' Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.'
Wednesday, 23 May 2018
The main body of today's post is nicked from my 'Other Much More Sensible' blog which lacks the innuendo and random silliness of LGD. I thought it might be of interest to a bigger audience than the dementia community. And of course it has a wider context. It seems that the healing role of food is worth further exploration across a range of health conditions.
Nutrition and Dementia: A Reflection
There is a wealth of online information and I regularly come across claims about how different types of foods might prevent or manage the progression of dementia. However I am generally reluctant to talk about the role of nutrition in these areas. To be honest I know too little about the subject and I do not wish to peddle false hope. So the posts that I’ve created in the past have been limited to providing links about the Mediterranean diet. The Alzheimer’s Society suggest that this is a healthy way of eating that may preserve brain function. With its emphasis on whole foods, fruit and vegetables and oily fish it seems a sensible approach that allows for a varied and delicious diet.
My interest in how nutrition may improve the lives of people with dementia has been rekindled. It has been widely reported in the popular press that Sylvia Hatzer, who has a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease has sustained significant improvements in her cognition with the help of her son, Mark. This is attributed to a change in eating habits which included many Mediterranean diet type features with foods that included brazil nuts, blueberries, strawberries, walnuts, sweet potato, leafy greens, green tea and dark chocolate as a treat. Mark has also encouraged his mum to increase her social support, use a pedal exerciser and engage in cognitive activities. It’s therefore difficult to tell whether the difference in eating habits alone have been the cause of the positive change. My sense is that all aspects of this multi-faceted approach might have been helpful.
Can Food Be Medicinal? Can I ‘Prescribe’ It?
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” said the founding father of medicine, Hippocrates. And so it seems that healing potential of food has long been acknowledged with variations across cultures. Honey, bran, herbs, yogurt, cranberry juice, spices, licorice and green tea all spring to mind when I think about items in my grocery store that I have been told are good for various ailments.
A dictionary definition of medicine is a substance that is used to treat or prevent disease. It is easy to see how this extends far beyond preparations made by the pharmaceutical industry. For example it might be argued that even plain old water has a wide medicinal role. Food seems to have potential for helping us maintain well-being through general healthy eating. There may also be particular foodstuffs that have more specific healing properties. Yet I probably speak for the majority of health care professionals working in the dementia field when I say that I do not have a clue about the evidence base for many of the items that purport to have a positive effect on cognition. I could not even talk with confidence about what makes a balanced diet helpful. Many of the people that I work with have dietary restrictions tailored to their medical needs. This complicates the issue further.
In researching this article I came across the work of the College of Medicine and Integrated Health , a group of physicians and other healthcare professionals who aim to extend the boundaries of healthcare beyond traditional practice. They have issued a Consensus Statement on Food which acknowledges the powerful nature of diet to treat and prevent illness in ways that are often cheaper and safer than other interventions. It calls for healthcare professionals to be better trained so that they give good advice about ‘food as medicine’. I, as a professional working in dementia care, see great potential in this and would welcome it.