Are you concerned about Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia? Few of us aren’t, especially as we witness the degeneration of older friends and family members. But did you know that much of that outcome can be significantly influenced by your lifestyle choices now? Here are six steps you can take to keep your brain, and your mind, healthy over the coming years.
- Undetected gluten sensitivity has been associated with dementia and early onset Alzheimer’s. Gluten sensitivity causes inflammation throughout the body, not only in the gut, but in the brain. That is true even if you are not gluten sensitive. If you are gluten sensitive, it is crucial to eliminate gluten completely from your diet. If you are not sure, but have family members with Alzheimer’s or dementia, diabetes, colon cancer or chronic GI issues, you can do an elimination and challenge, but you need to be scrupulous about eliminating it 100% for at least 3 weeks, then challenge yourself with a day of gluten grains. Or, schedule an appointment, and I can find out for you in minutes. Many people feel a dramatic difference when they eliminate gluten. Taking steps to eliminate gluten from your diet can change your life and your health dramatically, both now and for your future.
- Include healthy fats in your diet at every meal. A great source is organic coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil retains the flavor of coconut, but otherwise coconut oil is neutral, and it is excellent for cooking as it has a high burn point. Fish oil has gotten a lot of press and significant research, and has been shown to decrease incidence of dementia. If you want to include fish in your diet, emphasize smaller fish such as sardines, mackerel, and herring, which are high in Omega 3s and cleaner than large fish, due to their short life span. If you take fish oil, make sure you are getting a pharmaceutical grade product that doesn’t have any fishy smell, and does not “repeat” on you. If you need recommendations, let me know. Other plant oil supplements such as black currant and evening primrose, may also be neuro-protective. Other foods that have healthy fat include avocados, nuts, and seeds. Chia seeds are one of my favorites, a nutrient-dense powerhouse.See my article on SuperFoods for more info on these little nutrient dense powerhouses.)
- Brain Exercise: keep using your brain in new and different ways. You can strengthen your brain and your whole nervous system by learning new things spatially, kinesthetically, even musically. Word games and number games are great, but also try something physical, like a class or dvd with a different kind of movement, choreography or balancing challenge. Brush your teeth on one leg. Learn a new dance step, a new instrument, or a new language.
- Body Exercise: Using your body keeps your blood circulating to your brain as well. Yoga balance postures and inversions are particularly helpful (I never miss an opportunity to promote the infinite benefits of yoga!). Do burst training (short high intensity intervals). And then move for pure pleasure: take a walk outside or put on some music and dance.
- Many studies have shown that social interaction keeps the brain healthy and functional longer. Call a friend; go to a meeting; get out and see people face to face.
- Hydration The brain is 75% water, and even small drops in hydration can effect its function, so drink up. You should drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day.
There are supplements I use in my practice which are combination of two powerful and beneficial brain nutrients: Phosphatidyl serine and Acetyl-L-Carnitine. These two nutrients have been extensively researched for their ability to enhance memory, relieve depression, improve mental acuity, promote recovery from stroke and nerve injury, and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Want help customizing a program and following through? I’d be delighted to put my mind to it!