ElderCare and Nutrition

How Intelligent Supplementation Can Increase Energy, Stamina and Quality of Life  by Peter McCarthy, Guest Expert.

If there is one issue that concerns all elderly people and their caregivers, it is the issue of nutrition.  It is increasingly common to see older Americans suffer frailty, functional decline, and memory ailments such as dementia and Alzheimers.  What is uncommon in our health care system today is to see these issues substantively addressed with nutritional therapies. 

            By that, I do not mean drinking protein beverages such as those commercially available.  None of the commonly available nutrition beverages come anywhere near to  providing the levels of nutrition, as measured in therapeutic doses of vitamins and minerals, which will substantially increase energy, stamina and quality of life among the elderly.  So the elderly continue to suffer from a system that is functionally unable to deliver the type of nutritionally related care they need.

            There are two important reasons why this is so.  The first has to do with the aging process itself.  By the age of 65, over 90% of Americans are unable to produce enough hydrochloric acid in their stomachs to enable them to adequately digest protein.  The hydrochloric acid is necessary for the protein-digesting enzymes such as protease to operate efficiently. 

All too often, elderly people are also on the “Purple Pill,” mistakenly thinking that their symptoms of heartburn are caused by too much acid, when in fact not enough of the right kind of acid is being produced.  The practical result is that many elderly people are unable to digest the very foods that will help prevent the conditions they most want to avoid.

            The second reason the system is unable to provide adequate care is the outdated knowledge of the dietetics community.  The mantra of “eat a balanced diet and you won’t have to take vitamins” has been overridden by the fact that almost no one in America today eats a balanced diet.  Combined with the reflexive, negative stance of the dietetics community against nutritional supplementation, it results in the elderly being deprived of vital information which, if applied, would result in almost miraculous improvements in elderly quality of life.

            A quantitative example of what can be accomplished was presented in the final report of a 2006 Lewin Group study, commissioned by the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance (DSEA).  It shows that over the period 2008-2012, appropriate use of select dietary supplements would have improved the health of key populations and save the nation more than $24 billion in healthcare cost avoidance.

            To cite just one example from this study, appropriate use of calcium with vitamin D for the Medicare population shows potential avoidance of approximately 776,000 hospitalizations for hip fractures over five years, as well as avoidance of stays in skilled nursing facilities for some proportion of patients. The five-year (2008-2012) estimated net cost associated with avoidable hospitalization for hip fracture is approximately $16.1 billion.

            This study examined only four nutrients; existing data indicates that much larger savings could potentially accrue by large scale employment of natural products as an adjunct to conventional medicine.

            The point is that virtually every elderly person in the US needs some sort of nutritional supplementation therapy to continue to productively function. Which begs the question: what kind of supplementation do they need? 

            At the foundational level, most elderly need to be taking betaine HCl tablets before every meal, to assist their bodies in providing adequate hydrochloric acid to digest protein.  That also means, of course, that they should be eating a small portion of protein (about the size of their palm) at every meal.  Protein not only provides the source of amino acids they need to produce energy, it also helps modulate blood sugar so they maintain a consistent energy level throughout the day.  Additionally, they should take digestive enzymes with or after the meal, to help their bodies break down all the foods they eat.

            All of them should be taking a good quality general vitamin and mineral supplement, but not one that can be bought over the counter at the grocery store!  As in all things, quality matters, and I recommend going to a health food store and obtaining the assistance of a knowledgeable staff person to select your supplements.

            As mentioned earlier, all elderly should be taking a quality calcium supplement with vitamin D, to help prevent skeletal damage.

            Since chronic stress is a major contributing factor to all major illnesses, I would also recommend taking the following:

– At least 3000 mg of vitamin C, taken in divided doses at breakfast and lunch.  Vitamin C is the key nutrient for the adrenal glands, the organs that support the stress response;

– A good B complex vitamin, taken in the morning, to support blood pressure and nervous system regulation;              

– A high quality mineral supplement, taken in the evening and containing therapeutic doses of key stress-fighting minerals such as magnesium;

– 1500 mg of a high quality essential fatty acid (Omega 3) supplement, preferably fish oil, taken in divided doses at breakfast and lunch.  This provides the raw material to healthily synthesize the steroid-based stress hormones in the body, such as cortisol, DHEA and aldosterone.  It also has very beneficial effects on heart and brain function.

            As you can see, elder care nutrition is a crucial component of overall wellness. Properly structured and managed, it can make the difference in providing elders a high quality of life, and take a major stressor off of caregivers as well. 

Peter McCarthy, a naturopath and political activist, is the author of Adrenaline Nation, published by Smart Publications (www.smart-publications.com) and available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  He is a 20 year military veteran, with over 16 years in the airline industry as a Boeing 737 captain.  He is also CEO of AHI Productions, an Austin-based media company which is creating NHN TV, the planet’s first broadcast quality TV network devoted to natural health and green living.

Thanks Peter for such an informative article!  Don’t miss my interview with Peter on BlogTalkRadio on Friday, August 24th. at 10:00am.

Here’s to Living a Heart-Centered Life!



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One Response to ElderCare and Nutrition

  1. Pingback: Senior Nutrition | Nutrition Info Here

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