Keeping a Healthy Brain
by Allan TomsonRecently, brain health is getting far more attention than ever before. Much of the research is focused on the aging brain as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are becoming more prevalent in aging baby boomers. To this we add brain injury in the form of trauma (concussion) and the recognition of its effect as well as the resultant post-traumatic stress syndrome we are seeing in soldiers coming back from war. Sports injuries, especially contact sports, are also getting a lot of press with aging pro football players being diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It is important to understand the common mechanisms of brain malfunction and what you can do each day to keep your brain and nervous system functioning as well as possible.
A major topic that has emerged concerning general health and brain health is inflammation. It used to be thought that inflammation only occurred when there was an injury, such as a sprained ankle. Luckily, this issue has received a great deal of attention in holistic and alternative circles due to its relevance to the standard American diet.
It is now understood that when the body is subjected to a diet of food that is highly processed, containing primarily sugar, flour, dairy animal protein and refined oils, there is a certain biochemical pathway that is initiated. This pathway, called the aracadonic acid cascade, results in chronic inflammation of the body’s tissues—including the brain and nervous system. An example of this is frying low-quality foods at a high temperature in oil. This creates, in our cells, free radicals, ATP depletion and an inflammatory condition. Many people are living their lives in this chronic state.
So how does one keep inflammation in check? The answer is probably exactly what you think: eat live foods, with fruit and vegetables as the primary sources of fuel. It is recommended that 70 to 80 percent of one’s diet come from fruits and vegetables. The remaining 20 percent should come from sustainably raised animal protein (fish, primarily), nuts and grains. To that, include sweet potatoes and other tubers, ginger, turmeric, garlic and other spices. Use olive oil. Moderate amounts of red wine and stout beer are allowed.
On the subject of grains, it is best to limit these carbs. GMO grains should be avoided altogether—corn and soy especially. It is also beneficial to avoid refined sugars, and limit refined oils and dairy. Unfortunately, these foods are everywhere in our culture and are very tempting because most of us grew up eating them often.
Nutritional support may also be useful to add to one’s diet, especially for those at risk for aging diseases or have had head trauma. A good place to start is to add a group of supplements, including:
- a good multivitamin
- lipoic acid
- Acetyl L Carnitine
Finally, a closing thought on brain health comes Anthony Williams, the author of the 2015 book, Medical Medium, in which he notes that the brain and nervous system run on glucose—which is a well-known fact. What many don’t know is that the nervous system stores glucose for emergencies—not only in the liver but also the brain. This stored glucose is protection for the brain during times of stress and trauma. The more one has in storage, the greater the protection one’s nervous system has. As the source for glucose in the brain is fruit, it is important to remember that this is a critical part of the diet that has far-reaching positive effects, for both the brain and nervous system.
In 1920, Edgar Cayce recommended that we should eat a diet with 80 percent fruits and vegetables, 20 percent nuts, grains and meats and moderate stimulants like coffee tea and alcohol. Try it—you’ll feel better.
Allan Tomson, DC, is the executive director of Neck Back & Beyond Healing Arts, an integrative wellness center in Fairfax, with a satellite office in Manassas. Tomson is a chiropractor and has skills and experience in functional medicine, visceral manipulation, CranioSacral Therapy and Cayce protocols. To learn more on this topic, contact Dr. Tomson at 703-865-5690 or visit NeckBackAndBeyond.com.