Most of us know someone with some type of neurological disease. Globally, neurological disease accounts for over 6% of disease burden, and it can be extremely traumatic for both the individual and their family. Diseases such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, multiple sclerosis (MS), stroke, and headache disorders all fall into this category.
At the present, conventional medicine lacks effective and long-term treatments for most of these diseases, and most are seen as irreversible. Prevention is by far the best option. To keep our nervous system healthy and functioning optimally, we must keep channels of communication open between the gut and the brain. This is referred to as the gut-brain axis. A healthy intestinal microbiome facilitates efficient communication between the gut and the brain. Therefore, supporting our microbiome with good nutrition is key. Stress, certain medications, inadequate sleep, junk food, and vitamin deficiencies can all impact your microbiome and cause your “good bacteria” to be replaced by “bad bacteria”. Below I will dive into some of my favorite foods and habits to help optimize brain health and function.
TOP 5 FOODS FOR A HEALTHY BRAIN
- Bone broth. Incredible at healing a damaged gut, whether it be from irritable bowel disease, food intolerances, poor diet, etc.
- Cruciferous vegetables (i.e. broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussel sprouts). Studies have shown that sulforaphane, a compound found in these types of vegetables, provides cellular protection when consumed following a traumatic brain injury.
- Extra virgin olive oil. High in antioxidants. Can improve memory and learning, and reverse age-related changes when replaced with toxic, low quality oils such as soybean oil, canola oil, and any partially hydrogenated oil.
- Berries. Extremely high in antioxidants which protect the brain from stress and degeneration. Note: Strawberries are currently #1 on the 2020 Dirty Dozen list so buy organic when possible!
- Cold water fish (i.e. salmon, cod, sardines, anchovies, halibut). Rich in omega-3 fatty acids which support neurological function and help improve memory. Most Americans consume inadequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
TOP 5 HABITS FOR A HEALTHY BRAIN
- Optimize gut microbiome. The gut is know as the second brain, and the bacteria in your gut, known as the microbiome, transport information to your brain. An imbalance of good to bad bacteria can lead to abnormal brain development. Check out this article to learn how to optimize the health of your microbiome.
- Get adequate sleep. Sleep is the time where the brain is able to “reset”, heal from the day prior, and remove the “garbage”. Inadequate and poor sleep can impair the brains ability to heal itself, ultimately impacting behavior, memory and ability to learn.
- Optimize vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies I see in practice. This vitamin promotes nerve growth, and adequate levels are essential for proper fetal brain development. Check out this post to learn if you’re at risk for deficiency.
- Exercise. Enhances brain function by multiplying nerve cells, strengthening the connection between cells. It also stimulates brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which supports cognition and learning.
- Challenge your mind. Continuing to stimulate your mind and learn new things is one of the most important ways in helping to support brain health.
Choose 1 food and 1 habit to start including on a regular basis. Tell me your choice below along with how you plan to stay consistent. Be specific!