5 Ways to Achieve Mental Fitness

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting up with Cara Bradley, who is a best selling author (On The Verge: Wake Up, Show Up and Shine), mental strength coach and recently named as one of the most powerful women in the mindfulness movement. Cara exudes a sense of presence and calm that’s apparent when you are with her. Cara’s belief is that similar to the fitness craze that started several decades ago, we are now heading into the mental fitness era and so she developed a protocol that outlines her cross-training strategies to feel alive and vibrant. Here, I’ll highlight the key pillars of the protocol. For a full read, you can submit a request to get your own copy.

First, what does being “mentally fit” mean? It is a mind and body approach that optimizes your physical and emotional state to provide you with clarity, sharpness and resiliency.

Movement

Daily exercise and movement are key to building physical and mental fitness. And as we age, it’s not only aerobic exercise but resistance training that is critical to keep our bodies strong. Aim for 30 minutes most days of the week. Need motivation? How about a workout buddy? Or use a friend to help track progress; for example, I tell my friend that I’m committing to X days a week on resistance training/swimming/walking/hiking and then update her on my progress several times a week. I can do it myself but it’s nice to know someone is keeping tabs on me to make sure I commit to getting it done.

Nervous System Regulation

We are bombarded by negativity and news of calamity which promotes fear, anger, anxiety and stress. Cara suggests that rather than succumb to these ill effects, choose to shift to a calmer state through mindfulness meditation, yoga, proper sleep, spending time outside and optimizing the gut-brain connection.

Sleep

We all know the importance of sleep (check out my earlier blog on getting proper sleep). Poor sleep leads to not only foul moods but also a weakened immune system and even weight gain –  it makes you hungrier and promotes insulin resistance according to this study. So make sure to develop good sleep habits and make sleep a priority. Here’s a 3-minute mindfulness movement for sleep that Cara recommends: https://www.mindful.org/mindful-movement-ease-sleep/

You can also check out my tips on ways to optimize sleep.

Mind Training

Meditation is a practice of being present with your mind while sitting still and breathing. It’s called “practice” because you need to keep doing it on a consistent basis to achieve mental fitness. Here are some tips from Cara to get you going:

Purpose of meditation:

https://www.carabradley.net/50-stable-body-stable-mind-and-the-purpose-of-meditation/

Meet your mind:

https://www.carabradley.net/episode-20-meet-your-mind/

Guided meditation with deep breathing:

Gut-Brain Optimization

Have you heard the famous Hippocrates quote: “All disease begins in the gut”? Well, Cara proclaims that “Mental fitness begins in the gut”. Recent studies have shown that our gut microbiome is made up of more than 100 trillion bacterial cells and they produce more of the feel-good transmitters like serotonin and dopamine than the brain itself.

So, to improve our mood and mental clarity, we need to combine psychological approaches with dietary ones to optimize our gut microbiome. A healthy whole foods diet is a foundational pillar but did you know that the nutrient density of our produce grown in the US has declined in the past 50 years? According to The Rodale Institute, we are eating plants that are nutritionally starved thanks to all the industrial agriculture depleting soils worldwide. So, it’s also important to take supplements to ensure you are getting all the vital nturients critical to your health. I am happy to make what naysayers call ‘expensive urine’ as I don’t have my own soil-rich organic garden nor live in a toxin-free bubble.

I’ve been a long-time fan of the products that are produced by Amare Global – they are a mental fitness company with high quality natural products.  Here’s info on the mental fitness pack:

http://ltl.is/xq9tks2

And Last But Not Least, Get Going!

You don’t need to commit to all of the above at once, but gradually adding one of these practices will form your new habit and an established cross-training routine for your mental health. 

You can check out more of Cara’s mental fitness podcast episodes here: 

https://wavve.link/wvo80HTdW/episodes

Managing Mood with Diabetes

Managing diabetes is no easy task – it requires making concerted changes to your daily routine including diet (what to eat and avoid), exercising and moving more and eliminating bad habits (smoking, excess alcohol and disruptive sleep). These changes can be mentally draining and one of the reasons why people living with diabetes (Type 1 or 2) are at increased risk for anxiety, stress and depression.

So in this blog, I’ll share some evidence-based self-care tips to keep your spirits up while managing diabetes.

Aromatherapy

Essential oils have been widely used for centuries for managing stress, anxiety and depression and are effective due to their ability to access the area of the brain that impacts mood. Research indicates that smells are first processed by the olfactory bulb in the nose which has direct connections to the areas of the brain that are associated with emotion and memory (the amygdala and hippocampus). Also, this study demonstrated the efficacy of lavender oil on sleep quality, mood status and quality of life for participants with Type 2 diabetes. 

You can use a diffuser (they are widely available with many inexpensive options) with water and several drops of lavender oil. Here are some to try:

Diffuser:

Lavender essential oil:

Here are my top 10 essential oils for stress and anxiety.  https://community.wholistics.health/top-10-essential-oils-for-stress-and-anxiety/

Exercise

Consistent exercise is not only a cornerstone of diabetes management but physical and mental health are inextricably linked as each has an impact on the other. According to this study, 12 weeks of aerobic exercise training had significant effects on mental health, self-esteem, anxiety and insomnia of Type 2 diabetic patients. So it’s important to get moving – go for a vigorous walk, hike or find a team sport that you like to engage in. You need about 150 minutes of exercise a week so aim for 30 minutes 5-6 times a week.

Meditation

Meditation is the practice of focusing one’s mind for a period of time and being in the present moment. This is often done in silence but can include bells, chanting and music. There are many different forms of meditation (guided, transcendental, mindfulness, etc.) which I won’t go into here – what’s notable is that meditation has been clinically linked to improvements in psychological health which, in turn, affects physical health. This study showed that meditation can impact stress reduction, blood sugar control and blood pressure in diabetic patients and advocates meditation strategies as part of the lifestyle modification to improve patient wellbeing.  

How about this 20-minute guided meditation to reduce anxiety and stress:

Music

Are you aware that music therapy has been shown to improve outcomes in diabetes patients? In this study, music-assisted relaxation and music therapy showed significant changes in systolic blood pressure, and anxiety and stress levels in both Type 1 and 2 diabetic patients. Here are some beautiful relaxing tunes to bring you inner calm and joy:

Routine

Having a regular routine to get your day off to a good start each morning can help you make the necessary changes and create healthy habits to manage diabetes. Studies have shown the importance of a routine to gradually incorporate lifestyle changes that will be sustainable for the long-term.  Routines can actually help you better manage stress and anxiety as this study found.

So, focus on things that you can control and make a list of things you typically do in a day. Include the tasks that are needed to support your health like exercise, prepping for meals, and shopping for groceries, and make it a priority on your list. Then experiment with the times of the day that make you most compliant (for example, I am 99% more likely to stick with an exercise regimen if I work out in the morning) and plan these activities around these times. Last but not least, a well-established routine takes time so give yourself some grace if you don’t complete all the key tasks each day. There’s always tomorrow…

Yoga

Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual ancient Indian practice which is designed to promote physical and mental well-being. The well-established benefits of yoga practice are accelerating its growth and it has now become mainstream. This study showed the benefits of yoga practice in improving the stress response by our sympathetic nervous system (which controls our fight or flight behavior).

Yoga is also effective in improving physiological markers of health with this study showing the impact of a yoga protocol on total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides reduction in Type 2 diabetic participants. What’s not to like about yoga? If you are like me and don’t have much patience, start with a short practice and build up from there. How about this 10 minute yoga to try:

It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider if you are struggling with mental health issues so that appropriate care options can be discussed. Remember that you are in charge of your life so speak up and ask for help.

Prescription Stimulant Education

If you’re a caregiver — perhaps a parent or family member — of someone who has been prescribed a stimulant medication to help manage their ADHD symptoms, these education modules will help you understand the medication, and how you can support your loved one’s proper use of it.

Continue reading

Prescription Opioid Education

Opioids are a class of drugs related to opium, and are often prescribed to manage pain because they contain chemicals that help mask pain sensations and block pain signals. However, opioid medication addiction is becoming a national epidemic, with two out of three drug overdose deaths in the US involving an opioid. In this series of modules, you’ll learn essential information about opioids, including types of opioids (illegal and legal), prescription use, the dangers of misuse, and how to recognize Opioid Use Disorder.

