Are you struggling to get into the swing of the new year? Despite the festive season break, many of us are finding it difficult to think sensibly. These 10 steps will help boost your brain power and energy levels.
Get moving! Exercising encourages your nerve cells to multiply and strengthens their connections, which helps boost your brain and improve memory. According to US natural medicine practitioner Joseph Mercola, exercise protects your brain by:
- Encouraging the production of nerve-protecting compounds.
- Improving blood flow to your brain.
- Helping neurons to develop and survive.
- Decreasing your risk of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke.
In a review by Hayley Guiney and Liana Machado from the University of Otago, New Zealand, published online in the publication Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, studies involving older adults consistently found that fitter individuals scored better in mental tests than their unfit peers. The authors concluded that exercising regularly at all ages is a simple way to boost your brain power.
2. Eat animal-based omega-3 fats
An omega-3 fat called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an essential structural component of your brain. Approximately 60 percent of your brain is composed of fats – 25 percent of which is DHA, says Mercola. And the reason it’s vital to make sure you get sufficient omega-3s is that your body cannot produce it. When your omega-3 intake is too low, ‘your nerve cells become rigid and more prone to inflammation as the missing omega-3 fats are substituted with cholesterol and omega-6 instead,’ he explains. When that happens, the neurons in your cells are not able to communicate effectively.
Recent research reveals that animal-based omega-3 fats may benefit conditions such as memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease, and may also help prevent and even reverse degenerative conditions and improve verbal fluency in older people. To make sure you get sufficient omega-3s, eat krill oil, mackerel, oysters, salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, omega-3-enriched eggs and cod liver oil.
3. Coconut oil
Your brain powers itself by turning dietary glucose from carbohydrates into energy – it actually ‘manufactures its own insulin to convert glucose in your bloodstream into the food it needs to survive,’ explains Mercola.
However, if you eat too few carbs, your brain may not produce sufficient insulin to turn glucose into energy. It literally begins to starve. And that’s when portions of the brain can die, or atrophy, leading to impaired functioning and eventual loss of memory, speech, movement and personality.
Fortunately, your brain is also able to run on energy derived from fat and, says Mercola, ‘this is where coconut oil enters the picture.’ When your body converts fats into energy, it produces substances called ketones. Research indicates that ketones can boost your brain, prevent brain atrophy and may even restore damaged nerve function. And the best types of fats for ketone creation are called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). Coconut oil contains about 66% MCTs.
About 35 ml coconut oil daily appears to help prevent degenerative neurological disease or benefit an already established case. However, adds Mercola, ‘everyone tolerates coconut oil differently, so start slowly with one teaspoon, taken with food in the mornings’ to avoid stomach upset. Gradually add more coconut oil every few days until you are able to tolerate four tablespoons.
4. Vitamin D
Spend some time in the sun to help your body produce vitamin D. This vitamin helps your brain to function at its best, especially in the areas involved in planning, processing information and forming new memories. If there’s no sun to enjoy, visit your healthcare practitioner to have your blood levels checked and supplements prescribed, if necessary.
5. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 helps keep your mind sharp as you age, and a lack of it may even contribute to brain shrinkage. Mental fogginess and problems with memory are two of the top warning signs that you need more vitamin B12.
A 2010 study in Finland found that people who consume foods rich in B12 may reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s as they age. Further research suggests that supplementing with B vitamins, including B12, helps to slow brain atrophy in elderly people with mild cognitive impairment.
Vitamin B12 is available in its natural form only in animal food sources. These include seafood, beef, chicken, pork, milk, and eggs. ‘If you don’t consume enough of these animal products,’ Mercola advises, ‘or if your body’s ability to absorb the vitamin from food is compromised, vitamin B12 supplementation is completely non-toxic and inexpensive.’
6. Keep your gut healthy
Your gut is your ‘second brain’. In fact, your gut bacteria transmit information to your brain via the vagus nerve, which runs between your brain stem and the nervous system of your gastrointestinal tract. Unhealthy gut bacteria can impact your mental health, leading to issues such as anxiety, depression and autism. One example is serotonin – bacteria in the gut produce 90% to 95% of our serotonin, the key neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood.
The health of gut bacteria depends almost entirely on your diet and lifestyle. Avoid processed foods and sweetened drinks, which destroy healthy bacteria, and eat instead traditionally fermented foods, which are rich in naturally occurring good bacteria, and take a probiotic supplement.
A good night’s sleep can boost your brain power and help you think clearly the next day. Sleep resets your brain, helping you to solve old problems, improving your memory and helping you face challenges more effectively. Even a midday nap can dramatically boost and restore brain power.
8. Listen to music
Can listening to music boost your brain power? Well, research shows that people with coronary artery disease (who generally experience some deterioration in brain power) who listened to music while exercising improved their cognitive levels and verbal fluency skills. Enjoy this simple pleasure whenever you can.
9. Challenge your mind
Keep mentally active. Don’t stop learning (by travelling, for example, or learning a new language or attending local lectures and community activities). Play brain games. Challenging your brain with mind-training exercises can keep your brain fit as you age. Play board or card games, do crossword puzzles or surf the web, with purpose. (Don’t confuse web searching with staring mindlessly at the TV, though. Your brain cells won’t thank you.)
10. Ginkgo biloba
Power up your memory and cognitive skills with ginkgo, which also helps prevent the progression of dementia symptoms and a range of other conditions. Try Flora Force Ginkgo Biloba, Focus Formula™ and Hypertension Formula™.
Acknowledgements & Photo credits
Article compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer.
The main source of information for this column was Dr Joseph Mercola’s ‘Nine ways to make yourself smarter’. Find the full article at http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/05/17/good-brain-health-tips.aspx
- Guiney, H. and Machado, L. Benefits of regular aerobic exercise for executive functioning in healthy populations. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 2012; DOI: 10.3758/s13423-012-0345-4
- Yurko-Mauro, K, et al. Beneficial effects of docosahexaenoic acid on cognition in age-related cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s and Dementia, 2010 Nov; 6(6):456-64. Alzheimer’s and Dementia 2010 Nov;6(6):456-64
- Can coconut oil prevent Alzheimer’s? www.alzheimers.net/2013-05-29/coconut-oil-for-alzheimers/
- Illustration courtesy of geralt / Pixabay.com