9 Essentials for a Healthy Brain

Something that seems to be circulating a lot on the Internet these days is how to optimize brain health and prevent of age-related decline. Do a Google search on this topic and there are plenty of short, quick checklists which expound the nearly same good advice: the importance of social connection and challenging your brain with mental exercise.

Functional medicine physician and notable resource of all things holistic, Dr. Mark Hyman, hosted an online webinar about these core essentials for a healthy brain. His Broken Brain series involved an amazing lineup of specialists who delved deep into these nutrition, social and lifestyle choices that should be adopted to keep your brain as healthy as possible.

Below is the list of takeaways from his webinar, most of which you have most likely heard before, but important reminders to keep your grey matter at peak performance.

While discussing the importance of community in maintaining brain health, he emphasized, “a health coach can encourage and guide you. We need coaching and supportive programs for people to change their behaviour.” Start your journey with coaching here.

Dr. Hyman says to get back on track to an optimal state of brain health by following these steps for 6 weeks:

You can create new brain cells and neural connections until the day you die…

  1. Nutrition. Top ‘o the list. Go for whole foods, plant-foods, healthy fats, lots of veggies. Eliminate sugars and processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and especially vegetable oils which are highly inflammatory and can wreak havoc on your body’s DNA. Eat good fat- avocado, nuts, ghee, olive oil, coconut oil- since our brains are primarily composed of fat.
  2. Tune up with supplements. Include a high quality and potent bioavailable, broad spectrum multivitamin that contains special activated forms of essential vitamins and minerals. Also recommended are magnesium, vitamin D3, Folate and Vitamins B6 and B12.  Also getting into the habit of taking probiotics will help to improve digestion and reduce gut inflammation (see recommended products below).
  3. Exercise. Everyday. You know it’s good for the body, but did you know it’s good for the brain? Do something that is fun for you and something that you love. If you need, start small, take a walk, but be regular. Build up. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is released in the brain and encourages the growth of neurons.
  4. Sleep. 2-3 hours before bedtime turn off your electronics. EMFs can damage the brain- especially in children as EMFs can penetrate the brain so easily. Turn off wi-fi at night for brain healing time. Turn off the lights if you want to be like our ancestors- try candles to super relax and decelerate.  Good sleep affects all health aspects- relationships, mood, waistline. Try for 7-9 hours a night.
  5. Relax: meditation, walking in nature, 2 minutes of breathing. High levels of the hormone, cortisol- which comes from stress, is detrimental to the brain.
  6. Brain training. Like physical exercise, mental exercise activates agility, speed, strength and the power of your brain thereby creating focus and retention. Do this by learning something new which uses your mind to train your brain. Try engaging in Senso genomics which is the method of using all your senses while engaging in a task. These senses include sight, sound, touch and proprioception– the groundedness for balance and coordination. For example, next time you are doing something like washing dishes, close your eyes and bring awareness to senses- listen to running the water, feel the soap, form the image in your mind. This is powerful.
  7. Live clean and green. Minimize toxic exposure. Reduce your use of plastics, check your home for mold, buy sustainable meat and fish. The cumulative burden of neurotoxins is bad for our brains because these toxins are stored in fat and our brains are mostly fat. Pesticides, flame retardants, chemicals in dry cleaning. Check seafood heavy metal list, find a green dry cleaner, find furniture makers that don’t use these chemicals. The Environmental Working Group’s guide has compiled lists of all things green- including cosmetics.
  8. Do what you’re bad at– this increases brain neuroplasticity. For example if you don’t like crossword puzzles, go work a few. If you use your right hand to use a fork, switch to the left.
  9. Get connected, stay connected. Community can be more effective than medication for mood. Touch is essential to nervous system- it’s how we know we’re safe. Serotonin, ’nuff said.

True health is not about the absence of disease, it’s about the presence of vitality and energy.  Dr. Mark Hyman

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