Monday, August 3, 2015

Guest Blog: What is one of the most important things to do daily to keep the brain healthy?

What is one of the most important things to do daily to keep the brain healthy?

The answer: Re-hydrate

The brain is about 85% water, and can be seriously affected by as little as a 10% loss. Every day of life your body loses water through your breath, urine and sweat glands even when youre not trying to work up a sweat. This is why it is critical to constantly re-hydrate your body and sodas, coffee and tea don't count toward this requirement.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

What Is Neuroplasticity?

Guest Blog:

When I first started my career in health care I worked in physical therapy with head trauma and spinal cord trauma patients. Back then in the late 1970s, science and medicine held that our brain was unalterable, operating much like a computer with a fixed memory and processing power. The mode of treatment was more palliative and symptom related as opposed to proactive ways to help the nervous system rewire itself after a injury.

But now, science has reversed those previously widely held beliefs. Our brain continues to grow, change and repair itself after injury and throughout our lifetime, forming new complex connections. We now know that we have a considerable amount of control over our own brain function and it is dependent on how we use our brain and activate our motor and sensory systems.

Brain neuroplasticity refers to the brains ability to be changed, modified, rewired and be repaired. The changes may be in building new brain cells, forming new connections or strengthening old ones. Our brain changes moment to moment in response to each new experience or new learning or even by ramping up areas of expertise.

Our brain makes us who we are: what we think, feel, desire and imagine. With ongoing new discoveries, we are beginning to appreciate the complexities of the brain. If we realize that our brain is a memory organ and that it can relearn or access old memories, the objective then becomes to stimulate the nervous system to promote healing and repair.

Here are 6 important discoveries about the brain that are making us more aware of the importance of keeping our brain in good operating function.

1. Our brain continues to make new cells every moment of every day that we live.

2. The brain can form complex synapses or connections throughout our entire life.

3. The connections between neurons can be strengthened against weakness with continuous stimulation.

4. There is no limit to brain repair. Previously, it was believed that the window for brain recovery was at most one year after injury. The Center for Brain Health research has shown that the brain can be repaired years after injury if the right intervention is applied.

5. Active cognitive and muscular stimulation can help build new connections after traumatic brain injury, stroke, in normal aging and even in progressive brain disease such as Alzheimer's.

6. Advances in sophisticated brain imaging technology allow us to view changes in the activation of brain regions that occur at the very moment we acquire new knowledge. The changes in brain regions suggest that there is more activation during learning as new connections are developing and less activation after a skill has been acquired.

I believe that it is most important to know that our brain is one of the most modifiable parts of our entire body.It is critical to realize that the brain is the most important aspect of our health, and should be delegated a prominent position of up-front and center focus to keep it healthy.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Guest Blog: Better Brain Strategies to Lose Weight

Guest blog:

If you want to consciously lose weight it is critical to understand that our brains have been wired to seek out high-calorie, fatty foods for thousands of years. It is up to us to use our higher brain and to learn how to control those primitive parts of our lower brain to resist overeating. Over the past 30 years in private practice I have seen dramatic results in releasing weight if you just know the "how" and attach a bigger "why" to changing habits.

In this blog , I will to teach you the three steps you can do to preprogram your meals and resist using the primitive part of your brain that keeps you seeking out high sugar ,high calorie, empty nutrient foods. It is important to remember that our brain’s biological software was developed as a protective response in the first place.

Calories Meant Survival

Our brain’s desire to over eat rich ,high caloric food is a genetic factor still present from the days of our early ancestors. Imagine if you could only eat what you caught or picked that day. The variety of foods hunter gatherers had available was extremely different in comparison to the 30,000 food choices we can buy in the average grocery store today.

We also have easy access to food 24 hours a day with fast food drive thru meals and grocery stores. Our ancestors also expended a lot more calories acquiring their food so they needed to eat higher calorie foods for energy.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate up to 60 percent of their calories in the form of animal muscle meat, fat and organ meat, and the other 40 percent from fruits ,seeds and vegetables. That balance between protein and carbohydrates in the diet was different than our present diet.

