THE SUGAR FIX

Jennifer is concerned. “I can’t get mom to eat anymore. She says she’s not hungry.”

Commonly the person with dementia losses their ability to taste the food, and this is often preceded by loss of smell.

During normal aging, some of us lose our thirst, sometimes hunger too. Jennifer’s mom might be experiencing this, or it could be she has forgotten what food is or the procedure to eat it. If food is tasteless, she might get distressed over the textures or chewing of a bland substance in her mouth. She might not remember how to chew.

Interestingly, the majority of those with dementia never lose the taste of sweets.

Most elder care facilities dish out sweets, and a lot of them. The activities programs commonly include cupcakes, candy, or sweets for holidays or residents’ birthdays. The lunches and dinners are usually high in carbs and followed by deserts. In the family home, the caregiver usually has an ample supply of sweet treats, and the families commonly bring sweets on visits at the facility, knowing their loved one likes them. Occasionally something sweet is given to calm when they are upset.

However, even though sugar seems to lift our spirits, it’s a temporary fix. The sugar high gets accompanied by an abrupt drop, which affects moods and health. Increased sugar consumption lowers the immune system and is the leading cause of many degenerative diseases. Many older adults develop Diabetes and obesity. It’s not only the person with dementia whose health is in jeopardy; often, the stressed caregiver also consumes sugar as comfort food.

Sugar becomes a craving, and as we consume, we want more. Each cell in our brain has receptors. These receptors allow nutrients into the cells. When we binge on a certain food, we make more receptors for that particular food and less for others; thus, the rise of the junk food junky. As a result, we develop unhealthy cravings and addictions.

A genetic type of Alzheimer’s is a Type 3 diabetes, which impairs the brain’s ability to utilize insulin, which causes cells to die. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s is 10-15 times higher for those with this gene.

Eliminating sugar and reducing your carbohydrate consumption can lower or eliminate mood swings, fatigue, migraines, anxiety, stress, joint pain, and rashes, all of which are detrimental for a person experiencing dementia or someone caregiving them.

Refined sugar is all calories and zero nutrition. There are many artificial chemical-laden sweeteners on the market. However, research has shown they are pretty bad for your health. More fruit in the diet is not only healthy but can control sweet addictions. Natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, molasses, or agave syrup all contain beneficial components, such as enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates, that the human body can process; remember less is best. Other natural sweeteners include Stevia, Erythritol, Xylitol.

Your loved one won’t know the difference between a refined sugar snack or a naturally sweetened one. You probably won’t either.

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