The Affects of Food on the Brain: Observations of a Care Giver by Sue Higgins

Thank you Susan for contributing to today’s post. We appreciate it.

 

Sue Higgins 

My mom’s illness is certainly a metaphor for life.  Her illness causes her to be off balance with outside influences adding an interesting twist to daily life. 

Each day, I make observations and adjust our routine as needed. All in an effort to provide my mom with more good days than not so good days… as we all know Lewy Bodies Dementia takes us all on a wild ride that is often scary.

What I have come to see is that all of us are conditioned to take a pill when we have some ailment; we can’t help believing in pills, it’s what we’ve been told for decades, "better health through chemistry." Only now, do I question the belief in pharmaceutical drugs to be the end all solution.

The prescription drugs that my mom had taken for so many years only masked her ailments, compounding them, making them worse. It was only when I began to pay attention, did I discover that the secret to my mom’s improving health is through nutrition.   We cut out the processed food and my mom was able to begin to get off all the band aid pharma drugs. 

Today, my mom is physically healthier than she’s been in decades.  Through nutrition and a good diet that I have listed below, my mom has more good days than not so good days.  We can’t ask for much more than that with her condition of Lewy Bodies Dementia.

Eating Healthfully

Food is the most important medicine that my mom has every day; it allows us to create a balanced state in her body and mind.  I’ve witnessed that nutrition in the elderly; especially a senior with Lewy Bodies Dementia can be the most challenging aspect of care giving.    Often as Care Givers we are left wondering, "what do I do now?" 

My answer to this question is usually found when I analyze and observe and analyze again.  Because of my need to analyze EVERYTHING and understand it, I’ve touched upon something very interesting.  First hand, I have witnessed the relationship between food and my mom’s mental state of being. She is clearer when she eats "REAL FOOD", food that nature provides.

I’ve made lots of observations about food and the behaviors it seems to create in my mom after she ingests the "food."  I put quotes around food because not all food on the supermarket shelves is created equally.  Most is poison to our bodies and will eventually lead us to the exit for Dementia Highway… this is my opinion which I have based on my observations with my mom who has what we believe to be, Lewy Bodies Dementia.

Following is a quick list of foods to avoid and the behaviors that I have observed which seem to be associated with the ingested food.

Behaviors Observed

Wild and Scary Hallucinations, night disturbances, sleepwalking, fright, wanting to go home, confusion amplified

Foods to Avoid

  • All boxed and processed foods 
  • Everything with ingredients that you can’t pronounce
  • All gluten
  • gluten free products with ingredients that you can’t pronounce (not all gluten free is good for you.)
  • Baking Soda and Baking Powder with Aluminum – this really messes up my mom for 3 days
  • All white food except cauliflower – this is very good for dementia (potato, white rice)
  • Eggplant – my mom goes on quite a hallucination trip when she eats eggplant, she sees wild animals mostly and scary people with floating heads.
  • All dairy – Lactose free seems to be OK.  Dairy typically causes my mom to have night disturbances with lots of sleepwalking and not knowing where she is … wants to go home when she eats dairy or any high animal fat content foods
  • Oatmeal that has been processed on machines that have processed wheat

Food to Eat

  • Anything that can grow in the ground that has not been treated with pesticides or Genetically Modified (GMO) – exception is white potatoes – these make my mom’s blood sugar go up high and she hallucinates and is way more confused. 
  • Eggplant causes her to hallucinate about wild animals and scary floating heads.
  • Organic Oats that have not been processed on machines with wheat (limit this because they can raise blood sugar.  I do put a 1/4 tsp fenugreek powder in the oatmeal which helps to keep my mom’s blood sugar from spiking and making her hallucinate.)
  • Lean meat and fish – we eat lots of chicken and fish
  • Legumes – these are good in moderation because they raise blood sugar too.  With legumes, serve asparagus because I’ve found it naturally lowers blood sugar. 
  • Herbs that lower blood sugar that I use when I cook complex carbohydrates like legumes… Bay Leaf and Fenugreek are the 2 that I’ve found to be most effective.
  • Herbs that appear to help with cognition – Rosemary, Thyme, Turmeric and Black Pepper together, Curcumin, Coriander, Oregano.  The nights that I cook a dish with lots of Rosemary, Thyme, Turmeric and Black Pepper, my mom seems to sleep better and the next day she is much happier about life.
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Fruit
  • Dark greens (kale, spinach, collard greens and arugula are awesome.)
  • Asparagus and Artichokes lower blood sugar and low blood sugar keeps hallucinations at bay
  • Garlic, lots of garlic

Substitutions

White Rice and Potatoes

  • In place of white rice, I serve brown rice or black rice.  We eat this in moderation only because rice makes my mom’s blood sugar go up and if it goes over 125, she starts to hallucinate. 
  • Quinoa grain is great.  My mom doesn’t have adverse reactions to this grain. 
  • Amaranth grain is OK.  My mom can only eat a little bit of this grain, otherwise she hallucinates.
  • Yams

Gluten Breads

  • Make your own gluten free bread.  I give a really good recipe here – My Daily Bread
  • Big leaves of lettuce make great wraps.  I wrote about it hereLettuce as a Wrap
  • I found that Gluten Free bread made with fruit juice is very good.  You can buy it at Whole Foods.  Tapioca bread is good too; I find it at Shaw’s.

