How to take control and fuel your brain to tip-top health

LIVING NATURALLY with Olwen Anderson

NOTHING quite compares, I think, with the awful sensation that you’re losing control of your mind.

Whether it’s a mood change that seems out of your control (like depression or anxiety), trauma that seems to hold your thoughts on a continual nightmare loop, loss of function through stroke or dementia, or a full blown mental illness that leaves you incapable of thinking straight.

I don’t think anyone would queue up to experience any of these.

But like any other organ in your body, your brain will respond well to the right care and feeding. So I’d like to pass on some tips for keeping the grey matter between your ears in resilient shape.

Your brain, mostly consisting of fat cells, relishes certain types of food. It loves good fats, the omega-3 oils from green vegetables, seeds and oily fish.

Fats help maintain the cells. Your brain loves high quality animal protein as well, like that from fish, eggs and meat. With this it creates the chemical messengers that help manage your mood. And what about fuel to do the work of thinking? For this, your brain appreciates a steady supply of glucose from low glycemic index complex carbohydrates. Like vegetables, oats and brown rice.

The foods that research suggests your brain cells don’t appreciate include sugar, which is suspected to help create the brain-clogging plaques that bring on dementia. Also ‘bad’ fats like trans fats (think processed foods, pastries and the like) can tend to stiffen the oil membrane that surrounds each cell, making moving nutrients in and waste out of cells more challenging.

But besides what you put in your mouth, there are also certain activities that support healthier brain function: like daily meditation, which is a chance for your brain to take a conscious rest and reduces stress.

Enough sleep is essential (usually seven to eight hours for most of us), because that’s when restorative growth hormone is secreted.

Exercise, although it’s technically exercise for your body, also benefits your brain. Like meditation, exercise reduces stress but it also builds muscle, which supports better blood glucose regulation.

Having a purpose in life and being connected with your community helps too.

No matter what’s driving you to care for your brain better, take the simple steps of feeding it well, get enough rest and make sure you exercise.

Then you’ll be less likely to experience that awful sense that your brain has slipped out of your control.

Olwen Anderson is a naturopath and counsellor. Contact her at www.olwenanderson.com.au

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