Taking Care of Your Brain

I’ve been reading quite a bit about nourishing our bodies, removing the toxins, what to eat, and what supplements to take, if any, to help us treat our bodies well.  I don’t claim to be an expert at this, but I’m always happy to share what I learn with others.

Of course, knowing what we now know about the drugs that our doctors give us to help us “live” longer, the dangers we face when we eat a slice of bacon (said facetiously), the poisons we willingly put in our body, eat margarine, butter is bad for you, etc., we all know that scientific knowledge needs to be looked at carefully, and we need to discern what is right for us. Having said all that somewhat tongue in cheek, I need to tell you that I am not a medical doctor, nor am I a scientist. I offer you information, and it is up to you to determine what you want to do with it. As I read more, I will be posting blogs – so keep checking in, okay?

Now that is done, here as some interesting things I have learned about the brain:

  • Your brain contains about a hundred billion neurons, and another trillion support cells.
  • Most neurons fire five to fifty times a second, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Your brain weighs about three pounds – about 2-3% of your bodyweight.
  • It needs 25% of the glucose in your blood. (I wish the rest of my body were as efficient!)
  • 60% of the dry weight of the brain consists of healthy fats (Omega-3, Omega-6 and Omega-9)
  • The neurotransmitters that carry information from one neuron to another are built from even smaller parts, assisted by biochemicals.
    • Example: Serotonin – is made from tryptophan with the aid of iron and vitamin B6.  Serotonin supports your mood, digestion, and sleep.
  • Significant shortages of dozens of nutrients will harm your body and your brain.
    • Vitamins B12, B6, and folate shortages will create a depressed mood
    • Vitamin D shortage causes a weaker immune system, dementia, and a depressed mood. Severe shortage will cause rickets.
    • DHA shortage will cause a depressed mood
    • Eating healthy foods and supplementing where necessary will bring more energy, resilience and well being.
    • Small changes in the neurochemistry of your brain can create big changes in your mood, resilience, memory, concentration, thoughts, feelings and desires.
    • It is vital that we also protect our brain from negative factors like toxins, inflammation, and stress

“Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculptor of his own brain”
― Santiago Ramón y Cajal

ACTIONS

What I am learning is that you can’t do it all at once. Changes in the way we eat, the way we live, and the exercise we get can only take place one step at a time. Over our lifetime we have become addicted and/or habituated to what we put in our mouth, the things we do in our daily lives that are not healthy for us, taking the word of medical personnel as gospel (there is a reason it is called practicing medicine), and getting limited amounts of exercise. Just as we have been working on our mind and spirit over the last weeks, we must also begin to work on our body. Why? Because it affects our mind and our spirit, and we want to continue to grow and prosper, and to create balance in our lives.

So, my word of caution. Read these actions that I am suggesting. Pick one or two things each week to begin to change. Talk to your doctors to get their input and permission.  Get blood work done along the way for documentation as to what your body is doing with the changes you are making. DO NOT stop taking any medication without your doctor’s approval.

Pay attention to how your body feels as you change what you are doing.  Start becoming aware of what your body is telling you, and shift accordingly.

