Brain Fog, Memory Loss and Emotional Instability all have one thing in common –Neuro-degeneration. Neuro-degeneration occurs when the neurons, the brain cells that transmit information, die due to lack of activation, stimulation or proper nutrients.
The following are some simple steps you can take to provide your brain with its basic nutrients, while keeping it active, and stimulated:
1. Keep your blood sugar balanced
Eat every 2-3 hours and be sure to include lots of protein and veggies in your meals. Balance every sweet food with some protein, fiber or fat. This will reduce the speed at which the sugar leaves your digestive system and enters your blood.
Fat free ice cream, fat free cookies, or fat free sweetened yogurt products are detrimental to your blood sugar balance.
Maintain a goal to keep your blood sugar within a tight range, by not allowing it to rise quickly, by eating sweet foods, and not letting it drop quickly by skipping a meal. Nuts and seeds are great snacks, because they are high in protein, as well as essential fatty acids needed to reduce inflammation in the brain.
2. Provide Oxygen to your brain
Engage in some form of aerobic exercise every other day for 30-45 minutes. This will increase the flow of oxygen, another essential nutrient, to the brain cells.
It is important to wear a heart monitor, or at least take your pulse after 5-to-10 minutes of exercise. For an optimal aerobic workout, you need to remain below your maximum heart rate. Here is a simple calculation to determine your maximum heart rate:
Male athletes – MHR = 202 – (0.55 x age)
Female athletes – MHR = 216 – (1.09 x age)
When you exercise above your maximum heart rate your body will stop burning available glucose and fat, for fuel but instead will tap into the storage glucose supplies, called glycogen. When this happens your body releases Adrenalin and Cortisol. In turn high levels of adrenaline and cortisol can lead to Hippocampal damage, an area of the brain responsible for consolidation of information from short-term memory into long-term and spatial navigation. More importantly, an increase in these hormone levels will make your brain more susceptible to assaults from environmental toxins and chemicals. The Blood Brain Barrier normally prevents these toxins from entering the brain, however, with an elevation of these hormones the Blood Brain Barrier, in essence, becomes more permeable, readily allowing the toxins to pass through.
3. Increase consumption of Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s)
Our cell membranes are EFA derived, as well as 60% of our brain mass. Many neurological disorders have been shown to be associated with altered EFA status, including Attention Deficit Disorder, Multiple Sclerosis, clinical depression, dementia, seizure disorders, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetic neuropathies.
To maintain healthy brain function, you should consume cold water fish, such as tuna, mackerel, salmon and sardines, 2-3 times a week. Other good fats good fats you can include are: flax seeds, avocado’s, coconut oil, olive oil and nuts and seeds in your diet.
Your EFA supplement should include a minimum of about 700-1000mg Eicosapenthaenoic Acid (EPA) and 700-1000mg Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). Refer to the Supplement Facts on the back of the supplement bottle for these amounts.
4. Increase consumption of Methyl-donors
The amino acid Homocysteine, when elevated, has been demonstrated to be an independent risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Additional risks include cardiovascular disease, macular degeneration, hearing loss, and migraine headaches. Methyl donors such as B vitamins, folate and MSM (methyl sulfonyl methane), can convert homocysteine to methionine, another amino acid with no adverse effects.
To increase levels of methyl donors, eat a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, nuts, seeds and legumes while reducing intake of meat, dairy and egg products.
5. Reduce Stress
Elevated levels of Cortisol, a stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, have been associated with neuro-degenerative disorders. Here are some adrenal stimulants which will inevitably raise Cortisol levels and should therefore be avoided:
Foods you are allergic to
Partially hydrogenated fats – inhibit steroid hormone synthesis
Overtraining or excessive exercise
Inadequate sleep – too few hours of sleep or poor quality of sleep
Mental, emotional, and physical stressors (such as: pain, infection, toxin accumulation in the body, working at night or frequent travel across time zones, unstable family life, death in the family, unhealthy work environments, and etc.)
. Reduce Inflammation
Sixty percent of our immune system is located around our gut in what is a called a Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissues (GALT). When antigens, such as a bacteria, fungus, virus or food allergies or sensitivities are presented to GALT, our immune system reacts by producing inflammatory mediators which travel all around the body. They can create systemic inflammation. This inflammation can affect the glial cells, the glue-like cells in our brain that provide protection to the neurons.
Once glial cells are inflamed in a condition called gliosis, they release inflammatory cytokines that cause neuronal cell death or neuro-degeneration. This process has been identified in conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, as well as ischemia, edema, and seizures.
To reduce inflammation, be sure to eat a diet abundant with vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds, whole grains and fish. Avoid foods that can instigate an inflammatory response. If you notice a change in bowel movements, especially after travelling or eating a suspect food, you should consult your doctor. This is where a naturopathic physician can play a vital role. Your naturopath will be able to check the level of inflammation in the body, as well as run tests that will analyze gut health and food sensitivities.
7. Stimulate your brain – Keep those neurons firing!
Research has demonstrated that playing brain games, reading books and participating in activities such as bridge and chess, improve cognition and auditory processing speed. You will find many computerized brain games readily available online. Brain game apps are also available for hand-held electronic devices.
Balance exercises such as Yoga, stretching and using a rebounder (small trampoline) can positively stimulate your brain.If balancing exercises are harder on one side, try spinning to that side.
For right side stimulation, spin clockwise.
For left side stimulation, spin counter clockwise.
If hearing is impaired in one ear, listen to music with that ear while blocking the good ear.If left side – Listen to irregular and spontaneous music such as Jazz
If right side – listen to repetitive beats and sounds
If one of your eyes can’t appreciate or differentiate bright colors as in a bright art work, close your good eye and try to stimulate your opposite eye by looking at complex and bright art work.
8. Maintain adequate supply of Brain neurotransmitters
You have probably heard of Serotonin in association with depression, or Dopamine, often mentioned in relation to Parkinson’s disease. There are other neurotransmitters such as Gamma-AminoButyric Acid (GABA) and Acetylcholine.
Research has demonstrated that massage can increase serotonin levels and meditative yoga can increase dopamine levels. As well, we now know that acupuncture, acupressure, manipulation therapies and olfactory stimulation such as aromatherapy can increase neurotransmitters and subsequently improve brain functioning.
It is important to note that these sensory-based therapies have a greater effect on the brain only when the brain has been adequately nourished with the nutrients mentioned.
If you follow the first 7 steps of this 8 step protocol, it is likely that your neurotransmitters will naturally balance out; however, people sometimes need a boost to increase the availability of neurotransmitters in the brain.