5 Foods For Improved Gut Health: Dementia Impacts

Body Mind on Dementia Map

Submitted by Beth Rush
Founder and Managing Editor
Body+Mind Magazine

While many people know that eating a nutritionally balanced diet promotes improved gut health, the relationship between gut health and dementia may be more surprising.

The gut microbiome comprises complex microorganisms that allow our bodies to function correctly. However, recent studies have shown that an aggravated intestinal membrane and bodily inflammation can hinder the blood-brain barrier, increasing brain swelling and memory loss.

Whether you’re a caregiver or someone living with Alzheimer’s other forms of dementia, eating foods that heal gut inflammation work to improve gut health and can promote better neurological health and digestion. Sometimes, improving gut health requires simply adding a few gut-healthy foods to your daily diet.

Managing your loved one’s digestive care can be difficult if they have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, especially since there may be moments when they struggle to communicate their stomach discomfort.

If you’re trying to help them heal a leaky gut or maintain more balanced bacteria for your own digestion, you may want to eat these five best foods for improved gut health and digestion.

1. Fermented Vegetables

Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, and miso help strengthen the millions of microorganisms in your gut.

Natural fermentation contains probiotics, typically found in cultured dairy products. When it comes to vegetables, buying foods that are naturally fermented matters for improving your gut health.

Take a jar of pickles, for example, which are usually pickled in vinegar. Although vinegar is a delicious accompaniment to pickled cucumbers, it won’t do much to help a leaky gut.

To ensure vegetables are fermented and contain probiotics, read the label and search for “naturally fermented.” The liquid should also bubble when you open the jar, indicating that it contains live organisms.

2. Cultured Dairy

Cultured dairy products are rich in enzymes, fatty acids, and probiotics, and are ideal for healing a leaky gut. When shopping for your loved one, look for products like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, buttermilk, and kefir.

When you have poor gut health, it can be harder to metabolize your food and fight infections. However, eating cultured dairy gives your body a boost of essential probiotics that aid healthier digestion.

Probiotics might relieve several gastrointestinal issues, as well – for example, irritable bowel syndrome usually causes severe abdominal discomfort, including bloating and cramps. Cultured dairy products are also excellent foods that heal gut inflammation and prevent diarrhea.

Simple breakfast dishes are probably best for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Serve your loved one a bowl of yogurt, fresh berries, and granola in the morning. Sourdough toast is another great breakfast option with high amounts of probiotics.

3. Fish

Fatty fish like salmon are known to contain omega-3s, which are essential for promoting better overall health. They’re also one of the easiest proteins to digest.

Research has shown ample benefits of omega-3 fatty acids on the body, from preventing heart disease to various cancers and improving cognitive function. As such, increasing the amount of wild-caught fish your loved one eats during the week could help manage their dementia symptoms.

Omega-3s can strengthen microbial diversity to create a healthier gut. Because of its anti-inflammatory markers, it also helps prevent symptoms of irritable bowel disease and other gastrointestinal disorders.

4. Gluten-Free Grains

People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity have difficulty digesting glutamine proteins found in wheat, rye, some oats, and barley – also known as the ingredients that give doughs enough elasticity to rise and shape.

When individuals with gluten-intolerant conditions eat gluten-containing foods, they can negatively impact their intestinal membranes and cause a leaky gut, fatigue, and brain fog. This is because the intestine interacts with several anatomical barriers – mucus, enzymes, immunity, gut health – that affect the body’s neuroendocrine, motor, nutrient absorption, and immune responses.

Eating gluten-free grains is more beneficial for your gut health than food that contains gluten proteins. Look for gluten-free labeling on products and ingredients that include rice, millet, amaranth, corn, and flax to support your loved one’s digestive system.

You can also find a variety of gluten-free flours for cooking and baking, including those that are rice, soy, bean, potato, almond, and corn-based.

5. Nuts

Nuts and seeds are excellent for promoting a healthy gut. Nuts are loaded with fiber, protein, healthy unsaturated fats, and other essential nutrients that your digestive system needs to function correctly.

For instance, peanuts and pecans are ideal sources of B vitamins, while almonds contain a lot of vitamin E and calcium, making them some of the best foods for gut health and digestion.

There are plenty of nut and seed options to choose from, too. For example, cashews, hemp seeds, pistachios, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, and sunflower seeds make a delicious snack or add the right amount of crunch to a fresh garden salad.

Avoid nuts with chocolate, candy, and added sugar when increasing your daily intake – and stick with smaller portions. Also, if you’re giving nuts and seeds to a loved one in your care, make sure their dentures fit properly.

Encouraging Your Loved One to Eat Foods for Improved Gut Health

As a caregiver, prioritizing your gut health is critical. However, getting your loved one with dementia to take their gut health more seriously may prove challenging, especially if they’ve reached the mid-to-late stages of their disease.

Nevertheless, weight loss is a significant concern for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia, especially since malnutrition could lead to worsening behavioral and cognitive symptoms. Yet, there are plenty of reasons why a person living with dementia experiences appetite loss. They might include wearing the wrong size dentures, medication changes, not recognizing the food in front of them or remembering how to eat it, and desensitized taste and smell.

To help your loved one eat for better gut health, you could try the following tips:

  • Serve their meals in a quiet environment with few distractions.
  • Use solid tablecloths and place settings with minimal, simple utensils.
  • Make sure there is some contrast between a placemat and the plate and between the plate and food so they can distinguish them more easily.
  • Make sure foods and beverages aren’t too hot before you serve them.
  • Offer one or two foods at a time and allow plenty of time for them to eat their meals.

You should also try and eat with your loved ones to keep them company, demonstrate how to eat if they forget, and give them a sense of normalcy.

The Best Foods for Gut Health and Digestion Are Good for the Brain

What you eat can benefit or hinder your overall health and well-being, including brain functioning. If you’re a caregiver of a loved one with dementia, feeding them foods that heal gut inflammation may be a wise choice. Additionally, you need to keep your own body healthy and strong to provide better care.

Body Mind on Dementia Map

Beth Rush
Founder and Managing Editor
Body+Mind Magazine

Beth Rush is a Founder and the Managing Editor at Body+Mind and a lover of all things health and wellness.

In her spare time, Beth enjoys cooking healthy recipes and trying out new fitness trends.

Visit Beth on Dementia Map or on her website.

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