How often do you think about the health of your brain? Our brain is what controls our entire body, yet I often meet people who are interested more in their clothes, shoes, and cars than their brain. It’s time to start loving your brains and caring for it so it will serve you well. Start by taking just a few minutes of your time to take the BrainSpan test and find out how healthy and fit your brain really is, what nutritional deficiencies you have to support it.
Protect your Brain
Your brain is like the motherboard on a computer, the circuits on an old-style telephone operator’s switchboard, or the electronic circuitry on a smart phone. Nobody purposefully leaves their phone out in the rain or exposes their computer motherboard to harm, and it would be downright irritating if you asked a telephone operator of the 1950s to make a connection, and that connection was interrupted or dropped. Your brain requires the same level of care and protection to keep it functioning well.
The first and foremost, and easiest, step you can take to keep your brain healthy is to simply put on a helmet when you play sports or ride a bike. Brain injuries can develop all kinds of health problems for you in the present and in the future. Don’t hit soccer balls with your head, and wear a helmet while riding a bicycle. Other lifestyle habits that are good to get into is to always wear your seat belt when in a vehicle, and stay off the roof. Per Dr. Amen, one of the most common brain injuries in men over 40 is falling off the roof.
Stop Poisoning your Brain
Of course, you wouldn’t purposefully poison an organ that is so vital to your livlihood! However, many people do this every day when they pick up a cigarette or top off the day with a drink. To stop poisoning your brain, avoid alcohol and illegal drugs, and don’t smoke. We are already bombarded from environmental toxic chemicals, water pollution and polluted air. You don’t need to add more toxins to your over toxic brain with unhealthy lifestyle choices.
How Hormones Affect the Brain
Any pregnant woman or new mother with what is often termed, “mommy brain” will tell you that hormones definitely affect the brain. Though, there are many more hormones than those that run rampant in your system when pregnant that affect memory problems, brain fog, difficulty retaining new processes or learning a new skill, feelings of depression or elation, energy levels, sleep patterns, nervousness, anxiety, fear, pain, joy, happiness, and so much more.
When you think about hormones, an awkward, maturing adolescent is what may come to mind. However, there are a lot more to hormones than that. The word hormone comes from the Greek word meaning, “to set in motion” or to “urge on”. This means that the job of a hormone is to signal, or communicate with, a receptor to produce an end result. This means that the job of a hormone is to signal, or communicate with, a receptor to produce an end result. In other words, hormones work together with receptors throughout the body to regulate physiological and behavioral actions, a lot of which is also initiated within the brain.
Hormones are at work in every function of our body from digestion, respiration, metabolism, sensory perception, sleep, digestion, lactation, stress, movement, reproduction, growth, and moods. When both the signaling hormone and its intended receptor are functioning properly, the body is healthy. If something interrupts this communication, however, the body reacts. Cortisol, Estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and serotonin are just a few of the many hormones that rely on a healthy brain. Cortisol is sometimes called the stress hormone and is associated with negative consequences. Estrogen, according to the Journal of Applied Physiology, affects many aspects of the nervous system including cognitive function, pain, fine motor skills, moods, and has protective effects in preventing strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. It definitely has a strong impact on memory functions, especially short-term verbal memory. Estrogen may even cause new nerve and brain cells to form. Progesterone plays an important role in fine balance of hormones and neurotransmitters. Women are not the only ones who react to hormones on the brain, however, testosterone is also responsible for emotions, memory and sexuality. Serotonin plays an important role in feeling happy and also helps in providing restful nights of sleep.
Don’t be confused about hormones that are naturally occurring in our bodies and external factors, like excess false estrogens that come from damaging elements found in our environment that confuse the receptor sites in our brains and throughout our nervous system. Naturally occurring hormones in our bodies affect the brain, so it’s important to keep them balanced.
Eat a balanced diet including lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Take good quality Omega 3 like those found in baked or grilled salmon, halibut or anchovies and sardines that also provide DHA. Some of the best foods to eat for better brain health include spinach, eggs, red meat, walnuts, Yerba Mate tea, lentils, oats, and flax. Beet juice has also shown some promise of increasing blood flow to the brain in a study done on the elderly. Remove simple sugars from your pantry. Look for colorful fruits and vegetables with polyphenols which act as potent antioxidants. Garlic is also good. Curcumin, found in curry powder is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and has anti-plaque properties. Vanilla bean and oregano are potent antioxidants as well and help fight against that oxidative stress of aging. Coffee in moderation protects the brain and lowers the risk for Alzheimer’s, at one to two cups a day. Dark chocolate also has brain-healthy benefits.
Increase Blood Flow to the Brain
The brain uses 25% of the blood flow in the body. Anything that decreases blood flow, such as nicotine, too much caffeine, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or sleep apnea, prematurely ages your brain. Exercise, on the other hand, boosts blood flow to the brain.
One of the easiest ways to increase blood flow to the brain is by participating in short bursts of exercise that last between ten and 40 minutes. A British Medical Journal study found that briefly working out one hour before an important task improves performance. Another study indicates that musical training also increases blood flow, mainly to the left side of the brain. One of the best ways to improve brain blood flow is to eat foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Exercise your Brain
Not only does our brains need our bodies to take part in regular physical exercise, but we should also exercise the actual brain itself. Neurons, or nerve cells, process and transmit information by making connections through synapses. Play chess and do crossword puzzles, or learn some new dance moves. Every time you learn something new or stimulate your brain, you exercise the brain and even repair or grow new synapses. The best way to grow new synapses is to engage in learning something that requires movement, motor learning.
Keep Stress to a Minimal
As you’re aiming for better brain health, sometimes the things you avoid are just as beneficial as the things you do. For instance, to have a brain in optimal health, it’s very important that you limit as much stress in your life as you can. Long-term stress has been linked to increased risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and the fight or flight sensation wears and tears almost every component of your body, not just your brain. Some of the best ways to fight stress is to do deep breathing exercises, prayer and meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, or guided imagery along with making sure you eat well, get plenty of sleep and exercise.
Do You Experience Any of the Following?
If any of the above symptoms are hindering you from living your life to the fullest, you may benefit from a comprehensive nutritional assessment for your brain health.
A neurotransmitter is the key chemical messenger of the nervous system. The brain uses neurotransmitters for a multitude of functions, such as signaling your heart to beat, telling your digestion to function, and telling your brain to experience certain moods. The key to feeling better is through the balance and proper response of both the calming (inhibitory) and the stimulant (excitatory) neurotransmitters. I can help you support your brain and neurotransmitters by utilizing a specially developed questionnaire, appropriate blood tests, and support with important nutrients, such as amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Certain amino acids are used by the brain to regulate moods, feelings, and body functions.
Journal of Applied Physiology, estrogen effects on the brain – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11717247
Medical Science News, estrogen effect on memory and Alzheimer’s disease – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1337411/pdf/cmaj00058-0090.pdf
Physiology and Behavior, Vol. 149, Beet Juice and Brain Blood Flow – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031938415003297
British Medical Journal, exercise improves brain function – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140408213545.htm
British Pyschological Society BPS, Musical Training increases blood flow to left side of brain – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140507211622.htm
A Brief Introduction to The Brain – http://www.ifc.unam.mx/Brain/segunda.htm
Behav Brain Res., exercise the brain – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24304717