“I am the caregiver of my 80-year-old father. He is diabetic, hypertensive, and experiences dementia, a symptom of his Alzheimer’s.

“My dad is on multiple medications. I carefully plan his meals, but, depending upon his mood, he does not always eat properly or get the rest he needs. So he is typically grouchy, uncooperative, and combative when he wakes up in the morning, late in the evening, and occasionally throughout the day. Also, he is so boring and sedentary that his behavior can be unduly stressful and alienating for me. Moreover, he gives me the impression that he has lost the will to live.

“He can walk – usually with a cane for support. And his brain seems to be okay, because he remembers the names and faces of his friends and relatives. But are there any foods that can energize him?”

Alicia McDonald

Dear Alicia,

First, let me say that I really sympathize. You are describing my own father in the last years of his life. This is not a picnic.

Don’t be lulled into thinking that everything’s okay with him “brain-wise” because he remembers family and friends. His brain may not be working on all cylinders, and that may be why he doesn’t interact well with people or have any interest in what’s going on around him. Plus, don’t underestimate the enormous power of medications to produce all sorts of unwanted side effects.

Start by finding a holistically minded MD or a naturopathic doctor and revisit his med list. See what is really essential and what isn’t. If you can get him off ANY of his drugs, do so. And if one of them is a statin drug for high cholesterol, be sure to talk to your doctor about dumping it. “Lowering cholesterol” has absolutely no benefit for a man his age, and may even be a risk factor.

Consider giving him some supplements – notably, COQ10 and L-carnitine, which may help with energy. Consider, too, the super trio for brain health: acetyl-L-carnitine,
phosphatidyl serine, and GPC. All of these have been shown to help with memory, thinking, and sharpness.

Your challenge is going to be to get him to eat. People in your father’s age group are frequently under-consuming protein and, thus, vitamin B12, an important vitamin for both energy AND thinking.

Without question, get him on a vitamin D supplement immediately. It’s been shown to increase both mood and physical performance in older adults, not to mention stronger bones.

Try to center his meals on protein (eggs – whole eggs!), grass-fed beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, and – most of all – fish. Both fish and fish oil will be a vital addition to his diet. Fish oil is highly anti-inflammatory, which your father really needs. It also helps with mood (which could help with motivation and engagement). I can’t begin to tell you how important that is.

The less sugar and white stuff (potatoes, bread, cereals, etc.) he eats, the better, though you may not be able to or need to cut them out entirely. But to the extent that you can give him more protein, you’ll be able to energize him more. And don’t skimp on the fat, especially from egg yolks, coconut and coconut oil, olive oil, almond oil, nuts, dried fruit, and even butter.

– Dr. Jonny Bowden

[Ed. Note: Natural methods – including the foods you eat and the supplements you take – can have a powerful effect on your health. For more natural ways to feel better and live longer, check out nutrition expert Jonny Bowden’s book, The Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth.

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