Nuggets for upgrading the foundation of YOU
There’s no question that the health of your brain determines the function of everything in the entire body and is to be reflected by the quality of your life, including emotional health, memory, problem solving, and communication with the outside world.
I also shared that for the next few months I am providing you bite-size pieces of information - how-to’s for preserving and even enhancing the health of your brain.
The first bite-sized nugget:
A primary factor for a healthy neurological system is strong circulation. The brain is a vascular organ with 400 miles of blood vessels.
I've always emphasized that if there ever was a 'silver bullet' to health it would be nutrient and oxygen rich blood. Strong circulation of healthy blood is what preserves the health of everything in the body, and is the primary ticket to an enduring neurological system.
Due to this fact, inflammation is the biggest enemy when it comes to brain health. The inflammation we're talking about is different from the commonly known inflammation associated with aches and pains. This inflammation is on a microscopic level, and the problem is it reduces blood-flow.
The primary problems caused from restricted blood flow include:
1) Inflammation damages the brain since it is limiting the delivery of vital oxygen and nutrients.
2) Healthy blood flow is essential for removal of metabolic waste. Metabolic waste that lingers in tissues essentially goes rancid and causes more inflammation.
3) Reduced blood flow shrinks the brain, especially in the hippocampus (memory center) - naturally a factor of Alzheimer's more than doubling in the past ten years.
4) Activity of neural pathways is reduced.
So, in essence, part of the key to preserve neurological health is to hone the anti-inflammatory lifestyle in order to optimize blood-flow. Makes sense, right?
Additionally, optimal blood flow is what enables neurogenesis, the renewal of brain cells. This is the breakthrough discovery thought to be impossible until about the year 2000. We now know that the body can grow new brain cells until the end of life. That's really good news and is how overall brain health can be improved at any time.
The 2nd bite-size nugget:
Inflammation in the body, like I explained above, slows blood flow. Nutrient and O2 blood is what restores the body, right? Healthy blood flow is also what removes metabolic waste from the cells. This vital process slows down as inflammation develops in the tissues of the body. In a nutshell, more inflammation = a faster aging body. Especially the brain since it's arguably the most sensitive and complex organ.
Foods high in omega 3 fatty acids
Foods high in Omega 3 fatty acids mitigate inflammation in the body. The reasons are largely unknown. The best sources? Salmon (not overcooked) and raw nuts and seeds, especially almonds, flax seeds and chia seeds. Not roasted nuts and seeds. Raw nuts and seeds are natural anti-inflammatories. Omega-3 supplements can be useful for this purpose, too, but the whole, unadulterated food is almost always better.
Free radicals are what create the most inflammation in the body. Free radicals are an inescapable part of the everyday wear and tear of life. Thankfully we can mitigate free radicals in the body with antioxidants. Antioxidants, also referred to as "free radical scavengers" neutralize free radicals via lending electrons. A healthy body actually has the natural ability to create antioxidants.
Additionally, beta-carotene (converts to vitamin A), vitamin C, and vitamin E from plant foods are powerful antioxidants. Generally, the darker the color, the more antioxidants. Berries are the exceptional sources. Other high sources include red grapes, peaches, figs, cherries, pears, guava, oranges, apricots, mango, cantaloupe, watermelon, papaya, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, carrots, artichokes, cabbage, asparagus, avocados, beetroot, radish, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, collard greens, kale, and all beans. Produce section, here we come. Need ideas how to prep these foods? Check out my recipes webpage to make all of this tasty and easy. As for vitamin E, the highest sources are nuts and seeds. No surprise, almonds are number one.
Turmeric plus pepper
Turmeric, in a category of its own, has the potential to be nature's most effective anti-inflammatory for improving blood flow - however, only when combined with pepper. Pepper is a catalyst for curcumin, the active anti-inflammatory agent, in turmeric. This powerful combination has been known in Ayurveda for millennia and is thought to be why dementia in India was virtually non-existent until recent years. This is what Infinity Turmeric is all about. Turmeric blended with pepper extract and ginger, in capsules. You can learn all about it on the Infinity Turmeric Webpage.
