Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND
People often ask me for a supplement or herb that preserves brain health and treats changes in brain function, such as decreased word recall or concentration. However, well before an effective supplement support can be chosen, the following basic principles must be addressed, as changes in brain function are commonly a consequence of the body compensating for some other disturbance.
1. Eat fresh, local, organic produce, when possible. Organic vegetables produce their own pesticide chemicals that protect our bodies from inflammation and damage. Some of these chemicals, generally called phytochemicals, are directly linked to optimal brain function and nerve protection.
2. Figure out why you’re so tired all the time! Many of the underlying mechanisms of chronic fatigue also cause poor brain function. For example, thyroid hormones are also brain hormones that impact mood, focus, and energy level. Low iron levels can also affect concentration and energy by reducing blood and oxygen delivery to the brain. If you generally rate your energy level at less than 7 out of 10, work with a practitioner who is skilled at problem-solving this condition for you.
3. Regulate your blood sugar. The brain requires a steady stream of sugar and low sugar levels trigger the brain to send stress signals that can negatively impact brain function. Signs that your blood sugar is falling too low include feeling shaky or anxious 30 minutes or up to 4 hours after eating, or waking up in the night regularly between 1am and 3am. Also pay particular attention to this concern if you have a family history of Diabetes.
4. Sleep. Generally this means to bed by 10pm and sleeping soundly for at least 7 hours. If you experience any sleep concerns, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, address this to ensure your brain has the capacity to restore normal function.
5. Ensure adequate high-quality dietary protein and supplement with high-quality omega-3 oils. Protein contains the building blocks for brain chemicals (e.g. serotonin, dopamine) that affect our feelings and mental function. Omega-3 oils, such as what’s in a high quality fish oil supplement, improve the stability of the brain cell (neuron) membranes, allowing them to communicate more effectively with each other.
6. Heal your gut. The bacteria in your gut are directly linked to food cravings, mental clarity, neurological disease, and so many more chronic illnesses. The gut is also an intersecting point with the nervous system and immune system. Any digestive concerns, such as acid reflux, bloating, or IBS, should be addressed in the process of supporting healthy, resilient brain function.
7. If you ever experienced a moderate to severe head injury or stroke, consult an Osteopath or other practitioner skilled in addressing the structure of the body. Even miniscule amounts of scar tissue or bone misalignments can affect blood and lymphatic flow to and from the brain, affecting its ability to regulate and heal.
8. Estrogen is a brain chemical too! If you experience moderate to severe PMS or menopause symptoms, work with a knowledgeable practitioner to balance your hormones so that their impact on the brain is reduced.
9. Ensure that your brain is protected from side-effects of medications. Some cholesterol-lowering medications, sleep aids, and anti-depressants, can impair cognition and are linked to the development of dementia.
10. Detox. Heavy metals, such as mercury in silver dental fillings, pesticides used on golf courses or on crops, are linked to changes in brain function and dementia. If you have a known exposure to these chemicals, acquire appropriate testing and treatment.