If you’ve been following along on our brain health posts then I think you’ll agree this is of most importance!
We need to do all we can to support our cognitive functions and we now know the foundation is a healthy diet that is loaded with colorful foods that feed our brain and give it the fuel it needs.
Now I’ve heard many people complain that they have trouble remembering names, what they were looking for or even what they had for breakfast! I think there are things we should be doing to exercise and stimulate and challenge our brains!
Here are just a few ideas:
Do puzzles – crossword, search word or jigsaw
Learn something new! How to crotchet, play an instrument, a new sport or even try to learn a new language
Try making a list and recalling it by memory and see how many you can remember
Play games! Nothing like a good trivia game or even match game
Stimulate your senses! Try and name the flavors your tasting, be descriptive describing how something feels or what your hearing and take in all the visual beauty!
Of course rest is also important for brain health. Getting enough sleep and taking time to quiet the constant chatter that runs through our mind all day is crucial for our moods, immunity and dealing with stress that can greatly affect our brain health.
Lastly, being social and connecting with others could help with memory loss. Stimulating conversation and close friendships are proven to release oxytocin, the feel good hormone counter acting against the fight/flight hormone response.
If you’re looking for a well-known brain boosting adaptogens, one of our favorites is Lions Mane! Lion’s mane mushrooms have been studied for their neuroprotective benefits and their ability to regenerate and protect brain tissue. You can try it out in our Acorn Cafe by adding into your beverage, or purchase from our Harmonic Arts stock and add into oatmeal, soups, etc. Great for those foggy brain moments too!
We can’t talk about brain health without looking into our gut and recognizing the relation between the brain and everything gut related. What happens in your gut/GI tract is essentially what happens in your brain. This has scientists calling the gut the 2nd brain! The gut and the brain are in a big time romance. They are entwined and can effect all of our bodily health, including brain function and how we feel everyday.
You’ve heard the term “having a gut feeling,” and well, it’s definitely something you can pay attention to. Our brains have hundreds of millions of neurons connected to our nervous system which control our gastrointestinal system.
What’s even more amazing is that within the GI tract, it is estimated this is where 80-90% of the body’s serotonin is made (that happy hormone!) So the brain operates our bodily functions, but the gut can also send messages to the brain.
Not convinced? Think about how certain foods affect how you feel, like chocolate. Chocolate releases endorphins in our gut and sends that “feeling good” message to our brain. Of course this can work the opposite way too. High fat processed foods for instance, can make us feel tired and sluggish. There is so much going on in brain-gut connection that I really encourage everybody to take note of how foods make them feel and maybe even keep a journal for reflection and assessment. This is obviously such a complex system, so if you are keen to research more, you might like this research manuscript I found that really delves into exactly how food controls the brain and cognitive health. It’s a big read but very interesting!
So to aid our gut health, which would also aid brain health is to not only eat healthy “rainbow foods” that I spoke of in the first part of this series, but also by adding fermented foods and kombucha into your diet. Both of which are perfect for assisting in balancing the gut flora. We have billions of bacteria living in our body, so we want to be sure that there is enough strong, good bacteria in there to keep viruses and fungi away. Which also helps to prevent disease. Adding 1 or 2 servings of kombucha or fermented foods daily can have a huge impact on your overall well-being, especially, of course on your brain health!
If you are interested in learning more about kombucha and even how to make your own, we have two upcoming workshops with Wolseley Kombucha. You can register here. Or you can always purchase a growler from us and fill it up at our Wolseley Kombucha tap, in-store!
Over the holidays and spending time with aging family members, I really became aware of how forgetful they were becoming, how they had trouble recollecting memories or were experiencing general confusion. I started reading up on these issues and discovered that this is something we really need to be concerned about.
I first found this overwhelming statistic that stated if we live to the age of 85, half of us will more than likely develop Alzheimer’s. According to the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba there are more than 22,500 Manitobans that have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. This number is growing at an alarming rate and by 2038 it is expected to reach over 40,700!
There are of course risk factors listed on their website and areas that we should look at changing in our lifestyle, but there is no known cure at this time. Now this of course is alarming because we easily take our organs for granted and our brains have a 24/7 job like the rest of them! Unlike the other organs that perhaps have a main job, our brains are responsible for multiple!! Our brain is responsible not just for our thoughts, but our breathing, our organ functions, our movements and is basically the power source of our whole body!
So if there is no cure and we need our brains to be fully functioning, I of course then looked further into preventative information.
One of the common threads I was seeing in my research all pointed towards our gut health. Apparently, our gut is a major contributor to brain issues, cognitive decline and memory issues if we have insulin resistance (aka diabesity). Some researchers have now begun to call Alzheimer’s disease type 3 diabetes and say that our guts are actually our 2nd brain. So nutrition is the key if prevention is the focus!
The good news is that a brain diet basically consists of eating wholesome colourful foods, a rainbow of brain nourishment! Plant pigments found in those colourful foods can feed our brains the vital nutrients they need. Here are just some of those pigments and where you can find them.
lycopene foods –RED/PINK an antioxidant pigment that helps combat free radicals (those wayward, naturally occurring cells that cause big time stress on our bodies, which can lead to premature aging & disease) – look to tomatoes, pink grapefruit, papaya and watermelon! Lycopene’s antioxidant properties may help prevent seizures and memory loss experienced in age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
chlorophyll foods – GREEN and probably the most well known as a vital source of energy but did you know they optimize our brain function?! Yup! They say chlorophyll is the blood of plants and is comparable to our own and when we introduce them into our bodies it’s like having an energy transfusion! All green veggies contain chlorophyll however some are definitely better than others such as spinach compared to broccoli which is actually considered more white. You want a green that goes green throughout. Look to those leafy greens as those are the best source but also kelp, algae, spirulina and don’t forget those green tops from beets & carrots!
beta carotene foods – ORANGE and long known as being beneficial for vision and skin, but carotene foods have now been thought to reduce the risk of cognitive decline in men (according to a report released in the Nov. 12 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine). Researchers found that oxidative stress, which damages brain cells, is a major contributor to the aging of the brain and associated cognitive decline. This beautiful vibrant pigment is also found in sweet potatoes, squash, cantaloupe, peppers & apricots to name a few. For best absorption of this fat soluble vitamin, try adding oil or nuts.
anthocyanins (a type of flavonoid) foods – BLUE/PURPLE &REDfound in the skins of glorious blueberries, blackberries, grapes, strawberries, pomegranates, kidney beans & red onions just to name a few!! They are probably the most consumed as there is such a variety of foods that offer these. Some of the many anthocyanin benefits that research has uncovered include fighting heart disease, cancer, memory loss and neurological disorders.
Besides a rainbow diet to keep our brains healthy, there are a few other suggestions such as taking time to learn something new like playing an instrument, learning to play a new sport or finding a new hobby to learn. Keep our brains ignited through learning but be sure to also disconnect from devices! Turn off the TV, put away the iPhone and instead start connecting with others. Play a game of cards with a friend, enjoy a coffee together with good o’l conversation or best of all connect with ourselves out in nature. Fresh air, exercise, laughter and some colour are the perfect prescription I think for prevention of many health issues, but certainly for brain health.
Next Up – Brain Health: Continuing the conversation – ” All Things Bubbly”