Your Brain on Whole FoodsOct 31, 2021 08:00PM ● By Chelsea Kazmierczak-Goethel
The brain plays a role in every aspect and every stage of human life. It is constantly working, even when the body is at rest. When the brain is functioning properly, humans are capable of incredible things. They usually do not think twice about the control center that keeps every function of their body humming along and allows them to think, learn, adapt and feel.
It is not until after a person misplaces their keys a few times, experiences foggy thinking at work, notices that their mood feels unusually low, or is missing their motivation that brain health comes to mind. Conditions such as depression, anxiety, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are the most well-known reasons why the brain receives attention, but neurological function exists on a very broad spectrum. As the most essential organ in the human body, it only makes sense to care for the brain every day.
Discovering that the brain is the largest user of cellular energy called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the entire body might give the impression that it is a complex organ to nourish. The good news is the habits that are deeply ingrained in humans for overall well-being are the same practices that allow the brain to thrive. The rules of a healthy life are really the rules for a healthy brain.
Nutrition and dietary patterns play a key role in brain health. The gut is known as the second brain thanks to the enteric nervous system (ENS). This system is made up of hundreds of millions of neurons that communicate directly with the main brain. The ENS is the reason humans can feel emotion in their gut. This two-way communication essentially means that how one fuels their body is how they fuel their mind. Focus on these three habits to maintain or improve brain health:
1. Eat the rainbow – Consuming a large variety of colors fills the diet with adequate levels of key nutrients that protect the brain. These include antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc from foods such as berries, leafy greens, broccoli, citrus fruits and avocados. Aim for three to four cups of vegetables and fruits per day.
2. Consume cold-water, fatty fish – Aim for two to three servings per week of salmon, cod or tuna to increase omega-3 fatty acid intake. The brain is made up of 60 percent fat, and half of these are omega-3s, key to building nerve cells and essential for learning and memory.
3. Reduce inflammatory foods – Cutting back on foods with added sugar, refined carbohydrates, sugary beverages and alcohol consumption does wonders to reduce harmful, chronic inflammation in the body and especially the brain. Thanks to the gut-brain connection, it is well established that inflammatory foods impact brain function and memory.
Outside of the kitchen, three other areas that deserve attention for their pivotal roles in brain health are movement, sleep and stress reduction.
1. Exercise is known to improve mood and memory and reduce inflammation. Aim for 120 minutes per week of aerobic activity, whether it is walking, biking or workout classes.
2. The importance of quality sleep cannot be overemphasized. Consider how one night of bad sleep impacts problem solving, mood and energy. Now, apply that to years of poor sleep. Set a consistent bedtime and wake-up time (even on the weekends); keep the bedroom dark, cool and quiet. Be sure to unwind before bed by reading or journaling, and keep cellphones out of the bedroom.
3. Stress management does not need to be complicated, but it is required for optimal brain function. Pick any activity that reduces stress, whether yoga, deep breathing, reading or knitting, and commit to five to 10 minutes per day.
Wherever someone finds themselves on their brain health journey, it is never too late to improve the function of this incredible organ.
Chelsea Kazmierczak-Goethel is an advanced, clinically trained Nutrition Response Testing practitioner at MetroEast Natural Healing Center, where they specialize in root cause wellness care. She is currently pursuing her Master of Science in Applied Clinical Nutrition at New York Chiropractic College and is passionate about helping her patients feel their best, allowing them to be fully present in their joyful lives. Kazmierczak-Goethel was raised in Fargo, North Dakota, and learned the value of individualized natural health care and chiropractic care firsthand as a nationally acclaimed FM Acro Team gymnast. She moved to the Twin Cities in 2009, where she earned her B.A. in Human Physiology at the University of Minnesota. Prior to pursuing Nutrition Response Testing training, she worked at MetroEast Natural Healing Center as a Patient Advocate, allowing her to participate in countless patient success stories. This experience, along with her own health transformation, magnified her passion for helping others achieve their health goals. For more information or to make an appointment, visit NutritionChiropractic.com.