brain shape filled with words about brain functions

Fixing the Broken Brain: Part One

Don’t you love it when life hands you synchronicity? There is something magical when events converge to change Think yourself healthyyour life…and this is exactly what has happened to me. Two months ago three things happened that, at the time, didn’t seem related: I started a new book on how to improve cognition and brain efficiency, I began my search for a seminar that met my CEU (Continuing Education Units) requirements for my board certification, and a past client came in to see me. As it turned out, these three events have changed my nutrition practice and my health forever.

Head Strong by Dave Asprey

Let me start with the book: Head Strong by Dave Asprey. Dave is the guy that created the “Bullet Proof Coffee” craze. (If you have been living under a rock and do not know what bullet proof coffee is, it is a lovely concoction of coffee, butter, and coconut oil that is blended to turn your morning cup of joe into rocket fuel that can keep your energy and your brain chugging away all morning long.)

His book is a compilation of brain enhancing techniques that he has developed to produce clearer thinking, better memory, improved creativity, and accelerated learning. If you know me at all, then you know that this is right up my alley…I am always trying to find new ways to make my brain better. As soon as I cracked open the book, I realized he was speaking my language. His first and foremost “bio hack” was to eat real food! No GMOs, no packages, no refining…just as nature intended it. As I read on, he also spoke about the importance of sleep, exercise, stress resiliency, and community. He was preaching to the choir, but I loved every minute of it.

It was a Saturday and I could have happily spent the day being preached to, but I had other things that needed my attention. So I grudging sat down at my computer to begin the search for a conference that was interesting, not too far away, and that fit the requirements of my professional governing board, The National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP). As I checked out the usual suspects (and found them all wanting), I came across a two-day seminar in Dallas (but they also offered it live-stream…I could stay in my jammies!) on “Reversing Cognitive Decline” by one of my functional medicine mentors, Dr. Dale Bredesen. Wow, this was perfect and eerily connected to what I was learning from Dave Asprey. I signed up and paid (a rather large sum) right then and there.

Monday morning, I walked into my office to the phone ringing. It was one of my favorite clients (actually, they are all my favorite) who I had not seen in about four years. She was terribly distraught and was having a hard time explaining why she was calling me. This was not the woman who I had counseling four years ago. She was having problems organizing her thoughts and finding the right words to explain her situation. She had just turned 69 and had been having trouble maintaining her independent lifestyle. The doctor had told her that she had mild cognitive decline and was probably moving into full-blown dementia or Alzheimer’s and there was not much she could do about it. A medication might slow the progression a bit, but that was about it. This was not at all her style; she knew there had to be something else out there and so she called me to see if I could help.

Okay, now this was pretty crazy…the universe was definitely trying to tell me something…brain health should be my focus for a while.

Fast forward two months… I have long since finished the book, taken the course, and begun a plan to help my client get her life back. Personally, I have implemented many of the supplements and little life style changes that Dave suggested in his book and I have noticed increased performance in my own brain function. I have learned that cognitive decline and neuro-degeneration are not permanent and can be reversed (Dr Bredesen’s new book is called The End of Alzheimer’s and he has now reversed diagnosed-Alzheimer’s in over 100 people), and I have seen my client make improvements in her mental abilities in just two months. I will never look at the aging brain the same way again, in myself and in my clients. Here are the big takeaways and things you can do today to rejuvenate your mental prowess:

The Five Pillars of the Healthy Brain…and a bonus idea

1. Eat real food. Sometimes I sound like a broken record, but if suddenly all processed food were to magically disappear from the world, it would solve the health crisis. Eat food as nature intended; without added sugar, chemicals, unnatural processing, and manipulation (i.e., GMO).

2. Don’t shortchange your sleep. Sleep is the time that we repair our bodies, consolidate new information, and restore our energy. It is also the time that we balance hormones that keep our mood stable, our weight healthy, and our bodies youthful. Make sleep a priority.

3. Move everyday…workout some of the days. We are not made to sit all day long. Plan movement into your day: go for a walk, bike to work, take a yoga/tai chi/pilates/whatever class, mow the lawn…it’s all good! Exercise is a main way to produce more BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor), which is a major chemical to produce new brain connections.

4. Find a community and be supported by them. Make sure that you get a hug, stroke a pet, chat with your BFF, or hang with friends every day. Research shows that isolation increases the risk of brain degeneration as well as other chronic diseases.

5. Create a stress-free oasis. When I tell my clients to “reduce stress” they look at me like I just asked them to fly to the moon, so now I say, “Find a place that you can take a vacation from your stressors”. I suggest taking a bath, reading a book, meditating, being in nature, or playing with your kids…just for a few minutes. These activities create a buffer from the stress of our world and will lower your inflammation, improve sleep, and reduce your risk of cognitive decline

6. Bonus idea: Choose some targeted supplements. There is a long list of supplements that improve brain function and many of them are familiar, such as probiotics, omega 3 fish oil, and turmeric. But here are three new ones that you may not know about. When added together in a “stack” (brain hacker’s term for putting multiple supplements together to get a big effect) produce more brain repair and less degeneration:

o Ashwagandha – improves mood and restores memory

o Citicholine – regeneration of neuronal connections and increases brain energy

o Lion’s Mane mushroom – neuro-protection and increased neuronal connections

When trying out supplements, quality matters more than quantity. It is more effective to spend more money on quality products without strange fillers, than to take a bunch of inexpensive, ineffective and possibly harmful products that you find online or in a discount store. Ask for some help in finding the best supplement for your dollar…and your brain.

I have implemented every suggestion here, plus a few more and I can tell you that my very good brain is even better than it was two months ago. Fix your broken brain and live longer, smarter, and happier. In the future weeks, I will be writing part two of this article, in which I will outline some of the advanced techniques I am using to fix my brain forever.

unsplash-logoWilliam Felker

Posted in Healthy Brain.