The brain is a wondrous and complex organ. It regulates every aspect of the body and cognitive performance including movement, impulse control, reasoning, memory and breathing... just to name a few!
In order to obtain optimal wellness and a high quality of life, we must nurture our brains and live in a way that optimizes brain function. A variety of natural approaches exist to help accomplish this goal.
1. Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Research suggests that inflammation compromises proper blood flow and brain function. Every organ in our body depends on proper blood flow, especially the brain. Incorporating foods into your diet such as blueberries, strawberries, oranges, spinach, carrots, dark chocolate and green leafy vegetables can counteract inflammation. Spice things up with turmeric and ginger, which have both been shown to be powerful anti-inflammatory agents.
2. Emphasize Antioxidants
According to an article published in The Economist, Dr. Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery and physiological science, believes that, “appropriate changes to a person’s diet can enhance his cognitive abilities, protect his brain from damage and counteract the effects of aging.” One suggestion offered by Dr. Gomez-Pinilla is to consume antioxidants. Antioxidants can be easily added to the diet by consuming a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and green tea.
3. Consume Foods with Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that are positively associated with brain function. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, “experts believe omega-3s improve the health of brain cell membranes, allowing greater communication between cells.” In fact, deficiencies in omega-3s have been linked to increased risk of various disorders including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia and depression. Foods that contain omega-3s include walnuts, flax seed, kiwi fruit, salmon and other oily fish.
4. Avoid Junk Foods and Food Additives
Junk foods containing sugar, trans fats, refined and hydrogenated vegetable oils, refined white flours and processed foods cause inflammation, which by now we know is bad for our brains. Food dyes have also been associated with numerous problems. According to a review published by The Center for Science in the Public Interest, the consumption of food dyes such as Red 40 and Yellow 5 has been linked to hyperactivity and a variety of other behavioral challenges.
5. Practice Stress Management
Stress results in the release of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol causes inflammation and has been shown to be toxic to the nerve cells in the brain. Chronic stress may also deplete the body of nutrients that are critical to brain health.
Many relaxation techniques and coping strategies are available to counteract the negative impact of stress. Consider trying yoga, meditation, deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. It may take some time to find the right fit for your lifestyle and personal preferences, but don’t give up. It is well worth the effort.