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Thinking About Brain Health Can Be Overwhelming!
"Brain health" sounds intimidating, I know. We probably fear brain issues more than any other health issue, yet most of us know less about brain health than any other health issue. While the concept of optimizing brain health is indeed growing in popularity, it is still not a super common topic. Because of this, most people are not well-versed in practical lifestyle strategies they can implement to recover, protect, and optimize their brains.
A common belief is that a healthy brain is unattainable because we've heard that neurons, once lost, can't be healed. And so, we imagine that it must take huge, expensive medical interventions to turn an unhealthy brain around -- if it's possible at all.
Maybe you think you're going to have to study neurosciences and discover a deep, complex mystery. Or maybe you've just accepted that feeling of doom that often comes with an unhealthy brain.
We can all take a deep breath because I have good news!
The brain communicates with the body in an ongoing, bi-directional feedback loop. The vagus nerve carries messages to the body and the body communicates back. Information is passed in both directions. That means that you can use the brain's natural communication loop and feed your brain new information through simple, small, consistent, daily lifestyle habits. In Part I of the Healthy Brain Series I gave a lot of information about how this system works.
It’s The Little Things That Matter The Most!
Those big, once-in-a-lifetime, expensive interventions may not, in fact, be the best way to approach brain health anyway. Small lifestyle changes go a LONG way to support neurons (brain cells), and you absolutely have more power to build a better brain than you may realize!
With enough intention, simply making incremental shifts and changing how you go through your day will eventually stick.
You can absolutely build a healthy brain that supports vibrant health, vitality, and a kick-ass life! All it takes is time, focus, and repetition.
And now you might be saying, "Please, tell me what I can do!" Here's my list of 20 simple, FREE hacks with amazing brain-health supporting power!
1. Take a Shot of Apple Cider Vinegar Before Meals!
I prefer Bragg's Organic apple cider vinegar 10 - 15 minutes before meals followed by a thorough rinse with clean water to protect my teeth. This is an easy way to increase stomach acid and aid digestion.
Most people are deficient in stomach acid to varying degrees. Stress and poor lifestyle habits tend to slow down acid pumps. As we age and weather the storms of life, this acid system tends to get sluggish.
We need adequate acid in our stomachs to digest our food, especially to break down protein. Protein provides essential amino acids which supply our brains with neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters contribute to balanced mood, clear thinking, and better overall brain function.
In addition, opportunistic microbes hitch a ride on our food and water. Stomach acid is our first line of defense against these invaders!
This simple, foundational step can correct deficiencies and may take you farther towards better brain health than you can imagine!
2. Eliminate Inflammatory Omega 6 Fats and take 2 Shots of Extra Virgin Olive Oil Per Day!
Vegetable oils such as soy, corn, canola, sunflower, safflower, grape-seed, peanut oil, and margarine are omega 6 inflammatory fats.
Unfortunately, the standard American diet (SAD) is full of toxic omega 6 oils! They are in the baked goods we get at coffee shops, the convenient lunches we eat from a deli counter, the mayonnaise we use in our sandwiches, and virtually all store-bought packaged food. We are inundated with omega 6 oils.
Omega 6 oils tend to get stuck in our tissues and clog up our systems. It's important to remove them from our diets and clear the way for better fats to build healthy cell membranes and tissues. The brain and nervous system are made of fat-loving tissues, and the fats we take in will either hurt or help our brains. We also need healthy fats for many other body systems, including hormone balance.
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), which contains 70% oleic acid, not only blocks bad fats but also helps reverse the underlying inflammation from excessive omega-6 fat intake. Two tablespoons of organic, extra virgin olive oil per day is protective and anti-inflammatory. It's one of the best things you can do for brain health!
My favorite brand is Olea Gold by Olea Estates. I take 1 Tablespoon 2 times a day in a small shot of tart cherry juice.
3. Eat to Support Even-Keeled Blood Sugar Levels!
Maintaining stable blood sugar levels begins by eating a whole-food, nutrient-dense diet comprised of plenty of veggies and low glycemic fruits, moderate amounts of clean protein, and ample amounts of healthy fats!
Balanced blood sugar requires that the first meal of the day is one that supports stable blood sugar for the next 36 hours.
A perfect example of this would be a veggie omelet, half an avocado, and a side of dark berries!
Roller coaster blood sugar levels wreak havoc on brain health. As an example, Alzheimer’s Disease is now often referred to as Type III diabetes!