While the focus of this newsletter series is targeting brain health, we know that these are dietary principles that will improve every aspect of our health. And, already healthy or not, all of this will make a difference, short and long-term, making it worth the effort. Seldom has anyone regretted putting more care into their health. Especially when it's simple, and the payoff is great.
The 3rd bite-size nugget:
Like we know, the body's organs are all working together. Think of it as a synergy. Each organ supports the other organs to function at their best, and certainly this includes the brain. An obvious one is the heart since, like we talked about in part one, the brain is a vascular organ with four hundred miles of blood vessels. That’s the essence of the relationship that the brain has with all organs in the body. And it goes both ways. A healthy brain orchestrates better functioning organs.
Now here's an interesting one. The intestines have a direct influence on the function of the brain, even more so than the other organs. Naturally, it's obvious that a healthy digestive system processes essential glucose, proteins, and nutrients for the brain, but there's more.
The vagus nerve
The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body that runs between the brain and the large intestines. It’s a direct line of communication through which messages are rapidly transmitted in both directions.
Something we’re all familiar with is the butterfly feelings when we’re nervous. Here’s an example of how the brain dramatically shifts the function of the intestines within seconds. This goes to show you the function of the vagus nerve.
Also did you know that the large intestines are where the body creates over 90% of serotonin? This critical neurotransmitter supports the body in many ways, and especially with mood, memory, and sleep.
Now we know, the health of your digestive system, especially the large intestines, has a direct impact on the function of your brain.
Note - a direct indicator for the health status of the large intestines is having at least one solid bowel movement per day. Skipping a day from time to time is no big deal, but the reality is most people are walking around slightly constipated. Not good for the brain.
Naturally all of the foods we have each day affect the functioning of the digestive system. The health of the digestive system is constantly either weakened or strengthened which can affect the functioning of the brain in a matter of seconds.
Making the how-to’s bite-size (no pun intended), I will break this down into two categories of foods that carry the most weight for optimizing the health of your large intestines for the support of your brain.
The first one is fiber. The highest sources of fiber are of course plant foods. These are the foods that I listed in the 2nd nugget (see above) last week which you can take a look at now, if you haven’t already. All of the listed foods are great sources of fiber.
Fiber, of course, helps move things along in your digestive tract. We know there are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both carry value. In order to keep this bite-size I will share that most fruits and vegetables have at least some amount of both. With a variety of plant foods, the reality is you can’t go wrong, and I feel the question of determining an ideal quantity of soluble versus insoluble is not so important. I do, however, dive into this topic in Chapter 8 in my book, Infinity Health Manual, but, again, I’m keeping this newsletter series bite-size, as promised.
My only caution is to not assume you’re getting all the fiber you need from whole wheat, wheat bran, brown rice, quinoa, millet, corn, and similar grains. These are exclusively insoluble fiber, and insoluble fiber alone can actually be constipating. It’s a matter of both soluble and insoluble fiber, together, that makes all of this work, and nature already has that balance figured out with simple plant foods. For grains, oatmeal is the one exception as it is an excellent source of both kinds of fiber.
Another category of foods that can be integral for brain health is fermented foods, especially sauerkraut and kimchi, thanks to the healthy bacteria they can provide which are the building blocks of a strong digestive system.
In order to receive the therapeutic value from the probiotics of sauerkraut and kimchi it has to be raw and unheated. These are products that will be exclusively stored in refrigerators. A sauerkraut product sold on a shelf at the store unrefrigerated will carry no value since it has been heat treated which eliminates the probiotics.
Probiotic supplements may be helpful, but the simple tried and true plant foods will always be better, putting sauerkraut and kimchi, in a class of their own.
Yogurt and kefir do not fall into this category. These bacteria are only for making the digestion of dairy products manageable for the body and offer no therapeutic value.
