There are key pillars to look for when it comes to your brain health.
Like many aspects of our health, the fundamentals to nurture are: sleep, food, and exercise.
Neuroscientist Dr. Elisabeth Philipps of Fourfive says there are ways we can optimize these areas to boost brain health.
It’s important to get the basics in check, and these are simple easy ways to ensure your day-to-day isn’t having a negative impact on your mind.
These are the things to incorporate into your routine.
How to spot your brain needs some TLC
Is it time to give your brain some extra attention?
Stress, high sugar and low quality nutrient diets can have big impacts upon brain health.
Elisabeth says: ‘There’s plenty of science that shows the stress hormone cortisol alters the brain’s structure and poorly controlled blood sugar and insulin response also impacts brain function, specifically how brain cells“ wire and fire ”.
‘Eating lots of sugary foods on a regular basis leads to irregular blood sugar problems.
‘Short term symptoms include brain fog, tiredness and low moods but this is just the start.
‘Long term blood sugar and insulin problems not only increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes but also damages the brain.
‘Alzheimer’s disease is now called type 3 diabetes for a reason.’
Dr. Elisabeth says the warning signs to look out for when your brain is struggling include:
- Feeling tired when waking up for more than three days
- A loss of focus
If you’re under stress, it’s important you pay attention to your sleep quality – which, if it goes down, affects the brain’s ability to repair and restore itself.
Elisabeth says: ‘Getting into a bedtime routine – it should involve avoiding bright lights one hour before bed and you could use mindfulness or meditation apps.
‘Try journaling before bed to get thoughts out of your mind, releasing stress.
‘CBD also helps balance the brain’s response to sleep so it can be a useful part of a healthy sleep routine.’
The brain is nearly 60% fat – so you shouldn’t cut this out of your diet.
Elisabeth says: ‘For specific focus I would suggest a good breakfast smoothie to start your day – this would include healthy fats like almonds, pumpkin seeds, coconut oil, alongside protein from those foods and a protein powder.
‘Smoothies also blend the foods so your gut doesn’t have to do the hard work of digestion so you get instant access to their brain boosting nutrients.
She also says to include omega 3 essential fatty acids from oil fish like salmon, plus flaxseeds, eggs and nuts into your diet.
‘Avocados and extra virgin olive oil (preferably not heated but used as a dressing for vegetables or salad) also contain brain boosting fats,’ she adds.
Fitness-phobes rejoice – Elisabeth says: ‘A longer and more intense workout is not necessarily better for brain health, as this can create extra stress and reduce oxygen circulation.’
Instead add in 30 minutes of walking to your day.
‘This can be highly beneficial when it comes to keeping your brain in top condition and it needs oxygen to function so fresh outdoor air is the best.
‘Forest bathing is highly recommended to calm brain activity, as well as boost mood, energy and concentration in the long term.’
To keep your mind ‘fit’ with brain exercises, you could also try crosswords, sudoku, playing an instrument or listening to music.
Supplements shouldn’t be used in place of a healthy diet, but they can strengthen and support an existing one.
Elisabeth says: ‘Your brain needs fuel to function, and in order to burn that fuel you need many nutrients to help brain cells function.
‘This is why a varied diet rich in lots of different colored vegetables which are packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants is important for brain health.
‘Products like fish oils help top up the essential fatty acids missing from the diet. Eggs contain choline, another important fat that makes up brain cells, but if you don’t eat eggs then you can supplement with lecithin powder which contains choline and other healthy phospholipid fats.
‘The gut and brain are intimately linked via the gut brain axis. This means what happens in the gut affects brain function and health.
‘Helping to keep the gut bacteria levels healthy is essential for overall health, as well as brain function. Probiotic supplements containing healthy gut bacteria can therefore help support our brain health.
‘Vitamin B12 is also important especially if you’re following a vegan diet – supplement with methylcobalamin form either as part of a multi nutrient or on its own.’
Finally, cut out people that drain you.
Elisabeth says it’s important to ‘spend time with people that uplift you’.
She adds: ‘Quality relationships support a healthy brain, relationships that drain energy and emotion can negatively affect brain health.’
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