Hey friends, how are you feeling these days…with work, family or the holiday season upon us? If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, maybe it’s time to take a breather and add intentional steps to alleviate stress.
By now you probably know that meditation and other recommended stress reduction techniques previously considered “new age” really work. Many high performers incorporate various forms of meditation into their daily lives because it works (and are a heck of a lot better than drugs & those nasty side effects). There are many forms meditation from walking in nature, guided meditations (especially good if you have an active monkey brain like me), breathing exercises (try inhaling completely for 4 seconds, hold 7 seconds, exhale completely for 8, repeat 9 more times), or simply enjoying the love & affection of a pet. Try them out and see what suits you best.
Why is it important to work on controlling/limiting or reducing stress? Because with chronic stress, the brain atrophies…which means it gets smaller and less effective. When you are stressed, you release cortisol. With elevated cortisol, your brain begins overload and …then begins to degenerate. The parts most affected are the areas of the brain associated with dementia/long term memory.
There are also vascular impacts of stress on our brains due to the flight or fight response. This response releases hormones that decrease blood flow to our brain. Chronic stress has long term effects on our brains.
What else happens? Well, elevated cortisol can also decrease circulation. That’s why it makes sense then to engage in an activity that causes an increase in circulation. Exercise increases your heart rate and oxygen to the brain. On the opposite side of the spectrum, long term sedentary activity decreases blood circulation all over the body. Then, if you add a stress response to being sedentary and possibly a thyroid issue, all these factors impact the health of our brains.
Public service message: The more intense the exercise, the better the benefit because your heart has to pump harder. Try intervals or short bursts of increased energy/effort for 10-30 seconds, 10-15 times.
To recap, we have the impact of stress and a sedentary lifestyle impacting our brains. Now, let’s talk diet. “Type 3 diabetes” is now used to describe dementia because if we indulge in sugar or processed carbs, we get too much insulin. Seriously, our bodies were not made to consume the sugar we load into them daily. Chronic surges of insulin also cause damage to the brain. I’m saying this with a lot of love….so hear me when I say, “If you are tired after meals, it’s time to review what you are eating.” A normal response after a meal should be your hunger is vanished – NOT an energy surge – or an energy drop.
Small changes in our diets can make a HUGE difference with our brain health (& overall health & weight)!
When it comes to gluten…there is a high correlation between neurological symptoms and gluten antibodies – most specifically with wheat gluten. So if you have an inflammatory diet, you are inflaming your brain. It WILL begin to degenerate. As these various factors (stress, blood sugar instability and/or surges, sedentary lifestyles, lack of circulation, poor diet) add up, we will begin to feel foggy. That “fog” is brain degeneration. You have a thought but can’t get to it.
What would a balanced brain focused diet consist of? The key is to eat a diversity of vegetables/plant fibers along with healthy fats and LIMITED sugar/processed carbs. Proteins can also be inflammatory with most inflammatory proteins being milk protein, egg protein, and soy protein. Experts suggest a diet that is A.) gluten & dairy free, B.) one that includes flax seed & fish oils (healthy fats), and for sure, C.) a diet low in sugar and processed carbs to prevent sugar surges, and D.) a diet FULL of diverse vegetables.
The bottom line is that anything that causes inflammation to the body has an effect on the brain.
That would include stress, diet, sedentary lifestyle, arthritis, food allergies, auto immunity diseases, etc. What’s the best way to support our brains?Ultimately, what we should do for a healthy lifestyle and weight is what we should do for our brain: eat properly, exercise with intensity to increase our heart rates, and supplement with dietary flavonoids like turmeric, resveratrol, and polyphenols. Last, try meditation or breathing techniques to lower stress. Laugh. Help others. Try inversion. Get a pet. And educate yourself because you are worth it. Some of my favorite recent reads include:
- Dr. Datis Kharrazian’s “Why Isn’t My Brain Working?”
- Dale Brensen’s, “The End of Alzheimer’s”
- Dave Asprey’s, “Headstrong”
The good news is EVERY little bit helps and most of what helps is in our control. Isn’t it nice that the things we can do to remain healthy, fit and active will also serve our brains well?
I think today is a great day to take action. A friend of mine likes to ask, “What have you got to lose?” Well, my friends, taking no action WILL lead to Alzheimer’s and dementia. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when”. I think a better question is, “What have you got to gain?”
A long, beautiful, and healthy life.
Today IS some day.