Carbohydrates have received a bad rap but they are the single most important nutrient for long-term health and weight loss. Now, Im not talking about donuts and pasta I'm talking about plant foods that more closely resemble what our ancestors ate. These whole foods are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and weight-busting nutrients. Whole foods have all the right energy and information to turn on all the right genes.

Over the past 10,000 years with the advent of both agriculture and industrialization the human diet has been turned upside down. Today, 60 percent of our calories come from things that our ancestors wouldn’tt even recognize as food.

The bulk of those items are processed cereal grains, sugary soft drinks and high concentrated juice, refined oils and dressings filled with simple carbohydrates. The primitive brain sees this as an endless supply of food for easy energy. The result is an epidemic of obesity and diabetes in our country that leads to many health and brain disorders.

The Blood Sugar Overload

When you eat simple sugars they pass almost instantaneously through the gut into the bloodstream. Within seconds blood sugar levels start to rise and the body releases insulin that unlocks the cells to allow sugar inside. As sugar enters the cells the blood sugar lowers and the body restores to homeostasis.

The abundance of simple sugars will eventually wear down the cell receptors from overuse. Like a key thats lost its teeth, insulin loses its ability to easily open the cell membranes door. The cells then become numb to the effects of insulin. The body then pumps out more and more of the hormone to keep its blood sugar levels in check. Eventually this cycle will lead to a dangerous condition called insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance has been shown to cause you to gain belly fat ,raise your cholesterol, lead to high blood pressure, make you depressed, tired, and demented, and can even lead to forms of cancer.

Three Ways to Reprogram your Brains Hunger Centers

These are the three ways to get started today

1) Balance your blood sugar. Blood sugar highs and lows drive primitive food cravings. If you get famished between meals, thats a sign that your blood sugar is dropping. One of the best ways  to regulate blood sugar is to eat a small meal or snack that includes healthy protein, like seeds or nuts every 3 to 4 hours .Planning a higher protein snack at 10am and 3 pm is a great first step in your conscious plan of eating.

2) Eliminate liquid calories and artificial sweeteners. Early humans didnt reach for soda or fruit juices when they got thirsty. Sodas are full of chemicals and high fructose corn syrup. Processed fruit juices are a vey dense form of sugar. Try sticking with water or green tea. Green tea contains plant chemicals that are good for your health. A bad decision is to succumb to the diet food or diet drink trap. The artificial sweeteners in diet drinks and foods fool the body into thinking it is ingesting sugar, which creates the same insulin spike as regular sugar.

3) Eat protein at breakfast. Studies show that starting the day eating a healthy protein, such as eggs, seeds, nuts or a protein shake helps to lose weight, reduce cravings, and burn calories.
Ideally you may not be able to control your genes but you do have control over what and how you eat. When you follow this plan consciously the brain lowers its cravings and urge for sugary food and suppress the lower reptilian brain cravings.

One of the most powerful ways to reduce stress is to use your higher conscious mind and to plan ahead. If you want to transform your health make a conscious decision to preplan what you eat !

Better Brain Strategy of the Week

Ø  Plan your higher protein snacks for 10am and 3pm for the next 7 days

Monday, July 13, 2015

Can Your Exercise Strategy Be Causing Insomnia ?

Guest Blog:

The New Years resolutions that you set to exercise more after the holiday season may be affecting your sleep and ultimately your brain health. If you are doing a exercise routine and the evening is the most convenient time of day you may need to implement a few strategies if it's affecting your sleep.

Studies show that people that exercise regularly typically can fall asleep quicker and get a more restful nights rest. But if you are one of those who that has a hard time nodding off after an evening workout, then you might want to change up your routine.