White Flour

  • Soy Flour is a great substitute for white flour when used to coat chicken.  Here’s a recipe that I use often and my mom loves it.  Oven Fried Chicken
  • Quinoa flour has a nice flavor and often I use it in place of the soy flour.
  • Almond meal flour is really good for coating as well as making baked goods. 

If you are going to bake, make sure that you get baking soda and baking powder that doesn’t have aluminum in it.  This REALLY aggravates my mom’s condition.

Butter

  • Good quality olive oil.  It’s really good brushed on a piece of toasted gluten free bread.  Gluten free bread is always better toasted.
  • If I use butter, I make sure that it’s organic.  I use it sparingly.  I have observed that high fat meals cause my mom to hallucinate and have night disturbances.

Some links to recipes on my blog:

Sue’s 3-1-1 Base Dressing

Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breast

White Beans with Vegetables and Herbs on Red Lettuce

8 Responses

  1. Thank you for the opportunity to share my story about food and nutrition.

    If folks are looking for cookbooks, Dr. John La Puma, ChefMD (http://www.chefmd.com ) has a great website with lots of recipes. He even has a video blog to show you how to prepare healthy food. His cookbook is very good.

    Another favorite book that I use is Dr. Philip Tirman’s, “28 Day Wine and Food Lover’s Diet.” Dr. Tirman has a great beginning of his book, he provides a good lesson in nutrition.

    Food is medicine. Preparing food, gourmet style food is easy and lots of fun… try it!

  2. Sue,

    What a wonderful testimony to your powers of observation and your ability to think outside the SAD (Standard American Diet) box. I take great care with my diet and am disheartened at what the alphabet agencies (AHA, ADA, etc.) think is healhful eating.

    What is terribly discouraging is the impossibility of such care about someone’s diet once someone is living in assisted living or a nursing home. I placed my husband in an Alzheimer’s unit of a nursing home 7 weeks ago. His diet is much different now than what it was at home (lots more sugars and wheat now). It didn’t take long for undesirable behaviors to start, and in that environment the only tool that’s left is pharmaceutical. It breaks my heart. What passes for good nutrition these days is an abomination. So few people realize the effects of diet on the brain and behaviors.

  3. Lynn,I am so sorry to hear about your husband. I know how difficult it is to be a Care Giver. Thank you for your kind comments.

    My Uncle Al is in a nursing home, he’s my mom’s older brother. I’ll soon become his Healthcare Proxy… (thank God) I will figure out how to get them to feed him right. They’ll have to listen to me. I do know that Aricept raises blood sugar. A very good alternative is Ashwagandha. This is an Ayurvedic remedy that is the natural form of Aricept – Withania Somnifera. It doesn’t raise blood sugar. I have noticed that raised blood sugar causes more agitation in my mom … why would I have my mom take Aricept when she can take Ashwagandha and have no side effects?

    Whatever I learn, I will definitely write about. Please visit my blog so that you don’t miss anything that may be helpful for you.

    My next blog entry for Dr. David is to discuss what I’ve learned about natural remedies.

  4. This is a very interesting contribution – the blogs on hypnosis (at ‘backdoorlogic’)are too. Have you thought about making a hypnosis/relaxation tape for commercial distribution Sue, or can you recommend an existing one on the market?
    Thankyou.

  5. Thank you for your compliments, Freda. My mission is to share with as many people as I can what I have discovered, it’s my mom’s wish too. It’s what keeps her keeping on, she knows that she is a pioneer… she has a pioneer spirit.

    I make recordings that are customized to each individual, they work much better than mass produced recordings.

    I would be happy to create recordings for folks on an individual basis and only after I’ve had a chance to understand the underlying reasons for the upset.

    I do require a fee for my time.

    If folks are interested they can contact me directly through my blog. My email is listed on my profile page.

  6. Thankyou very much Sue, I have made a note of your contact details as I meet a number of carers and people with dementia thro’ support groups etc., and online, and I did have one previous query about hypnotherapy tapes from a carer whose loved one is now in a Nursing Home.
    Your help is very much appreciated.

  7. Hi, David,

    I’ve missed reading your posts. Hope all is well with you. Sharon

  8. Hi David and family,

    I’ve missed reading your posts too.
    You are in our thoughts and prayers.

    freda

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: