Nutritional Therapy Oxford Dip ION, mBANT
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Healthy Brain and Healthy Thoughts

Healthy-Brains

 

In my last blog I explored how to strengthen our immune systems, especially when faced with the spread of viruses like Covid19. A brief summary is always helpful to remember to put some of these important points into practice! How many of these are you doing today?

  • Less stress
  • Deep breathing
  • Adequate rest and sleep
  • Consuming foods which strengthen your immune system
  • Daily movement and exercise
  • Avoid toxic chemicals whenever possible

In the light of the spread of Covid19, I also wanted to share with you the supplements I am taking in addition to a healthy diet. Please email me if you would like my promo code to get a 10% discount on your order.

  • Vitamin C (upped this to 1000mg x 3 daily) – be careful with ascorbic acid if you have kidney problems
  •  Vitamin D3 – we have both checked our vitamin D levels and ensured that we are above 100nmol/L.  As maintenance we take 1 x Vitamin D3 Complete daily which also contains the Vitamin A we need for good immunity.
  • Zinc – 20mg daily
  • Saccharomyces Boulardii – 1 x 3 daily
  • Olive Leaf Extract – 1 x twice daily
  • Beta Glucan’s – twice daily

We know a healthy body and strong immune system can help us feel as if we are doing something to support ourselves during this uncertain time.  But do they make us more emotionally and mentally resilient?  Does healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices actually make the brain healthier? Does a healthy brain reduce anxious thoughts and fears?  In this blog I’m going to look briefly at some of the more recent findings from neuroscientific approaches to nutrition and health.

 

Nutrition for a Healthy Brain

We have to remember that all the systems in our body are linked. The brain is intricately connected to the rest of the body, so a healthy body is a healthy brain. The brain is an organ just like many other organs in the body including the heart or the stomach and like other organs, it needs good nutrients to function properly. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourish the brain and protects it from oxidative stress, while processed food with few nutrients impair brain function and cause mood disorders and mental illnesses. Research based on human studies has shown that lower intakes of nutrient-dense foods and higher intakes of unhealthy foods each affect the short and long term memory.[1]

There is also a strong link between the gut and the brain. Serotonin is your happy and content neurotransmitter (brain messenger) and more than 95% of this is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, as well as millions of nerve cells, or neurons. This neurotransmitter also helps regulate sleep and appetite, contributes to overall wellbeing and inhibits pain: because of this, it is sometimes called the ‘happy chemical’. The healthy bacteria in your gut activate the neural pathways that travel directly between the gut and the brain. Obviously, the healthier your gut is, the healthier your brain is going to be, so keep on taking those probiotics and cut out all refined sugar! You might like to know that I made the most delicious, brain supporting Salmon Pate last week full of omega 3 for brain and natural yoghurt for gut microbiome. I have added it to my website for you to try as well!

Animal studies show that neuroinflammation induced by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) causes cognitive impairment.[2] LPS come from the cell membrane of ‘opportunistic bacteria’ in the gut (opportunistic bacteria are bacteria that only cause disease in immune-compromised individuals).  These LPS can cross the brain barrier leading low mood and leaky gut, which is in turn linked to:

  • the inability to detox
  • poor digestion
  • poor liver function
  • food sensitivities (MSGs)
  • low thyroid function
  • stress

You can see how inter-related our brain is to the rest of our bodies – from our digestive system and thyroid to our emotions and food sensitivities. Other natural, supportive and effective nutrients that you can use to help protect your brain’s structure and functions include magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, phosphatidylcholine, green tea, and curcumin. B vitamins and herbs such as Ginkgo biloba can help to support oxygenation and the use of glucose in the brain as well.

 

Lifestyle changes for a Healthy Brain

A healthy brain needs good nutrients, and it also needs healthy thought processes with balanced emotions and time to be restored and replenished. Academics working for International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research recognise diet and nutrition as central determinants of both physical and mental health.[3] They write:

The emerging and compelling evidence for nutrition as a crucial factor in the high prevalence and incidence of mental disorders suggests that diet is as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology, and gastroenterology.

Deep breathing is very important for reducing stress and for stimulating the vagus nerve (and the the brain–gut axis). As you know from my blog in January, stimulating the vagus nerve helps shift the nervous system towards a restful, restorative state that lowers the heart rate and blood pressure. The BBC published a good article on the great benefits of deep, slow breathing. Having greater control over our lungs can greatly improve our mental and physical health and research suggests six exhalations a minute can trigger a “relaxation response” in the brain and body.

As a HeartMath coach, I use HeartMath to guide my clients into patterns of slow deep breathing that can help balance emotions, calm an overactive mind and replenish energy levels. HeartMath techniques and technology are based on understanding Heart Rate Variability (HRV) to help people bring their physical, mental and emotional systems into balance. A few minutes of daily coherence practice has been shown to reduce and prevent the negative effects of stress, such as overwhelm, fatigue and exhaustion, sleep disruption, anxiety and burnout. You can find out more about this on my website or talk to me during your next consultation.

Secondly, it might be worth mentioning the Lightning Process as I found this life transforming at changing neuropathways. The Lightning Process depends primarily on the creative training of thought habits. Research in psychoneuroimmunology has shown for years that thought patterns have a chemical and biological impact in the body. It is important to curb those anxious emotions that produce stress hormones which, if produced at high levels over a long time, can have such a negative impact on brain health and mental health.

 

Further reading and listening

Dr Caroline Leaf is a Christian cognitive neuroscientist with a PhD in Communication Pathology specializing in Neuropsychology. You can read more about brain health and nutrition on her website here and also in her book Think and Eat Yourself Smart. Her research is a fascinating reminder that your mind and positive thought processes can change the physical structures of your brain biology. Neuroplasticity shows that it is not just nutrition, but thoughts and emotions that change the brain.

Deliciously Ella has a podcast tilted ‘How to build a healthy happy brain’ in which she talks with Kimberley Wilson, a psychologist, about preventative measures we can take when it comes to brain health. They explore psychological and lifestyle factors that impact on our brain’s functioning and therefore on our wellbeing. They also discuss dementia, depression, anxiety, stress, diet and managing our emotional health.

You might also like to read more about Kimberley Wilson and her book How to Build a Healthy Brain: Reduce stress, anxiety and depression and future-proof your brain. She also has a helpful chart with lists of brain-healthy lifestyle tips that you can tick off each day, available to download online.

 

With every blessing,

Emma

 

Emma Maitland-Carew – Registered Nutritional Therapist

Dip.ION, mBANT, CHNC Registered Practitioner,

Metabolic Balance® Coach, HeartMath Coach.

 

References

[1] Jacka, F.N., Cherbuin, N., Anstey, K.J. et al. Western diet is associated with a smaller hippocampus: a longitudinal investigation. BMC Med 13, 215 (2015). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4563885/

[2] Zhao, J., Bi, W., Xiao, S. et al. Neuroinflammation induced by lipopolysaccharide causes cognitive impairment in mice. Sci Rep 9, 5790 (2019). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-42286-8#citeas

[3] Sarris J, et al. 2015, ‘Nutritional medicine as mainstream in psychiatry’, Lancet Psychiatry, 2.3, pp. 271-274. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(14)00051-0/fulltext

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