Sometimes selecting a less strenuous workout at night may be helpful, while saving the heavy hitting high intensity intervals for morning or afternoon. Consider reserving your evening exercise sessions for less strenuous exercises like stretching, Yoga, Pilates, or even an evening walk. If the evening is the only time to exercise try lowering the intensity of what youre already doing.Here are some strategies to help you slip into slumberland easier after your workouts.

Better Brain Tips

1)     If possible, seek to get your workout done at least three hours prior to bedtime.

2) Coffee before a workout can enhance your fitness gains, but if you exercise in the late afternoon or evening, the caffeine may keep you awake. Reduce caffeine at least 4 hours before bedtime.

3) Our mind is paced by light and sound so limit high intensity music, movies, computer games and computer time for a least one hour before retiring.

4) Listen to relaxing music just before you go to sleep, It will get your brain waves paced for rest.

5) Stay well hydrated during your workout with room temperature water .This can help reduce the cortisol response of the body and regulate metabolism.

6) Try taking a hot bath, shower, or sauna just before bed. The sudden temperature drop from getting out of the bath helps your body shut itself down, facilitating a better nights sleep.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Brain to Body communication- Making your Body Smarter

Guest Blog:

When you think of your body does the word "smart." come to mind? For example, we walk to the corner store without giving a single thought to the complex mechanics involved in getting there and back. But behind the scenes there's plenty going on and your body's "IQ" has a lot to do with your success in accomplishing everyday tasks.

One of the most important parts of the brain function is directing the messages to and from the brain to the body. This process is called "Proprioception" and is one of those background physical processes that make up your body's total IQ. Proprioceptors are specialized nerve endings located in your muscles and joints that inform your brain about your body's position in three-dimensional space.

You're able to write legibly because proprioceptors are sending instantaneous data about the angles of the small joints of your fingers and wrists as your pen moves across the page. You're able to run on the beach because proprioceptors are continuously sending signals to your brain about the changing shape of the uneven surface of the sand.

Without these specialized nerve endings, we'd never be able to hit a baseball, throw a Frisbee, or drive a car. But proprioceptors can be smart or less than that. It all depends on how well-trained they are. One person out for a stroll might trip over a crack in the pavement and suffer a badly sprained ankle. Another person might trip over the same crack, even badly turning over their ankle in the process, and keep on walking without even a trace of a limp.

The difference between injury and non-injury is the level of proprioceptor training, and this level usually is related to whether you're doing regular exercise. Exercise trains your muscles and joints to adapt to varying kinds of stresses (weight-bearing loads) throughout a variety of positions (the full range of motion of those joints).

As a result, trained proprioceptors can withstand a high degree of stress (such as a sudden twisting of an ankle). The untrained ankle, possibly the ankle of a person who hasn't done much walking, running, or bike riding in the last 5 years, will be damaged by an unusual and unexpected stress. The result is an ankle sprain of varying severity and possibly a broken ankle.

Similarly, it is well known that older adults experience more frequent falls than do younger adults. Part of the explanation involves proprioception. Many older adults don't engage in regular exercise. Proprioceptive function decreases, changes in level or surface aren't recognized quickly by the person's feet and ankles, and the person falls.

It's easy to see that the effort to maintain your body's IQ is time very well spent. The fastest way to boost this skill set is by doing regular exercise. All kinds of exercise provide benefit, so the best exercises are the ones that have some interest for you personally. Optimally, a person is doing both strength training and cardiovascular exercise. As always, the key to long-term health and wellness is consistency.

Better Brain tip

Start a walking routine that varies in speed and elevation to stimulate better brain body coordination

Wong JD, et al: Can proprioceptive training improve motor learning? J Neurophysiol 2012 Sep 12 [Epub ahead of print]
Ferreira ML, et al: Physical activity improves strength, balance and endurance in adults aged 40-65 years: a systematic review. J Physiother 58(3):145-156, 2012
Howe TE, et al: Exercise for improving balance in older people. Cochrane Database Syst Rev  2011 Nov 9(11):CD004963.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Guest Blog: Neuroplasticity: Can the brain can rewire itself?

