11 Tips to Improve Brain Function and Mood
1. Hydrate!!! Ever had a headache from dehydration? You have experienced the effects of a dehydrated brain which can increase fatigue and pain sensitivity and reduce cognitive function and mood. A good rule of thumb for water intake for adults is 35mls per kilogram of body weight eg. a 60kg adult requires 2.1 litres of water daily. Extended periods of sweating may require additional water and electrolyte supplementation. Sip regularly over the day and do avoid large quantities of water at mealtimes to reduce digestive discomfort. Consider adding some fresh herbs or cucumber slices to your water to make it more appealing if you struggle to drink enough. Go for a glass or stainless steel bottle to avoid plastic.
2. Choose green tea over coffee (if caffeine is well tolerated) Green tea is lower in caffeine and contains Theanine – a unique amino acid found in the Camellia sinensis (the tea plant) that can help to shift the brain waves to an alpha state associated with a calm but alert feeling. In addition green tea is a source of ECGC – a brain protective antioxidant. Avoid caffeine after 12pm to ensure the best chance of a good sleep. Try Tulsi tea – a herbal caffeine free brain booster if caffeine is not for you.
3. Eat regular balanced meals with a combination of wholefood unrefined carbohydrates, protein, leafy green and brightly coloured vegetables and some healthy plant based fat eg, nuts/seeds, olive oil, avocado to ensure optimal blood sugar regulation and avoid hypoglycaemia, a state in which the brain is temporarily starved of the fuel it needs to function adequately.
4. Improve your omega 3 status by including sardines, wild caught salmon, Atlantic mackerel, flaxseeds, chia & hemp seeds & walnuts in your diet. EPA & DHA are the forms of Omega 3 required by the body for a myriad of functions and are only found in animal sources (mainly fish) with the exception of algae based Omega 3 supplements. If you are a vegetarian or vegan consider adding an algae based EPA & DHA supplement to your diet. EPA plays an anti-inflammatory role in the body and at therapeutic levels may be helpful in prevention and treatment of depression. DHA is essential in supporting healthy neurological function including cognition.
5. Include organic raw cacao in your diet regularly as it is a rich source of flavonoids which may assist in improving circulation to the brain. Cacao contains Phenylethylamine – an endogenous compound (one that we also make in our bodies) which can increase endorphins, may improve mood and has been associated with that euphoric feeling folks get when they first fall in love! Avoid cacao with dairy as this can inhibit polyphenol absorption, opt for a sugar free dairy free hot chocolate, 1 tbs added to a smoothie or a few pieces of 85% dark chocolate. (Cacao may need to be avoided by some headache/migraine sufferers and those struggling with histamine intolerance)
6. Get adequate restorative sleep of approximately 8 hours. A good sign of restorative sleep is how you feel on waking – it should be relatively easy to get out of bed and you should feel well rested and ready for the day. Adequate quality and quantity of sleep is essential for hippocampal neurogenesis – essential in learning and memory.
7. Get social! Feelings of connectedness and belonging are essential in improving our sense of wellbeing. Social isolation has been shown to reduce mood and brain function, especially in the elderly, whereas social connectivity has been shown to improve various measures of memory and cognition.
8. Include a daily calming activity such as mindfulness, meditation, nature bathing, gratitude journaling or gentle yoga. These types of calming activities can provide a myriad of brain supportive and calming effects when practiced regularly and allow time out from our fast-paced lives.
9. Get regular exercise including a combination of aerobic & strength training to improve circulation to the brain, reduce inflammation and increase overall feelings of wellbeing. There are numerous studies linking the effects of regular exercise to improvements in mood disorders, so this is an essential part of mental health treatment. The recommendations for adults are 150-300 minutes of moderate activity OR 75 to 100 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity weekly. Include strength training on at least 2 days per week.(Ensure that you build up slowly to these levels if you are unaccustomed to exercise, see your GP for a general check-up prior to commencing and consider employing the services of a personal trainer or exercise physiologist for optimal outcomes.)
10. Start a new brain challenging activity to increase brain neurogenesis – the creation of new neural pathways. Soduku, dance training, learning a new language and playing table tennis (my favourite!) are good choices.
11. Avoid head and neck injuries in sporting and other physical activities by wearing the appropriate protective gear and using common sense to reduce risk factors. In the case of any head or neck impact injury (not only in concussion) seek medical advice immediately for further assessment. Traumatic brain injuries – TBI’s can have devastating and prolonged health impacts if not assessed and treated properly. The good news here is that there are a great deal of supportive approaches including herbal, nutritional and lifestyle strategies in the case of a TBI that can dramatically improve recovery.
If you have tried some of these simple strategies to improve your focus, cognition and mood but are still struggling, consider seeing a Naturopath to assist in determining the underlying causes and to obtain a supportive treatment strategy.
For further information or to book a consultation with Amy contact the clinic on 5977 0117 or visit the website peninsulaherbaldispensary.com.au to book online.
This article is intended to be informational only and represents the opinion of the author. It is not intended to be used as medical advice and does not take the place of advice from a qualified health care practitioner in a clinical setting. Please check with your healthcare practitioner before embarking upon any of the treatments discussed.
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