Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Food Choices and Chronic Disease

There are so many reasons that our family seeks to eat "against the grain" so to speak (non processed, locally raised, pastured and hormone free meat, etc). Supporting local farmers, food security, wanting better living conditions for food animals, concern over GMOs and all the antibiotics and hormones, are all important reasons to seek out better food, as is superior taste and nutrient profile. However, one very compelling reason to seek out better food is the link between an industrial food diet and chronic disease.

I think I've mentioned before that my Mom has Alzheimer's disease. When we were confronted with the undeniable reality that something was not right with Mom, we sought out help from a neurologist. The medication given by this doctor has helped to slow down the progression of her disease, and for this we are very grateful. But as time has gone by, we've begun to really be struck by the fact that we were simply treating symptoms and not addressing the underlying causes of her disease. Since no one really knows what causes someone to get Alzheimer's disease, addressing the causes becomes a guessing game.

We decided to have Mom see (in addition to her neurologist) another doctor, who treats not only symptoms but also the whole person. This doctor ran many extensive (but not expensive) tests and discovered that Mom has many deficiencies, both vitamin and mineral, as well as the fact that her digestive system was not working properly. In addition to an intestinal yeast infection, Mom was not producing enough stomach acid to properly digest her food and was lacking intestinal flora which are necessary for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. She had been slowly losing weight for the last 6 years. That information from this doctor has helped explain the weight loss.

This doctor has Mom on some supplements and is treating her digestive issues with diet. They are ridding her of the yeast infection by cutting out sugar and bread (for now) and by adding probiotics, both in supplement form and through daily servings of unsweetened yogurt. The great thing is that she can do all of this while still taking the medication from her neurologist. One does not cancel out the other. She has been on the new diet/ supplements for a little over a month, and though we are not seeing a cognitive improvement, we are definitely seeing a digestive improvement. She saw her doctor last week and for the first time in 6 years, has not lost weight between appointments!!

We can't help but wonder if there is not some connection between Mom's lifelong processed food diet and her disease (she avoids vegetables as much as possible and loves processed carbs - She is happiest eating a packaged orange cranberry muffin and truly has always believed it to be health food). There seems to be evidence that Alzheimer's is at least in part associated with a lack of nutrition in the brain. In some circles it is called diabetes of the brain because these doctors believe the brain of Alzheimer's patients is actually starving much like the cells of a diabetic. We don't have delusions that Mom will somehow be cured by a better diet and supplements, but we do know that she will feel better with proper nutrition. And we also know that by us avoiding industrial food (even if that is not the cause of Mom's condition - though I believe it is) and seeking nutrient dense real food, we can stack the deck in our favor and hopefully avoid this horrible disease for us and for our children.


PaulaB52 said...

Lori, I'm glad to hear that your mom is not losing weight and her digestive problems are improving.

I know that my parents are going to be faced with extreme health issues in the near future. My mom loves her some Dr. Pepper and my dad loves his Little Debbie snacks, etc. They are both on meds for high blood pressure and cholesterol. My mom does not believe in the correlation between cancer and sugar.

It will be a long battle when/if they move in with me.

PaulaB52 said...

Oh, and I've noticed serious balance problems with my dad who seems to be effected by statins much more than my mom. His skin is always bruised, wounds take forever to heal, and he literally has no balance, constantly tripping or almost falling. This causes immediate concern because with losing cell regeneration, if he falls and breaks a bone, it will take forever to heal because of the statins.

The Book Lady Online said...

Paula, how frightening that your Dad is having balance issues, bruising and difficulty healing. I didn't realize those were side effects of statins. That makes sense though - my Mom has been experiencing them all for quite some time. My parents were both on med for cholesterol and high blood pressure. Dad lost weight and was able to get off them a while back. Mom's new doctor took her off the meds just recently because she said the side effects were worse than the problems they were supposedly correcting, plus the meds were preventing her from absorbing certain nutrients and she was deficient.

I am going to pray for y'all. Having a sick parent is no fun at all and in fact, is much more difficult (and often quite frustrating) than I could ever have imagined.