Nutrition

  • Eat 3-4 ounces of protein at every meal.  This is about 21 g of protein at each meal. This will give you vital amino acids plus help regulate blood sugar and insulin. But this really depends on you – the individual. Western nutrition says we should consume .36 grams of protein per 1 lb of body weight. This doesn’t work out mathematically for the most part, because it assumes we are all very active people. Which we aren’t. So, do the research based on you and your lifestyle.
  • Blood sugar – the bane of my life. Let’s keep it under control, shall we? This means we must cut out the white stuff – sugar and white flour carbohydrates. When we eat too much of the white stuff, our insulin levels rise – and then they crash – leaving us tired, fussy, and our minds foggy. And, when our insulin is high much of the time, you begin sliding down the slippery slope toward type 2 diabetes.  So, let’s talk about carbs….
  • The general recommendation is to have 5060% of your calories come from carbohydrates.If you are on a 2000 calorie diet, 1000 – 1200 calories should come from carbohydrates. Since carbs contain 4 calories per gram, you should eat between 250 and 200 grams each day.  Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel, so you must eat carbohydrates in order to function. However, if you are already pre-diabetic or a type 2 diabetic, you should control your carb choices carefully. Again, the amount you really need is based upon your gender, lifestyle and weight.
    • Good Carbs – Whole grains, legumes and oats. These are complex carbs which contain longer chains of sugar molecules which usually take more time for the body to break down and use. This provides you with energy. Fruits and vegetables are actually simple carbohydrates, but the more fiber they contain changes the way the body processes their sugars and slows down their digestion, making them a bit more like complex carbohydrates
    • “BAD” Carbs – sugar, white flour carbohydrates, rice, potatoes, pastries and dessertscandy, artificial syrups, soda. These are simple carbs and should be minimized as much as you can. They are composed of simple-to-digest, basic sugars with little real value for you body. The higher in sugar and lower in fiber, the worse the carbohydrate is for you.
    • Scenarios
      • A woman who wants to lose weight might want to eat between 30-55 g carbs per meal
      • A man who wants to lose weight may be able to eat about 50-65 g carbs per meal
      • A woman who wants to maintain weight can bump the carb intake up to 45 – 60 g carbs per meal
      •  A man who wants to maintain weight should be able to bump up carbs to 60 – 75 g carbs per meal
      • An active woman (we are assuming that the previous scenarios were not active J) can take in as many as 56-75 g carbs per meal. This is because your muscles use insulin more effective when you are active. This reduces insulin resistance and helps decrease blood glucose levels
      • An active man moves up to about 65 – 90 g carbs per meal
      • A woman with Gestational Diabetes should eat between 30 – 60 g carbs per meal. Your baby needs nourishment from you all day long (24 hours), so it’s important to spread calories and carb loads evenly throughout the day, eating snacks as necessary to keep your counts level.
  • Glycemic Index –  (http://glycemicindex.com/about.php )The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health. Low GI diets have been shown to improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2). They have benefits for weight control because they help control appetite and delay hunger. Low GI diets also reduce insulin levels and insulin resistance.

Recent studies from Harvard School of Public Health indicate that the risks of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease are strongly related to the GI of the overall diet. In 1999, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recommended that people in industrialised countries base their diets on low-GI foods in order to prevent the most common diseases of affluence, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

  • Eat lots of dark-colored fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, kale, beets, carrots, and broccoli. These foods contain important nutrients that support memory, protect your brain against oxidation, and may reduce the risk of dementia.
  • Take a broad-spectrum multi-vitamin and mineral supplement. Look for 5 – 10 times daily dose of B vitamins, and 100% of the daily dose of minerals
    • Most of us don’t get all the vitamins and minerals we need from the food we eat. This could be a time factor in that we don’t have or take the time to prepare fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. But, more importantly, when we purchase our food from a store, rather than grow our own, we lose the valuable nutrition that comes into the fruit of a plant in the last 2-3 days before it is fully ripened. This is because the produce is picked before it is ripe so that it will survive the time it takes to transport it from field to store, and subsequently to your home.  This is one reason why you see a huge growth in Farmer’s markets and local produce stores.
  • Take 2-3 capsules of a high quality fish oil. You are looking for at least 500 milligrams of DHA (decosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaonoic acid). If you don’t want fish oil – try a combination of flax oil and DHA from algae, but fish oil is the most effective way to get Omega-3 oils into your body and brain.
  • Drink PH balanced or alkaline water to reduce the acidity in your body. I drink Kangan® water, and have been for about six months now, and I feel so much better.