Kombucha is a reasonable source of healthy bacteria, but bear in mind that it also has processed sugar, making it something to only have in moderation. In my mind, moderation qualifies as one bottle a day, at most. And it is not a product that I feel is critical for digestive health.
In summary, fiber and healthy bacteria are the fundamental building blocks of a strong digestive system which supports a healthy brain - to be reflected in many ways, and now we know just where to start.
The 4th Nugget
Like we talked about, a primary factor for a healthy neurological system is strong circulation since the brain is a vascular organ with 400 miles of blood vessels. And now we know, for this reason, the anti-inflammatory diet is so important. In the 2nd Nugget we identified a punch-list of what foods are the most beneficial for this purpose.
It's just as important to address which foods are our biggest enemies; foods that actually cause inflammation.
Sugar - it may be no surprise that processed cane sugar causes inflammation. Because foods with sugar are around every corner, even at the natural food store, it can be challenging to steer clear of it. Additionally it can be challenging to recognize its risks because of how it's marketed. But, like we identified, Alzheimer's has more than doubled in the last ten years, and sugar is no question one of the reasons.
Cutting back on sugar can also be challenging due to being chemically addictive. So it's really about going processed sugar free. You've heard me talk about 'detoxing your pantry', right? Bottled drinks, cereals, snacks - for the sake of your brain, they've all gotta go in order to prevent sugar from being a regular part of your routine.
The superior sugar
The way to make this relatively easy is to keep your sweet tooth happy with fruit, the superior sugar. The body naturally craves sugar for important reasons. There's a science to this, but like I promised, the health nuggets in this series are 'bite-size'. You can learn a lot more about it, as well as ways of making the how-to's simple, in Chapter 3 of my book, The Infinity Health Manual which I am offering you today for free. Get your free electronic version HERE.
By the way, you've heard me say before that if you're at a birthday party, it's not going to hurt to have a piece of cake. And note that moderate amounts of honey, coconut sugar, and maple syrup can be fine which I also address in my book.
Not these fats
Safflower, sunflower, canola, corn, and palm oil all cause inflammation, no matter how 'organic' they may be. These are very common in snack foods including chips, crackers, popcorn, and cookies. These aren't so great for your cholesterol either, which is also directly linked with the health of your brain.
Olive, avocado, and coconut oil are fine. However the fats that actually offer real benefit are the fats from unprocessed foods. Like we talked about, this includes nuts and seeds, avocados, and salmon.
Level 1 carcinogen
The World Health Organization has recently classified processed animal protein as a Level 1 carcinogen, with smoking tobacco and asbestos. The oxidation of meat products when digested is what can also make them harmful inflammatories. Not something to have on a routine basis for the sake of your brain. As for the hurdles of getting adequate protein, B-12, zinc, and other nutrients, I provide solutions in Chapter 5.
So we're cutting these foods out and replacing them with the elites. Thankfully this kicks in the body's intuitive wisdom which mitigates the craving of foods like soda and steak. The discipline to get started can rapidly shift to natural desire for the health enhancing stuff, making life much easier. And better, too, of course.
The 5th bite-sized nugget.
Sleep has a direct impact on the performance of every function of the body, to be reflected by your energy, immune system, happiness, love-life, and mental health.
However, insomnia is a problem for nearly half of our population. Collectively, we’re a sleep-deprived nation.
The reason good sleep is critical for the health of your brain is during sleep is when the brain is repaired from the general wear and tear from everyday life.
Specifically what’s called the glymphatic system, clears metabolic waste from the cells of the brain.
Like all cells in the body, the cells of the brain are fueled by glucose, and when glucose is processed there is always metabolic waste.
Metabolic waste that lingers due to a slowed glymphatic system from poor sleep accelerates the rate at which brain cells die.
So for the glymphatic system to preserve the cells of your brain, good sleep is essential.
Approximately seven to nine hours of sleep with four hours of uninterrupted REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is what the glymphatic system needs to run its full course, clearing metabolic waste from the brain.
