One of the topics that crop up frequently with people taking care of persons experiencing cognitive decline is food cravings and dementia.
This mostly happens because taste buds become less sensitive as the disease progresses.
Healthy young adults normally have around 10,000 taste buds allowing them to detect all types of tastes from sweet, sour, spicy and salty.
By the time a person celebrates their 70th birthday, the number of taste buds will reduce by over 60%. This implies that impaired people no longer experience flavor or taste food as they did in the past.
It can make them feel as though the food they are eating is boring and bland.
As people age, the production of saliva also decreases, which makes seniors have a dry mouth, making the problem even worse.
The brain’s insulin levels also drop, leading many seniors to have intense cravings for sweet or high-calorie meals.
Experts also link unhealthy food cravings and dementia to the damage of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This is the section of the brain that helps humans have self-restraint regarding diet.
When it is affected in people with dementia, it often leads to food cravings.
The sense of smell also diminishes another factor that contributes to taste decline leading to cravings for additional salt, sugar, or calories.
Managing Food Cravings in People with Dementia
It is not healthy for people with dementia to feed their cravings, especially if all they want is high-calorie or sugary foods.
Caregivers must find a way to address the issue of food cravings and dementia so that the infected persons continue to consume healthy diets that are beneficial to their bodies.
Some of the steps that loved ones and professionals can take to address these cravings include:
Eating Meals Together
Most people who have dementia may eat the healthy meals you provide if you sit down and eat with them, rather than leave them to consume the food on their own.
It also helps to create a calm environment during mealtimes so that the person can focus on eating without too many distractions.
Offer Well-Balanced Meals
The only way that a person with dementia will get the nutrients they need is by eating balanced meals.
Most of the time, individuals will crave sweet things because they do not consume enough carbohydrates to provide their bodies with enough energy.
To prevent issues that arise with food cravings and dementia, it is prudent that the seniors do not skip any meals. Encourage him or her to snack even when they are not hungry.
In addition to vegetables and proteins, ensure that their meals are also packed with complex carbs like whole grains and healthy fats.
Including sweet healthy food options might also do the trick. These may include options like fruits, baby carrots, and the use of honey in meals sparingly.
You can also focus on giving the person more liquids like hot chocolate, soups, low-calorie ice cream, eggnog or milkshakes. Just make sure that whatever goes into their mouths has some nutritional value.
Engaging in Enjoyable Activities
Unhealthy cravings can lead to severe health problems in people who have dementia. Before the problem escalates, the person should replace their urge to eat “bad” food with a pleasurable activity.
Scientists explain that the act of eating and food stimulates a feel-good mood because it stimulates the production of endorphins.
Go above and beyond to identify activities that make the seniors feel good so that you do not have to deal with the negative effects of food cravings and dementia.
This is because a person may want to overindulge in unhealthy food stuff because they are lonely or bored.
Check Medications for Side Effects
At times, seniors with dementia will experience food cravings because of the medicine they are taking. This is especially if they are on antidepressants, which are known to cause cravings for sugary stuff.
If this is the cause, discuss it with their doctor to get the way forward.
During the doctor’s visit, the professional should also conduct tests to ensure that no untreated illnesses are contributing to these unhealthy cravings.
Visiting a dentist is also recommended because sometimes, the craving problems arise because of issues like ill-fitting dentures, or gum diseases.
Strengthen the Part of the Brain Responsible for Dietary Restraint
Another option caregivers and people with dementia have when it comes to tackling food cravings and dementia is to take care of the section of the brain that deals with self-restraint and regulation.