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Alzheimer's Disease: Nutrition

While there is no special diet required for people with Alzheimer's disease -- unless they have another condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes that may require a particular diet -- eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is extremely beneficial. This article addresses the basics of good nutrition and the challenges faced by a person with Alzheimer's disease.

The Basics

  • Eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods from each food group.
  • Maintain a healthy weight with a good balance of exercise and food.
  • Limit foods with high saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Cut down on sugars.
  • Limit foods with high sodium and use less salt.
  • Stay hydrated (some people may have fluid restrictions due to another medical condition, such as heart failure or liver cirrhosis).

 

 

Medications

Ask your health care provider if any foods or drinks can interfere with the medicines you're taking.

Check to see if any medicines you are taking are affecting your appetite, bowel movements, or other side effects that can affect your nutrition. Your health care provider may be able to make adjustments to your medication regimen or recommend alternatives to alleviate side effects.

Preventing Constipation

  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These are great sources of fiber, which can help curb constipation. 
  • Drink enough water or other fluids.
  • Stay physically active.

 

 

 

Relieving Dry Mouth

With Alzheimer's, the body's signal for thirst may be diminished. In addition, some medications can be drying. Besides drinking water, other ways to relieve dry mouth or increase fluids include

  • Dunk breads, toast, cookies, or crackers in milk, hot chocolate, or tea to soften them.
  • Take a drink after each bite of food to moisten your mouth and to help you swallow.
  • Add broth or sauces to foods to make them softer and moister.
  • Eat sour candy or fruit ice to help increase saliva and moisten your mouth.

 

 

Maintaining Your Weight

Malnutrition and weight maintenance are often issues for those with Alzheimer's disease. Poor nutrition related to Alzheimer's may be related to different reasons, such as a diminished sense of hunger and thirst, problems eating or swallowing, problems using utensils or inability to self-feed, poor food choices, and depression.

  • Eat smaller meals or snacks more frequently. Eating 5-6 times a day may be easier than eating the same amount of food in three meals. 
  • Take a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement.
  • Eat the more nutritious, higher-calorie foods in the meal first.
  • Prepare meals that are easy to make and eat.

  • Make meals enjoyable. Eating with others may encourage you to eat better.
  • If you have problems eating or swallowing, talk to your health care provider. Chewing and swallowing problems can be a choking risk. Your health care provider can recommend a special diet or certain foods to make it easier for you to eat.
  • Maintain good oral care. Brush and floss your teeth and clean dentures regularly. Make sure to see your dentist for checkups and routine cleanings.
  • If you have a problem using particular utensils or dishes, choose a different utensil or dish that is easier to handle. For example, it may be easier for you to eat with a spoon and bowl than a fork and plate. Have finger foods available to eat or ask a friend or family member to help prepare foods that are easier to handle.
  • Staying physically active can stimulate appetite.
  • Seek treatment if you are feeling depressed. Poor appetite and weight changes can also be symptoms of depression.

Please consult your doctor before making any dietary changes. You doctor may recommend a nutritionist to make dietary recommendations depending on your individual needs.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 07, 2014
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