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Constipation and Dementia - What's the Connection?

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

Constipation and Dementia

January 11th of, 2019 marked two years since my father passed away from dementia. It was a very traumatic experience for me and other family members to watch him suffer so deeply. It was the saddest experience I’ve had to watch his body slowly give up in his last few months and days. I’ve been feeling very guilty about not doing enough to help him being so far away from China. I haven’t spoken about this with many people because it’s too painful to talk about. But more and more, I feel a stronger desire to write something in his memory and also to raise awareness.

Many potential contributors could lead to neurological disorders, such as dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, migraines, essential tremors, and the list goes on and on. We hear a lot about the causes, such as genetics, lifestyles, and environmental triggers, such as chemicals and heavy metals. In my opinion, it’s a multi-faceted combination of triggers that can start years or even decades ago before people start to show symptoms of brain disorders. The brain symptoms are the results of these chronic triggers that have been silently causing damage to our bodies. As a matter of fact, it’s the same pattern for all chronic diseases. We don’t develop cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s overnight. This is what makes it so hard for people to understand that we need to start to establish a proper diet and stick to a healthy lifestyle when we are young. And it’s truly all about prevention.

Looking back, if I have to point out what caused my dad’s dementia, I don’t have a clear answer that can pinpoint it because no doctors helped him find the root causes. But a couple of things I know for sure are:

  • My dad suffered from severe chronic constipation. Constipation and dementia can go together? Absolutely! When you are constipated, it means his detox pathway was problematic. Which is the chicken, and which is the egg? There is no clear answer.

  • The pollution in the big environment in China has got so much worse than twenty or thirty years ago. Also, based on my experience working with clients who suffer from neurological dysfunctions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, they seem to have similar digestive disorders, and chronic constipation is the most common symptom.

Because of my dad’s situation and my experiences working with these clients, and also maybe because I am biased as a nutritionist specializing, I deeply believe there is a deep connection between our digestion and brain health. We nowadays hear more and more that “Our gut is our second brain”, and it IS real that there is a physiologically existing thick bundle of nerves called vagus nerves that runs along the spinal column connecting the hundred million neurons in the gut’s enteric nervous system to the base of the brain at the medulla. Our brain is so deeply connected with other parts of our body, especially our gut, and it only makes sense that it can be impacted by what is going on in the rest of our body. Our brain is not as protected as we used to think it is…

As a functional medicine nutritionist, I strongly believe that we always want to start to work on our gut no matter what health issues we are dealing with because I see it as the foundation of health and the gate to good health and also diseases. The key again is to start to build the foundation early because once the disease has developed, the work that needs to take place to reverse it could be a huge undertaking, and the chance of reversing it will always be unknown.

Let's all ask ourselves: How is my digestive system working? What should I do to optimize it if it is not functioning properly? Digestion is a complex system, and if you do suffer from some symptoms, I encourage you to get it evaluated by an expert or contact me for a consultation.

I hope 2019 is the year we can all reset our gut health to build a solid foundation for better health. This has been my primary goal for my own health and will continue to be my top priority.

Jenny Noland, MS, CNS, CNGS, CKNS, LDN, MBA

Functional Nutritionist in Eugene, Oregon

Board-Certified Nutrition Specialist

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