In the last post we discussed the concept of a “hurting brain”. Today I want to discuss with you 7 causes of hurting brains that are commonly seen in my office. Obviously there are more than only 7 reasons, but this is a list that you can make changes to fairly easily to improve brain health.
Your brain is made of fats. Good fats are absolutely vital for proper brain health and function. One of the most important brain fats is DHA. This comes from fish oil. If you are not eating clean fish weekly and/or taking high quality fish oil supplements, then chances are very high you are DHA deficient. This can lead to problems like depression, anxiety and damage to the brain from chronic stress. If your brain doesn’t have good fats, but instead is loaded with bad fats from a poor diet, you will suffer brain function decline. DHA levels that are low can affect memory and learning. This is important for the developing brains of babies and for brain health all through the lifespan. Don’t skip out on DHA!
Vitamin D Deficiency
I think we all understand the importance of vitamin D for overall health. It is so important to know your vitamin D levels, which can be checked with a simple blood test. Optimal levels are 55-60. If levels are too low, not only can you increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and autoimmune disease…but you can also increase your risk of rapid brain degeneration. Make sure you take vitamin D during winter months. During the summer try to get 15-20 minutes of sun with adequate skin exposure. Doing this can make up to 20,ooo IU of vitamin D in your body! Vitamin D conversion requires a healthy liver and healthy kidneys, so if you levels are low consider having a deeper evaluation to see if you are a candidate for a supervised detoxification program.
Your brain needs glucose to survive. When you are insulin resistant you can’t utilize your blood sugars appropriately. This has a negative effect on the brain. Insulin resistance also produces high levels of inflammation in the body. This inflammation “burns” the brain up and causes damage. If you feel mentally exhausted, can’t think, can’t concentrate or focus then have yourself checked for insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, or prediabetes.
We are exposed to heavy metals from a variety of sources. For example, mercury levels can build up in our bodies because of the mercury laden vaccines that kids are exposed to, the content of mercury in dental fillings, and the residue of mercury found in high fructose corn syrup. These heavy metals are sequestered in different tissues of our body. One of these areas is the brain. Heavy metal toxicity in the brain can lead to the development of diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Dysbiosis, or an imbalance in the good versus bad bugs in our gut, can lead to the development of toxic waste products that are able to cross the blood brain barrier and literally poison the brain. Candida, parasites, and other bad gut bacteria can lead to alterations in nutrient status which robs the brain of the things it needs to function properly. Taking care of your gut first can often resolve many chronic brain disorders such as depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.
CoQ10 is absolutely necessary for your mitochondria to work properly. Your mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cells and manufacture all your energy. They are located in high density in tissues that demand a lot of energy…such as your brain. Statin drugs used to lower cholesterol are known to lower CoQ10 levels and lead to dementia. If you have high cholesterol you should find out the root cause of your high cholesterol and manage it safely and effectively. If you choose to be on a statin drug then you should absolutely be on CoQ10 every day to balance the CoQ10 depletion associated with taking the statin drugs.
Iron Deficiency Anemia
Your brain needs oxygen to survive. Without any oxygen your brain tissue dies and you have a stroke. With poor oxygen delivery your brain is injured and “sick”. You need to not only know your hemoglobin levels, but you also need to ask your doctor to check your serum iron, TIBC (total iron binding capacity) and serum ferritin. Your serum ferritin is the most sensitive marker. Optimal levels are 40-70. Levels below 12 are indicative of iron deficiency. If you are anemic you should have further evaluation to identify the cause of your anemia to ensure you don’t have cancer, gastrointestinal bleeding, celiac disease, etc. If your levels are too high then you are going to increase oxidation and inflammation which can also negatively affect the brain.
We all want a healthy brain. I am sure that most of you reading this know someone that suffers with dementia, Alzheimer’s or some other type of neurodegeneration. It’s hard to watch the impact it has on family, relatives, friends and spouses. One of the areas that I supplement the most with is my memory and my brain. I want to make sure I keep my brain healthy as I age. All seven of these causes of hurting brains can be addressed and changed with diet, exercise, supplements and lifestyle changes. You can also measure your risk with simple laboratory testing to identify if you are at risk.
You only have one brain and when it starts to decline it can’t be transplanted. So make the healthy choices now and keep your brain healthy for later!