Continue reading

Managing Mental Health Challenges

Mental well-being is knowing and doing the things that make you happy, living a life that aligns with your personal values, and engaging in meaningful relationships with others. Maintaining healthy mental well-being also means knowing how to manage challenges effectively so we can live more fulfilled lives. Using self-management techniques may be an important part of a treatment plan developed with your provider, and for some types of mental health challenges, these techniques may have as positive an impact on mental health as professional treatment. In the upcoming activities, you’ll learn about mental health challenges and practical strategies to help support your mental well-being. Let’s take a closer look.

Continue reading

Mental Well-Being Basics

Mental well-being is knowing and doing the things that may make you happy, living a life that aligns with your personal values, and engaging in meaningful relationships with others.It also means understanding yourself and your personal needs, and seeking out help if you may be experiencing challenges to your mental health.In the upcoming activities, you’ll explore and learn more about mental well-being, common mental health challenges, and how to seek help for yourself and others. Let’s take a closer look.

Continue reading

Kicking off the New Year With Intent – 10 Steps to Improve Your Mind

Many of us have had to deal with anxiety, stress, and depression especially over the past year. The uncertainty of today’s environment is enough to make us crawl under a rock and hope that all this nonsense will go away. The thoughts that race in our head as we worry about health, relationships, and finances can often put us in a downward spiral that makes us feel even more worried and stressed out. The good news is that there are evidence-based ways to reduce these anxieties and manage our mental health to improve our well-being. Everyone benefits from different strategies so it’s not a “one size fits all” approach – what works for your friend may be a total dud for you. It’s important to try as many strategies as possible to see which ones are optimal. And remember, none of these approaches will work if it’s not something you’ll stick to and create a habit around. So read on and try adopting some of these approaches in the new year.

1. Breathing

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is a collection of neurons that influence the function of many different organs in our body including heart, lungs and stomach. Within the ANS, there are two subsystems that have mostly opposing effects. Our sympathetic nervous system is activated during stress, anxiety and dangerous situations. But when we are at rest, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for relaxation. Using breathing exercises is one of the easiest ways to activate the parasympathic system. Take a few minutes to try out the 4-7-8 breathing technique taught by Dr. Andrew Weil to naturally tranquilize your mind.

Also, there is The Breathing App you can download on the App Store. This app includes timers and sounds to breathe with – along with an inflating/deflating ball to match breathing rhythm. It’s pretty cool.

2. Diet

Try adding these tryptophan (protein building block) rich foods to boost levels of serotonin which will improve your mood and help reduce anxiety:

  • Pumpkins seeds
  • Chicken and turkey breast, beef liver
  • Vegetables like spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, eggplant
  • Fruits like apples, berries, peaches, pineapple and bananas

A cup-a-joe in the morning is an invigorating way to start the day but for some, caffeine can be overly stimulating and lead to increased anxiety and mood swings. So you may want to stick to herbal tea, decaf or dandelion coffee if you don’t react well to caffeine.

Check out these guidelines for decaf coffee selection. Here’s my favorite dandelion blend as a coffee substitute:

3. Exercise

Get your daily exercise – it will release those happy endorphins to keep your mind positive. A hike, a run, yoga or any kind of workout is good as long as you stick with it. Even a brisk 20-minute walk around the block to kick off your day on the right footing would be great. It may be hard to get started on your own so keep it social and exercise with a buddy – ask your buddy to help you commit to a regular schedule so you are less likely to head back to the couch.

4. Journaling

How about writing in your journal before bed to record your thoughts, emotions, challenges and accomplisments for the day? It will help you increase awareness about yourself and reflect on what happened. We often go through the day experiencing many emotions but never take time to take stock of it and why we felt that way. By identifying and labeling your emotional state and writing it down, you can learn and document what steps to take to prevent or minimize any negative thoughts.

5. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a form of meditation that is a great way to gain control of your busy and stressed out mind. This technique will help reduce the feeling of being out of control and ruminating on negative and busy thoughts. Studies have shown how it can help you make it through your busy day in a calm and productive manner. Mindfulness often involves meditation but doesn’t necessarily have to as it is a combination of being present and accepting who you are.

