Archives For brains

The Brain
A Broadcasting and Receiving Station for Thought
The Twelfth Step Toward Riches

The brain is one of the last frontiers, it’s a universe in its own right and has more neuron connections than visible stars in the sky, yet strangely enough, less than our guts. We can all agree that the brain is an important organ that we need to protect because it’s important to our health and success, but why do we tend to abuse it so much.

“WHAT, I don’t abuse my brain!” you exclaim, but unfortunately we don’t even know what may be causing harm to our brains. There are over 14,000 man-made chemicals added to our food supply in the United States alone, and we are still unsure how it all affects our brains.

Besides the obvious causes of brain damage that include blows to the head, illegal and legal substance abuse, we need to think about the food we’re consuming that we believe to be safe. Recently over the holidays I overconsumed sweets to not only include a dozen or so miniature candy bars but also cookies and whatever else had sugar in it. Needless to say my blood sugar spiked and the following day I crashed. I thought I had a hangover but I don’t drink alcohol, so I thought what else could’ve caused me to feel like this, and it lead to sugar. My sweet tooth has been a problem for me for as long as I can remember and I’ve consciously avoided high fructose corn syrup in 2015, except for the holidays.

One of the top things we should always be concerned about is what we’re putting into our gas tank. We wouldn’t pour a cup of sugar into our cars gas tank, so why do we pour sugar into our body’s gas tank? Carolyn Gregoire in the Huffington Post article This is What Sugar Does to Your Brain, states that sugar can wreak havoc on your brain. If you’ve ever consumed more sugary foods then normal you may have experienced a sugar crash due to blood sugar levels peaking and then dropping. High blood sugar levels have been linked to brain inflammation and can impair memory and learning skills along with a possible link to depression and anxiety. High blood sugars also affect the production of insulin, which is needed to help strengthen synaptic connections between brain cells to help them communicate better.

We’ve all had those days when we just can’t seem to concentrate. And while there’s no magic pill to bring us back to the height of our cognitive powers, there are some foods that have been shown to improve brain function, protect against age-associated cognitive decline and encourage focus and clarity.  The article titled 12 Superfoods To Boost Your Brainpower, lists the top brain foods as;

  • Walnuts which have heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory nutrients which helps promote blood flow, which in turn allows for efficient delivery of oxygen to the brain.
  • Olive Oil is a great source of monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to actually slow brain aging.
  • Berries, especially blueberries and strawberries, were linked to a slower mental decline in areas like memory and focus.
  • Sardines and other fatty fish like salmon containing omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA are a well-known brain booster to improve focus and memory, and may lower the risk of dementia.
  • Coffee and other beverages containing caffeine, improves mental acuity. Coffee’s antioxidant richness helps maintain brain health and can actually stave off depression in women.
  • Spinach is rich in the antioxidant lutein, which is thought to help protect against cognitive decline.
  • Dark chocolate is healthy due to being rich in flavonoids, a class of antioxidant that helps to improve blood flow (and thus brain health) by regulating cholesterol and lowering blood pressure.
  • Avocados are full of monounsaturated fats that improve vascular health and blood flow.
  • Water is essential to stay hydrated, if you become dehydrated your brain tissue actually shrinks, impairing short-term memory, focus and decision making.
  • Wheat Germ is a rich vegetarian source of choline to produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which boosts memory. Eggs are another good choline source.
  • Beets are a good source of naturally-occurring nitrates, which help improve blood flow to the brain (and guys, it increases blood flow to other parts of the body).
  • Garlic may help stave off some forms of brain cancer. Investigators found that the organo-sulfur compounds in garlic actually worked to kill glioblastoma cells – a type of malignant tumor cell.

