The Importance of Gut Health for Seniors

Seniors should learn more about the importance of gut health as they age.

It’s obvious that maintaining our gut health is important because it helps us absorb nutrients into our bodies, which we need in order to live. But, what isn’t as obvious is the importance of gut health when it comes to other aspects of our well-being. In fact, science suggests that our gut health is inherently linked to our brain health. At any age, it’s not uncommon to experience digestive issues like stomach aches or indigestion. But, as we get older these and other issues such as constipation, diarrhea, and gas can become common occurrences.

Just as our bodies change with age, so does our gut. Our gut microbiome, which is made up of trillions of bacteria that play an important part in nutrient absorption and digestion, becomes less diverse the older we get. This can lead to weak digestion and reduced nutrient absorption, ultimately causing abdominal discomfort, gas, and bloating. When we experience these gut problems, it’s also a signal that something else in our bodies might need to be addressed.

Importance of Gut Health: Signs of an Unhealthy Gut

There are many reasons that your gut might be unhealthy. Food, medicine, and stress can all affect the way our guts work. According to Healthline magazine, there are a lot of ways to tell if your gut might be imbalanced. Here are the top warning signs people with an unhealthy gut experience:

Upset stomach
The most obvious sign of an unhealthy gut or imbalanced microbiome is experiencing stomach disturbances. These can look like bloating and gas or constipation and diarrhea. On the other hand, a balanced gut won’t have problems with digesting and will feel normal.

High sugar diet
If your diet is mostly comprised of highly processed foods that are high in fat and sugar, you run the risk of decreasing the good bacteria in your gut. The problem with sugar is that the more you eat, the more you crave, which can cause you to damage your gut even more. In addition, sugar, especially refined sugar, which we find in processed foods, can cause inflammation resulting in discomfort and even lead to some diseases.

Unintentional weight changes
If you’re experiencing unwanted or unintentional weight loss or gain, it might be because your gut bacteria are imbalanced. An unhealthy gut is unable to absorb the nutrients and fat we need for energy. This can cause weight gain through overeating when our bodies don’t absorb nutrients, or weight loss because of bacterial overgrowth.

Sleep disturbances
Serotonin, which is produced in the gut, is a hormone that affects our sleep. When we have an unhealthy gut, it can result in an imbalance of serotonin, which can lead to insomnia and fatigue.

Skin irritation
Our gut has such a large effect on our body’s health that not understanding the importance of gut health can lead to skin conditions. Diseases like eczema and other skin conditions can be caused by gut inflammation due to an imbalanced diet or food allergies.

Autoimmune conditions
An unhealthy gut has the capacity to increase inflammation all over the body. When this happens long enough, it is thought to alter the way our immune system is supposed to work. This can cause autoimmune disease, which means our bodies attack the immune system instead of harmful bacteria.

Food intolerances
Most people have slight food intolerances, even if they are unaware of them. This means that our bodies have difficulty digesting different foods. If we don’t have the right kinds of bacteria in our gut to process these foods, it can often lead to bloating, gas, diarrhea, pain, and nausea.

Importance of Gut Health: Tips for Improving Yours

When we think about important parts of our bodies, we might immediately think of the brain, heart, and lungs. But the truth is that our guts are just as valuable. In fact, some researchers refer to the gut as “the second brain” because of its deep impact on the rest of the body. Here are a few ways to make sure you’re doing what you can to keep your gut healthy and working properly.

Diversify your diet
Our guts are comprised of hundreds of different types of bacteria. In order to keep these helpful bacteria in our guts, it’s important to eat a variety of foods full of different nutrients. We can do this by trying different vegetables, eating food that is grown locally and focus on foods that are in season.

Concentrate on fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens
Our guts need a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, most of which can be found in fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens. Not only can we get the nutrients we need, but these foods also decrease the risk of disease-causing bacteria in our gut.

Eat whole grains
Our guts need help growing good bacteria in order to prevent our risk of disease and illness. Whole grain foods like brown rice, quinoa, and oats help promote the growth of good bacteria while also increasing feelings of fullness and reducing inflammation.

Add more probiotics to your diet
Probiotic foods help aid digestion and reduce inflammation while also generating various vitamins. Some foods high in probiotics include yogurt, cheese, kefir, and fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut.

