5 Tips for Optimal Brain Health
A common symptom my patients come to me with is the complaint of feeling brain fog, fatigue, distracted or just feeling off. Having optimal brain function is important for our moods, achieving optimal performance in daily life, as well as fostering relationships in work or at school. At CentreSpring MD we take an integrative and holistic approach to your health, evaluating all aspects in order to optimize your health. So what are some holistic ways to help boost your brain function and memory?
The foods that you eat (and do not eat) play a key role in your brain health. Eating foods rich in antioxidants and minerals, healthy fats and proteins is just as essential as avoiding sugars and simple carbohydrates. If you eat foods of every shade and color you know you are getting a large amount of antioxidants. In addition, increasing foods that are high in omega 3s such as flax seeds, chia seeds, salmon, and walnuts can help improve mental clarity, memory and cognition. And increasing fats such as coconut oil or avocados can help support healthy brain function. An important thing to remember is low blood sugar can cause cognitive decline and low energy levels, so make sure you eat a healthy breakfast before starting your day and do not skip meals.
Getting at least seven hours of quality sleep each night is essential for brain health. Sleep physically “clears your mind” and detoxes your brain. Getting enough sleep at night can boost your mental health, memory and decision making skills. So as tempting as it may be to watch that one last Netflix show to relax, or answer a few more emails before bed, prioritizing sleep pays off in the long run. Even skipping an hour or two of sleep can have a large impact on cognition the next day. Try turning off all electronics about one hour before bed to help promote quality sleep and give yourself at least seven hours before your alarm goes off in the morning.
Physical exercise has shown enormous benefits for brain health. It increases oxygen to your brain and reduces the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Exercise also boosts serotonin, one of your “feel good” neurotransmitters and helps reduce cortisol, a stress hormone. In addition, it can also boost neuroplasticity – meaning it can help you create new pathways in your brain. Good cardiovascular exercise is the most effective for cognition, so when exercising for best results [if cleared by your health care provider] try doubling your heart rate for about 30 minutes or high intensity interval training where you change your heart rate by 10-20 beats every 2-3 minutes. You can start with 30-45 minutes a few days per week and work up to about 3-4 days per week. Exercising regularly can not only enhance brain function right after a workout – but over a lifetime.
4. Reduce and Manage Stress
Stress seems to be a part of our culture right now. I have few patients who tell me they have no stress in their lives. Long term stress and high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, can actually create long-lasting brain changes. It can create poor memory and can actually deplete your neurotransmitters leading to anxiety and depression. Stress can be a normal part of life but when it becomes overwhelming or lasts for too long, the stress hormone cortisol can wreak havoc on your body, particularly your brain health. To help manage stress, try adding in some type of mindfulness daily. You can try meditation or deep breathing which has shown vast benefits on brain health and lowers cortisol levels. You can use apps like Headspace and CALM to get your started on a daily routine. By the way, it is easiest to get into this habit BEFORE you hit a period of high stress, so start now – everyone can benefit from this!
5. Gut Health
That’s right; your digestive health can play a huge role in your brain health. In fact the gut is often referred to as your second brain because of its close link. The bacteria in your gut or your microbiome can affect a wide variety of bodily systems, including: immunity, detoxification, inflammation, neurotransmitters production, and nutrient absorption. You can help support your gut health by limiting sugars and food additives as well as eating a wide variety of healthy veggies. You can also take probiotics and eat probiotic rich foods like kombucha, kefir, or fermented foods like sauerkraut. This can help maintain your microbiome, and in turn, support mental clarity and boost your brain function!
Still Struggling with brain function or cognition? Ask for some help from your health care provider.
Work with your healthcare provider to balance your hormones and support any micronutrient deficiencies. These imbalances can have significant impact on your brain function, mood and memory. If you or the people around you are noticing a difference, it could be a sign of something wrong.
For example, low vitamin D can cause symptoms of depression, an under-active thyroid can cause significant brain fog and fatigue, and an increased cortisol level or blood sugar imbalances can have significant impact on cognition and memory. If you are still struggling after implementing the tips above it might be time to have a full evaluation to determine the root cause of your symptoms.
To Optimal Health,
Christina Grace FNP-C
|Christina Connors Grace is a certified family nurse practitioner and registered nurse. She brings a passionate, caring approach to patient care with a wealth of experience in women’s and family medicine.|
Email email@example.com to schedule a visit with Christina Connors Grace.