Natural Health Notes with Dr. Patrick Callas March 2016
Better Brain Health
Whether you are going back to school this fall (maybe… soon?) or in the figurate fall season of your life, there are ways to keep your brain in optimal health.
Circulation – Blood flow takes nutrients to our brain and takes the waste out. To improve brain circulation get regular exercise and eat a diet rich in both omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) and antioxidants. Furthermore, regular headstands, good posture and a properly aligned spine, and atherosclerosis prevention all improve blood flow to the brain.
Nutrients – Omega-3 EFAs are found primarily in oily fish. Vegetarian sources include flax seed and walnuts. One particularly essential component of omega-3 EFAs is Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is essential for the growth and functional development of the brain in infants; most crucial from conception to at least the age of 2 when a lot of the wiring of our nervous system happens. DHA is also required for maintenance of normal brain function in adults. Adequate levels of DHA improve learning ability.
Antioxidants reduce inflammation which damages the brain and contributes to conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The best natural source of antioxidants are colourful vegetables and fruits. For example, blueberries have been shown to improve short term memory loss and reverse some loss of balance and coordination. Furthermore, the antioxidants in blueberries can help maintain healthy blood vessel walls and thus good circulation to the brain.
Finally, adequate vitamins and minerals are essential for brain and body function. Nuts and seeds are a good source of essential minerals (e.g., zinc), vitamin E, and healthy fats in general.
Toxins – The rise in dementia and Alzheimer’s is – at least in part – due to the increasingly toxic environment we live in. In the last century alone we have dumped thousands of industrial chemicals in our world and only safety tested about 200 of them. Yikes! Toxic metals (a.k.a., heavy metals) are a major problem for brain function and health. In particular, mercury and aluminum can do the most harm to the brain. Mercury has long been known as a neurotoxin; it was in chemicals used by hat-makers back in Victorian England and is a reason for the character of the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. Currently, the top sources of mercury are in amalgam fillings, large migratory fish (e.g., tuna, swordfish, shark), preserved vaccines, and to a lesser extent in the fumes emitted coal-burning power plants.
The most common toxin in the human diet is too much sugar. Excess, refined sugars are harmful to our bodies in many way. For one, excess sugars or high glycemic index diets, lead to insulin resistance and inflammation throughout the body, including in the brain. Poor blood sugar may cause a type of “diabetes of the brain” in susceptible people. The first step to avoid a frosted brain is to eat low glycemic index foods, as well as protein, fats and fibre with every meal.
For more ways to enhance your brain health, improve memory, and even reverse brain injury, talk to your local Naturopathic Doctor.