A neuroscientist has revealed the secret behind improving your brain health and it’s simpler than you might think.
Spotting the signs that your brain needs a little TLC is the first step to recharging your brain. After that, it’s a matter of maintaining a healthy diet, sleep pattern, and mindfulness routine.
Health and wellness brand, fourfive, have enlisted the help of clinical neuroscientist Dr Elisabeth Philipps, who is passionate about nutrition and lifestyle, to discover what exactly it is that you should be doing to supercharge your brain health.
How to spot your brain needs some TLC
Stress, high sugar and low quality nutrient diets usually have the biggest impact on our brain health.
Dr Philipps says: ‘There’s plenty of science that shows the stress hormone cortisol alters the brain’s structure and poorly controlled blood sugar and insulin response also impacts brain function, specifically how brain cells “wire and fire”.
‘Eating lots of sugary foods on a regular basis leads to irregular blood sugar problems. Short term symptoms include brain fog, tiredness and low moods but this is just the start. Long term blood sugar and insulin problems not only increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes but also damages the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is now called type 3 diabetes for a reason.’
Dr Philipps has suggested the warning signs to look out for when your brain is struggling include feeling tired when waking up for over three days, tiredness, irritability and a loss of focus.
Noticing these warning signs is the first step to improving your lifestyle to support your brain’s health.
Maintaining a healthy sleep pattern
Stress impacts sleep quality which in turn affects your brain health. When it comes to repairing and restoring your brain function, sleep is an essential recovery tool.
Dr Philipps recommends: ‘Getting into a bedtime routine, avoid bright lights one hour before bed and use mindfulness or meditation apps. Try journaling before bed to get thoughts out of your mind. CBD also helps balance the brain’s response to sleep so can be a useful part of a healthy sleep routine.”
Improving your diet
The brain is nearly 60% fat so it’s all about which fats to use and which to avoid to support brain health.
‘For specific focus I would suggest a good breakfast smoothie to start your day – this would include healthy fats like almonds, pumpkin seeds, coconut oil, alongside protein from those foods and a protein powder. Smoothies also blend the foods so your gut doesn’t have to do the hard work of digestion so you get instant access to their brain boosting nutrients. ‘
Thinking long term, Philipps suggests incorporating healthy fats into your diet. ‘These ones include omega 3 essential fatty acids from oil fish like salmon, plus flaxseeds, eggs and nuts. Avocados and extra virgin olive oil (preferably not heated but used as a dressing for vegetables or salad) also contain brain boosting fats.’
How to adjust your fitness routine
‘A longer and more intense workout is not necessarily better for brain health, as this can create extra stress and reduce oxygen circulation.’
Dr Philipps suggested that adding in 30 minutes of walking to your day can be highly beneficial when it comes to keeping your brain in top condition. ‘The brain needs oxygen to function so fresh outdoor air is the best. Forest bathing is highly recommended to calm brain activity, as well as boost mood, energy and concentration in the long term.’
Dr Philipps also recommends regular brain exercises like crosswords, sudoku, playing an instrument or listening to music as they can positively influence brain health.
‘Take some time each day to drop the multi-tasking, switch off your phone and “rest” your brain with mindfulness practice.’
How to incorporate supplements into your regimen
Your brain needs fuel to function, and in order to burn that fuel you need many nutrients to help brain cells function. This is why a varied diet rich in lots of different coloured vegetables which are packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants is important for brain health.
‘Products like fish oils help top up the essential fatty acids missing from the diet. Eggs contain choline, another important fat that makes up brain cells, but if you don’t eat eggs then you can supplement with lecithin powder which contains choline and other healthy phospholipid fats.
‘The gut and brain are intimately linked via the gut brain axis. This means what happens in the gut affects brain function and health – think butterflies in the stomach when you feel anxious! Helping to keep the gut bacteria levels healthy is essential for overall health, as well as brain function. Probiotic supplements containing healthy gut bacteria can therefore help support our brain health.
‘Vitamin B12 is also important especially if you’re following a vegan diet – supplement with methylcobalamin form either as part of a multi nutrient or on its own.”
Dr Philipps final advice is ‘to spend time with people that uplift you. Quality relationships support a healthy brain, relationships that drain energy and emotion can negatively affect brain health.’