The Importance of Gut Health: The Impact on Dementia and Depression

Our guts play a large role in our health and wellbeing, but recent research suggests its impact on our health might be much larger than we thought initially. In fact, a recent study conducted through the Center for Comprehensive Care and Research on Memory Disorders suggests that those who have been diagnosed with dementia have a vastly different population of bacteria in their gut when compared to those who have never been diagnosed.

In addition, some studies suggest that the foods we eat can have a tremendous impact on our mental health. Some researchers suggest that an increased intake of high sugar and fatty foods can cause depressive symptoms, while eating a well-balanced diet staves off depressive symptoms.

Exploring a Healthier Lifestyle at Maplewood Senior Living

Maplewood Senior Living takes gut health, and overall health, seriously. That’s why one of our priorities is to offer foods high in nutrients and minerals in order to keep our residents happy and healthy. Every day offers residents a new chance to pursue a healthier lifestyle. If you’d like to hear more about our culinary offerings or to tour our facilities, please contact us here.

Foods That Fight Aging

It’s no surprise that the process of aging changes our bodies in a variety of ways, some of which we can see and others we cannot. However, what most people don’t know, is that as we age our dietary needs change as well. Because of this, many older adults accidentally put themselves at risk of becoming malnourished. Consuming a well-balanced diet helps strengthen the immune system, and ultimately allows our bodies to fight off diseases and illnesses. When we under-nourish our bodies, we can negatively affect its ability to protect us. Understanding what our bodies need can ultimately keep us out of the hospital, and live healthier, longer lives.

How do our Needs and Habits Change?

 Calories and Appetite

It is not uncommon for older adults to eat less as they age. Most older adults might not be as physically active as they were in their younger years, which means they don’t necessarily need to eat as much as they once did. However, undereating can cause a wide variety of health problems.

Food sensitivities can also affect a person’s appetite, making it difficult to consume the appropriate amount of food each day. Some older adults might experience food sensitivities especially to foods like onions, peppers, dairy, and hot spices. If these are causing discomfort or pain after eating, they might need to be eliminated from your diet.

Nutrition Absorption

Even while monitoring your food and nutrition, medications can interfere with the nutrients your body is able to absorb. If you are taking a variety of medications, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about supplements you can add to your diet.

Immune System

Unfortunately, as we age our immune systems can weaken, making our bodies more vulnerable to illness and disease. However, we can strengthen our immune systems by consuming different types of food and nutrients.

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Food for Thought

The culinary experience at Maplewood Senior Living is one that will leave your taste buds craving more. Through partnerships with local farms, and our own farm in Easton, Connecticut, we’re able to provide fresh seasonal produce that our chefs use to create delicious meals morning, noon and night. Because of this, our residents enjoy the vibrant tastes of each season and reap the long list of health benefits that come from eating freshly harvested fruits and vegetable.

We sat down with Mary Ellen Greenfield, Corporate Director of Culinary Services, to learn more about the benefits of utilizing fresh, locally sourced ingredients and here is what we learned.

Aside from supporting the local economy, sourcing our foods locally allows for produce to arrive at our communities shortly after being harvested. There are a couple of health benefits that come from reducing transport time. The first is a lowered risk of contamination. As food moves across states or changes hands, the possibility of bacteria exposure increases.

Additionally, the more time that passes between the food being collected and being eaten, the more fruits and vegetables lose valuable nutrients. The best time to eat food is right after it’s picked, when the nutritional value is highest. For that reason, transporting food locally, as opposed to across multiple states, can significantly improve the nutritional value to the consumer.

Fresh produce also taste better, which is important for our residents. Appetites often decrease with age, and yet the need for nutrient-rich food remains. We want to provide the best-tasting dishes that our residents are excited to try. With fresh, tasty ingredients, we can offer delicious options, even for residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia, who may have limited ability to eat a three-course meal.

At Maplewood, our connection to farms, including our own, means we utilize fresh foods that grow naturally for the season. Flavors are richer and nutrient levels are at their highest. This close connection to the supply allows our culinary team to design recipes around the freshest ingredients.

