In my book, Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s, I write about the final months of my stepfather’s life and our conversation about my passion for healing with foods. He is actually the one that suggested to me to focus on Alzheimer’s disease. At that time in my life I had a strong intention to write my own cookbook, but was still unclear about the focus. For my stepfather to suggest this to me was a blessing in two ways. One, it was a practical step for me to ground my research and intention in an area that was desperately needed in the world. And second, more personally, it was a moment of being seen and heard by a man that had truly been my father, and with his encouragement and acknowledgment I felt something fall into place within me; perhaps the last bit of courage and confidence I needed in order to follow through with my dream of becoming an author.
So from the beginning, the topic of Alzheimer’s held rich meaning and metaphor for me. This is a disease that is in large part a result of inflammation and toxicity in the body. Furthermore, it directly affects the brain and alters just about everything: basic body planning and control, memory, thinking, mood. I had always intuitively known that the food I ate directly affected the way I felt, mentally, emotionally and physically. As I dove into the research and looked more closely at the science emerging in this area, I found evidence in the literature of how nutrition and brain health were intimately connected. I felt inspired by this, and deeply motivated to share the information. I feel that not having this basic information is an injustice to people, who can take charge of their health, if they know the ins and outs of how to do so correctly.
Unfortunately there is still a lot of outdated nutrition advice out there, and I’m the first to admit that this is extremely confusing for an individual who is trying to do the right thing. I myself went down multiple avenues of dieting and through experience and research found my way back to greater health. I think that there are many people out there who are trying really hard and not getting the results they want, and I’d like to be a part of that process by offering solid, evidence-based information that is reliable. In addition to well-researched information, I also try and send the message to readers and clients that developing an inner sensory awareness is just as critical for lasting wellness. In other words, we seem to be living in a time of constant contradictions and conflicting messages.
Good quality research is reliable yet always evolving, so the best way to discern information as it is coming in (through media, books, programs, and people) is to have a strong sense of self. Knowing what you need, and what your own personal feedback systems provide is essential for navigating the path towards health. We really don’t have the luxury anymore of following the fad diets, because as we are discovering more and more, what works for one person will not necessarily work for another. And while I have felt deeply inspired to share knowledge and recipes in my book, I feel equally inspired to invite readers to integrate the information through their own self-knowledge and intuition. Addressing challenges like dementia and other brain and health issues is an opportunity to make concrete changes on the physical level and really awaken into greater self-awareness and self-advocacy. I believe this is the opportunity, or gift, inherent in this particular challenge; that right now in our lives we have the choice to commit to our wellness and do so through our actions regardless of any symptoms or fixing of problems, but merely and mostly, because we are worth it.
Alzheimer’s is such a frightening illness and it is on the rise. Much of the research points to the standard American diet, rich in highly inflammatory ingredients, as the main culprit for this. Modern medicine has been working and trying to come up with treatments, most of which have had little to no success. Putting nutrition on the table (pun intended) brings us into the arena of prevention, where we shift from medication after the fact to creating healthy habits now. We really can’t get away with treating our bodies without consideration, respect, or consciousness and then waiting for the medical community to swoop in and save us when things start to fail. For one thing, modern medicine does not have the answers. But nutritional science is starting to come up with many answers. This does require us to change our mindset about our own health and consider, and thus claim, that we really do have a lot of power to alter our trajectories with the choices we make with our food.
So Alzheimer’s’ and dementia really sets the stage for a very deep dialogue, and I think that is what ultimately draws me into this discussion. We have the opportunity to discuss the implications of our actions on our health, our genetic expressions if we have the genes for Alzheimer’s, and on our quality of life. I think our overall health and wellness directly correlates with our willingness to become proactive and engaged with our own physiology and personal needs for healing. And in general, bringing down inflammation in the body, for which there are many causes in our current diet and environment, is the most significant thing we can do for our health now and in the long run.
This article originally appeared on Hott Books.
Francie Healey is the author of "Eat To Beat Alzheimer's and has a Master’s Degree in Counseling and is both a Certified Health Counselor and Licensed Mental Health Counselor.practitioner.