Protect

  • Avoid toxins.Of course, there is the obvious: don’t sniff glue, buy organic vegetables if you can to eliminate pesticides, don’t stand upwind of gasoline fumes, be careful of household cleaners, and so on. Be careful about alcohol. Alcohol makes you feel a buzz by depriving brain cells of oxygen. And, then there are the not so obvious toxins we ingest daily – fluoride in our drinking water and toothpaste and chlorine in our drinking water.
    • Fluoride is more poisonous than lead and just slightly less poisonous than arsenic. It is a cumulative poison that accumulates in the bone over the years. It can cause skin eruptions such as atopic dermatitis, eczema or urticaria. Gastric distress, headache and weakness have also been reported. Mayo Clinic reported that fluoride increases hig fracture rate and bone fragility. Procter and Gamble found that as little as half the amount of fluoride used to fluoridate public water supplies resulted in a sizable and significant increase in genetic damage. The National Cancer Institute has indicated that 10,000 or more fluoridation-linked cancer deaths occur yearly in the United States; cancers such as liver, oral, bone, and osteosarcoma. It has also been shown to inhibit enzyme systems, damage the immune system contribute to calcification of soft tissues, worsen arthritis and cause dental fluorosis in children. And, surprisingly, recent studies show that it is not effective in reducing tooth decay.
    • Chlorine – when combined with certain phytochemical nutrients have been discovered to form cancer causing substances. This discovery includes familiar foods including soy, fruits, vegetables, tea, many health products, and some prescriptions.
  • Reduce inflammation. When your immune system activates to deal with an infection or allergen, it sends chemical messengers called cytokines throughout your body. Unfortunately, because these chemicals can linger in your brain, it may lead to a slump in mood and even depression.

Practical steps you can take would be to wash your hands often, and avoid foods that set off your immune system. Many people are allergic to gluten grains (wheat, oats, ruy) and/or dairy products. You can go get medical tests, or test this on your own. Just go to zero with both these food groups for two weeks and see if you notice a difference in your health. If you do, stay away from them.

  • Go play physically every day! Not only is it fun, but it promotes the growth of new neural structures, including the birth of new brain cells.
  • Relax. The stress hormone cortisol sensitizes the fight-or-flight alarm bell of the brain and weakens the area (hippocampus) which helps put the brakes on stress reactions. And, since the hippocampus is critical for making memories, a daily diet of stress makes it harder to learn new things or put your feelings in context.
  • Sleep. Get plenty of sleep. You’ve probably noticed that when you don’t get enough good quality sleep, it is harder to concentrate the next day. And did you know that memories of the day are “filed away” in the brain while we sleep? People who suffer from sleep disturbances often experience memory problems. But many sleep disorders are treatable, so speak to your healthcare provider if you experience trouble falling asleep, bothersome wakeful periods during the night, or snoring (which might suggest sleep apnea—a disorder that causes interruption in breathing during sleep).
  • Statins. Review the literature that has come out on statins and the affect they can have on the functionality of your brain. Alternatives to also review are: red yeast rice, niacin, plant sterols, psyllium (in Metamucil), flaxseed oil and soy.

This is only a small part of what I am learning, and I can’t wait to share more.   If you are interested in learning more – watch for blogs at http://georgiafeiste.com – it is my intention to begin sharing what I’m reading and trying on my own to become a much healthier person as I move fully into the next chapter in my life. My doctors just want to give me another pill rather than help me learn, and I’m already taking 3 too many. My goal is to be healthy, without drugs.

Georgia Feiste, President of Collaborative Transitions Coaching, Inc., located in Lincoln, NE, and Phoenix, AZ, is a personal growth and leadership coach, writer, and workshop facilitator.  She is also a Usui Reiki Master and EFT practitioner.  Her passion is success grounded in purpose and passion, standards of integrity and priorities in life.  You can also find Georgia on her website, Collaborative Transitions, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.   Georgia may also be reached at (402) 304-1902 if you wish to schedule a 30 minute complementary consultation.

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