4. Incline Your Bed By 3 Inches!
Raising the head of your bed has a surprising effect on overall health. Among other benefits, it allows drainage of the glymphatic system, which is the lymphatic system of the brain and central nervous system!
Inflammation decreases, even body-wide pain may subside, and the brain rests better as you sleep.
This can be done cheaply and easily by placing 2 bricks under each leg at the head of your bed!
5. Warm Lemon Water in the Morning!
Lemon can get your body functioning without stimulants in the morning. You don't need coffee or tea to get your brain going in the morning!
Lemon supports detox, nourishes the organs, and encourages the body’s natural ability to produce stomach acid! We wake up with a need to clear toxins and leftover byproducts from the work our body does during the night. That's why some of us wake up sluggish and have a hard time moving in the morning.
Warm lemon water supports the natural needs of the body in the morning better than an unnatural stimulant pushes you out the door!
6. File for Separation with Your Electronics!
There is mounting evidence that harmful electromagnetic fields (EMF’s) wreak havoc on cells and play a large role in a multitude of health complaints.
When it comes to protecting our brains from harmful EMF’s, distance is KEY! Keep all electronics off the body and as far away from the body as possible.
For instance, when using a laptop, DO NOT place it on your lap! Instead, use it on a table, or purchase, or build (if you are handy!), a laptop table that can be used on your lap as the one pictured here that my super handy hubby built for me. :)
7. Smarten Up with Your Smart Phone Use!
Of all the sources of electronics we are exposed to on a regular basis, our smart phones are the BIGGEST source of EMF toxicity for us. Most people are tethered to them and get constant exposure. They have become an extension of us versus a tool for most people!
Keep cell phones away from your body and put them on airplane mode when you are not using them (or at least while sleeping).
Nick Pineault, a global EMF researcher and expert that I have huge amounts of respect for explains, “Everyone is affected by EMFs, but probably a third of all people feel the effects. Maybe more... we desperately need more data."
People react with different symptoms and they may be affected by different sources. Wifi routers, cell phones, cell towers, and power lines are all causes. In addition, it depends on how long you are exposed to the source.
8. Mindful Breathing!
Brain cells need oxygen to be healthy, and the brain uses about three times more oxygen than the muscles of our bodies! Most of us are on autopilot and unaware that we're breathing shallowly and quickly throughout the day.
The blood vessels that absorb most of the oxygen are in the lower parts of our lungs and it's necessary to breathe rhythmically and deeply to oxygenate the blood well.
It helps to do some mindful breathing, being aware of your belly rising, otherwise known as diaphragmatic breathing. This kind of breathing gets the air down in the lower parts of the lungs and calms the limbic system (aka: stress center) of the brain.
It's also been found that mindful breathing can increase our ability to focus, which strengthens the brain.
9. Get Moving!
Movement is essential for life and for healthy brain.
Even a short walk will increase oxygen in the blood and simply standing up increases blood flow in the brain.
Exercise improves memory and stimulates chemical changes in the brain that affect mood.
Endurance exercise has even been shown to promote new brain cell formation and prevent cell loss!
10. Mono-tasking over multitasking!
Your brain wants you to focus on one task before moving to the next!
The myth of multitasking lingers on! Contrary to popular belief, trying to focus on too many things at one time is HORRIBLE for our brains!
The brain doesn't actually focus on more than one thing. In reality, "multitasking" is simply moving from one focus to another too quickly and it results in poor performance, lack of focus, and scattered thinking!
You can give yourself a break and stop trying to divide your brain!
11. Cheat on your smartphone, tablet, or Kindle with a real book!
Spend some real time in REAL life! Your brain craves less electronic stimulation!
Reading a real book exercises your brain in a way that an ebook can't. The blue light from a screen can keep you awake at night, but reading a real book will relax you and help you sleep!
We need time away from electronics!
12. Chill Out! Make Down-Time A Priority.
Resting is hard for most people in our modern world. Forcing ourselves to be going all the time is not only hard on our bodies, it's hard on our brains. Maybe if we understood that our brains need rest, too, we'd allow ourselves to take time off.
Your brain requires time away from thinking about to-do lists, interacting with others, and DOING in general! Just as you need a break, your brain needs the down-time!
13. Stay Present.
Dwelling on the past and fretting about the future creates anxiety!
An anxious mind triggers your cells to be continually bathed in stress hormones! Much could be said about that, and I did say something about it last week. Go here to read more about anxiety.
14. Eat Stewed Cinnamon Apples!
Stewed cinnamon apples are special gut food. Gut health is essential for brain health!
