Allergy season has returned to much of the U.S., and for seniors especially, this presents a risk far more dangerous than unpleasant sinus-related symptoms.
That’s because many seniors turn to popular allergy drugs known as anticholinergics. And although these drugs bring short-term allergy relief, they increase the risk of long-term, dementia-like symptoms.
And in my view, that’s a risk just not worth taking. Especially since you can take a few simple steps to safely ease your allergy symptoms — without resorting to drugs that can steal your memory and destroy your quality of life.
Brain fog and accidents waiting to happen
Aside from seasonal allergies, anticholinergic drugs also address conditions that involve the contraction and relaxation of muscles, such as muscle spasms, gastrointestinal cramps, diarrhea, breathing problems, and an overactive bladder. These drugs also help to balance the production of dopamine — one of the brain’s “feel good” chemicals — and therefore they’re also used to treat depression.
Although these drugs are widely used, studies show that seniors use them at a much higher rate than other age groups.
To get an idea of how much trouble these drugs can cause for older adults, allow me to share the results of a recent study from the Annals of Family Medicine. Researchers collected 10 years of data on anticholinergic drug use in more than 116,000 people over the age of 65. Their analysis linked high use of these drugs with sharply higher rates of four outcomes:
- All-cause hospitalizations
- Emergency department visits
- Hospitalizations due to fractures
- Incident dementia
As the name implies, incident dementia is a combination of brain fog, confusion, and memory lapses prompted by an inciting incident like a stroke or — in this case — a drug.
Needless to say, this effect can make an older individual woozy and uneasy on their feet, which prompts life-threatening accidents (such as the first three medical events listed above).
Incident dementia isn’t always permanent, but this condition can indeed take a cognitive toll on older people who use these drugs on a regular basis. Meanwhile these seniors (or their care-givers) chalk up their dementia symptoms to old age rather than the true culprit: Anticholinergic drugs.
Danger lurks, even at low doses
In the study I described above, the level of dementia was “dose dependent” — that is, the higher the anticholinergic dose (from one or multiple drugs), the more likely it was that dementia symptoms would occur.
This same factor was prevalent in a study cited by Dr. Marc Micozzi in his Complete Alzheimer’s Cure Protocol. When researchers analyzed anticholinergic drug use data on more than 3,400 seniors, those who took the greatest amounts of these drugs had a whopping 54 percent increased risk of developing dementia.
Dr. Micozzi further explains, “Taking the minimum effective daily dose of one of these drugs every day for just three years put people in the HIGHEST CATEGORY for dementia risk.”
And he adds one more chilling note: “Even the study participants who took minimal doses were still at greater risk than those who didn’t take the drugs at all.”
How do these drugs create such devastating effects in aging brains?
Dr. Micozzi explains that anticholinergics interfere with a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine that stimulates muscle contractions, motor control, memory, and cognition. He says, “Scientists believe that acetylcholine has an effect not only on the nerves throughout our bodies, but also on the neurons in our brains.”
And when that effect is scrambled, cognition and memory suffer.
Your brain-safe, fool-proof allergy remedy
Of course, if these drugs give you relief from painful, relentless allergy symptoms, it’s not an easy decision to stop using them. And that’s why Dr. Micozzi has outlined a few safe strategies that can help control the sources of your allergy season misery.
To start, he stresses the importance of keeping your immune system healthy and balanced. And all you need are three easy-to-find daily supplements:
- Vitamin D3: 5,000 IU to 10,000 IU
- Fish oil: 4 to 5 grams
- B vitamin complex, containing at least:
- 12 mcg of B12
- 50 milligrams (mg) each of thiamine
- 50 mg of riboflavin (B2)
- 50 mg of niacin/niacinamide (B6)
- 50 mg of pantothenic acid
- 100 mcg of biotin
- 200 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid/folate
In addition, Dr. Micozzi also recommends these symptom-relieving strategies:
- When the pollen count is high, wash your hands and face frequently.
- Flush out your mouth and throat by gargling with salty water.
- Spice up your food. Use common spices like capsaicin (hot red pepper), curry (turmeric, coriander, cumin, chili pepper), or horseradish. They’re all great at clearing sinuses.
- Use menthol and eucalyptus salves, inhalation, or essential oils to help soothe allergic cough and congestion.
You can read Dr. Micozzi’s full range of suggestions for getting a handle on seasonal allergies — as well as other medications to avoid, and more strategies to bolster your brain health — in his Complete Alzheimer’s Cure Protocol. Click here to find out more about this online learning tool that can help you avoid a dreaded dementia diagnosis, or to enroll today.
“Comparative Associations Between Measures of Anti-cholinergic Burden and Adverse Clinical Outcomes” Annals of Family Medicine 2017; 15(6): 561-569. doi: 10.1370/afm.2131