An example of these unique recipes is shared below from Giovanni Dillard, Chef at Maplewood at Strawberry Hill. This particular summer kale and carrot salad recipe utilizes kale grown at our Maplewood farm in Easton, Connecticut and is favorite among residents.

Kale and Carrot Salad

Ingredients:

1lb Purple kale

1lb Green kale

2c Golden raisins

4c Shredded carrot

2c Light mayonnaise

2tsp Garlic powder

2tsp Apple cider vinegar

Directions:

Chop kale into bit size pieces. Toss shredded carrot, golden raisins, and kale with light mayo.

Lastly season with garlic powder and apple cider vinegar.

Refrigerate till ready to use to let flavors combine.

Download Recipe: Kale and Carrot Salad Recipe

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Gardening – Benefits to Health & Well-Being

It’s that time of year. Growing season is upon us, and aside from the actual fruits of your labor, there are multiple health benefits to gardening.

Get Outside and Get Your Vitamin D

A 2014 Italian study, published on the National Institutes of Health website, found that exposure to sunlight helped older adults achieve adequate serum vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is needed to maintain healthy bones. Outdoor activities, such as gardening, drive folks outside to soak up the sun, and thereby increase their vitamin D levels. So get out there, and enjoy the added health benefit of increasing this much needed vitamin, which will have lasting effects on your health. Just remember to pack your sunscreen!

Lower Risk of Dementia

Studies have also found that gardening could lower the risk of dementia by 36%. Researchers tracked just under 3,000 people over the age of 60 for 16 years and concluded that physical activity, particularly gardening, could reduce the incidence of dementia in future years.

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Locally Sourced Foods

Here at Maplewood Senior Living, food is one of our priorities and for good reason. The research is clear when it comes to brain health; what you eat matters.

Reaping the Benefits of the MIND Diet

There’s a fundamental reason that we choose to work with local purveyors. At Maplewood Senior Living, our memory care focus means we follow the latest research in the field and incorporate whatever we can to improve our residents’ quality of life. One such study in the field of Alzheimer’s and dementia confirmed the vital role played by diet and nutrition, and introduced the MIND diet.

The MIND diet was developed by nutritional epidemiologist, Martha Clare Morris, at Rush University Medical Center through a study that was funded by the National Institute on Aging.  MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, and it has many similarities to the Mediterranean diet.

With the MIND diet as a guide to our Maplewood cuisine, we focus on the key tenets which include eating the following foods regularly:

  • Vegetables
  • Green leafy vegetables in particular
  • Berries, especially blueberries
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Olive oil

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Residents Come First: Our Person-Centered Approach

“We recognize that a move to a senior living community is a very big emotional journey for families. One of the very first things we do to help make new residents and families feel comfortable is introduce them to our community staff. This allows them to get to know the many experts we have on staff and to ask any questions they may have. Our ultimate goal is to support residents and families throughout the journey so that they have a wonderful experience and thrive in our Maplewood [Senior Living] communities,” said Heather Freemont of Maplewood Senior Living.

Individual Preference & Tailored Approach

There are many ways Maplewood Senior Living puts residents first, and it starts with a tailored nursing plan. We understand that individual needs will vary, as well as personal preferences such as how residents prefer to engage with staff. When it comes to those with an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis, it is even more critical that we tailor the plan of care, as needs are so unique to each resident. We focus our efforts on treating our residents with dignity using the HEART (Humor, Empathy, Autonomy, Respect & Reaching out to others, and Trust & Triumph) approach. Our on-site nurses are available to help residents around the clock.

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Our Culinary Program – A Sensory Experience

At Maplewood Senior Living, our culinary experience is one designed to excite and engage the senses. We start with fresh, locally sourced ingredients that change with the seasons and offer peak nutrition for our residents. Our culinary team creates dishes to delight the palate while focusing on presentation, because along with tastes and smells, sight is also an essential part of our dining experience.

We focus on the senses. Why? Simply because the five senses can be hindered with age and yet they’re critical to improving our resident’s quality of life. Every detail of the dining experience has been purposefully developed, from the expertise, passion and creativity of our chefs and dining staff to our dining environments.

We tailor our culinary experience to help each resident thrive, even when their senses change. Here are just a few examples of how we cater to our residents:

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