Nourishing the Brain

The many ways a brain can be injured include both from inside the head and from outside the head. Brain injury may include traumatic brain injury, concussions, post-concussion syndrome, acquired brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder, personality disorders and/or changes, anxiety, strokes, TIAs, memory problems, and delusions, to name a few. When healing the brain, the emphasis should be on showing the brain lots of love. Let’s talk about why and how to nourish the brain.

The brain is a very important part of our body but it does not act alone. It is intricately connected with the rest of the body in many ways. For example, thousands of nerve cells run through the brain carrying messages throughout the body; in fact, the length of nerves could stretch the distance from the California coast to the Florida Keys. Nerve irritation can start anywhere and travel. Migraines can actually be an irritation of the belly. When we deal with the irritation in the belly and reset the pain cycle in the nervous system, migraines can resolve. Finding the start and the cause of the irritation can be helpful for many patterns of symptoms.

In fact, finding the cause of symptoms is often underestimated, especially with the brain and nervous system tissue. Patients are often appropriately focused on learning how to cope with a disability or day-to-day functions. However, when working with patients, we need to look further to find the underlying cause. The National Library of Medicine estimates that 40% of Parkinson’s is triggered by flu, based on the number of biopsies finding influenza virus in the substantia nigra, the main portion of the body affected in Parkinson’s patients. If flu is an underlying cause for these patients, when treated, they can get better. By addressing the body’s ability to deal with the virus properly, many Parkinson’s patients can have fewer symptoms.

The adult brain is two percent of our weight but requires 20-25% of our blood and oxygen supply. Circulation is important in getting nutrients to the brain and removing toxins from the body. The body can be much more efficient when the roads to get there are easier to travel. There are some wonderful ways to encourage better circulation throughout the body. Hydrotherapy is one and many of you have read about or heard of warming socks. Movement will increase the blood’s flow around the body. Herbs such as Gingko Biloba can help. A six month study showed increased mental function after consistent doses of Gingko Biloba.

Our brain is very susceptible to toxic damage. Metals, mercury, lead, aluminum, pesticides, and herbicides are particularly problematic. Besides water, the brain is 60% fat, and toxins love to hide in fat tissue. Not only do we take in outside toxins but we make our own toxins, too. Emotions can be toxic, as are hormones that are not eliminated after they are used. Some of us have more toxins hanging around than others because of defects in our ability to process them. So, obviously, it’s important to get to the bottom of the problem.

Just as important as eliminating those toxins is nourishing the brain with good things. One of the biggest misconceptions about nutrition in the past five years is fats. The brain needs healthy fats since it is made more of fat than anything else. Healthy fats are found in olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, coconut, and from meats, dairy and poultry from free-range animals that are grass fed. These are important for young children when the brain is developing and are equally vital for those who are repairing their brains. Unhealthy fats include vegetable oils, trans-fat margarine, Crisco, and conventionally-raised meats, poultry, or eggs.

Whole foods in general are important to offset the free radicals causing inflammation that is so common in brain issues. Free radicals can occur from trauma or from some of the processed food we eat, including sugar and any refined carbohydrate. There is a direct correlation between high blood sugar and the risk of dementia. There is no mistake that the brain is interconnected with the body and receives its nourishment from the food we eat. Antioxidants are important to offset the damage done by normal wear and tear. Whole food is much like what our grandparents would eat – the whole grains, veggies, fruits and eating many colors of the rainbow. We can complement a healthy diet with additional antioxidants and DHA, much like what the brain receives when it is developing in the womb.

I have seen many patients recover from remarkable circumstances. It takes commitment and a myriad of tools. The basics are finding and treating the cause and origin, removing toxins, and using good whole food nutrition and extra fat and antioxidants for the brain. You don’t have to nourish all your brain cells – just the ones you want to keep.