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September 16, 2022
I get asked, every single day, for my top brain health tips. And so I should, being a neuroscientist and holistic nutritionist specializing in brain and mental health. But that doesn’t make it any easier to give a short and sweet answer suited to a person’s specific neurological or psychiatric condition.
However, there are three general things that while I can’t say cause nervous system health imbalances, certainly contribute to and make them worse: 1) Poor sleep, 2) Brain toxicity, and 3) A lack of healthy brain activities. Let’s learn to take control of these brain-draining factors through a unique NeuroTrition lens, where neuroscience meets nutrition.
Sleep is a restorative process for every system of the body, including the nervous system. When you’re not sleeping well, your cognition, mental clarity, mood and memory suffer. Insomnia coexists with many brain and mental health conditions, and it’s a priority to address with my clients.
Science tells us that people who don’t sleep well have dysglycemia (the medical term for “hangry”) and a simple hack to prevent reactive hypoglycemia (aka. “hangry” in the night, which can wake us up) is to have a small bedtime brain food snack of a complex carbohydrate (e.g., 1/2 slice of whole grain bread) with a good-quality protein (e.g., 1 tablespoon of hummus).
Alternately, you can have a protein shake before bed. This may sound strange, but protein is not just for fitness aficionados! It breaks down into amino acids which build many important structures besides muscles. These include neurotransmitters like serotonin – and serotonin builds melatonin, our sleep hormone. Perfect Protein Elevated Sleep Better is my go-to for clients in search of restful sleep because it also contains tart cherry (a natural source of melatonin) and magnesium (the sleep mineral).
You’ve probably heard of the lymphatic system but may not know about the recently discovered glymphatic system. This brain-dedicated garbage disposal system is critical for removing harmful toxins such as beta-amyloid (the protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease) and alpha-synuclein (the protein linked to Parkinson’s disease).
The glymphatic system works while you sleep. And while there is no compelling evidence to support a “detox,” I think our brains can do a great job of removing neurotoxic wastes if we support their natural processes. Besides optimizing sleep and keeping your blood sugar stable, research is also pointing at brain foods, which are high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, as well as protein and omega-3 fatty acids, to improve glymphatic waste clearance.
I like Perfect Protein Elevated Brain Booster not only for essential protein but also B vitamins (arguably the #1 family of vitamins for nervous system support), nutrient-loaded lion’s mane and rhodiola, along with Perfect Omega in either key lime or mango.
While diet and supplements can be key to building happier, healthier brains, we also have to look at the power of brain activities that support a healthy brain.
Often, we are glued to our devices, which cause us to have shorter and shorter attention spans. To balance things out, you can take some time off screen and do puzzles, like crosswords or sudoku. You can also use some of your screen time to do those same activities online as a break from social media and other common distractions. This keeps our brain function higher as we age and acts somewhat like an anti-ageing solution according to the “use it or lose it” practice I fully support!
When in doubt, choose an activity that you can find enjoyment and fulfillment in such as a yoga or mindfulness practice, which have both been linked to stress management and better brain and mental health. Adding even one of these brain health tips to your daily routine can make a positive impact.