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Mind matters

Rude Health magazine takes a look at how we can all keep our brains firing on all cylinders

“The brain has an important job every moment of every day, which is to absorb, process, store and recall information for later use,” says Dr Daniel Jones BSc PhD at Galway Natural Health. “Research has shown the brain’s ability to accomplish this is dependent on the capability to rewire itself, generating what is known as synapses or connections within the brain.”

“Customers often ask for something to help brain power as they age so they can keep their memory working well,” says Helena Murphy from health store Loop de Loop in Castletownbere in Cork.

“Customers come in asking mostly about anxiety and stress in relation to mental health issues,” says Kathy Rogers at Health At Hand, Arklow, Co Wicklow. “It is one of the most prominent issues that people are seeking help for in our shop these days. People seem to be a lot more open and comfortable discussing their mental health now than a few years ago.”

The role of diet

Susie Perry Debice is a nutritional therapist with supplement company Altrient. “Eating a rainbow of fresh colourful fruits and vegetables is a good way to ensure that you are getting plenty of natural antioxidants into your diet,” she says. “These colourful food pigments help to protect against cellular damage. Making sure you eat plenty of oily fish (salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna, trout, sardines) is a good way to top up on omega-3 fats. Good vegetarian sources of omega-3 include flax oil, walnuts, hemp seeds and chia seeds.”

Olive Curran, Galway nutritional therapist with PPC who make Eskimo-3: “Eat a well balanced diet. Keep blood sugar stable to avoid energy or mood dips. Minimise processed foods. Eat a ‘real food’ diet with the main emphasis on fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, fish and foods that contain healthy fats.”

Dr Daniel Jones: “As brain health is highly linked with nutrition, dietary changes can have a profound impact on preserving memory function.”

When to supplement

“If you are under too much stress, you may find retaining information a real task,” says Helena Murphy. “I would highly recommend supplementing with fish oil, coconut oil and essential fatty acids. If stress is a problem I recommend rhodiola.”

“Omega oils and vitamin D are something we highly recommend for anyone suffering low mood or depression,” says Kathy Rogers. “Both of these nutrients are really important for our brains to work optimally. We also recommend flower remedies and homeopathic remedies.

Susie Perry Debice: “For women, the mind becomes vulnerable as the peri-menopause begins since oestrogen has a supporting role for healthy memory, coordination and even speech. This means that it’s important to start focusing on foods to support your mind as you come up to your 50’s. This is true for men too.”

Dr Daniel Jones: “It is important that we begin supplementing and focusing on nutrition in the brain before symptoms of deteriorating cognitive conditions become present. Therefore, an increased focus on nutrition and the brain should be considered from the age of 40.”

Olive Curran: “Really there is no magic number for taking supplements. It really depends whether or not you are experiencing any cognitive decline. Most people report their body behaving differently after the age of 40, so increasing your nutrient intake after this age would be beneficial.”

The best brain health supplements

Olive Curran: “If you don’t eat oily fish twice a week choose a high quality fish oil supplement. Increasing your level of omega-3 can lead to improved concentration, a sharper memory and less anxiety. Omega-6 is also beneficial to the brain network. B vitamins are often referred to as the ‘anti-stress vitamins’. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to symptoms such as brain fog, memory loss, dementia, depression and even Alzheimer’s. Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like nutrient, and as we age, levels of this vital substance decrease. It is vital for optimal brain function.”

Dr Daniel Jones: “Nootropics, or brain supplements, are formulated to promote healthy brain function. These include DHA – which helps to make the synapses in the brain; choline – which promotes the production of the important brain signal acetylcholine; and uridine – a deficiency in which has been linked with deteriorating cognitive conditions.”

Susie Perry Debice: “The brain needs plenty of oxygen, water, fats and a handful of specific nutrients including B-vitamins and Acetyl L-carnitine. Research indicates that B-vitamins have an important role to play in brain function helping to protect against conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALA) helps to optimise brain function because it can cross into the brain more effectively than regular carnitine. When taking these nutrients choose a liposomal supplement which protects the nutrients as they travel through the digestive tract and boosts their effectiveness.”

Lifestyle advice

Susie Perry Debice: “Keeping active as you age helps to maintain a good level of oxygen for brain cells is achieved. The expression ‘use it or lose it’ is true for the cognitive aspects of the brain. Keep your brain active with mind puzzles, crosswords, activities, reading and don’t get into the trap of falling into the same weekly or daily routines.”

Olive Curran: “Sit up straight and breathe from your belly to get more oxygen to your brain – increased oxygen to the brain can improve performance on tasks that require great mental effort. Exercise every day to oxygenate your brain. Walking and mind-body exercises like yoga and t’ai chi are particularly beneficial. Keep hydrated – even mild dehydration can lead to brain fog, irritability and short-term memory loss. Avoid environmental toxins, alcohol and smoking.”

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