I watched the Broken Brain Series put on by Mark Hyman, MD a few weeks ago so I thought I would share a few things to help educate my patients about how best to assist their cognitive function. Starting with diet it is really key to avoid eating sugar and processed food, artificial sweeteners, refined carbohydrates, and a high glycemic diet in general. Our western diet is high in simple carbohydrates (flour and sugar) but it is terrible for brain function. Avoiding gluten is key to assist many neurological problems. Reducing grain consumption in general is recommended (Grain Brain is a great book which goes into detail about this) and following more of a Paleolithic diet (organic, grass fed meats, wild seafood, organic free range poultry). Intermittent fasting regularly can help improve metabolic function at least 12 hours overnight if not 14 or 16 hours can help with clarity of mind. Following more of a ketogenic diet is particularly good for brain function because the brain is made up of fat. Eating healthy fat is key such as coconut fat, medium chain triglycerides, olive oil and avocados.
Eating high antioxidants in the form of organic fruits and vegetables supplies factors that reduce oxidative stress. Think blueberries, blackberries, black raspberries, turmeric, ginger, brassica family (broccoli cauliflower, kale turnips, radishes, etc.) onions, garlic, beets, mint, fresh rosemary and walnuts. Supplements that may prove useful include curcumin, EPA/DHA, gingko biloba, bacopa, and methylated B vitamins.
Reducing toxins and looking at levels of heavy metals in the brain (mercury, aluminum, lead, cadmium, arsenicum, etc) as well as pesticide and chemical exposures can uncover causation and contributing factors for reduced brain function. Herbs that can help chelate out metals include fresh parsley, cilantro, and algae such as chlorella and spirulina.
Consistent exercise is key as well. Exercise increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor which helps support optimal brain function. Walking daily for at least 45 minutes is good as is burst or high intensity exercise in spurts. Regular meditation whether it be simple breathing exercises or mindfulness training has been shown to improve cognitive performance and consistently improves overall sense of well being.
Engaging the brain by learning new things (languages, taking new routes to work), puzzles, taking classes) can also help preserve and improve brain function.
Please consider purchasing the Broken Brain Series to learn more…