Of all our vital organs, the brain is surely the most complex. Comprised of a dizzying array of neurons, dendrites, axons, and chemical neurotransmitters, the brain, extended by the spinal cord, governs the function of the entire body… every organ, every movement, every reaction, everything.
All this activity requires a steady supply of high quality fuel. In fact, your brain has a voracious appetite. Keep it well fed and it will perform brilliantly for you. Deprive your brain of the nutrients it needs, and that brilliance fades quickly.
The brain weighs just 2% of our total body weight, yet it gobbles up 20% of the body’s total energy supply, up to 50% of our blood sugar, and 20% of the oxygen we inhale. The brain also requires a steady supply of high-grade nutrients to function properly. And no other organ in the body is as sensitive to a shortfall of raw materials. Glucose levels, oxygen, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids must all be delivered regularly if our brain is going to function optimally.
When it doesn’t get what it needs, the brain starts sending powerful messages to us in the form of cravings. Because we modern humans have lost touch with the instincts that served us for thousands of years, these cravings are often misinterpreted by us. Acting upon these misguided signals by eating sugary, starchy or fatty foods only serves to further destabilize blood chemistry. Crave-driven eating, left unchecked, sets into motion a negative spiral that, over time, will continue to erode healthy mental function.
The typical American Diet, high in refined and processed foods and saturated fats, doesn’t supply many of the necessary raw materials required for optimal mental function. The standard American diet, comprised of processed, refined and canned foods, is deficient in the vast majority of the minerals necessary to deliver oxygen and conduct electrical impulses within the brain and from the brain to the body. These minerals have been leached out of the chemically treated soils in which most food is grown. Artery clogging saturated fats found in fast foods make it difficult for the body to deliver the blood sugar the brain depends on for energy.
Excessive consumption of white sugar and white flour keeps our endocrine and blood sugar management system in a constant state of stress. Simple sugars in candy, donuts, Ding Dongs, Twinkies and other sweet treats stresses the pancreas causing it to overproduce insulin, further lowering the blood sugar level. We feel spacey, more tired and irritable.
Regular sugar consumption sets us up for chronically poor mental energy. It depletes B vitamins needed for healthy nerve transmission, depletes chromium needed for blood sugar regulation and strains the organs and glands that keep our blood sugar steady, the adrenals, pancreas, and liver, all of which are weakened by eating refined sugar. When these organs stop functioning properly, the resulting low blood sugar makes us moody and slow thinking. Our cravings for sugar become stronger, but now instead of lifting us, sugar makes us feel spacey and exhausted.
That morning cup of coffee that so many people rely on to wake up, is more like a knockout punch to the brain.
Sometimes the reasons a person has poor mental energy aren’t so obvious and we have to look a little deeper. In these cases hypoglycemia is often a culprit. Because the brain uses up to 50% of the body’s total blood sugar, the mechanisms that maintain blood sugar levels need to be in good working order for optimal mental function. Low blood sugar has a dramatic effect on the brain and can cause fatigue, depression, anxiety and mood swings. Hypoglycemics often crave and over-indulge in sugar, which depletes B vitamins needed by the central nervous system, disturbs blood sugar levels, exhausts the pancreas and adrenals, making the hypoglycemia even worse.
Food allergies can be a hidden cause of everything from mental sluggishness to mood swings, migraines and even full-blown schizophrenia.
A stressful lifestyle, so common these days, can lead to adrenal burnout, resulting in low mental energy. The adrenal glands produce adrenaline and cortisol, the hormones that help to lift blood sugar levels. Weakened adrenals can not keep the blood sugar high enough to satisfy the glucose dependant brain..
The foods a person eats can have a powerful impact on their mental energy. Here are some of the earmarks of a brain-friendly diet.
Check for potential food allergies. Eliminate a suspected food for two weeks. Notice if you see any improvement. Then re-introduce the food. If fatigue or brain-fog return, eliminate the food for one month. Rotate the foods you are not allergic to (once every 4 days) to keep from developing an allergy or sensitivity to them.
Get enough sleep. The brain needs rest at regular intervals. If we force it to overwork, we develop mental strain, which is to the brain what jet lag is to the body. Unless we give the brain enough down time, its ability to receive, store and re-transmit information suffers.
Get a handle on stress. Stress constricts blood vessels and reduces blood supply to the brain. It weakens the adrenals leading to burnout and hypoglycemia.
Whether your stress is emotional, environmental, work related, marital or social, find a mechanism for unloading it – meditation, yoga or exercise work well for many people.
The more you use your brain, the more blood is supplied and the more neuron connections are made. Using the brain increases its capacity. Do mental exercises – read books, take classes.
Hot/cold hydrotherapy – end a hot shower with 30 seconds of cold water.
Take 10 deep brain-oxygenating breaths each morning.
Do regular aerobic exercise. Exercise raises and stabilizes blood sugar levels and mobilizes the lymph system to do a better job of removing wastes that can slow us down mentally and physically. Exercise puts more oxygen in the body and increases blood circulation to the brain. The brain uses 20% of the oxygen we inhale, but most of us don’t inhale enough. There is actually less oxygen in the atmosphere today than 100 years ago. Working in office buildings with re-circulating air reduces oxygen even further. ( spider plants help to re-oxygenate stale office air)
Sleep with your windows opened a little
Avoid alcohol and tobacco – they impair memory, retention, concentration and reaction time.
Avoid Marijuana. It inhibits vassopressin production in the brain, impairs memory, attention and concentration. Remember, “Marijuana makes you respond to ‘Hey, stupid’ ten times slower”.
The nutritional suggestions in this material are not offered to treat, mitigate or cure disease, and should not be used as a substitute for sound medical advice. This information is designed to be used in conjunction with the services of a trained, licensed healthcare practitioner.