It is so fascinating to me…we look at nutrition for our bod, and yet, we tend to not think of how food effects our brain. It’s as if we have been disconnected from the neck up. Which come to think of it, I guess we kind of have. We are not experiencing our bodies and how they are actually feeling. And reversely I guess one could say we are polluting our brains too. Some in round about ways, and some more obvious. But regardless, its seems so clear to me that either way we are not addressing this topic clearly enough. This may be due to the fact that it is a hard subject for us to swallow. But if we are not in good “health” how the heck is our brain supposed to be, and why isn’t it being looked at as an organ of disease until something goes terribly wrong?
I remember walking into a drug store, knowing there was a problem. It was the middle of summer during my final relapse. My eyes started to blur and I held onto the countertops to help me stand as I shuffled along and said ‘I think something is wrong. Can someone help me.’ I was moments away most likely, from falling into a diabetic coma as I shoved sugar into my mouth. I clung to the counter, my eyes blind for minutes. Black. Pitch black. I waited, hovered somewhere, and like windshield washers they slowly would start to become more clear…my eyes that is. I was terrified, and I kept it all to myself. I sat in the atrium of the Woodwards building waiting to feel alert enough before I would drive back home and even contemplate having something to eat. I told no one. Yet that was not enough. This was probably one of over a dozen times in which my blood sugar would drop so dangerously low that I would fall in and out of consciousness. My brain losing cells by the minute. Starvation doesn’t just happen to the body, but the brain too. And although thankfully the message was received that measures would be taken to get me safe, my brain did not tell me that I would save myself. That today I would choose differently. My brain, actually no, my thoughts, which is something very different, told me to continue. They told me keep on going. Just a little more. Just like another hit. And so I did.
I’ve experienced the brain degradation to an extreme degree and it emphasizes a lot of points for me. Maybe it’s because I’ve experienced and seen the obvious tangible effects, that I care about it. I also had a father who passed away of a neuro degenerative disease. So I can’t help but have brain on my mind. I also want more for us! No, I do! I know I do. And it doesn’t matter if you are healthy, unwell, anxious, sad or fine. Starved or overfed. We need to talk about it, but next we need to act.
This accumulation of trauma to my brain for years and more acutely later during my relapse, I am certain I did some irreversible damage. But have I have gone against the odds, the grain, and came out the other side. I looked at treating myself differently, fuck yes, and we all should. With individuality, honesty and whatever it takes. Going back to school to become a nutritionist was clearly my passion, my purpose, and it drove me, but learning became a challenge and one that I struggled to really tell people about.
But you may be asking…well how to go about it? How to nourish it? I learned, I researched and continue to do so.
Ok, so maybe none of this will mean that you wont suffer these diseases, or dementia, or more. But you may just give yourself a fighting chance and in the very least maybe you will have a happier brain! Isn’t that enough? Our thoughts certainly aren’t our identity, but when we respect our brains, they might actually fuel more beautiful thoughts and become our friends.
I’m using starvation as an example and an extreme case scenario, but truth be told, even as my body and brain became nourished, the disease in my brain still needed healing as ours all do. Not therapy. That too, yes please do! But I’m talking about eating for brain health and thats what I want to talk about.
Why is this not a thing? I mean, it is for me. But it’s not really a hot topic and yet some very simple strategies can help us feed our brain and work towards brain health. Isn’t that food for thought?
I remember when I made the decision to become my best experiment, to heal myself, that if I were to make it easy to renourish, the easiest way for me to do this was to feed my thoughts. Literally. When a negative came up, I fed it. The starvation acts like a bacteria growing the disease. So I fed it. With healthy fats, natural foods, and nutrients. I also felt much more comfortable telling myself, that I just wanted to be happy again, and if eating was going to help make my brain happy, then that is where I would have to reside. Wether that made me uncomfortable or not, I could deal with those feelings later hopefully.
When I was well my brain was nourished, but truly it was still deficient. In serotonin, in fats and proteins, and those were just the obvious. Maybe yours is too? The other thing that comes to mind is our gut. Yup, who would have thought that the health of your brain may ultimately belong to what is happening in your stomach. Do I have your attention now? The microbiome. Thats what we are calling the universe of bacteria that essentially makes us, well, us. The good, the bad, and the ugly. When these become unbalanced, increased or decreased, the effects are all over our body. We cannot begin to talk about creating a healthy mind and body without discussion of the topic of our microflora. So much so that research is focusing in on this area that I guarantee you in the next few years such tremendous progress will be made that is going to help us solve many diseases. Not me..I’m no scientist, but I am a believer.
So what does this all mean and how can we start to look at things a little deeper? What simple things can we do to start to nurture our brain health?If we want to apply some fundamental rules to eating for a healthy brain, there are 3 things we need to address
- The presence of healthy fats – the omegas
- The microbiome/ Probiotics – supplemental and food
- Sugar– Elimination
These 3 things are so vital to the health of our brain. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many more factors, but working towards digesting information, lets keep it here.
Our Brain is made of fat. It is what covers our cell membrane walls and helps with brain conductivity. Without it, that myelin sheath begins to thin down. Amping up our Omega 3’s, by food or supplement, is something we should all think about. The studies show that the beneficial effects of Omega 3’s on people suffering from depression are so very powerful. If you or someone you love is struggling with a mood or anxiety disorder, or high amounts of stress, I absolutely recommend you consider bringing a high level of Omega 3 into your diet. It also has been scientifically shown to booster serotonin amounts when taken alongside anti depressants that may be prescribed. So if that’s you, don’t worry….there’s a whole world of people on them, but taking this alongside might just help nourish your brain and allow the serotonin to do its job even better.
That gut feeling- creating balance and harmony in our stomach can not only make us feel at peace, but actually cause similar effects on the brain. I’m talking about that microflora. So addressing any signs or symptoms of dysbiosis in the gut is crucial in bringing in healthy gut flora. This may take time, and not happen over night, but a balanced stomach may just lead to a balanced mind. Did you know that up to 90% of your serotonin is made in your gut? yeah, that neurotransmitter that keeps us happy and balanced. Things are starting to make sense hey? So what can you do? Well look at eliminating things that feed the bacteria overgrowth is one, and populate what you do have with beneficial bacteria is the second. So probiotics. As supplements, food products, or both. This could be anything from Kraut, to kombucha, but whatever, however, you need to incorporate healthy bacteria into your world to help better your brain.
Sugar- Our addiction to sugar is real and our dealer is everywhere. It makes us all sorts of stuff, but at the end of the day one of the reasons I believe we need to consider it is because of how it feeds the unhealthy bacteria in our system, and not just that, wreaks havoc on our blood sugar balance and stimulates our nervous system. Sounds like a perfect combo for anxiety and mood disturbance, doesn’t it? Ever thought you were having a panic attack, when it was actually just hunger calling? Yup, blood sugar imbalance almost exactly mimics a lot of symptoms of anxiety.
There’s so much to say on this topic, and just as the last time I talked about mental health, I know this will not be the end of it. We have so much growth to do in this field but I am optimistic, inspired and motivated to help find change however we can. These are such big topics that I just took little bites of, so more to come.
Most importantly, if you or a loved one is struggling with mental illness, just know you are not alone, and reach out and ask for help. There’s a dawn of a new day upon us. Hopefully even thinking of a few of these ideas may start to get the ball rolling. If you want to read more about my story, keep reading here, and if you want to get to know, follow on.
light, love, and hope. so much