I recently accompanied my aunt to see an old relative who suffers from Alzheimers Disease. Her state was so pitiful and she had degenerated so much that my aunt teared up. A virtual shadow of herself and unrecognizable. This hit me real bad and I decided to do something on it. I hope you are well educated by this.
Like all types of dementia, Alzheimers is caused by brain cell death.3 It is a neurodegenerative disease, which means there is spontaneous brain cell death that happens over a course of time.
The total brain size shrinks with Alzheimers – the tissue has progressively fewer nerve cells and connections thereby reducing it’s efficiency. There are some predisposing factors such as age, lifestyle and diet (we’d get to that later).
A recent research study found that age related decline could start as early as 45, crazy isn’t it?. The good news is that a number of encouraging research avenues indicate that risk of dementia and Alzheimers could be reduced in the early stages by a comprehensive optimum nutrition approach, yes I highlighted that on purpose until you all learn that virtually every ailment can be linked to dietThe strongest evidence to date relates to raised homocysteine levels, which both predicts risk and can cause the kind of brain damage seen in Alzheimers, caused by lack of B vitamins, especially B12 which is progressively malabsorbed with age.Homocysteine is a neurotoxin, capable of directly damaging the medial temporal lobe, which is the area of the brain that rapidly degenerates in AD. Homocysteine is easily lowered with common B vitamins, gottn from veggies and fruits.
Other nutritional solutions which research suggest can affect cognitive decline or Alzheimer’s risk include omega 3s (DHA), antioxidants such as Vitamin E (due to the inflammatory nature of Alzheimer’s) and acetylcholine which is a key part of memory function (which is usually deficient in Alzheimer’s cases).
Role of Nutrients and PhytoNutrients:
Omega-3 fats are mostly found in carnivorous, cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, herring and mackerel. According to a study by Dr. Martha Morris and colleagues at Chicago’s Rush Institute for Healthy Aging, eating fish once a week reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by as much as 60 per cent.
Inflammatory reactions basically mean increased production of oxidants, and hence an increased need for antioxidants like vitamin A, beta-carotene, and vitamins C and E, all of which have been shown to be low in those with Alzheimer’s. Other bioactive components, including cysteine, glutathione, lipoic acid, anthocyanidins, and co-enzyme Q10 and melatonin may also prove important. In simple terms this means eating a lot more fresh fruit and vegetables – at least six portions a day – and oily fish and seeds.
Stress, Cortisol and Memory Loss:
Under prolonged stress, the body produces the adrenal hormone cortisol. The research of Professor Robert Sapolsky at Stanford University has shown that although cortisol is a powerful anti-inflammatory hormone, raised cortisol can damage the brain. In studies with rats he found that two weeks of induced stress causing raised cortisol levels causes dendrites, (connections between brain cells), to shrink. He believes that brain cell loss in ageing and Alzheimer’s may be, in part, due to high levels of cortisol and recommends that corticosteroid drugs should not be used in Alzheimer’s patients for other medical problems like asthma or arthritis.
Why Do Some Foods Induce Memory Loss?
The brain needs its own brand of fuel (exclusively carbohydrate sources of glucose). It requires healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and adequate vitamins and minerals for optimal function. Consuming too little of these foods and too many complex carbohydrates, processed foods and sugar stimulates the production of toxins in the body. Those toxins can lead to inflammation, the build-up of plaques in the brain and, as a result, impaired cognitive function.
These effects apply to people of all ages, not just elders.
Foods That Induce Memory Loss:
Unfortunately, the foods that hamper memory are common staples in the modern diet. White breads, pasta, processed meats and cheeses, all of these have been linked to Alzheimers disease. Some experts have even found that whole grain breads are as bad as white breads because they spike blood sugar, which causes inflammation! (I know right! )
Here’s a list of foods linked to increased rates of Alzheimer’s disease:
*Processed cheeses, including American cheese, mozzarella sticks, Cheez Whiz and Laughing Cow. These foods build up proteins in the body that have been associated with Alzheimer’s.
*Processed meats, such as bacon, smoked turkey from the deli counter and ham. Smoked meats like these contain nitrosamines, which cause the liver to produce fats that are toxic to the brain.
Beer. Most beers contain nitrites, which have been linked to Alzheimers.
*White foods, including pasta, cakes, white sugar, white rice and white bread. Consuming these causes a spike in insulin production and sends toxins to the brain.
*Microwave popcorn contains diacetyl, a chemical that may increase amyloid plaques in the brain. Research has linked a buildup of amyloid plaques to Alzheimer’s disease.