Guest Blog:

Scientists in the past once believed that when a person reaches adulthood, their cognitive abilities became fixed and that injury to the brain was permanent. But beginning in the early twentieth century, that theory has been contested by evidence suggesting that the brains abilities are in fact malleable and plastic.

According to this principle and term; Neuroplasticity, the brain is constantly changing in response to various stimuli and experiences. New behaviors, new habits, new learnings, and even environmental changes or physical injuries may all stimulate the brain to create a new pathway or reorganize existing ones. This appears to be fundamentally altering how information is processed and used in the future.

I am a big fan of the online brain training company called Lumosity. This technology teaches the brain how to create stronger neural connections to keep the brain healthy. The premise is nerves that fire together are wired together .In a recent blog
Neuroplasticity was explained in relation to habit patterns and brain size and function.

Lumosity information:
Mapping changes in taxi driversbrains
One of the most dramatic and early examples of Neuroplasticity comes from a 2000 brain scan study on London taxi drivers (Maguire et al., 2000). In order to earn a license, London taxi drivers typically spend about two years learning to navigate the citys serpentine streets. The studys researchers wondered what mark this long, rigorous period of training had left on taxi driversbrains.

Under the scrutiny of functional MRI scans, 16 male taxi drivers were revealed to have larger hippocampuses than a control group of 50 healthy males. And the longer the time spent as a taxi driver, the larger the hippocampus tended to be. As a brain area involved in memory and navigation, the hippocampus seemed to have changed in response to the taxi driversexperiences.

Most instances of Neuroplasticity-based changes in the brain are much more subtle. But in recent decades, its cases like that of the London taxi drivers that have inspired members of the scientific community to pursue the next logical step in research: rather than passively waiting to see how the brain might respond to circumstances, is it possible to direct that capacity for change, targeting improvements in specific abilities?

The Science of Cognitive Training:

The science of cognitive training seeks to answer the above mentioned question. In 2013 alone, 30 cognitive training studies were registered on the government database Lumosity scientists, with the help of outside collaborators, contribute to this research effort: so far, 7 peer reviewed studies have been published using Lumosity as a cognitive training tool for diverse populations, including healthy adults, cancer survivors, elderly people, and children with a genetic disorder.

Better Brain Tip:

·       Don't get stuck in a rut, do something different every day!
·       Sign up for Lumosity's free brain training program and take a test drive-
·       Take a different route to work so you have to Think about your directions.
·       Prepare and Eat a different vegetable than you are used to eating regularly
·       Perform a different Movement or exercise to challenge new nerve pathways
·       and muscles

Monday, June 22, 2015

How Gut Health Affects the Brain

Guest Blog:

The gut is often called "the second brain," because your gut bacteria transmit information to your brain via the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem into your enteric nervous system (the nervous system of your gastrointestinal tract).

There is a close connection between abnormal gut flora and abnormal brain development. There are neurons in your brain just like the neurons in your gut -- including neurons that produce neurotransmitters like serotonin. Serotonin which is also found in your brain and is linked to mood and depression.

Your gut health can impact your brain function, moods, and behavior because they are interconnected and interdependent in a number of different ways. In addition to avoiding sugar, hydrogenated oils, and artificial sweeteners one of the best ways to support gut health is to consume beneficial bacteria.

You can use a probiotic supplement for this or organic Greek yogurt. I'm particularly fond of using fermented vegetables, because they can deliver extraordinarily high levels of beneficial bacteria. Most people aren't aware that in a healthy serving of sauerkrauttwo to three ounces or so you're getting the equivalent of nearly 100 capsules of the highest-potency probiotic you can buy. It's clearly one of the most cost-effective alternatives.

Often the lower brain senses such as cravings for sweets can override the higher brain messages If menus are not pre-planned. Better Brain strategies must always include making sure the gut is healthy. 

Better Brain Tip:

How much of your planned meals support the BRAIN HEALTH of you and your family?

This week add gut healthy, brain supporting foods to your weekly meals!