Naturopath and Holistic Health Expert
Last week we explored why we experience brain fog, that thick wooly feeling in our heads.
In this blog we will explore the amazing foods and exercises that act as brain tonics and can boost brainpower, mood, clarity and focus to help you beat the fog.
The human brain is the fattest organ in the body. In fact, 60% is made up of fat. DHA (docosahexanoic acid, a type of omega-3 fat) alone makes up about 15 -20% of your brain’s cerebral cortex. Numerous studies suggest that a deficiency in this essential fatty acid can affect cognitive function and how we learn.
We get this nutrient from one of two sources, breast milk as infants and wild fatty fish or pastured/grass fed animal brains and liver. That old saying we are what we eat is very true in this case – eat brains to make more brain. We can make it from a precursor, a shorter-chain omega-3 called alpha linoleic acid (ALA) found in walnuts, flaxseeds, algae, hemp and chia seeds but the conversion is ineffective in general, and appears to get progressively more ineffective with age. Elevated insulin levels (too much sugar) impair the enzyme- delta 6 desaturase necessary for the conversion.
Eat pastured, organic chicken, duck, lamb or beef livers and pastured organic lambs brains 3 per week. Livers can be enjoyed as a pate. Eat wild sock eye salmon or other wild fatty fish such as mackerel 3 per week. Take a quality, heavy metal free, pure fish oil as prescribed by your health care professional daily.
These are a group of plant pigments that provide health benefits such as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in the body. These molecules are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Some flavanoids have been found to have similar actions to anti-anxiety drugs by enhancing the neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Because too much excitation can lead to irritability, restlessness and sleeplessness, this excitation needs to be balanced with inhibition. GABA, the most important inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain can provide this inhibition, acting like a “brake” during times of runaway stress.
Raw cocoa and blue/black-pigmented berries have the richest source of flavonoids. Some studies have found that blueberries help improve short-term memory, navigational skills, balance and coordination. Consume a cup of a variety of organic berries every day. Enjoy raw organic cocoa nibs or powder 3-4 times per week.
An excellent source of polyphenol, powerful antioxidants that have can help prevent and even reverse age and disease related memory problems such as Alzheimer’s. Oleocanthal, a type of natural phenolic compound found in olive oil helps shuttle the abnormal Alzheimer’s disease proteins out of the brain. According to some studies, olive oil can also have a protective effect against depression. Make sure your olive oil is organic cold pressed or cold expeller pressed and extra virgin. Take 2-3 tablespoons per day over food.
This herb has been widely studied and shown to improve cognition and anxiety. It is known as the brain and nerve tonic. Indicated for nervous, mental and physical exhaustion. Best taken in the form of a herbal tonic or capsule as prescribed by your herbalist or health practitioner.
A simple and cost effective way of boosting blood flow to the brain is by exercising. One study found that exercise that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Other research found that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions that deal with cognition.
Eating healthy, organic plant and pastured or wild animal fats and delicious super foods alongside exercise can reduce both the biological and cognitive consequences of ageing.
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