As a chiropractor, I spend a lot of my day working hands on with clients to help restore their spine and bodies back to optimal strength, mobility, and wellness. The first step in this journey is to figure out why the body is out of whack to begin with. Often times, mental and emotional stress play as important a role in our aches and pains, as does physical stress or injury. Because mental and emotional stress are a part of our daily lives that cannot be avoided in quite the same was as physical stress, we must look to the tools we have to help our brains function more optimally.
The brain is an extremely busy organ, making it a hungry organ! It may seem strange that what we put in our stomachs can have such a powerful effect on what we think and feel, but this has become increasingly clear from scientific research. There are specific nutrients and changes to a person’s diet that can enhance cognitive performance, memory, and mood as well as reverse the effects of aging.
Fat on the Brain
The brain and central nervous system has the second highest concentration of fat in our bodies. Our brains must have dietary fats in order to function properly and it matters what type we consume and how much. The fat composition of the brain reflects our dietary intake of specific types of fats. In one study done on rats who were fed diets containing different fats, the rats demonstrated differences in cognition and behavior after only a few weeks of consumption. The omega-3 fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic acid is instrumental in the function of brain cell membranes and mediating inflammation. Scientists have found that supplementation with Omega 3 fatty acids stabilize people with depression and mood disorders, increases memory and mental acumen. Dietary sources of Omega 3 fatty acids include flaxseeds, hemp oil, fatty fish, dark leafy greens, and walnuts.
Vitamin B = Vitamin Brain
The family of B vitamins play a prominent role in healthy brain function. A growing number of research studies are showing that those with higher blood concentrations of B vitamins score better on tests of memory recall, abstract reasoning, and psychomotor speed. Maintaining proper levels of these nutrients is critical to brain development, stable moods, increased alertness, and staving off age related memory loss. These vitamins are found in enriched grain products, milk, legumes, nuts, eggs, and dark green leafy vegetables.
The oxidation that occurs as a result of free radical formation plays a major role in brain deterioration as we age. When produced in normal amounts during cellular metabolism, free radicals help the body neutralize bacteria and viruses. However, we are often exposed to dangerous levels of free radicals from pesticides ingested on foods, smoke, and radiation. Inside the body, free radicals quickly proliferate causing cellular death and tissue damage. Vitamins C, E, and Beta Carotene are potent antioxidants. The best dietary sources of antioxidants are spinach, strawberries, blueberries, Brussels sprouts, avocados, red bell peppers, kiwis, and cherries.
Your Brain Is a Muscle
In addition to healthy brain foods, physical exercise is an important component in keeping your mind agile. New research shows that exercise improves blood flow to the brain, spurs brain cell growth and produces more of the positive mood-altering neurotransmitters. In one study, researchers found that the effect of exercise were at least as good as those seen with drugs to aid mental function in Alzheimer’s disease.
By Dr. Sherrie Papa
Dr. Sherrie Papa and Teresa Smith are a mother and daughter Coaching for Life Team.