How to Boost Your Brain Naturally

You probably spend at least a couple hours a week keeping your body healthy. You take breaks to stretch, go for walks, do some yoga or work out – all of this helps prevent stiffness and atrophy and keeps us in shape. But what do you do for your brain?

Your brain is your command center. Its 86 billion neurons constantly send instructions for the rest of your body to follow. It is where you think your thoughts and form your words, create your art or music, and plan, feel, and relate. Perhaps most importantly, it is where you, through your memories, store what you’ve been and who you are.

In short, your brain is more complex than all earth’s computers combined. Yet, it weighs only three pounds. And, in those three pounds of tightly woven cells, enemies are everywhere, silently plotting against you. For most of us, these enemies remain in the background until what we call the “natural effects of age” set in.

As we grow older, decreased blood flow, inflammation, brain cells dying or shrinking, neurons misfiring, proteins becoming “tangled,” plaques being deposited, and other factors undermine the speed and efficiency at which our brains work. But, as Dylan Thomas implied in his poem, we need not go “gently into that good night.” Certain foods and activities can not only minimize, but also reverse brain dysfunction.

 

How to Train Your Brain

As with the rest of your body, your brain is designed to repair itself. Even after a brain injury, you can still carry on a normal life. If the injury were serious enough, you might have some impairment, but the point is that your brain is very adaptable – it’s simply made to learn and adapt. The question, then, is how do you train your brain?

Brain training is no new phenomenon, and anyone can benefit from it. It can help kids learn and develop cognitive skills, adults to retain information, recall facts more quickly and sharpen focus. Even the elderly can improve cognitive skills and memory[1]. The key to training your brain is using it, similar to jogging every day when training for a marathon.

There are many brain exercises, so it’s super easy to tailor a program to your own needs. It should include the three most beneficial brain activities, which are:

Learning
Sleeping
Exercising

 

Elderly adults learn to play guitar.

Learning something new.

Whether you choose a musical instrument, language, hobby, or skill, you can learn just about anything if you have access to the internet. The key is to find something that is not just new, but also engaging and challenging. This way you provide broad stimulation across your brain.[2]

 

Elderly man sleeping in bed - looks happy.

Get enough sleep.

Even when you’re just sitting in a restful sit, your brain uses about 20% of your body’s total energy. So, like any other part of your body, it needs rest. Most adults should aim for at least 7-8 hours of restful sleep every night. The best way to do this is to have a bedtime and stick to it!

It’s also good to rest for five to 10 minutes a time or two or three throughout the day. That doesn’t mean watching television, but simply being quiet, as in mediation or devotional prayer. This “stepping away” from the busyness lets you take a much needed breather.

 

Elderly adults do exercises in the park.

Exercise!

Shocked? Don’t be – research shows that regular aerobic exercise may reverse or slow parts of the aging process. Cardio helps the blood flow through your body and delivers oxygen to the brain. It also boosts the production of the brain-building protein, BDNF[3], which stimulates the production of brain cells; and lowers production of cortisol, the stress hormone. While cortisol helps your body mount a proper stress response, too much can shrink your hippocampus, resulting in memory loss. Want to double-up the brain boosting? Combine exercise with learning by learning how to dance or play a new sport.

Other activities you can do to boost your brain include:

Jigsaw puzzles and games. "Puzzles and games, especially those involving novelty, can stimulate and challenge key parts of the brain, including reasoning, language, logic, visual perception, attention and flexibility," says Dr. Douglas Scharre, director of the division of cognitive neurology and memory disorders at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.[4]

Mindful Meditation. We mentioned meditation earlier, but mindful meditation is a separate activity. Mindful meditation allows you to exercise your focus and awareness. Pick a time during your day to practice being fully aware of your surroundings and choose 5 specific things to remember. Later, during your mindful meditation, reflect back on these 5 things and how they interact with your senses.

Read lots! Whether it’s books, magazines, or the news, reading exposes you to new words and images and expands your creative ability. This works within the brain to promote cognitive function and knowledge acquisition. It is especially beneficial to read to your children at a young age – while their brains are developing, as it will stimulate their minds.

 

Foods You Can Eat to Improve Brain Function

Eating the right foods also boost brain health. While there is no “super” brain food to keep you sharp as you age, a well-balanced diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help. Include foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, folate, and other nutrients that support brain health.

