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.
Stay tuned for the 4th Nugget.