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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Alzheimer's Disease: Nutrition

While there is no special diet required for people with Alzheimer's disease -- unless they have another condition, such as diabetes, that requires a particular diet -- eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is extremely beneficial. With the proper diet, our bodies work more efficiently and we have more energy. This article addresses the basics of good nutrition.

The Basics

  • Eat a variety of foods from each food category.
  • Maintain your weight through a proper balance of exercise and food.
  • Choose foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Try to limit sugars.
  • Moderate your use of salt.
  • Drink eight 8 oz. glasses of water per day (unless you are fluid restricted due to another medical condition, such as congestive heart failure).
  • You may drink alcoholic beverages in moderation (but always consult your doctor).


Ask your doctor if any foods can interfere with the medicines you're taking.

Preventing Constipation

  • Eat foods high in fiber. Good sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Fiber and water help the colon pass stool. Most of the fiber in fruits is found in the skins.
  • Eat bran cereal or add bran cereal to other foods, like soup and yogurt.
  • Drink eight 8 oz. glasses of water and other fluids a day (unless you are fluid restricted).
  • Exercise
  • Move your bowels when you feel the urge.

Tips to Relieve Constipation

  • Drink 2-4 extra glasses of water a day.
  • Add fruits and vegetables to your diet.
  • Eat prunes and/or bran cereal.
  • If needed, use a very mild stool softener or laxative. Do not use mineral oil or any other laxatives for more than two weeks without calling your doctor.

Dining Environment

  • Minimize distractions in the area where you eat.
  • Stay focused on the tasks of eating and drinking.

General Tips

  • Eat slowly.
  • Cut your food into small pieces, and chew it thoroughly.
  • Do not try to eat more than 1/2 teaspoon of your food at a time.

What to Do If You Have a Dry Mouth

As we age, our bodies often signal us less when we are thirsty. In addition, some medications can dry you out, so it's important to keep drinking plenty of fluids.

  • Drink 8 or more cups of liquid each day, 10 or more cups if you are feverish (unless you are fluid restricted).
  • Dunk or moisten breads, toast, cookies, or crackers in milk, hot chocolate, or coffee to soften them.
  • Take a drink after each bite of food to moisten your mouth and to help you swallow.
  • Add sauces to foods to make them softer and moister. Try gravy, broth, sauce, or melted butter.
  • Eat sour candy or fruit ice to help increase saliva and moisten your mouth.
  • Don't use a commercial mouthwash. Commercial mouthwashes often contain alcohol that can dry your mouth. Ask your doctor or dentist about alternative mouthwash products.
  • Ask your doctor about artificial saliva products. They are available over-the-counter or by prescription.

Maintaining Your Weight

Malnutrition and weight maintenance is often an issue for those with Alzheimer's disease.

  • Eat smaller meals more frequently. Eating 5-6 times a day may be easier than eating the same amount of food in three meals.
  • Take a daily vitamin/mineral supplement.
  • Liquid diet supplements may be helpful.

Please consult your doctor before making any dietary changes.


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