It is interesting… In medicine we tend to cut the head off and treat mostly the body. That is of course unless you are a Psychiatrist in which case you cut the head off and treat the head. Very rarely do practitioners consider the entire body and how the brain plays into the basic physiology of the person in general. I find this troubling because the brain is everything. Without healthy brain function we do not sense our surroundings well, we do not digest our food well, and we do not move our bodies well. In fact there is not one system in our body which is not directly controlled by the nervous system. It is common therefore in neurological decline scenarios for there to be problems in seemingly unrelated systems. Take for example an elderly person who needs to eat simple foods whereas before they could eat anything they pleased. This same person struggles with constipation and bloating. And in fact if that person were to pay attention they might find that these symptoms get worse when they are tired or over worked. A long drive for example might induce uncomfortable digestive symptoms. So is this a problem with the digestive system itself? Perhaps. But I would wager a bet that there is a neurological component to the condition as well. I would then ask the question, “If we only provide digestive support (symptom support) and forget the brain part of the equation, are we offering good medical help?” I say no. To overlook the brain and neurological health for any chronic condition is tantamount to bailing water out of a leaking boat without fixing the leak! Not good medicine indeed.
So it is my intention here today to offer just a few basic concepts to help keep your brain as healthy as it can be. Now avoiding activities which directly damage the brain is obvious, and there is much more to the story and good fodder for future articles, but here are three things which everyone should do as a matter of basic brain hygiene:
· Optimize your blood sugar. Blood sugar imbalances are epidemic in this modern first world age of convenience and garbage “foods.” If the brain does not get a steady supply of glucose (blood sugar) the neurons or brain cells simply cannot function optimally. If a person is low blood sugar or hypoglycemic then there simply isn’t enough sugar. This person will often crave carbs, feel shaky/irritable between meals, and may even wake up in the middle of the night as a regular pattern. These are the people who have also worn out their snooze button. Waking up for them is very difficult. But if the person has too much glucose in the system they become Insulin Resistant or develop frank Diabetes. In this case even though there is plenty of glucose the body loses the ability to get it into the cells so they end up starving just like the hypoglycemic person. Insulin Resistance people generally get sleepy after meals, are often struggling with weight issues, have depression or something like it, and may have trouble falling to sleep. And they often wake up not rested even if they slept for 10 hours! So it is extremely important that you maintain a healthy blood sugar for brain health specifically, but for general health as well. Most major diseases or nasty conditions that kill us are directly promoted by poor blood sugar. Poor blood sugar = inflammation. Inflammation = disease. So eat your veggies people and keep your simple non-fibrous carbs to an absolute minimum. That at least is the very short answer.
· Provide optimal oxygen/circulation. This seems obvious of course but it is a very common problem for two reasons. The first concept is that of anemia. I of course use the Functional Blood Chemistry approach to things like this. That means that I do not wait until people get so out of balance that their doctor calls it a problem. That is WAY too long. The Functional approach uses smaller reference ranges so we see patterns developing early. This is preventative medicine at its best. Why wait until we are drop dead anemic to act? The truth is that even mild anemia patterns start to add stress to your body. If I were to put you in a room and cut the oxygen levels to some % of what you are used to breathing you would feel the difference. This is what people live like all the time. Finding and fixing these patterns early is a big deal in protecting your brain. Without oxygen those nerve cells simply don’t work well. And when a nerve cell fails to work well it usually dies early as do all of the nerves downstream from it! So that is part one. Part two involves circulation. You could have wonderful Red Blood Cell health and could be saturated with oxygen but if your blood vessels are blocked or shut down then you lose the ability to deliver that yummy oxygen to the nerve cells, not to mention removing all the damaging waste products from the brain to be eliminated. Know anyone with cold hands and feet? Or how about toe nail fungus. These are all signs that circulation is not up to par. If you are not circulating blood to your extremities then you are probably not circulating blood adequately to your brain either. You can also do a quick test on yourself to look for circulation. Simply press on your fingernail so that the tissue underneath turns white. Release and a nice pink color should return in a second or two. This is called capillary refill time. If it does not return quickly circulation is poor. And if it is always white and your fingers are cold then you definitely have circulation problems! At the very least, get yourself out there and exercise! Move that blood. And get in touch with me. I have other stronger ways to get those vessels open.
· Stimulate your brain! Stimulation is essential for a healthy brain. Simulation in its simplest form can just involve engaging yourself in something more than watching Maury Povich television shows or some other mindless drivel. (Is that show even still on?) But more specifically, the brain needs to be challenged. It is one thing to be a wiz at cross word puzzles. But that isn’t enough. The brain likes new challenges. If you are a wiz at cross words then move to Sudoku puzzles or something else. Or really challenge yourself and learn a language. Or learn an instrument. Even listening to music is a wonderful practice for brain health. But there is nothing better for brain than exercise. The amount of stimulation that a person receives while on a jog or a hike is enormous. Or learn dancing. This activity is very complex and works the mental and the physical stimulation concepts. So take this part to heart. Doing these things is so good for you in so many ways. Once we get out of our holes, socialize, become active, life all of the sudden gets better. And your brain will get better as a result.
So in closing, remember that there is more to your health, or your specific symptoms than you think. Believe it or not, there is a master controller that dictates every part of your body. Brain health, even in young people, could easily have something to do with symptoms you might otherwise think are not related. But don’t let that silly brain fool you. The trouble with brains is that they often forget themselves, when in reality it is them that we should look to first. Fix the brain and you may be surprised that the bloating in your belly improves as well!