Healthy brain function requires many important nutrients, as well as an active, social lifestyle. Factors such as aging, emotional stress, and exposure to free radicals affect cognitive health. A diet rich in antioxidants and essential fatty acids is very important to enhancing memory, cognitive skills, learning ability, mood, and stress tolerance.
The central nervous system is an extremely vital area that has high metabolic requirements. As a result, poor dietary habits can negatively affect brain function.
• Blood Sugar: Fluctuating blood sugar is not conducive to optimal brain functioning and can become a more serious medical concern in the conditions hypoglycemia and diabetes. High sugar consumption can disrupt your ability to think clearly and may increase your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The brain does get its energy from glucose, but diets rich in whole grains, vegetables and fruits offer the brain plenty of fuel without causing fluctuating blood sugar levels. A healthy diet also provides important antioxidant nutrients to protect the brain.
• Fats: The standard North American diet is largely deficient in the healthy fats that support brain and nerve sheath health. This results in compromised nerve conduction and brain cell communication. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that are important to maintaining healthy brain function in early development and throughout life, and may help protect the brain from aging. They are anti-inflammatory and counteract free radicals that cause oxidative damage to brain cells. Good food sources are fish, such as sardines, anchovies and salmon. Other sources of healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut oil and olive oil.
• Hydration: Did you know that the brain is 80% water? The brain depends on hydration for effective nerve cell function; therefore it is important to consume at least 64 ounces of water per day. The need for water increases depending on physical activity and weight.
When faced with a stressful event, the brain triggers the release of stress hormones to help the body respond to the stressful situation. However, if the stress is unresolved, the continual release of stress hormones can damage nerve cells and perhaps cause shrinkage in certain areas of the brain, particularly the hippocampus. The hippocampus is responsible for memory and it is not uncommon for people with prolonged stress to experience memory lapses and difficulty learning. Exercise, diet and an overall healthy lifestyle are all important to dealing and coping with stressors.
Human studies have shown that aerobic exercise can improve a number of aspects of cognition and performance. According to research, starting an exercise program early in life may be an effective way to lower the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease later in life. As little as three hours a week of aerobic activity has been shown to slow down and even reverse brain shrinkage that starts in a person’s forties, especially in regions responsible for memory and higher cognition. Exercise increases the brain’s volume of gray matter (actual neurons) and white matter (connections between neurons). Mental stimulation through brain exercises and education are also very important for keeping the brain sharp.
Heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, cobalt, nickel and mercury are called neurotoxins because they affect the nervous system in a negative way. They can cause malfunctions in the liver, kidneys, the circulatory system, and the movement of nerve signals. Signs of neurotoxicity include loss of cognition, weakness, loss of motor control and tremors. Oral chelation can help remove heavy metals and chemical toxins and reduce the toxic load our bodies endure on a daily basis. Consult with a healthcare practitioner to learn more about chelation.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): Often found in combination with EPA, this essential fatty acid is important for brain development and overall cognitive health.
Phosphatidylserine (PS): PS and DHA are vital for keeping nerve cell membranes fluid.
And finally, here are some tips to keep your brain healthy and working its best.
• Keep in mind the old saying, “if you don’t use it, you will lose it.” Challenge your brain by learning new things and keeping your brain busy.
• Regular exercise and deep breathing increases circulation to the brain.
• Practice stress reducing activities such as yoga and meditation. Make sure that you get enough sleep and are well rested.
• Keep hydrated. Drink at least 64 ounces of filtered water daily to help flush toxins from the system.
• Consume foods that are high in lecithin (source of phospholipids) and B vitamins, including leafy green vegetables, nutritional yeast and soy products.
• Don’t skip meals, and avoid junk food. Fluctuating blood sugar levels do not support optimal brain health. Eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains to feed your brain the fuel it needs.
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