Genetics loads the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger

Sadly, at present, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. So, the question on our minds surely has to be…

Is there anything we can do to prevent developing it in the first place?

We’ll dig a little deeper into the subject of Alzheimer’s prevention and nutritional choice in this post with the help of certified health and wellness coach, Liz Phelan. We learn why Alzheimer’s prevention has a personal significance to her, the integral role our food choices play in our wellness, and a strategy to implement a positive nutritional change into our lives!

So, let’s jump straight in and ask Liz what inspired her to become a nutrition coach and why she is so passionate about this field…

“By the time you have Alzheimer’s, there will be a cure” replied mom’s neurologist when I asked if I should be concerned about developing the disease, as both my parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

While I am sure the neurologist was trying to prove me comfort, his words did not. The idea of waiting with bated breath for science to “possibly” find a cure, was not at all comforting to me. Over the course of 5 years, I intimately watched my father lose his brain and body to this disease. I am now I am doing the same with my mother.

For years, I was consumed with the fear that I too was going to suffer this same fate. I felt powerless. I felt overwhelmed. I feared for myself and my children.

And then I read Shawn Stevenson’s book, “Eat Smarter”. Shawn devoted an entire chapter to brain health. This one chapter provided me with the comfort and the hope I was seeking.

I was already a health and wellness coach partnered with Team Beachbody and with this information from the “Eat Smarter” book, I had a renewed interest and passion to learn more about nutrition, focusing on Alzheimer’s prevention. In my excitement, I earned a variety of nutrition certifications that gave me the knowledge, skills, and confidence to firmly believe Alzheimer’s prevention is possible.”

So Liz, it looks like you and I share a common fear that has inspired us both to take a positive approach to our wellness. The last thing I want for my family is to go through the same dementia journey that we have recently experienced with my mum. So, is there hope? How does food play a role in Alzheimer’s prevention and is it possible?

“Our cells are made up of the food and liquid we choose to consume. We can choose to heal or hurt ourselves with our food and drink choices.

Water is always a great first choice for our bodies and brains. Our brains are made up of 73% water. When we choose water as our beverage of choice, we are providing amazing nutrients and hydration to our entire body and brain. Drinking an adequate amount of water is also important to clear out the metabolic waste from the brain.

On the other hand, if we choose sugary beverages, such as soda, juice, or sport drinks, we are flooding our bodies and brains with such huge amounts of damaging sugar. Foods with Omega -3 fatty acids are vital for brain health. Excellent sources of Omega 3 can be found in wild caught salmon, Grass fed beef, pastured egg yolks, and mackerel and trout.

MCT oil is another nutrient that is brain healing. MCT is one of the few nutrients that can pass the blood brain barrier and be utilized by the brain’s cells.

Blueberries, leafy greens, avocados, and walnuts (kind of looks like a brain), dark chocolate, green tea, spirulina, broccoli, and extra virgin olive oil are also amazing brain healthy foods. These foods encompass amazing vitamins and minerals and help with reducing inflammation.

Is Alzheimer’s prevention possible? I certainly hope so. I do believe in epigenetics, which means our lifestyle choices can cause positive or negative changes in how our genes work.

I believe if we prioritize quality sleep (allowing our glymphatic system to remove the metabolic waste from our brains), joyfully move our bodies daily (creating BDNF’s; essentially miracle grow for our brain), and choose healthier foods and drink at least 80% of the time, we are substantially increasing our chances to prevent this disease.It is also important to reduce chronic inflammation and we can do that by not smoking or drinking excessive amount of alcohol, limiting our sugar intake and reducing the amount of ultra-processed foods we consume.

I believe, these lifestyle choices can not only prevent Alzheimer’s disease but many other devastating
diseases as well.”

That just makes so much sense, thank you for sharing! So, lets say I am ready to make a positive change and take control of my nutritional life. Food can be such a personal thing and peoples relationship with it varies considerably. For those of us who have tried and failed before in achieving our food goals, let me ask you this… What is the key to implementing a sustainable and healthy ‘lifestyle change’?

“Change is extraordinarily difficult. The first step is acknowledging that yes, we do indeed want to change. It’s important to want to change for ourselves and not for someone else. For example, if we decide to quit smoking because our Aunt Betty wants us to, that’s great, but highly unlikely to be long-lasting.

However, if we choose to quit smoking because we are sick and tired of wake up feeling poorly, with stinky hair and clothes and our fingers are nicotine stained, and we want to be a positive role model for our children, and overall, we want to live a long and healthy life (or whatever the reason may be). Now we are cooking. Now we have a personal reason to make the change.
The next step is to determine the goal we are seeking. Are we wanting to lose 30 lbs? Are we wanting to complete our bachelor’s degree? Are we wanting to get a new job? Are we wanting to learn a new skill, like knitting? Whatever the goal may be, once we have this specific goal, we want to break down the goal into the tiniest steps possible. For example, if our goal is to run a 5k by November, but currently we are pretty sedentary, we need to establish the tiniest of actions. And I mean tiny. If a person isn’t exercising and has the goal of completely a 5k, walking 5 minutes every day is going to be a challenge. So we start there, with 5 minutes.
Two incredibly helpful books concerning creating habits for a lifestyle change are “Atomic Habits” by
James Clear and “Tiny Habits” by BJ Foggs.

In “Atomic Habits” we learn we need to “habit stack”. What this would mean would be for our person wanting to complete a 5k in November and starting out walking 5 minutes every day is to add or stack this new habit with one they are already doing. For example, if every morning, they start the coffee pot, they could add or stack this new habit of walking 5 minutes to their day. We definitely need to review our day for the best opportunities to stack new habits.

BJ Foggs believes in celebrating after accomplishing the tiny action. Every time we complete our tiny action, we celebrate. For our walker, we’d encourage them to celebrate every time they complete their 5-minute walk. This could be with a high five to self or a little dance or a new coffee flavor, whatever brings them joy. Celebrating helps cement this new tiny action into a tiny habit. The more confident one becomes in the tiny action; they can build upon it.

Ok, so we have the motivation, and a strategy to implement a sustainable change. That just leaves us with the all important question… what do we eat? What’s in your refrigerator right now?!

“I have a few stables in my pantry and refrigerator to support my brain health. I love starting my day with toasted sour dough bread with goat cheese and avocado spread and shredded chicken. Dan Buettner, who wrote the Blue Zones books, promotes sour dough bread and goat cheese as two of the healthier foods one can eat.

I add powdered MCT oil, 1/4 tsp of Ceylon cinnamon, a handful of blueberries, and 1 cup of walnut milk
to my daily shake for the purpose of brain health. I try to have as many whole foods as possible available for meals and snacks. Beef sticks from paleo valley are a favorite as are cauliflower pretzels and hummus. I also enjoy scrambled eggs with cauliflower and sweet potato rice.”

Thank you Liz for sharing your insights and experiences! I hope this helps others on their own personal journey with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. If you wish to reach out to Liz and find out more on how food can help with Alzheimer’s prevention then you can follow her on Instagram.

If you missed our previous blog entry about the discovery that led to my lifestyle change then you can catch up with that here.

fruit and vegetable farmacy

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