Meditation is another way we can keep our brain healthy and is linked to increased productivity and happiness. Forbes magazine published the article 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain which lists some of the benefits of meditation;

  • Meditation Helps Preserve the Aging Brain – People who’d been meditating for an average of 20 years had more grey matter volume throughout the brain.
  • Meditation Reduces Activity in the Brain’s “Me Center” -Mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts – a.k.a., “monkey mind.”
  • Its Effects Rival Antidepressants for Depression, Anxiety – Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness and studies show that it may reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain.
  • Meditation May Lead to Volume Changes in Key Areas of the Brain – Eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was found to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, and in areas that play roles in emotion regulation and self-referential processing.
  • Improves Concentration and Attention – Just a couple of weeks of meditation training helped people’s focus and memory and raised their verbal reasoning section of the GRE scores by 16 percentile points.
  • Reduces Anxiety — and Social Anxiety – Research has also shown that mindfulness meditation, in contrast to attending to the breath only, can reduce anxiety and has also been shown to help people with social anxiety disorder.
  • Helps with Addiction – A growing number of studies has shown that meditation can be very effective in helping people recover from various types of addiction.
  • Short Meditation Breaks Can Help Kids in School – One district in San Francisco started a twice daily meditation program in some of its high-risk schools – and saw suspensions decrease, and GPAs and attendance increase.

Some products claim to be able to speed up the benefits of meditation through technology. One of the companies is Centerpointe which uses a sophisticated form of audio technology called holosync. Holosync increases synchronous neuro-electrical activity between the two hemispheres of the brain, and drives the nervous system to higher levels of functioning over time and improves learning ability, creativity, problem-solving, focus and concentration, memory, and intuition.

A different product for the more serious brain hackers is The BrainStimulator and uses Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) which is a form of neurostimulation (also known as neuromodulation). It was originally developed to help patients with brain injuries such as strokes, however tests on healthy adults demonstrated that tDCS can increase cognitive performance on a variety of tasks, depending on the area of the brain being stimulated. Scientific studies have shown that tDCS has the ability to enhance language and mathematical ability, attention span, problem solving, memory, and coordination. In addition, tDCS has also been documented as having impressive potential to treat depression, anxiety, PTSD, as well as chronic pain.

We can slowly reduce the ability for our brains to operate efficiently by not being aware of what we are consuming, not only through food but other environmental factors like electromagnetic fields (EMF). The article, Zapped: EMF Exposure and Your Brain states that EMFs are produced by electricity flowing through power lines, home wiring, appliances, mobile phones, and other electrical devices. You would expect your microwave, cell phone, and WiFi to be high EMF producers, but so are your fridge, hair dryer, vacuum cleaner, and blender.

EMFs create free radicals — unattached oxygen molecules that attack your cells much in the same way that oxygen causes metal to rust. Your brain uses a lot of oxygen which is why it’s very susceptible to free radical damage. Here are some of the results to the brain due to EMF exposure;

  • EMFs produce free radicals which can kill cells and even cause DNA damage.
  • EMFs have been shown to break the brain-blood barrier, allowing toxins and chemicals to enter the brain and seriously affect brain function.
  • Proteins are integral to brain cell structure and neurotransmitter formation and over 140 proteins in the brain are negatively impacted by EMF exposure. Neurotransmitters enable your brain cells to communicate with each other.
  • There may be a direct link between the electromagnetic fields created by power lines and all types of dementia including Alzheimer’s.
  • Cell phones are bad for adults but are much worse for children. Dr. Ronald B. Herberman testified before Congress that the rate of absorption is higher in children than adults because their brain tissues are more absorbent, their skulls are thinner, and their relative size is smaller. Shockingly, EMFs nearly went straight through the brain of a 5 year old and some experts believe there is a link between cell phone use by kids and ADD and ADHD.

There is a number of skeptics as to the affects EMF’s have on not only the brain but the whole body. As a precautionary measure limit your EMF exposures by taking action on a few common sense precautions;

  • Keep your phone as far away as you can when it’s turned on.
  • Turn it off when you can.
  • Invest in a mobile phone radiation protector.
  • Don’t sleep with your phone on and next to your head.
  • Keep computers and TVs out of the bedroom or shut off the power to them before sleeping.
  • Place your alarm clock three feet from your head and don’t use an electric blanket.

The brain is the one body organ that controls all of the other body organs, we all agree that without a healthy brain we are going to be unhealthy. Unfortunately some people take their brain for granted and consistently damage it, which could eventually lead to a life of illness and misery. It’s time to think about how you’re damaging your brain and what will be the ultimate outcome of the abuse.

Don’t let your comfortable habits today lead to an uncomfortable life tomorrow.

What daily habit can you implement today to better take care of your brain?