How about this 7 minute mindfulness practice to calm your body and mind and allow stress and fearful emotions to dissipate?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXeelzR9vw8

Here are some other meditation tips:

  • Set up visual reminders to create a conducive zone for meditation. It may be a plant, set of beads, sound bowls, or trinkets to help set the mood.
  • Start with a short practice even for 5 minutes and gradually work up from there. You can set a timer for 5, 8 or 10 minutes or try this short meditation to start your day.
  • If you have trouble settling in to meditate, take a moment to question why you are resisting this opportunity for growth? Remind yourself of the intention for meditation. It’s also important to know that not thinking isn’t realistic. Think of thoughts as filling your bathtub, but your drain is open so as it fills, it flows out. Remember that you are not your thoughts – they are just draining through the bathtub. You can focus on your breath or say a positive affirmation to remain in the present moment. 

6. Music/Binaural Beats

Music and sounds are medicine for our mind. This study showed that listening to calming music after a stressful event helped reduce cortisol levels in subjects studied. Cortisol is what our body produces in response to a stressful or anxious situation which is good but when we have too much, it prevents our body from relaxation and inhibits sleep. Here’s some Zen music to help create a peaceful ambience to soothe your mind.

How about binaural beats to increase the energy vibration in your body? Binaural beats are basically an auditory illusion: if you are listening to a sound in your left ear that’s at a frequency of 132 Hz and in your right ear, you’re listening to a frequency of 121 Hz, your brain processes the difference and hears a tone of 11 Hz. It is believed that binaural beats create the frequency needed for your brain to create the same waves experienced during a meditation practice. Want to fall into a meditative state with these beats to improve your mood? Here’s one to try – make sure you have headphone/earbuds in both ears.

7. Positive Affirmations

How about some affirmations for a healthy mindset? Research has shown that practicing positive affirmations helps lower stress and your brain begins to sense that the positive outcomes have already occurred. This also allows you to become aware of your daily thoughts and reduces the chances of negative thinking slithering back into your life. You can create your own or here’s a short 5 minute practice to try.

8. Sleep

Did you know that a lack of sleep can contribute to anxiety and depression? So sleep in! Our society has glamorized the caffeinated, sleep-deprived culture to push ourselves to the limit. But our bodies need sleep to heal and repair our body and mind. Aim to get to bed 30 minutes earlier until you’ve established a habit of getting more shut-eye.

9. Stay Positive and Stop Ruminating

People with anxiety and depression tend to focus on the negative things in their life and ruminate on all things that are wrong – this feeds a continuous cycle of negativity, rumination and more anxiety, depression, etc.  Someone once said, “If you ruminate or worry about something you cannot change, you suffer twice. Why put yourself through that?” This study showed that distracting your attention from negative thoughts to positive and neutral ones helped reduce anxiety. And do you notice how you tend to ruminate when your mind has nothing else to focus on? This happens to me all the time – I’ll worry about an issue (i.e. health, car accident, kid’s problem) more than I should until my mind turns to something else – it could be as mundane as taking the dogs to the vet or paying my bills but I feel a lot better from having distracted my mind and accomplished a task or resolved a simple problem. 

10. Turn off the News, Social Media, and Disconnect

Avoid the news as much as possible as fearmongering keeps people glued to the TV which in turn sells more advertising for the networks. You can ask a friend or family about the latest events if necessary – otherwise, just skip it. The same goes for social media – it can promote negative experiences such as feeling inadequate about your life compared to your friends. Since most people tend to share the good highlights of their life rather than the bad ones, it’s easy to feel envious and dissatisfied with oneself. If you have a fear of missing out (FOMO) and feel like others are having more fun or living a better life than you are, try disconnecting for a week/month and see how much better you feel. I get my news and updates from frequent phone calls and texts with family and friends – it’s private and I enjoy the personal connection with them even though it is virtual.

Hope these tips help put you in a positive frame of mind, despite the chaos and uncertainty in today’s world!

Top 10 Essential Oils for Stress and Anxiety

In this blog, I’d like to discuss the use of essential oils for managing stress, anxiety and mood. Aromatherapy stimulates the receptors in the nose and sends messages to our nervous system which impacts the body’s energy systems. This fragrant modality has been used for centuries to maintain and improve well-being.

Here’s my list of recommendations.

1. Chamomile
Chamomile has a wonderful scent and is used widely in oil and tea form for general relaxation. This study showed the effectiveness of chamomile for treating generalized anxiety disorders (chronic anxiety and neurosis).

