Our brain is the central command center overseeing all of the natural functions of the body. How we treat it is indeed going to impact how it treats us in return. If we lovingly support it then we can expect our brain to enhance our life experience and excel our performance. But all too often we unknowingly engage in habits and behaviors that erode function and lead to end points of suffering. The good news is that once you understand how you created these shortcomings you can engage in corrective behaviors that restore good function and enrich possibility.
Our brain represents a mere 3-4% of our total body mass yet it receives a full 20% of the blood flow from our heart. This tiny part of our body demands that much blood because is “hyper-metabolic”, meaning it is functioning at such a high pace that it needs extra fuel to do its job. The brain is far more active than the liver, kidneys, muscle, or other body tissues. That's fine but then we need to realize that any toxin we place in our body is going to be sent to our brain in higher concentration due to this accelerated blood flow. We have a protective membrane that surrounds the brain called the “blood brain barrier” (BBB) but it is only ONE cell thick and is often damaged by toxic living thus unable to offer the protection it was designed for. What toxin most consistently destroys this BBB? There are several we will discuss but the first and worst is simply stress. Stress in our life tends to elevate the amount of cortisol we produce (see Cortisol link) and this is a natural healthy response when short-term. But long-term stress drives excess cortisol which is very destructive to our brain and in particular the hippocampus and hypothalamus. The hippocampus is critical in our brain for storing short term memory, sorting facts, and learning. It also provides a calming influence to our central processing machinery the hypothalamus. The hippocampus has more receptors for cortisol than any other part of the brain so when you decide to “stress out” or live a face paced, high-demand lifestyle that is out of balance, your rising cortisol is going to shower down upon that hippocampus in endless cascades of excess stimulation and lead to destruction. A little cortisol is normal but a steady daily shower will drive inflammation, tissue oxidation and damage. An inflamed, damaged, overexcited brain will not process information well, it won’t sleep well, and it certainly won’t feel calm.
Other toxins we have to consider are plastics and food chemicals. I challenge you to take a look at all the food you just brought home from the market. What is 99% of it wrapped or packaged in? PLASTIC. Chemicals like bisphenols, phthalates, and other plasticizers are used to make that plastic and it leaches out of the plastic and into your food. If you store your food in plastic bowls and saran wrap or cook it with plastic spatulas, then yes you are indeed EATING plastic. The amount of plastic lodged in our bodies is 1000 fold higher than our ancestors. And once inside you it is very difficult to pull it. It accumulates over time and gets in the way of your normal brain chemistry. It plugs up receptor beds thus altering and slowing proper function or your neurochemicals. If you would like to enhance your odds of Alzheimers then drink from plastic bottles regularly. Yes, even your BPA free Nalgene bottle holds nasty dangerous plastic toxins.
Without getting too deep into the science of food chemicals it is best to avoid all processed foods. I know this feels inconvenient but the word “convenient” when applied to food is equivalent to saying “unhealthy”. I get it, you’re busy. The habits you have created are just that, “habits”. Healthy foods are not inconvenient. They are just different. Eating a ton of processed foods will lead to things that are NOT convenient like doctors appointments, sluggish function and in its worst expression, an oncologist. We will offer ample insight for changing these habits through our Virtuoso Program and in our educational library.
The last toxin to highlight here is SUGAR. I am standing at the ready expecting to hear all the things you do to avoid sugar and I never eat sugar, and I gave up cookies and . . . Excellent. But most people are completely unaware of how much carbohydrate they consume in a day as they have never tracked it. High carb foods that rapidly elevate your blood sugar include all fruit except berries, all baked goods made from wheat flour including pasta, crackers and bread, all potatoes (yes even yams), all grains including corn and rice. This is merely a partial list. It doesn't mean you should never eat ANY but most folks with mood swings, anxiety, depression, irritation, headaches and even seizures have excess carbs in the diet and lack healthy fats. The vast majority of these folks don’t really need a medication to control symptoms and could find tremendous benefit in a diet and lifestyle change. If you are taking a medication please don't stop, but understand that with the guidance of a qualified clinician it is common to see these medications reduced or eliminated. Let’s be honest, no one was born with a Zoloft or Prozac deficiency. Our life choices led us to need or benefit from these medications and it is our lifestyle and future choices that can lead is a new direction if we so choose.
Sleep & Repair
The quality, length and depth of our sleep pattern is so critical to our daily recovery and yet we often marginalize this important time. I have been told, “I don’t have time to sleep” or “I'll sleep when I’m dead”. These statements are uttered by people who don't have an understanding of what is occurring during sleep. That's akin to driving your car 20 hours a day and never providing fresh oil or tune ups as “I have don't have time for an oil change”. That car is going have a short lifespan and perform poorly on the road.
During sleep we detoxify our brain, we organize memory and facts, we make the bulk of our hormones that fuel repair. If you are trying to sleep and simply can’t then a good integrative practitioner can explore all the reasons that drive this: thyroid imbalance, hormone imbalance, cortisol and stress, sleep hygiene/habits, sleep apnea, dietary aspects and more. Everyone needs deep restorative sleep. As one of my patients responded when I asked her about her sleep she smiled and said, “My sleep is delicious”. You too deserve delicious sleep. Makes you smile just thinking about it.