NUTRITION FOR THE BRAIN
What Is It?
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.
- Coffee depletes the body of minerals needed for mental energy.
- Coffee causes blood sugar to become unstable
- Coffee interferes with our sleep when the brain is trying to rest.
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.
- Be suspicious of foods you crave every day (addiction)
- The most common food allergens are wheat, dairy, citrus and soy.
- Sensitivity or allergy to a food can make you fatigued and slow-thinking
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.
- Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are whole foods with naturally occurring
sugars accompanied by fiber that slows down sugar absorption. They contain
minerals that help our bodies use the sugar properly. Complex carbohydrates
from whole grains and vegetables provide a steady supply of glycogen (sugar
stored in the liver).
- Eat small, frequent meals to keep blood sugar steady instead of heavy meals
that can rob energy from the brain for digestion.
- Oxygenating foods - wheat germ, unsaturated oils, fish and soy products.
- Animal and vegetable protein for production of neurotransmitters and stabilized
- Mineral-rich foods - greens, kelp, fish, whole grains, potatoes- help oxygenate
the brain, and electrolytes improve function of the central nervous system.
- Foods high in B complex for central nervous system health- whole grains,
seeds, nuts, leafy greens and fish.
- Remove all foods that trigger excess insulin - sugar, alcohol, fruit juice,
refined white flour, all concentrated sweeteners.
- Avoid all stimulants – especially coffee and sugar
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”.
- Adrenal support – adrenal glandular, Vitamin C, B complex plus extra
B-12, which forms and regenerates red blood cells. B-12 isn’t absorbed
well if there is low stomach acid - sub-lingual, inter-nasal or by injection
are good delivery systems.
- Vitamin E, flaxseed oil, CoQ10 - Supplements to help overcome an oxygen-depleted
- Super Green foods – Blue-green Algae and shattered cell wall Clorella
are high in easily absorbed amino acids, the building blocks of neurotransmitters.
- Phosphatidyl Serine 1,000 mg or GABA 600 mg daily for neurotransmitter
- Ginkgo Biloba 750 mg twice daily and Vinpocetine 30mg daily improve circulation
to the brain. Ginkgo also improves transmission of electrical impulses.
- Essential oils (omega 3, fish/flax oils) are great brain fuel.
- Iron - make sure you are deficient before supplementing – Iron is
an oxygen magnet.
- Vitamin C increases absorption of iron by 30%.
- Amino acids
Branch chain aminos - leucine, isoleucine, and valine stabilize blood sugar.
Best source - brewer’s yeast or balanced supplement.
- gamma-aminobutyric acid - good for anxiety, depression, nervous tension,
especially when combined with niacinamide.
- improves memory and mental alertness, relieves depression when used with
B-6 (p-5-p is the bio-available form)
- L-glutamine - converts to usable glucose
very easily - one of the best nutrients and energy sources for the brain -
rapidly improves memory, sustained concentration and alertness. Glutamine supports
repair of the mucousal lining of the small intestine, which can alleviate food
- a quick source of energy for the brain that converts to another amino acid,
L-dopa, which improves brain function.
- stabilizes blood sugar. It is antagonistic to copper which in excess, has
been implicated in many problems of mental function.
- helps to oxygenate the brain by improving oxygen uptake.
- nourishes the brain and nerves.
- improves mental activity by transporting oxygen to the brain.
- oxygenates the brain.
- balances blood sugar levels.
- Vitamins and other supplements
- a powerful bioflavonoid - passes the blood/brain barrier to protect brain
cells and improve memory.
Kola - helps restore brain and central nervous system.
- Lecithin – is
a combination of the B vitamins choline and inositol. Choline is a neurotransmitter
that improves memory and learning ability. Inositol enhances oxygen delivery.
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.