Foods That Boost Memory:
Changing dietary habits is never easy. However, avoiding foods that induce memory loss and eating more of the foods that boost memory improves your chances of enjoying all-around health.
Here’s the list of foods that help boost memory:
*Leafy green vegetables
*Salmon and other cold-water fish
*Berries and dark-skinned fruits
*Coffee and chocolate
*Extra virgin olive oil
*Cold-pressed virgin coconut oil
Now we know that Alzheimers disease patients require extra care, patience and attention. Providing a healthy diet regimen without getting it into them would be highly ineffective. Here are some ways to get through to Alzheimer’s disease patients.
Provide an adequate diet with a variety of foods.
Offer vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean protein foods.
Limit foods with high saturated fat and cholesterol.
Some fat is essential for health — but not all fats are healthy. Go light on fats that are bad for heart health, such as butter, solid shortening, lard and fatty cuts of meats.
Cut down on refined sugars:
Often found in processed foods, refined sugars contain calories but lack vitamins, minerals and fiber. You can tame a sweet tooth with healthier options like fruit or juice-sweetened baked goods. But note that in the later-stages of Alzheimer’s, if loss of appetite is a problem, adding sugar to food may encourage eating.
Limit foods with high sodium and minimize salt.
Most people consume more sodium than recommended, which affects blood pressure. Cut down by using spices or herbs to season food as an alternative.
As the disease progresses, loss of appetite (anorexia) and weight loss may become concerns. In such cases, the doctor may suggest supplements between meals to add calories.
Staying hydrated may be a problem as well. Encourage fluids by offering small cups of water or other liquids throughout the day or foods with high water content, such as fruit, soups, milkshakes and smoothies.
Possible Causes of Poor Appetite:
Understand that the patient is not conscious of their decisions and that you need to be tolerant of their actions.
Not recognizing food: The person may no longer recognize the foods you put on his or her plate.
Poor fitting dentures. Eating may be painful, but the person may not be able to tell you this. Make sure dentures fit and visit the dentist regularly.
Medications. New medications or a dosage change may affect appetite. If you notice a change, contact the physician.
Not enough exercise. Lack of physical activity will decrease appetite. Encourage simple exercise, such as going for a walk, gardening or washing dishes.
Decreased sense of smell and taste. The person with dementia may not eat because food may not smell or taste as good as it once did.
Ways of Limiting distractions while Eating:
*Serve meals in quiet surroundings, away from the television and other distractions.
*Keep the table setting simple.
*Avoid placing items on the table — such as table arrangements or plastic fruit — that might distract or confuse the person. Use only the utensils needed for the meal.
*Distinguish food from the plate.
*Changes in visual and spatial abilities may make it tough for someone with dementia to distinguish food from the plate or the plate from the table. It can help to use white plates or bowls with a contrasting color placemat. Avoid patterned dishes, tablecloths and placemats.
*Check the food temperature. A person with dementia might not be able to tell if something is too hot to eat or drink. Always test the temperature of foods and beverages before serving.
*Serve only one or two foods at a time. Too many foods at once may be overwhelming. Simplify by serving one dish at a time. For example, mashed potatoes followed by meat.
*Be flexible to food preferences. Keep long-standing personal preferences in mind when preparing food, and be aware that a person with dementia may suddenly develop new food preferences or reject foods that were liked in the past.
*Give the person plenty of time to eat. Remind him or her to chew and swallow carefully. Keep in mind that it may take an hour or longer to finish eating.
*Eat together. Make meals an enjoyable social event so everyone looks forward to the experience. Research suggests that people eat better when they are in the company of others.
Keep in mind the person may not remember when or if he or she ate.
*If the person continues to ask about eating breakfast, consider serving several breakfasts — juice, followed by toast, followed by cereal.
M. Morris, et al.. Consumption of fish and n-3 fatty acids and risk of incident Alzheimer disease. Arch Neurol, vol 60, pp. 940-946 (2003)
S. Seshadri et al. Plasma homocysteine as a risk factor for dementia and AD. N Engl J Med, vol 346(7), pp. 476-483. (2002)
P. S. Sachdev et al.. Relationship between plasma homocysteine levels and brain atrophy in healthy elderly individuals. Neurology vol 58, pp. 1539-1541 (2002)
S. J. Duthie, et al.. Homocysteine, B vitamin status, and cognitive function in the elderly. Am J Clin Nutr, vol 75(5), pp. 908-913 (2002)