There's a science to this, but like I have promised, the health nuggets in this series are 'bite-size'.
My recommendation is to use only plant-based supplements. That’s why I created Infinity Sleep, a sleep supplement designed to promote healthy and restorative sleep. Infinity Sleep is made of passionflower, skullcap, and chamomile, each known for their effectiveness in aiding with insomnia, stress, and improved neurological health. (See the Special today at the bottom of this article.)
Melatonin supplements may be helpful but only for a few days in a row since the body quickly develops a tolerance. Additionally, melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the body. A healthy lifestyle is a direct link with improved melatonin production. More on melatonin below.
Popular sedative herbs like valerian root and kava-kava can potentially be effective sleep aides but are toxic for the liver when used frequently. Sedative qualities of CBD and magnesium may be helpful, however the body can develop a tolerance to these as well.
Adaptogen herbs, alternatively, like those included in Infinity Sleep, have a longer term restorative effect on the body’s nervous system.
Foods, including bananas, oats, tomatoes, rice, and almonds enhance melatonin production in the brain. On the flip side, unsurprisingly, alcohol and sugar are melatonin depleting.
Do what you can to have dinner a few hours before going to bed. Eating right before bed can be disruptive to your sleep.
Caffeine lingers in the body for up to ten hours; so caffeinate accordingly.
Late night trips to the bathroom
The idea is to hydrate more during the day and less in the evening in order to prevent the need for making multiple trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I generally curb my hydration after 6:00pm (of course there are variable factors, like if you’re exercising in the evening, for instance). Having to get up once a night is fine, but twice or more, interferes with necessary REM.
A contributing factor to late-night trips to the bathroom is municipal water often lacks trace minerals including sodium and potassium which are important links for water to be absorbed into the body’s cells. This alone can be a common cause of frequent urination. Adding just a pinch of Celtic sea salt to your water can be an effective remedy. Note - this does not include regular table salt which lacks potassium.
Another cause for making late night trips is from blood pooling in the legs due to the simple forces of gravity and long days of sitting at the office. At night when the body lays flat, these stagnant fluids circulate, some of which are to be eliminated via the bladder. Try this: late afternoon, lay on your back with your legs elevated for five minutes to run this natural course of the body before bedtime.
Of course fatiguing your body with regular exercise is a huge influence for good sleep. Additionally, exercise burns stress hormones which is a contributing factor as well.
Nap or no nap
Pass on the long naps. Instead, try this revitalizing technique mid-day when you need it: rest ten minutes on your back. The heart is on the same level as the rest of the body, helping to re-circulate oxygen-rich blood head to toe. This can be an outstanding pick me up and it doesn’t interfere with sleep later even if you snooze a bit.
Cool bedroom temperatures cue the body's circadian rhythm (internal clock) for better sleep. Try setting your thermostat between sixty and sixty eight degrees.
Generally, the darker your bedroom the better. The brain produces melatonin in dark environments. Eye masks can always be useful. If you have an alarm clock, make sure the display is red light. Red light is the only light that doesn’t interfere with the body's production of melatonin. If you can see a clock from your bed, you may find that you have a tendency to wake up at the same time every night. When waking up in the middle of the night, being unaware of the time can be more conducive to falling back asleep.
Do your best to keep your activity before bedtime relaxing. Take a hot shower or bath.
If possible, dim the light in your home in the evening, preferably exposing yourself only to incandescent light - not fluorescent. The brain produces less melatonin when exposed to artificial light. ‘Blue light’ emitted from back-lit screens, like computers and phones, is also a challenge for this reason. Glasses made specially for filtering blue light and are a worthy consideration if you are frequently looking at screens after sunset.
Do what you can to maintain a relatively consistent sleep schedule. This optimizes the body’s circadian rhythm.
Sleeping on your back and sides allows for deeper breathing, versus sleeping on your stomach. The body has its natural instincts, but try starting out on your back.