Here’s one that’s blended with jojoba and ready to use out of the bottle:

2. Fennel
This delicious anise spice is more commonly known for its digestive properties but this study highlighted the use of fennel in reducing depression and anxiety in post-menopausal women.

Here’s one to try:

3. Frankincense
Frankincense oil is extracted from the resin of the Boswellia tree and it means ‘quality incense’ in old French. In the Christian religion, frankincense was a precious spice with great significance and value in ancient times – it was one of the first gifts given to Jesus by the wise men to symbolize his divinity. This oil has a musky, strong aroma with hints of pine and citrus. In this study, frankincense was used to reduce anxiety in women during the first stage of labor (I sure wish I knew about this during my childbirth!)

Frankincense is very expensive but you don’t need much so here’s one to try:

4. Geranium
Geranium oil is extracted from the stems, leaves and flowers of the geranium plant and this sweet-smelling oil has been used widely for mood and emotional wellness. This study also showed how geranium essential oil can effectively reduce anxiety for women during labor. Here’s one to try:

5. Holy Basil
This is from the same plant family but not the same basil that is common to Italian cuisine. Holy basil is called tulsi and has been widely used in Ayurvedic medicine and contains eugenol, a compound that gives it a spicy, minty aroma. According to this study, holy basil was used effectively for treating anxiety, stress and depression.

Here’s one to try:

6. Jasmine
Jasmine oil can be used to increase your sense of well-being and calmness without the drowsiness factor. It also has a wonderful floral scent. This study showed that jasmine oil has stimulatory effects on the function of the nervous system promoting positive emotions. 

Here’s one to try:

7. Lavender
Lavender is a very popular oil and is thought to promote calmness by impacting the part of the brain that controls emotions. This study shows how lavender oil has been used to reduce pre-operative anxiety.

Here’s one to try:

8. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm has been used to support alertness, focus and a healthy mood. This study using lemon balm capsules demonstrates its effectiveness in reducing anxiety and improving sleep.  Lemon balm is readily available in edible capsules, tea and extract form. If using the essential oil, only use in a diffuser or in a bath.

Here’s one that’s ready to use out of the bottle and doesn’t need to be diluted:

9. Rose Oil
Rose oil, extracted from rose petals, has an intoxicating scent and in this study, it was observed that rose oil had physiological and psychological relaxation and anti-anxiety effects.   Remember that rose oil is not the same as the more common rosehip oil. Rosehip oil is produced from the fruits of various wild forms of the rose flower and is typically used as a carrier oil similar to jojoba or avocado oils. Pure rose oil is very expensive but if your wallet can handle it, here’s one to try:

Here’s a more affordable pre-blended version:

10. Valerian
Valerian is an herb that due to its mild sedative effect has been used over the centuries to promote sleep and calm nerves. This study shows the use of valerian to reduce anxiety and promote sleep.

Here’s one to try:

How to Use Essential Oils:

One of the easiest and safest ways to use essential oils is in a diffuser – they are inexpensive and do a great job of distributing the oil through the fine mist. With a diffuser, you only need 2-10 drops of pure oil (depending on the size of your diffuser) so more is not necessarily better. You can use it wherever you are during the day or put it in your bedroom in the evening. In lieu (pun intended) of a bathroom fragrance spray/odor remover, I use a diffuser and put 2-5 drops of different oil in depending on my mood. Or you can add them to a warm bath with a carrier oil (almond oil and jojoba oil feel great on the skin – half an ounce of carrier oil to 7 drops of essential oil is a good ratio you can pre-blend and add to your bath). Or you can find pre-blended essential oils if you don’t want to mix it up yourself. If you are on the go but looking for some essential oil relief, you can try this bracelet – just add a few drops into the cotton pad and it diffuses throughout the day. 

Diffuser Bracelet on Amazon

Safety Precautions:

  • Do not put ANY essential oil directly on your skin undiluted as it can burn and/or irritate the skin. Remember that more is not better when it comes to these concentrated oils!
  • Make sure you do NOT ingest essential oils – there’s insufficient research on safety for internal consumption despite claims that may suggest otherwise.

