Eating and Fasting for Cognitive Care

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Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking and behavior. The symptoms of this disease eventually grow severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. But microscopic changes in the brain begin long before symptoms, or even first signs of memory loss, occur. When it comes to food and nutrition, diet plays a major role in the prevention of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. This is because what we eat can either contribute to cognitive decline or aid in healing cellular repair and oxidative damage. 

Avoiding foods that cause or perpetuate inflammation is just as important as increasing intake of foods that heal. The number one offender, as is the case with many diseases, is sugar. Avoiding sugar in its many forms is integral to brain health and prevention of cognitive decline. Some in the medical field now refer to Alzheimer’s as type 3 diabetes because of recent studies show the negative impact of sugar, blood glucose dysregulation, and insulin response. 

Conversely, food can be an integral component of healing as well as risk reduction. The Mediterranean diet has proven to be one of the most effective eating patterns to prevent Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. This diet is based on traditional eating habits in Greece, Southern Italy, and other Mediterranean regions and is characterized by high intake of fruits and vegetables, legumes, olive oil, nuts and seeds, and moderate consumption of fish. There is growing evidence for the neuroprotective effects of the Mediterranean diet and it’s not surprising, as this eating style includes ample antioxidants, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and a wide array of key vitamins and minerals.

The other major diet therapy for prevention and treatment of dementia and other cognitive decline is fasting. This may seem counterintuitive, as fasting isn’t exactly eating certain foods but instead, going without food for certain lengths of time. There is a growing body of research to support fasting, as the body can heal itself and clean out damaged cells, a process called “autophagy.” This cleaning house can only be done when the body isn’t busy digesting a steady influx of food and instead seeks out these cells as a food source. While it’s not advised to initiate long fasts for those who have unstable blood sugar or have not tried fasting yet, a good first step is to practice a 12-hour overnight fast.

It is best to work with a dietitian or other experienced provider who can give individual recommendations. The benefits of fasting not only help prevent cognitive decline and lower the risk of dementia but they can also provide mental clarity for anyone experiencing periods of brain fog or other types of mental impairment. Fasting highlights the innate ability of the body to heal itself.

This content was originally published here.

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