What does it mean to have a healthy brain?
It means having a brain that is readily capable of performing all of it’s vital functions. This includes basic functions, like regulating the involuntary functions of the autonomic nervous system, and higher-level functions, such as facilitating cognition and decision-making, and coordinating fine and gross motor skills. While the brain is necessarily an incredibly complex organ, the process of neuroplasticity, which describes the brain’s ability to undergo physical and chemical changes in response to stimuli, affords us a significant degree of control over the health of our brain. In other words, the lifestyle choices we make today have a very real impact on our brain’s current and future health; whether that impact is positive or negative depends on how we live our lives.
As stated above, neuroplasticity can work for or against you. While the natural process of aging more or less handles the “working against you” side of that equation, it is completely within our abilities to harness the power of neuroplasticity to maintain or improve overall brain health. Taking an active role in improving the health of the brain can help fortify the body from some of the most debilitating chronic illnesses we face — the likes of Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis. Fortunately, science has shined a light on numerous factors that have the potential to mitigate the effects of aging and improve overall brain health. To that end, I wanted to highlight six of the most effective ways you can maximize your brain’s potential.
Alzheimer’s disease, now affecting about 5 ½ million Americans, is a disease for which we have no meaningful treatment whatsoever. That said, it certainly makes sense to look at various factors that contribute to the risk for this disease. Continue reading
I’ve previously blogged about some exciting research that discovered that the higher your level of physical fitness, the greater the diversity of the bacteria in your gut. The meaning of this? That improved fitness correlates with a more healthy-looking bacterial array in the gut. Continue reading
There is certainly a lot of discussion these days about the ketogenic diet, especially as it relates to brain function. I thought it would be instructive to review one of the most important, and early, research studies in this area, as it reveals several very important findings that are worthy of attention.
The study, Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults, dates back to 2003. Why this is relevant with respect to the ketogenic diet is because beta-hydroxybutyrate is one of the ketones produced when somebody is in ketosis. The ketogenic diet is one that is aggressive in terms lowering dietary carbohydrate intake while increasing dietary fats. The production of ketones is amplified in people who supplement with things like coconut oil or MCT oil. Continue reading
Despite countless hundreds of millions of dollars dedicated to seeking out a meaningful treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, as of the time of this writing the pharmaceutical promise of dealing with this epidemic remains unfulfilled.
So, if there is no meaningful treatment, it would seem sensible to focus on how Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia could be prevented in the first place.
One of the most common questions I am asked, both when I am lecturing as well as on social media, focuses on the length of time it takes to change a person’s gut bacteria after dietary changes are made. Many would assume that these changes, which represent an adaptation of the gut microbes to a new diet, might take weeks or months. No doubt, people are anxious to know the answer to this question as they are becoming more and more aware of the critically important role of our gut microbes in determining our general health, weight, and risk for diseases including diabetes, arthritis, coronary artery disease, and even cancer.
In a recent study authored by Harvard researcher Lawrence David, the diets of six males and four females between the ages of 21 and 33 were manipulated in various ways. The subjects maintained a specific change in their diets for four days and assessments of their gut bacteria were made while on a new diet for six days thereafter. Continue reading
So much attention is focused, and rightfully so, on the emerging role of the human microbiome as it relates to our health as well as our risk for disease. But keep in mind that microorganisms permeate the entire biosphere. Bacteria are found in the highest reaches of our atmosphere all the way down to the depths of the ocean. And as we are now learning, just as they do in humans, they play an important role in the health and functionality of these ecosystems as well.
In today’s video, I explore a broad view of the idea of the microbiome well beyond the anthropocentric.
We hear more and more concern about the impact glyphosate, the lead ingredient in RoundUp, is having on the microbiome. While correlation does not mean causation, and while some of the science on this issue is still evolving, what we can say is that it does change the balance of the bacteria in the microbiome, setting the stage for leaky gut and autoimmune disease.
New and exciting research is revealing a strong connection between our mood and the various bacteria that live within our intestines. This is certainly a sobering notion. Think of it: the bacteria living within the digestive system are, to some degree, involved in determining whether we are happy, sad, anxious or even depressed.
In a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, researchers in the Netherlands explored the idea that changing the array of bacteria in the gut by giving a multispecies probiotic supplement could have an effect on mood. The study provided the probiotic to 20 healthy individuals, none of whom had a mood disorder, over a four week period. A similar group of 20 individuals received a placebo over the same period. At the conclusion of the study, both groups underwent an evaluation to determine their reactivity, in terms of cognitive function, to sad mood. This is a fairly standard research tool that assesses depression. Continue reading
Brain Maker, as well as Grain Brain, places a focus on healthy fat consumption, which sometimes can be difficult for vegans and vegetarians. Frequently, questions come in about how to adapt this type of lifestyle for people who follow a vegan/vegetarian diet. The good news? It’s easy to customize the recommendations of Brain Maker to be vegan or vegetarian-friendly, and, even better, some of the most important foods in Brain Maker are already such!