No, not your IQ, or your level of intelligence; the question is about the physiological health of that grey matter of yours.
When did you last give your brain a moment’s thought?
Why am I asking?
I have sadly been watching someone I love go from a feisty, active, cheeky, adorable & sometimes not so adorable human being to a shell of herself due to cognitive deterioration. The diagnosis is irrelevant other than to say it’s not genetic & thus could be more related to lifestyle, choices, food, medication, sleep, etc.
Either way, the impact is devastating and rips my heart apart because I cannot “fix” this, and I know how it ends. The Mother I know and love, the one I travelled Europe with, danced with in Belgium, giggled with outside the sex shop in Paris, who I trained with for years is slowly disappearing right in front of my eyes and increasingly I am met by the stranger who is inhabiting her body.
My anger and frustration still rages.
My tears silently fall as I grapple with what’s to come. I turn, I hide, I deny and then I do it all over again.
She on the other hand is a trojan, facing each day with as much courage as she can muster.
I know that she is one of millions facing this horrendously debilitating condition. I also know that this is not something I would wish on any other human being walking the face of this earth.
In an attempt to understand this disease and what can possibly be done to make the journey just a little less soul-destroying for my Mom, I found myself reading an incredible book called “Biohack Your Brain” by Kristen Willeumier. What I learned was incredible. I highly recommend it.
If you don’t read it, however, I have summarised just a few key takeaways. How much time do we spend taking care of our bodies, our hair, our nails, our teeth and our skin without giving our brain a moments thought? Can you imagine a body without a functioning brain?
Even if the hair, skin, nails and abs rock, it’s not going to serve you in any way because it’s largely your brain that makes you YOU, that unique being you spend every day with, the same one you cannot run away from.
Imagine losing that YOU?
What I learned (a snapshot and links for the detail freaks)
- Firstly, YES you can change your brain, however, you need to look after it, just as you would your fancy new car (plasticity). You can always get a new car if you wreck yours, unfortunately, you can NEVER get an entirely new brain.
- You can produce new brain cells as you age, even in your sixties, seventies, or eighties – this is called neurogenesis. So yes, older people can grow as many new neurons as young people.
- It’s all about blood flow baby, and boosting blood flow to the brain is exactly what you need for optimal cognitive health.
- Your brain needs essential fatty acids (the good kind, Omega 3 fatty acids).
- Lose weight! It’s simple, excess body weight has severe consequences on brain health.
- Lose the processed foods (ok, just in case you were wondering this means those potato chips, crackers, breakfast cereals, soda, diet soda, candy, ketchup, fruit yoghurts, deli meats and well, a vast majority of items found on store shelves (they are filled with sugar, unhealthy fats, useless carbs, and harmful chemicals).
- Up the dark green veggies (green juices) – They contain more antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients per calorie than any other plant.
- Yes to carbs – Your brain actually needs carbs, yes that forbidden word, carbs. It requires glucose and the best source comes from carbs; not your everyday carbs though. The best carbs come from complex carbs such as whole grains, nuts, brown or wild rice, whole oats, etc.
- Hydrate your brain – Most people are chronically dehydrated at any given time and dehydration shrinks your brain’s precious grey matter.
- Exercise – brisk walks, running, swimming, cycling, yoga, HIIT, not merely weight training, since this does not increase blood flow to the brain as dramatically as other forms of exercise.
A few ways to change your brain in 10 minutes
If you do nothing to your diet other than swap out processed foods for whole ones, you will increase your cerebral circulation, grow new neurons, and reduce inflammation.
Remember that the biggest obstacle to effective change is wanting to do too much, too soon, all at the same damn time. Don’t do that! Pick one or two habits, work on those until the change becomes a way of life, and only then take that next step.
Also, the tips above are seriously just the non-proverbial “tip” of the iceberg, and there are many other gems should you be interested. Most importantly though, just start, take action – it’s your brain after all.
Change one thing and give your incredible brain a fighting chance to function more optimally.
I guarantee you that if you improve your food, you will improve your mental health – Dr. Leslie Korn