Your Brain on Food: How to Reverse Dementia

As the old saying goes, “you are what you eat.” That bit of conventional wisdom is just as true today as it was when your great grandmother used to say it. Food fuels the body, especially plant-based foods created by photosynthesis.  It creates the chemical energy which our cells use to create sugar, protein, vitamins, and minerals and run enzyme reactions. Making the right shifts in your diet can have a profound, immediate impact in increasing your energy level, sustainability, and overall physical and mental health.


Alkaline Diets


Alkaline diets are an interesting concept, that occupy a difficult place in the mainstream medical community. The name is somewhat misleading, but they confer very real health benefits — just not for the reasons you might expect. Centuries ago Chinese medicine had discovered that certain foods lowered the pH of urine and directly helped treat kidney stones. The link between bodily health and acidity came to depend on what’s now often referred to as the “acid ash hypothesis.” This hypothesis surmised that certain foods, when metabolized and broken down in the body, resulted in acidic, corrosive byproducts especially to bone tissue.


An alkaline diet helps decrease creating acidic waste products. Note that the diet has nothing to do with the relative alkalinity of the foods. Dairy products, for example, are alkaline in nature but inside a human create an acidic reaction. While the acid ash hypothesis is now generally discredited, the prescribed diet confers a wide variety of health benefits.


An alkaline diet restricts any high-protein foods from animal sources, alcohol, sugar, caffeine, and processed food.  It also limits GMO items such as soy, corn, wheat, bread, potatoes, sweet potatoes, eggplant, and tomatoes since they cause an acidic reaction from overconsumption.  Increased blood acidity leads to inflammation throughout the body. Excess inflammation leads to health concerns.   


An alkaline diet, on the other hand, is heavy on items naturally rich in water.  For instance, any items which when cooked easily changes its shape is alkaline. Nutrients, minerals, vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein are more bio-available (aka., easily extracted) from these foods. The most alkaline items include green vegetables, legumes (small versus bigger beans), ancient whole grains (i.e., quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat), fruits.  These foods mixed with a variety of spices can increased the digestive power of these items.


It’s important that the diet be kept in balance with 80% of the items you eat are alkaline and 20% are acidic.  For example, balance a super alkaline fresh green vegetable smoothie with a tiny piece of wheat pasta.


How an Alkaline Diet Can Help with Dementia


The brain operates on chemical and electrical signals driven by the cells creating enough energy to drive enzymatic reactions inside cells.  When cells are unable to produce sufficient levels of energy, our brain function begins to decline. Dementia describes significant deterioration in cognitive functioning, like memory, speech, spatial reasoning, problem solving, and other daily thinking skills caused by persistent cellular damage over decades.  The inflammation within the blood has become increasingly too high, and is not adequately controlled by a sufficient number of thriving cells. Full-blown brain deterioration (aka., dementia) begins to negatively impair a person’s and his support system’s quality of life.

The brain uses more oxygen relative to its size than any other part of the body. It is exposed to every toxin, ‘free radical’ oxygen ion, and wayward chemical compound in the body.  An acidic diet exposes the brain to more toxins without sufficient fuel available to help repair the damage caused. Dementia results from progressive deterioration which outpaces or inhibits the usual regenerative process.


An alkaline diet, on the other hand, gives the cells high levels of sustainable fuel to start rebuilding new neural connections.  Your body is able to constantly produce new neuron and neuron connections. This, in turn, improves cognitive function and slow the rate of deterioration by increasing the body’s rate of neuroregeneration.


Treating Your Body and Mind at Advanced Health


The core tenet of the medicine we practice at Advanced Health is that the body, mind, and spirit must be treated holistically. It’s impractical to try to separate discrete systems, like digestion and cognition, since the whole webwork is interrelated. In this case, dietary choices, like indulging or avoiding animal protein and processed foods for example, can have a very real impact on the severity and prognosis for dementia.


While a clean diet is a great start, there’s more to dementia than just fuelling your body with the building blocks. That neuroregenerative process is most effective when the mind is kept active, with having a consistent routine, meditation and problem-solving. At Advanced Health, to supplement our nutritional counselling, we offer mental wellness coaching to keep your mind stimulated.


By following a wellness regimen like ours, getting plenty of exercise, sleeping regularly, and managing stress, you can take charge of your brain’s health, curbing and reversing dementia.


Contact Advanced Health today!  Book a consultation for you or a loved one. If you have any reason to suspect that you may be experiencing cognitive decline, now is the time to take action. Dementia is easiest to treat in the earlier stages, so don’t hesitate. Contact us today!

Dr. Harlan South Dr. Harlan South is a Holistic Integrative and Age Management Physician located in Pacific Heights, San Francisco.

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