In this post, I share some tips for a healthy brain from the recent Broken Brain docuseries. The topic was of particular interest to me as I’ve been working on trying to fix my brain for the past couple of years after being exposed to toxic mold. Fortunately, I’m improving, but my memory could be better as I still do things like leaving my groceries in the car.
I admit to watching way too many online video summits and series, but they’re a great way to be introduced to different speakers and new information. I liked the format of this series as it was more like a documentary than the usual series of interviews. Each day had a different topic and the speakers were a mixture of medical doctors and other knowledgeable experts.
Doing things for the health of our brain probably isn’t something most of us think about much, but if our brain isn’t healthy, it’s hard to have a good life.
Brain health is key to health in every area—physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. – Brandt Cortright, author of the Neurogenesis Diet and Lifestyle,
Dr. Mark Hyman, the host of the series, says we’ve reached an epidemic of “broken brains.” While there are many causes, people are prescribed the same prescription drugs. Fortunately, more and more people are realizing that drugs aren’t the answer as they don’t address the root cause and just mask symptoms, plus we’re all different.
Brain problems are often caused by an accumulation of many things, so many things may be needed to fix them. What’s going on with the body can affect the brain, so if you treat the body, often the brain can get better.
The way conventional medicine treats issues such as depression and autism is outdated and needs to take a more individual approach. I like this quote that sums it up by Sidney MacDonald Baker, MD: “Name it, blame it, tame it, prescription pad medicine.”
Unfortunately, science isn’t interested in anything unless it can be monetarized, and solutions aren’t always grounded in the latest research.
The good news is the brain can repair itself, unlike what was previously believed. We are not doomed to getting a worse memory as we get older. New research shows the brain forms new neurons throughout our lives, a term called neuroplasticity.
What Affects Brain Health?
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Hormonal imbalances
- Lack of sleep
- Not enough exercise
The Gut Connection
New microbiome research is showing the importance of balanced gut bacteria. Everything we do affects our microbiome, and everything is connected–the heart, gut, and brain communicate with each other through the vagus nerve. So what’s good for the heart is good for the brain and vice versa.
The docuseries experts discussed how diagnoses such as ADHD, autism, depression and anxiety have a gut connection and can be treated by interventions such as diet. Two thirds of our immune system is housed in the gut, which is often called the “second brain,” and many important brain chemicals like serotonin are made in the gut. If the gut is inflamed, it can lead to an inflamed brain and illness.
According to Dr. David Perlmutter, even Alzheimer’s can be turned around—”our genes don’t dictate our destiny.” They may make you pre-disposed but it doesn’t mean you’re predestined. Alzheimer’s is being called Type 3 Diabetes because of the association between blood sugar and brain inflammation. The Standard American Diet (SAD), which consists of processed foods, unhealthy fats and sugar, is probably the worst thing for the brain, especially sugar as it can lead to insulin resistance, leaky gut, and chronic inflammation.
Important Interventions for a Healthy Brain
- Optimize nutrition – The brain needs healthy fats, low-glycemic carbs, colorful fruits and vegetables, and protein.
- Balance hormones – A healthy diet, exercise and meditation help prevent insulin resistance. A healthy thyroid and balanced sex hormones are also important for a healthy brain, so it’s good to get your hormone levels checked.
- Cool off inflammation – Find the cause and stop it. There can be many causes such as a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, inadequate sleep, nutritional deficiencies, and infections.
- Heal the gut – This can be done through things diet changes, supplements, fixing infections, and finding food intolerances.
Tips for a Healthy Brain
- Calm the mind with relaxation practices like meditation, mindfulness and breathing exercises
- Feel gratitude, for example thinking of three things you’re grateful for before bed
- Have a healthy reward (pleasure)
- Learn something new – have a hobby, learn a musical instrument, do puzzles, write/journal
- Minimize toxic exposures
- Daily exercise, such as high intensity interval training (HIIT)
- Avoid artificial light and electromagnetic fields from things like cell phones
- Connection/community (one of the most important) – sharing, purpose, feeling safe. We evolved to be social
- Have a sense purpose and meaning (spiritual)
- Be aware of negative thoughts and beliefs and work with them
Supplements for Brain Health
These are a few of the supplements recommended by the speakers:
- Alpha lipoic acid
- Omega 3 fats such as fish oil
- Minerals such as magnesium, selenium, and zinc
- B vitamins such as niacin (B-3), B-6, and B-12
I’m sure the Broken Brain docuseries was enlightening and helpful to many of the people who watched it. The message is getting out that there is an alternative to prescription drugs and there are doctors, such as those who practice functional medicine, who look for a root cause of illness.
If you found this helpful or have any healthy brain tips that have helped you, leave a comment below.