Here is the latest research on clinical aromatherapy and safety guidelines:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7520654/

The Benefits of a Healthy Gut – Dr. David Perlmutter Podcast Review

This is a podcast from 2015 of Dr. David Perlmutter – he is well-known for his New York Times bestseller, ‘Grain Brain’, published in 2013. He is a board-certified neurologist and a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition. His key philosophy is around preventative medicine and he believes that diseases like Alzheimer’s, ADHD, MS, depression and auto-immune issues can be prevented with lifestyle changes, good diet and exercise. He also believes that a healthy gut microbiome is our body’s ‘brain maker’ and talks about the results he’s had with patients using these practices.

  • The peer-reviewed literature has been publishing information about carbs and gluten for several decades but no one has paid any attention – he wrote Grain Brain to make the public more aware.
  • As a neurologist, he was very involved in understanding how lifestyle factors affect human physiology and exploring beyond the brain into the gut microbiome – the 100 trillion organisms that live within us.
  • The argument against grains is that they are a concentrated form of carbohydrates. We are genetically programmed to seek out sugar but as a species, we’ve never consumed this much. Bread, carbs and grains are comfort foods but the amount we eat ramps up inflammation.
  • Our blood sugar is rising and research has shown in a study by the New England Journal of Medicine (2013) that there is a direct correlation of sugar level and risk for dementia.  As there is no treatment for Alzheimer’s/dementia, prevention is key.
  • Going gluten free is not the answer as it’s still high in carbs – you need to control the amount of carbs you eat.
  • An astrophysicist studying the gut microbiome in California using supercomputers noted that 1 gram of fecal material holds 100 million terabytes of information and plays a direct role in the health and functionality of the brain. These bacteria make neurotransmitters, aid in making serotonin, GABA, dopamine, and directly influence the level of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is the cornerstone of diseases like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, autism, etc. so healthy gut bacteria is very important. 
  • Studies have shown that fecal transplants have helped patients with Clostridium Difficile infections and reversed Type 2 diabetes.
  • When he works with patients, he starts off with a list of questions that helps him determine the level of disturbance of the gut bacteria like: Were you a C-section baby? Have you taken frequent antibiotics? Have you had your tonsils removed? Do you take NSAIDS? Do you have gut and digestive issues? etc.
  • There are tests available to test the quality of the gut BUT we don’t know what a healthy microbiome should look like (only at a high level). What is known that one of the best attributes for healthy microbiome is bio-diversity.
  • Fermented foods like sauerkraut, probiotics and prebiotics that are present in jicama, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, garlic, leeks, dandelion greens are all rich in fiber that amplifies the growth of good bacteria in your gut.
  • Also, our lack of a large array of different organisms, like parasites, also undermines bio-diversity. Humans have had parasites for a long time – we’ve developed tolerance to them and also lived symbiotically which contributed to our health. When we sterilize the gut, we set the stage for imbalances in the metabolism and favor overgrowth of bacteria that can make us fat.
  • The hygiene hypothesis proposed in 1986 holds that our obsession with hygiene and sterilization has paved the way for us to have allergic and atopic diseases and skin related issues.
  • Autism is an inflammatory condition and correlates with changes in the gut bacteria – researchers in Canada discovered that changes in gut bacteria in autistic children correlates to changes to chemicals in how the brain works. We need to let kids gets dirty and expose them to different organisms and not live in a sterile environment.
  • Stress stimulates the adrenal glands to make cortisol which allows us to be more adaptable to stress, but the downside is that it increases the leakiness of the gut, changes the gut bacteria and allows overgrowth of organisms like yeast. Cortisol also has a detrimental effect on the memory center. 
  • Gut is front and center to depression. Lipopolysaccharides (LPS), the cell wall that lives in the gut, goes into the bloodstream when the gut becomes permeable under inflammation. There is a correlation between depression, gut leakiness and LPS increase. This is also related to conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
  • Overuse of antibiotics leading to antibiotics resistance is a key public health threat. Overuse of antibiotics is also correlated with increased asthma, allergic diseases and diabetes. C-sections deprive children of the microbiome during birth and your risk of developing diseases increases as you need to receive the genetic information from the birth canal. This first exposure of the right microbiome from the mother is critical for development.
  • Through years of a poor diet, our microbiome has become adept at extracting calories from food. Hence, weight gain and inflammation follows.
  • Prebiotics like acacia gum and pectin nurture the gut bacteria.
  • Interventional studies of probiotic bacteria showed changes that are measurable. A group of 75 children given lactobacillus rhamnosus showed that those that received the probiotic were healthy, whereas the control group had a 14% rate of autism and ADHD. 
  • Dr. Perlmutter’s daily routine: He is at risk for Alzheimer’s due to family history so he’s very careful about what he eats and is an advocate of regular exercise. He likes aerobics as he knows that this will turn on the genes that code for the chemical that will allow the brain cells to grow (BDNF factor). He favors a high fat, low sugar, grain free diet with lots of prebiotic fiber (15-20 grams), and adds in Vitamin D, Vitamin E, fish oil, a multivitamin and B-complex. He also only eats two meals a day and fasts for 12 to 15 hours after his last meal to keep his brain sharp.

