctor, a neurologist, refused to believe that Tom had ever had the disease. A neuropathologist said Tom had never had Alzheimer's but that he did have, and still has, mild brain atrophy. Tom told me during the filming of an award-winning documentary I produced, titled "A Message of Hope," that he came very close to an irreversible prognosis. At the time of the video taping, Tom was enjoying the fruits of active, joy-filled days again ... appreciating sunsets, remembering names, driving his car, conversing with friends, thinking, writing a new book, and making plans for his future. Most remarkably, Tom even returned to work after an absence of 11 years.
What did Tom do when he first heard the horrifying diagnosis? I was very interested because over 20 years ago my beloved father was diagnosed, suffered and died from such dementia.
When Tom was diagnosed as having Alzheimer's disease, neither he, a successful insurance agent, nor his wife, a practicing pharmacologist, accepted the doctor's finding as final. While no one had ever documented a reversal of Alzheimer's, they refused to believe there was nothing they could do. Tom -- during his lucid periods -- and his wife -- in every possible moment -- poured through all the medical literature on the disease, both orthodox and alternative. What they found was enough information for Tom to develop what turned out to be for him an effective treatment that would beat his "incurable" disease.
Challenges were not stumbling blocks but instead stepping stones ... this was at the base of his philosophy. "Getting well again is not easy," Tom says in his book. "There are no short cuts." Dr. Abram Hoffer, MD, Ph.D., the internationally famous orthomolecular psychiatrist from Victoria, British Columbia, who wrote in "Nutrients to Age without Senility," told Tom, "If you have only five minutes of lucid thought process, Alzheimer's is reversible." Tom does caution that, in his opinion, there is a point beyond which disease cannot be reversed.
Tom says the most important thing he learned was to accept the responsibility for his own health -- to read, study, and think for himself. He told me every person he met who had recovered from a chronic disease had this same attitude.
The average person sees Alzheimer's as personality change, memory loss and senility. But these, Tom says, are the apparent result -- the symptoms -- not the disease. What is Alzheimer's, the disease? What causes it? When does it start? Is it, I wondered, hereditary?
Presently, science documents that Alzheimer's disease is characterized by tangled nerve fibers and plaque in the brain. Plaque is residue that leaches through swollen membranes and hardens as the swelling reaction diminishes. Researchers have found broken nerve endings encased in plaque residue, which seems consistent with the leaching process during a swelling reaction. But what causes the swelling?
In 1986, Senetek PLC, a California-based biotechnology firm, announced that it had developed the first known test for Alzheimer's. The test measures an antigen found in the cerebrospinal fluid bathing the brain. Cerebrospinal fluid is the serum-like fluid that flows through the connected cavities and canals of the brain and spinal cord. Antigens are any substance -- a food, pollen, or dust, for example -- that stimulates the production of antibodies or reacts with them during an allergic reaction. Swelling is often a symptom of an allergic reaction. And research findings connecting cerebral allergies and Alzheimer's, Tom says are continuing to come in.
"When I first realized how many actions I would have to take, how much information I would have to learn and how many lifestyle changes I would have to make in order to recover, I was overwhelmed, as are all cerebral-allergy patients. There are so many habits to change and things to give up. Believe me, however, that in a year you will feel so much better than you do now; you will wonder why you ever considered these changes to be a challenge. Just do one thing at a time ..." I wish I had known Tom 20 years ago.