6 Tips for Better Brain Health

Getting old scares me. And I know it scares you too. It isn't just the changes in appearance and physical ability or the possible need for 5 or more pharmaceuticals that scares me. It is the deteriorating brain health that scares me. I look at my grandfather, who has Alzheimer's, who is so confused, who doesn't know where he is, when he is, or who he is with, and I feel panic. And I look at my parents who now sometimes struggle to find words, forget where they put things and tell me the same story they told last week, and I feel anxiety creeping in. Because I really like my brain. I like remembering things and I like having clear, focused thoughts. And I don't want to end up like my grandfather. 

But then I remember that I am a naturopathic doctor and my anxiety goes away. Because I have all the right tools to nourish and protect my brain. So I invite you to take advantage of my brain and use these tools to get better brain health. Remember, don't wait until you start noticing changes in your brain function. The time is now to start working on your brain health.

1. Get your zzzzs.

Your brain likes sleep. We all know this. The day after a bad night of sleep, we all feel a little sluggish in the mental department. And research has shown us that insufficient sleep worsens our memory, cognitive function, judgment and our mood. And we are beginning to understand why. Researchers have discovered that the brain has a waste removal system called glymphatics that clear away toxins and cellular garbage that interfere with brain activity. But the glymphatics are most active during the deep stages of sleep. So in order for you body to clean your brain, you need to be sleeping well. If you struggle with your sleep, please check Nourishing, Delicious Sleep, my FREE health workshop on a natural approach to sleep health.

2. Feed your brain.

Your brain requires a lot of fuel. More than you might think. In medical school, I had to intensely use my brain for a minimum of 12 hours a day. And I learned that if I didn't snack every hour my brain would go dead. I didn't feel hungry but my brain was voracious for fuel. Now, most of us are not using our brains as much as I had to in medical school, but the point of the story is that we need to be considerate of our brain when eating. 

One of the best things for our brain is balanced blood sugar. Not too high, not too low, but just right. To do this, we want to focus on a whole foods diet. The main sources of carbohydrates should be whole grains like quinoa, amaranth, millet, and brown rice, and starchy vegetables like squash and sweet potato. We want to balance our carbohydrates with healthy proteins from grass-fed meats, legumes, and nuts. Our brain also likes a dose of healthy fats from avocados, nuts, seeds and seeds. For the best blood sugar balance, try to eat meals and snacks that balance the carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. If our food is too high in carbohydrates, our blood sugar will spike and then plummet, which doesn't help our brain. 

3. Stress less.

Yes, is a monster that destroys your health one day at a time. But here is what you need to know about stress and your brain health. Chronic stress, the debilitating stress that plagues us day in and day out, leads to elevated cortisol and cortisol damages your brain. It changes the structure of your brain, predisposing your to mental problems like anxiety and depression and it inhibits the development of neurons leading to problems with memory, learning, and cognition.

Here are a few quick tips to reduce stress and cortisol:

  • 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week
  • daily meditation practice
  • daily breathing practice
  • journaling
  • gratitude practice

To learn more about stress and ways to restore normal cortisol levels, check out my FREE health workshop Gaining Vitality

4. Get moving.

New research has found that our muscles produce a protein during exercise that may stimulate the creation of new neurons in our brain, which can increase your ability to learn and retain information. The study only investigated running as the form of exercise, so more research needs to be done to determine what type of exercise and how long to get these results. In the meantime, I recommend 6 hours a week of moving for overall health benefits. This doesn't mean you have to spend 6 hours at the gym. Just spend 6 hours moving your body, whether you are walking, running, dancing, biking, hiking, doing yoga, or even doing chores like gardening or vacuuming. Just move your body to engage your muscles and stimulate circulation and lymphatic flow.

5. Use nootropic herbs.

Sounds psychedelic, but nootropic simply means enhancing memory and cognition. Typically, these herbs act by increasing blood flow to the brain. 

  • Ginkgo
  • Rosemary
  • Ginseng

Be sure to consult with a licensed healthcare professional trained in both pharmacology and botanical medicine before using these herbs. They are not appropriate for everyone and may interfere with certain medications.

6. Use nutrients.

Certain nutrients may be able to enhance your brain function and prevent deterioration of brain function. A lot more research is needed to determine if these nutrients are truly effective.

  • Alpha lipoic acid
  • Phosphatidylserine
  • Acetyl L-carnitine
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • CoQ10
  • B vitamins
  • Vitamin A

Talk to a licensed healthcare professional to see if these nutrtients are appropriate for you and in what dosage. 

References

  • https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/3956/to-sleep-perchance-to-clean.aspx
  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201402/chronic-stress-can-damage-brain-structure-and-connectivity
  • http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/07/13/can-running-make-you-smarter/?rref=collection/sectioncollection/health&_r=3

Hi!

I'm Dr. Carly and my mission is to create a health revolution. I believe that another prescription is not the answer. I believe in using natural therapies that go beyond the symptoms. And I believe that doctors should spend way more than 7 minutes with a patient. 

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