Redesign your brain with the right building blocks
Neuroplasticity has opened up a world of possibilities for us to improve our memory, make better decisions and learn new skills. But no-one is talking about the real issue – how can your brain grow without the right building blocks? Brain tissue is just like muscle, it needs the right ingredients to grow, and no-one in their right mind would exercise any other muscle without getting enough protein and nutrients.
Our brains consist of almost 100 billion brain cells or neurons and they are connected to each other by 100 trillion synapses. Each neuron can be connected to up to 10,000 other brain cells. That’s a massively complex organ which needs 25% of our body fuel to run.
Our brains are fizzing as well as buzzing
We tend to think of our brains as buzzing with electrical activity, but in reality there are thousands of chemical reactions going on every second too. At each synapse, chemicals called neurotransmitters, or brain hormones, are released every time a signal is sent between neurons.
There are several brain hormones, ranging from dopamine to serotonin and each resulting in a different reaction in our brain. That’s 100 trillion chemical reactions every second of our day. So our brain fizzes with chemical activity as well as electricity.
What are the essential bricks that allow neuroplasticity to happen?
Its all very well, doing your daily brain exercises, but there’s a vital piece missing. These brain hormones are made up of amino acids and minerals, and vitamins help the process along.
So if you’re not getting enough of those vital building blocks you could run out of serotonin, dopamine and all the others. We know that certain diseases result from this, such as low serotonin in depression and low dopamine in Parkinson’s disease.
But there’s also day-to-day effects, such as fatigue, brain fog and difficulty making decisions. These affect your performance at work, your relationships and your family. The important thing is to make sure you get enough of the building blocks to boost your brain performance every day and replenish the stores.
‘Lego’ your nutrients daily and build a super brain
Here is a quick list of the 5 main building blocks you need on a daily basis
1) Omega 3. We all know we should be taking this but most of us leave the foul tasting liquid languishing at the back of the cupboard. Our brain is 50% fat by dry weight, so we need loads of healthy fats, especially Omega 3. This is mostly a marine fatty acid, so fish oil or krill is the most efficient source. Our brain loves the DHA part of this fatty acid, so boost your brain by taking the capsules or oil daily.
2) Zinc. This essential mineral is used in many body processes including our immune system, but our brains need it to make serotonin and dopamine. One of our main sources is red meat, so vegetarians and vegans need to make sure they get plenty of plant sources such as pumpkin seeds and nuts. Low zinc can make depression and anxiety worse.
3) B vitamins. Those indispensable vitamins get everywhere and are used everywhere. In particular Vitamin B6 is needed along with zinc to make serotonin. Green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, nuts and beans are great sources.
4) Magnesium. The vital mineral that’s everywhere we look. Magnesium makes plants green and so we have evolved to use it in over 300 body processes. But we’re not good at storing it, so we need to replenish daily. Green juices give us the mineral plus lots of other healthy flavinoids too.
5) Iodine. We know that babies need iodine for good brain growth and that if iodine is deficient during pregnancy then mental retardation is a risk. Our iodine levels as a population are getting lower as we eat less seafood, so grab some fresh local fish or add seaweed to your salads and casseroles.
There’s a good reason why every nutritionist recommends these foods, not just to get you fitter but so that your most important organ, the brain, gets fed properly too. If you’re tired and lethargic, your brain could be screaming out for its nutritious building blocks.
If you would like to know more about how to boost your brain function and get rid of foods holding your brain back,
CLICK HERE to get my Boost Your Brain book
Nutritional Doctor and CEO of the Food Coach Institute
MD, MBBCh, FRCGP(UK), FRACGP