Tips for Optimum Brain Health

Holidays are over, it’s time to get those brains back into gear!

Do you take any steps to protect your brain’s health? Many of us pay a lot of attention to our physical health but assume that our brain will look after itself. However, especially as we age, protecting our cognitive health can help us stay active and engaged at all stages of life.

One of the most common concerns I hear from people with an Autoimmune disease is that they notice a quick decline in their short-term memory and their ability to focus or concentration especially when they’re experiencing a flare.

Hi there, I’m Dr. Alison Danby, ND & Functional Medicine Practitioner from The Root of Health in Oakville.  I want to share a few tips on protecting your brain health with you.

Our brains are influenced by our bodies ….

  • The good news is that many of the steps we take to look after our bodies will also protect our brain. It’s all connected!
  • Have you ever lost your keys or struggled to remember the correct word for something (or worse, someone’s name)? I know that I have. Some “brain fog” is normal, especially when we’re stressed. But cognitive issues can signal a deeper problem, or serve as a sign that we need to make changes in our lives.
  • Stress, fatigue, increased immune response, inflammation, and nutritional deficiencies can affect our brain function. In fact, high-stress levels have been shown to actually shrink your brain!
  • It’s easy to panic when you forget something. After all, Alzheimer’s Disease affects more people every year. The warning signs can appear up to 10 years before a diagnosis. And remember there is no cure only prevention!
  • Often, fatigue turns out to be the cause. You probably already know that sleep affects the way your brain works. But did you know your brain functions best if you follow your natural circadian rhythm, which means going to bed around 10:00
  • If you practice good sleep hygiene – a cool dark room, no electronic devices near your bed – and still have trouble sleeping, we need to talk!

What can we do to improve our brain function?

  • What we EAT affects our moods, thought processes and how our brains function!
    • Up to 95 percent of serotonin (the chemical that regulates our moods) is produced in our guts. That means having a healthy digestive tract and enough “good” bacteria in our guts can help us feel better overall, and even improve our memory function. We now know that there is a high correlation with an Autoimmune Condition and leaky gut syndrome (Intestine permeability). Unhealthy gut = Unhealthy Brain
    • Sugar and Carbohydrates are like gasoline on a fire to your brain, they create more inflammation on your brain than anywhere else in your body. This is why we enter into a “Food Coma”.
  • Studies have found several specific nutrients that can improve memory and cognitive abilities.
    • Vitamin K, omega-3, and flavonoids are all known to help our brains. Plus, a lot of foods that contain them are delicious! Protecting your brain health can involve eating walnuts and blueberries – what’s not to like?
  • Keeping your brain active will help it stay in shape. A fit brain is an alert, clear-thinking brain.
    • That doesn’t have to mean investing in a “brain gym” or an app that claims to train your brain. It does mean learning something new, preferably something that engages you and that you enjoy.
  • Exercise can also help memory. In addition to improving the size and shape of our muscles, an activity can also enlarge the hippocampus, which is where our verbal memories are stored.
    • Exercise is also shown to reduce stress. One walk in nature for an hour will reduce your stress levels for the entire week! Can you imagine what a 20 min walk per day would do?
  • Your hormone levels also impact your memory. Remember when I said everything is connected? It’s your hormones that draw it all together. Hormone imbalances lead to memory loss, confusion, and issues concentrating. What is the number one cause of hormone imbalance? STRESS!
    • Testing your hormone levels is a good start to optimizing your brain function. From there, we can adjust the other factors influencing your hormones, and, consequently, your cognitive health.

There’s no one simple solution to acquiring maximum brain power and super memory functions. As with many aspects of health, a holistic approach works best.

Don’t take your brain health for granted! If you’re troubled by memory issues or fuzzy thinking, or just want to take some proactive steps, contact me and we can create a plan together!

Remember health is a whole-body approach.

Yours in health,

Dr. Alison Danby,

Naturopathic Doctor & Functional Medicine Practitioner


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