Nights you find yourself tossing and turning, it can be helpful to get up and sit in another dimly lit room for a reset. Give it ten minutes. Then back under the covers.
That’s it for today. There’s no question that your sleep largely determines the health of your brain and quality of life.
The 6th bite-sized nugget.
The fact that stress can impact our physical health, including the health of our brain, is not breaking news. The question is how much. Remember we have talked about how the brain is the most sensitive of the organs.
We’ve also talked about the phenomenal abilities the brain has to preserve and even reverse its aging via neurogenesis (the expedited production of new brain cells) that, still, even today, continues to boggle the minds of scientists.
Additionally, we’re still learning more about how stress can negatively impact these regenerative abilities.
Stress is defined as mental tension and qualifies as feelings of frustration, urgency, short-temperament, worry, and anger. Of course, to some degree, stress is just part of life from the day to day pressures like paying the bills on time, driving to and from work, time sensitive appointments, errands to the store, constant stimulation by cell phones, more traffic, news streaming from all directions, and the continuous lineup of decisions facing us from the moment we wake up.
The problem is chronic stress can impact our physiological health in undesirable ways. High blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and even dementia are linked as long-term effects from stress.
The primary effect stress can have on the physical condition of the brain is inflammation. This is due to the continuous production of cortisol, the body’s natural stress hormone. Remember we’ve talked about how inflammation that reduces blood flow is the brain’s biggest enemy.
Additionally, cortisol production uses substrates that would otherwise be used for production of oxytocin, the ‘hug hormone’. Similarly, the amygdala in the brain that manages stress uses the body’s resources that could otherwise be utilized by the hippocampus which is why stress can affect our memory. I will say here that, for the purpose of mitigating stress, having this basic understanding of how stress can affect our physical health, can be useful.
In addition to the nuts and bolts of diet, sleep, and exercise that we’ve talked about for building solid neurological health, everything in our day to day lives can be an influence - whether positive or negative. So the idea is to do what we can, within reason, to reduce stress - again the feelings that qualify as mental tension.
Of course there’s bountiful means of mitigating stress. Exposure to undesirable life experiences that can be stressful is inevitable, but naturally we want to do what’s practical to mitigate stress, again for the purpose of preserving our neurological health.
How-to's for mitigating stress is a topic among my favorites which we will talk about next. A topic that skims the surface of what the Infinity Wellness Adventure is all about.
The 7th bite-sized nugget.
Exercise impacts everything in the body - more than just building muscle and burning fat, alone, as important as that is.
Brain derived neurotrophic factor
Physical exercise causes a systemic inflammation that we experience as muscle soreness. The body responds by producing the growth hormone, brain derived neurotrophic factor, which is generally referred to as ‘BDNF’. Ultimately exercise grows the brain. It’s like a natural Miracle-grow. This is a big reason the brain likes exercise.
Specifically, exercise stimulates neurogenesis, the production of more neurons, and better neural connections for enhanced synaptic activity. Neurogenesis is a gene program in the body, always ready to run, even into our later years, like we talked about in the beginning.
Additionally, exercise makes brain cells hungry for insulin. In the past I’ve talked about how a poor diet causes insulin resistance at the brain blood barrier. Exercise can help correct that.
Exercise and spinal health
The spine, after all, is a pillar of the neurological “superhighway” through which the brain exchanges vital information with the rest of the body, and, in turn, through which the body takes care of the brain. Full body fitness supports better posture which keeps that superhighway healthy.
No surprise, the common modern-day daily physical activity has become limited - from bed, to car, to desk, to couch, then bed again. Maybe with a spritz of variety. (But not the case for you!)
As for how much exercise we all need to do, there’s no one-size-fits-all. You’ve probably heard the standardized protocol of thirty minutes five days per week. But what about an hour, four days per week? Or twenty minutes every day?
