The brain is such a complicated machine that we’ve barely scratched the surface of its mysteries. In the last five years, however, many researchers have focused heavily on how our minds are affected by things such as nutrition, environmental pollution, screen time and multi-tasking. They’re exploring beyond mental health and now observing brain health—the ways in which the organ is physically responding to our fast-changing lifestyle.
With every new study, science uncovers a facet of the relationship between our body and our body. Optimal brain health will be at the forefront of wellness in the upcoming years, so today we'll look at some ways that holistic healing can help support mind, body and spirit.
Our Brain is the Organ Most Affected by Poor Diet
There’s a good reason our gut is referred to as our “second brain”. We now know that, when you want to heal the brain, you tend to look at the gut-brain axis for clues as to what may be happening.
Research shows that the risk of depression increases nearly 80% in teens with a Standard American Diet (highly processed and loaded with empty calories) versus those with a balanced, whole-foods diet. There are even studies which suggest that ignored food sensitivities may play a role in the onset of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
While diet alone can’t exclusively cause or heal any of these mental ailments, Holistic Nutrition is a vital piece to integrate in to a treatment plan.
Brain Fog Isn’t Just In Your Head; It’s Inflammation
Feeling “foggy” has been discovered to be an effect of adrenal fatigue caused by an imbalance of cortisol, commonly referred to as the stress hormone. Cortisol is important for helping your body deal with taxing situations; however, if your levels are high for too long it can negatively impact your mood, reduce your energy levels and even increase your risk for diabetes.
Hormone derailment is a downstream effect of consuming processed sugar and gluten grains, and exposure to pathogens and harmful chemicals. These things change our intestinal flora and keep our immune system in a state of alarm, thereby causing inflammation of our most vulnerable tissues.
Inflammation and foggy feelings can be reduced by through the use of adaptogenic herbs such as Indian gooseberry, ashwagandha, holy basil and rhodiola. These herbs help cells eliminate toxic byproducts, assist the body in utilizing oxygen more efficiently and strengthens our adrenal system.
Mono-Tasking Will Make You Happier (and Smarter)
Multi-tasking may not be the prized skill it’s touted as. In fact, it may actually hinder productivity and proper decision-making. A recent study showed that attempting to give attention to more than one task at a time actually decreased participants productivity by 40%.
So why do we multi-task then? Beyond the constant digital notifications and societal glorification of the "workaholic", each time we complete a task (no matter how small) our brains our rewarded with a rush of dopamine, one of the "happy" hormones. Because of this, chronic multi-tasking has been shown to physically change the region of the brain associated with emotional regulation.
The solution is mindfulness! Dedicating yourself to a single task at a time, also known as mono-tasking, has the ability to increase your grey matter which, in effect, slows down the aging process of our most vital organ. Integrating mindful activities such as yoga and meditation in conjunction with life-long learning can decrease your risk of dementia by slowing cognitive decline.
Top Tips for a Healthy Brain
What all this new research concludes is that there are simple changes we can make to support our brain's health; something that holistic wellness has intuited for years!
- Engage in stimulating activities such as art, reading, hiking or learning a new skill.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet and avoid excess sugar and processed foods.
- Focus on cultivating meaningful relationships with those around you.
- Drink plenty of water and get quality sleep.
New year, new brain! How’s that for a 2019 resolution?