Brain Maker can be found on Amazon and there are plenty of resources available on his website:

www.Drperlmutter.com

The podcast is on the link below:

Dr. Daniel Amen Podcast Review: Memory Rescue – How to Stop Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Dr. Daniel Amen is one of the leading authorities on brain health – he is a physician, founder of Amen Clinics and BrainMD, a double board-certified psychiatrist and nine-time New York Times bestselling author.  I found this podcast easy to listen to with great tips from his Memory Rescue book (published in 2018) on how to take control of your brain.

Here are the key highlights:

  • Alzheimer’s disease is expected to quadruple in the next 35 years. What most people don’t realize is that this disease starts decades before symptoms appear. Based on imaging studies, a 59-year-old woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s most likely had negative changes to her brain in her twenties. There is also no known cure on the horizon and it is estimated that 50% of people 85 or older will be diagnosed with it.  This may be a cause for people not wanting longevity in their life!   
  • Depression has increased by 400% since 1987 and it now affects 50 million Americans. It is also a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
  • Another risk factor is diabetes. A study showed that 50% of the US is either diabetic or pre-diabetic due to poor diet. Two studies have shown that as your weight goes up, the physical size and the function of your brain goes down. With 2/3 of Americans overweight, including 1/3 obese, it is the biggest brain drain in the US and now considered a national security crisis. Up to 70% of people signing up for the military are now rejected because of their weight problems. 
  • What’s important to note is that diabetes/obesity, depression and Alzheimer’s are not separate disorders but different expressions of the same unhealthy lifestyle.
  • Dr. Amen scanned his own brain at the age of 37 and noticed damage; he played football in high school, had meningitis, and poor sleep with unhealthy habits. This spurred him to develop the brain program – 20 years later, his brain scan looks like a healthy 37-year-old. 
  • Dr. Amen is a fan of brain imaging (SPECT) – his philosophy is that you need to look because imaging will show you if your brain is healthy, injured, over or under-active or has Alzheimer’s. At his Amen clinics, the first thing they do is look at your brain scans.  The imaging looks at blood flow and brain activity to get a view of how well your brain is functioning.
  • He developed a pneumonic (BRIGHT MINDS) for his Memory Rescue book and it’s as follows:
    • B is for blood flow – low blood flow is a key predictor of Alzheimer’s and anything that damages the blood vessels will damage the hippocampus. Tips: Limit caffeine and treat high blood pressure, keep your heart healthy and be physically active. Eat foods like chili peppers, beets and ginkgo biloba to increase blood flow. Brisk physical exercise is also a must as is hyperbaric oxygen therapy which can be used to increase blood flow to the brain.  
    • R is for retirement and aging – the older you get, the more serious you need to be about keeping the brain healthy. Your brain can become less active with age but with the right plan, you can slow or even reverse the aging process. Avoid factors that accelerate aging; avoid being lonely, being in a job that does not require new learning or not challenging your brain. When your brain stops learning, it starts dying. To slow aging, it’s important to be socially connected, engage in lifelong learning and stay physically and mentally active. Dr. Amen also advocates taking vitamins (multi and C) 
    • I is for Inflammation – chronic inflammation is like a low-level fire destroying your organs and this increases dementia. At his clinic, he measures the C-reactive protein (level of inflammation) and Omega-3 levels. Symptoms like joint pain, rosacea and gum disease are all indicators of inflammation which will lead to memory loss. He recommends eating more Omega-3s (oily fish), and cooking with spices like turmeric. In a new study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the hippocampus was found to be healthier in people with the highest omega 3 levels.
    • G is for genetics – having a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s is a wake-up call, not a death sentence. If you think you are at risk, early screening is essential and be serious about prevention as soon as possible. Losing your memory and independence is hard and expensive. Alzheimer’s causes a build-up of toxic plaque in the brain and it’s been shown that vitamin D, blueberries, sage, turmeric and green tea can decrease plaque.