What’s your instinct telling you? All factors considered, are you active enough to be your healthiest? And are you doing the exercises that are best for you? (Getting this dialed is what the exercise chapter in my book, The Infinity Health Manual, focuses on.)
It is true that it can be difficult to break out of old routines and make the right improvements when it comes to physical exercise. For this purpose why not work with a trainer? I do, even though I’m a trainer myself, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
And this is what the Infinity Wellness Adventure is all about (got one coming up!). The experience is about breaking out of old molds to live a better way of life. I have always been amazed what just six days of hiking, yoga, the right exercise and an elite diet can do. Guests have always returned home looking and feeling like different people. Think of it as an activation of the body’s systems.
No question a strong body is one of the foundational elements for a stronger, longer lasting brain. All to be reflected by a better life.
The 8th bite-sized nugget.
we have explored how the health of your brain determines the function of everything in the body and is to be reflected by the quality of your life, including emotional health, memory, problem solving, and communication with the outside world.
We identified specific how-to’s with diet, exercise, and sleep to powerfully improve the health of the brain. We talked about the ‘anti-inflammatory’ diet for optimum blood flow. Stimulating the production of brain cells with ‘BDNF’ from the right exercise. And ‘detoxing’ the brain with the glymphatic system via improving the quality of your sleep.
In the 6th bite-sized nugget we talked about how stress can affect the health of the brain. We identified in what ways stress hormones can raise blood pressure, increase inflammation, cause diabetes, and trigger obesity - and how all of this together affects the health of the brain.
After I explained just how stress impacts the brain I promised that I would share with another newsletter ways to reduce the feelings of stress in our day to day lives.
Stress, inevitably, in this modern day and age, is just part of life from the day to day pressures of paying the bills on time, traffic driving to and from work, time sensitive appointments, constant stimulation from cell phones and computers, news streaming from all directions, and the continuous lineup of decisions facing us from the moment we wake up. And more traffic.
The really good news is that all of the how-to’s for a healthy brain that we have identified throughout the brain health series make the brain more resilient to the impact stress can have. Together diet, exercise, and sleep, essentially create a powerful foundation to be less sensitive to the negative impacts of stress. (As you know, this is what Infinity Stress Relief is all about.)
The good news is there are many easy day-to-day methods of reducing stress. Some of the basics - the ones that have the most impact - can get away from us, though. They can be easy to forget.
Some of the big ones?…
Who are you spending time with? Do they lift you up or bring you down? Or are you lonely? If yes, what could you add to your schedule to surround yourself with people who share good values? People that you admire. And who admire you.
It’s also important to be mindful of what we expose ourselves to on television and social media. Is what you watch and read positive and uplifting? Or the opposite. The fact that what we watch has a positive or negative influence on our peace of mind is not breaking news.
Let me ask - do you have a daily routine devoted to improving your mindset? Like meditation in the morning? What about reading self-help books? Do you have a spiritual practice developing in your life? Explored the power of the spoken word? Prayer? Even dance? And need I mention time in the great outdoors for sunshine and nature? (Infinity Wellness Adventure is just 77 days away!)
I’ll share with you, that all of this is what the Power of Mind Chapter in my book, Infinity Health Manual, is all about. I love this topic, and I would share it all right here, but then this ‘nugget’ wouldn’t be ‘bite-size’ like I promised.
Optimizing your body’s nervous system with simply the right lifestyle between sunshine, exercise, diet, social life, regulated thought, and effort devoted to improved self/life-perspective - for the purpose of mitigating stress with the long-term payoff of improved full mind-body health…via resources and methods that are well within our reach. I like this.
The bottom line: enhanced well-being across the board will be reflected in all facets of your life—energy, longevity, memory, relationships, stress management, general happiness, and certainly more.
I’m here for you, Billy! Keep it up! It’s a joy to give you some coaching with my newsletters (feeling a need for some one-on-one coaching?), and I always hope you benefit from what I share. Lastly, I always love hearing back from you. Your questions and comments influence future newsletters, and it's just nice to know you're out there!