Thick cut of a fatty fish.

Fatty Fish

Salmon, mackerel, trout, albacore, tuna, herring, and sardines, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, specifically, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Omega-3’s help build brain and nerve cell membranes and have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that protect brain cells. [5]

 

Several different leafy green vegetables clustered together.

Leafy greens

Spinach, kale, and brussels sprouts contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), another omega-3, which can boost memory. Leafy greens are also rich sources of nutrients like vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene, which may help slow cognitive decline.

 

Bushels of Lion's Mane mushroom displayed on a wooden tray.

Lion’s Mane

Lion’s Mane is one of our favorite mushrooms! It’s been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years to support neurological health. Lion’s Mane mushrooms contain phytochemicals that boost mood, memory, and brain health. (Check out our MyPure™ Lion’s Mane and MyPure™ Lion’s Mane 4X for the best in Lion’s Mane nutrition).*

 

A Blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry.

Berries

Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and others are rich in the antioxidant, anthocyanin. Antioxidants protect against the oxidative stress and inflammation that undermine brain function and may give rise to neurodegenerative diseases.[6]

 

A group of brown eggs, one is cracked open to show the yolk.

Nuts, Seeds, & Eggs

These foods contain folate (vitamin B9), choline and other B vitamins. These help generate the energy needed to develop new brain cells. They also reduce homocysteine, which is associated dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

 

Close up of a bowl of the herb mucuna pruriens.

Herbs

Many herbs help support brain health. Among these are bacopa monnieri, gotu kola, Chinese club moss and mucuna pruriens. BrainEssence™ provides an exquisite blend of these herbs along with nutrients to support brain circulation, brain energy, neurogenesis, and neurotransmitter levels.*

 

Things to Avoid

It’s also important to limit or quit foods that undermine brain health. While healthy fats, like fish or olive oil, are good for your brain, you want to avoid saturated fats. Limit foods with high sugar content. Read food labels closely, and avoid any of the following:

High-fructose corn syrup, which can lead to insulin resistance in the brain, as well as a reduction in brain function, memory, learning, and the formation of brain neurons.[7]

Sucrose, maple syrup, raw sugar, sugar beet syrup, coconut sugar, agave syrup, birch syrup are all just different names for sugars that can trigger brain inflammation and impaired memory.

Aspartame can raise cortisol levels, which is bad for your hippocampus. It has also been linked to Alzheimer's disease, seizures, dementia, and migraines and headaches.

Alcohol is a neurotoxin that can cause brain shrinkage, reduce brain cell production, and trigger a deficiency in thiamine (Vitamin B1), possibly leading to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (resulting in memory loss and poor muscle coordination).

Mercury induces brain changes that may cause changes in mood/behavior and induce cognitive loss. Due to pollution, fish may contain mercury but are good sources of omega-3s. Try to avoid swordfish, shark, and orange roughy.

 

Start Today!

Eating the right foods and keeping your brain active may help increase brain vitality and longevity. But in the end, brain health comes down mostly to preventive care. Studies have suggested that lack of mental stimulation may increase the risk of brain degeneration. Start focusing on brain health early to help avoid this. It’s never too early to start practicing good habits that will keep your brain sharp as you age.

 


 

Sources

[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-brain-training-idUSBREA0C07S20140113

[2] Park, Denise C., et al. “The Impact of Sustained Engagement on Cognitive Function in Older Adults: The Synapse Project.” Psychological Science, vol. 25, no. 1, Jan. 2014, pp. 103–112, doi:10.1177/0956797613499592.

[3] https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-10/cp-mpd100313.php

[4] https://health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/articles/mental-exercises-to-keep-your-brain-sharp

[5] Wysoczański, Tomasz et al. “Omega-3 Fatty Acids and their Role in Central Nervous System - A Review.” Current medicinal chemistry vol. 23,8 (2016): 816-31. doi:10.2174/0929867323666160122114439

[6] Ali, Syed Saqib et al. “Understanding oxidants and antioxidants: Classical team with new players.” Journal of food biochemistry vol. 44,3 (2020): e13145. doi:10.1111/jfbc.13145

[7] Lowette, Katrien et al. “Effects of high-fructose diets on central appetite signaling and cognitive function.” Frontiers in nutrition vol. 2 5. 4 Mar. 2015, doi:10.3389/fnut.2015.00005

August 30, 2021

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