Stewed apples have multiple effects on the gut. Flavonoids in apples decrease inflammation and protect the intestinal lining.
Stewed apples support a healthy gut-brain axis by supplying the healthy microbes in your gut with PLENTY of pre-biotic fiber they need to flourish!
Read more about this amazing food here.
15. Sunrise! Sunset!
The circadian rhythm is the body's biological clock and an essential part of balancing brain health because it regulates a healthy sleep cycle.
Getting up with the sun and getting outside in the early morning for 10 - 15 minutes signals the brain that it's time to start the day.
Exposure to morning and evening sun helps to align our entire system with the natural rhythms of the Universe and thus bring our circadian rhythm into a healthy balance!
16. Walk Barefoot in the Grass!
Walking barefoot in the grass grounds you with the earth's ions.
Humans are natural beings governed by the laws of the natural Universe. The further away from these laws we deviate, the further from health and closer to dis-ease we move!
Your brain craves for you to ground with the earth in order to shed positive ions, which are toxic, and replace them with negative ones, which are health supportive.
17. Shake It Off!
The term “Shake It Off!” is actually rooted in neuro-scientific principles. When animals feel threatened, they quiver and tremble! They do this because they instinctively know they need to release excess cortisol and adrenaline from their bodies.
Humans, on the other hand, try hard to NOT tremble when we feel threatened. Instead, we tend to hold our emotions and stress in, where it then lodges in our bodies and causes “issues in our tissues!”
This said, make a point to allow yourself to literally “shake it off” the next time you feel a surge of fear-based emotions. Moreover, schedule short (30-second) shake sessions throughout your day to ensure you are releasing pent up energy versus storing it in your muscles and organs!
18. Make Your Bed Every Morning with Intention!
Your brain operates BEST when it has a health intention to focus on!
Begin each day by making your bed with INTENTION to make the day the best day you can make it. This sends a firm message to the Universe and every cell in your body that you are ready and prepared for whatever comes your way!
Life truly is powered by the INTENTION we set!
19. Organize Your Day with To Do Lists.
Your brain needs clarity, focus, and a sense of accomplishment.
Making to-do lists and then crossing the tasks off as you complete them supports natural dopamine levels.
We all tend to get stuck on negative thinking and circle around in patterns of thought that often end in a trip to the store to reward ourselves with a pint of ice cream, a bag of omega-6 laden chips, or we binge watch old TV shows and not get anything that matters done. Making ToDo lists is a healthy and easy way to break this cycle!
Crossing a task off your list is a “reward” and you are "gifted" with a dopamine hit and focused attention on what you want out of life, rather than worry and whatever other negativity is filling your mind.
Optimal neurotransmitter levels are essential for a healthy brain and the ToDo list is a GREAT way to make sure you're supplying enough dopamine to your brain.
20. Focus On What You Want Versus What You Don’t Want!
Negative thinking is counterproductive in many ways. Your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that allows you to be the BEST version of yourself says, "Ho hum" when you ruminate and dwell on negativity. It gets bored and worn out!
We all face negative circumstances, and it's difficult to pull yourself out of this cycle, but your brain will thank you in so many ways! I wrote a little about my experiences here.
Your brain needs you to cultivate a sense of self-empowerment, give up hope of trying to change the past, and focus on the awesomeness that you are capable of creating in the present moment and in the future!
Your brain thrives when you live your life in a state of curiosity and supply your brain with plenty of novel things to focus on!
Ok! So that is a wrap. I hope this article supplied you with pearls of wisdom that you can apply to your daily routine in your own quest for optimal brain health. Stay tuned for Part III of this series where I will be presenting more knowledge, strategies, and tools to help you become empowered to take charge of your brain health and create the awesome health and life you deserve!
Nemechek, Patrick M., and Jean R. Nemechek. The Nemechek Protocol for Autism and Developmental Disorders: a How-to Guide to Restoring Neurological Function. Autonomic Recovery, LLC, 2017.
Pineault, Nicolas. The Non-Tinfoil Guide to EMFs: How to Fix Our Stupid Use of Technology. Nicolas Pineault, 2017.
Wimberger, Lisa. New Beliefs, New Brain: Free Yourself from Stress and Fear. Divine Arts, 2012.
Wimberger, Lisa. Neurosculpting: a Whole-Brain Approach to Heal Trauma, Rewrite Limiting Beliefs, and Find Wholeness. Sounds True, 2014.