New diagnoses of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Dementia, mild cognitive impairment continue to increase as well as findings of new and rare conditions continue to emerge and increase at an alarming rate. Moreover, anyone can experience symptoms of brain fog at any age, and it all stems down to the number one cause of all disease and illness…..INFLAMMATION! Medical doctors thought conditions such as these affecting the brain were a normal sign of aging, a bit of forgetfulness here and there, or if you were diagnosed with a more serious condition such as Alzheimer's that affects the proteins and plaques in your brain that there “was just nothing we can do about it.” However, new studies and evidence is emerging that there indeed IS something we absolutely can and should be doing to protect our brains. The key point here is prevention!
Changes to the brain and its function are typically due to either attacks on the brain causing inflammation or lack of nutrients. Knowing your health status in areas like insulin sensitivity (HbA1c), inflammation (hs-crp, homocysteine), nutrient levels (Vitamin D, hormones) and potential toxins is a good place to start. In fact, expert neuroscientists and physicians recommend that everyone should get a baseline evaluation at midlife to understand their health status and risk of future disease. Key points to protect your brain: Stop any attacks on your brain that lead to inflammation, nourish your brain with everything it needs to thrive, create an environment for detoxifying and clearing the brain, and stimulate the growth of new neuronal connections. How do we do this??!!
Avoid toxic chemicals in the environment such as pesticides, harsh cleaning products (this includes those for your home as well as for your body), mold, excessive alcohol consumption, pharmaceutical, and even over the counter, drugs that often come with cognitive side effects. Next, focus on your foods!
What we put into our bodies not only fuels our brain function, but can also aid in the detoxifying and brain clearing process. Some science backed foods to beat brain fog include:
Celery- quenches those free radicals!
Dark leafy greens- spinach, collard greens, kale and chard are wonderful
Walnuts- protect the brain from oxidative damage
Blueberries- rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals to decrease oxidative stress that can lead to damage in the brain
Cruciferous vegetables- cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and broccoli sprouts contain tremendous amounts of choline to protect the brain
Avocados- high in unsaturated fats and lutein to protect brain function
Eggs- yolks and all look for cage free options
Wild caught salmon- the Omega 3’s are wonderful for the brain, look for wild caught to avoid the mercury content
Curcumin- a spice also known as turmeric can be used in food or supplement form as an amazing anti-inflammatory
Staying hydrated is also extremely important for good brain function, with recommended spring water or water purified from the damaging chemicals found in today’s water.
Next, avoid unwanted stress! Excessive stress be it mental, physical or emotional takes a major toll on our brain health and has been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease especially chronic prolonged stress. Perform some breathing techniques, a mindful meditation, stretching of especially the chest area, avoid caffeine and focus on getting a good night's rest! Bowen therapy techniques can also be fantastic at reducing stress levels.
Lastly, and most importantly if you ask me, is….MOVEMENT!!! Movement increases your heart rate leading to increased blood flow which helps with memory and executive functioning. It turns on the genes that increase BDNF which stimulates the growth of new brain cells, and it stimulates glymphatic flow which clears beta-amyloid and other waste from your brain. There is also growing evidence that resistance or strength training, which helps preserve or build muscle mass, triggers neurobiological processes which preserve your brain and cognition, especially executive functioning. Check out my next blog post on my recommendation for exercise to help make your brain smarter!
Your Physical Therapist, Dr. Sarah Kingsley PT, DPT, RYT References: Zhu, N. et al., (2015). Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Brain Volume and White Matter Integrity: The CARDIA Study, Neurology 84(23), 2347–53.
De Melo Coelho, F. G., et al., (2013). Acute Aerobic Exercise Increases Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Levels in Elderly with Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 39(2), 401–08.
Panza, G. A., et al., (2018). Can Exercise Improve Cognitive Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease? Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 66(3), 487–495.
Landrigan, JF et al., (2019). Lifting Cognition: A Meta-Analysis of Effects of Resistance Exercise on Cognition. Psychological Research, 1–17. Disclaimer: This information is generalized and intended for educational purposes only. Due to potential individual contraindications, please see your primary care provider before implementing any strategies in these posts.