    • H is for head trauma – head injuries are a major cause of depression, addiction disorders and memory problems. A study showed that one third of people that played football had lasting brain damage. Head trauma affects the front part of the brain which affects focus and decision making. On Dr. Amen’s memory rescue program, 80% of NFL players showed improvement in blood flow, memory, attention, mood and sleep. In his podcast he shares case studies of an NFL player and a pro surfer, and their brain scans before and after the Memory Rescue program – it is quite impressive and worth a look.
    • T is for toxins and a common cause of memory loss in aging. Smoking (tobacco and marijuana), mold exposure, carbon monoxide exposure, cancer chemotherapy, radiation and heavy metals (mercury, aluminum and lead) will all lower blood flow to the brain. Lead is still found in 60% of lipstick and lead is also in airplane fuel. Dr. Amen recommends limiting exposure to toxins, buying organics and reading labels (Say NO to phthalates, parabens and aluminum). What goes on your body goes in your body and affects your brain. You need to support your organs of detoxification: kidneys – drink plenty of water;  gut – eat plenty of good fiber; liver – eat lots of brassicas (cruciferous vegetables) like broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts to support detoxification; skin – sweat and do saunas. A recent study has shown that people who took the most saunas had the lowest risk of memory problems.
    • M is for mental health – chronic stress, emotional trauma, grief and depression are associated with lasting memory problems. It is critical to get this treated. For example,  ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) affects 10% of the adult population. American Journal of Psychiatry studies indicated that nutraceuticals are a low-cost option that should be considered like Omega 3, saffron and SAMe (involved in the formation, activation, or breakdown of other chemicals in the body, including hormones, proteins, phospholipids, and certain drugs.) In addition, exercise, meditation, hypnosis and a vegetable-rich diet can help your overall mental health.
    • I is for immunity and infections – if you struggle with memory, infectious diseases need to be explored. Dr. Amen suggests keeping vitamin D levels optimal, taking probiotics and eating anti-viral foods like garlic.
    • N is for neurohormone deficiencies – without healthy hormones, you will be tired and foggy and your hippocampus will be smaller and weaker. A healthy testosterone for both men and women will improve mood. Optimal thyroid levels give you energy and mental clarity. The hormone DHEA helps to fight aging, and the right level and balance of estrogen and progesterone helps with blood flow. Dr. Amen suggests that you get tested annually once you reach your 40s to keep hormones strong. Avoid hormone disruptors like pesticides, BPAs, phthalates and parabens.
    • D is for diabesity which is being diabetic, overweight or both. As weight goes up, size and function of the brain goes down. Remember that the excess fat in your body is not innocuous; it disrupts hormones, stores toxins and increases inflammation. When obesity is combined with diabetes, the risk is worse as high blood sugar levels can damage your blood vessels. 
    • S is for sleep – 60 million Americans have sleep-related issues and chronic insomnia, while use of sleeping pills and sleep apnea all increase risk of memory problems. You need adequate deep sleep to provide the opportunity for the brain to clean itself – when sleep is disrupted, trash doesn’t get taken out and builds up in your brain. Dr. Amen suggests that to sleep better, make the room cooler, darker and quieter. He also advocates use of magnesium, melatonin and 5-HTP to promote better sleep.
  • Dr. Amen’s 5 diet rules for the brain: 1. Eat high-quality calories (and too many); 2. Eat clean protein at every meal to balance blood sugar; 3. Focus on healthy fats including nuts, seeds and avocados; 4. Eat smart carbs that do not raise blood sugar like those found in colorful fruits and veggies. Stay away from bread, pasta, potatoes and rice as they are pro-inflammatory; 5. Liberally use spices and seasonings like pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, turmeric, and garlic to keep the brain healthy.

Here is Dr. Amen’s podcast on Youtube: