You may have heard that once you hit a certain age, your brain is finished developing. Worse than that, you may have heard if you develop a brain disease, there is nothing you can do except hope for some miracle drug to help restore your brain health.
Fortunately, more and more research shows that we actually have a huge amount of control over our brain health and that there are many things we can do to help prevent brain diseases like dementia, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. This is especially true of stress. Stress can take a heavy toll on our brain health and memory, but there is a lot we can do to reduce stress or counter its effects before it damages our brain or memory. Here are some of my favorite ways to cope with stress that might otherwise affect our brain health:
Don’t Skip Meals
Low blood sugar is a serious stress to the body that results in a cascade of stress hormones. While an occasional boost of these hormones might be fine, over time this chronic stress can actually result in massive swings in blood sugar levels that can damage the brain. Remember: the brain is primarily fueled by a slow and steady release of blood sugar so it is important to eat every few hours to ensure it has enough energy to effectively perform its many functions.
Eat a High Fiber Diet
You may be wondering how fiber can help alleviate stress on the brain. Well, in addition to eating every few hours to ensure that the brain has an adequate supply of energy, eating a diet high in fiber can ensure the slow release of blood sugar and sustain it over hours. To boost your fiber intake, sprinkle flax or hemp seeds on your cereal, add a half-cup of beans to your next soup or salad, and thicken your next smoothie with a tablespoon of chia seeds.
Say No to People Who Steal Your Energy
We all have people in our lives who sap our energy. While it may not be possible to eliminate all of these energy thieves, it can be surprising how many you can actually live without. Make a list of the people in your life who sap your strength and create stress in your life. Take an honest assessment of who you could really do without or who you could see less frequently. Life is short. Surround yourself with people who bring out the best possible you, not stress you out.
Take a Vitamin B-complex and Vitamin C Supplement
These nutrients are depleted during times of high stress. Additionally, they are not stored in the body so it is imperative to obtain adequate amounts from food and supplements every day to ensure your brain has sufficient energy to function properly. Without adequate B-complex vitamins we become susceptible to stress, depression and irritability.
Our bodies deplete high amounts of vitamin C when we’re stressed, yet this essential nutrient is needed to fight free radicals that could otherwise damage the brain. B vitamins are largely found in brown rice, root vegetables, citrus fruit, strawberries, cantaloupe, kale and green vegetables. Supplement with a 50 mg B-Complex supplement on a daily basis (some of these vitamins are measured in mcg, so 50 mcg in these cases). Vitamin C is found in oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes, pomegranates, strawberries, black currants, spinach, beet greens, tomatoes, sprouts and red peppers. Most nutrition experts recommend a 500 mg ascorbic acid or calcium ascorbate (both of which are natural forms of vitamin C) supplement as a daily minimum.
Meditate or Breathe Deeply
Research in the medical journal Psychiatry Research shows that meditation affects the flow of blood to the brain and alters brain activity. Using MRI technology, researchers conducted brain scans before starting, during and after meditation stopped. They found that four regions of the brain were affected during meditation and that mediation improved blood flow to the brain. Some of the brain changes continued even after meditation stopped.