5 Easy Steps for Boosting Brain Power
After just completing our marathon of licensing exams, the need to keep our brain in tip-top shape became increasingly necessary. Age, stress, lack of sleep, poor nutrition and exhaustive studying are just a few of the factors that can impact how sharp you’re feeling and functioning. Whether your goal is to prevent age-related cognitive decline or you are in University and need more brain power for upcoming exams, this applies to you!
1. Brain Food: Eat food that nourishes your brain and body. Some of these beautiful brain foods include healthy fats (Omega 3) such as chia seeds, fatty fish and flax seeds. Our neurons (brain cells) have a cell membrane composed of lipids (fat), so consuming healthy omega-3’s helps to maintain the integrity of that membrane. Click here for a table of other common brain-boosting nutrients.
2. Water: Our brains are composed of about 70% water. Think about a hangover (none of us have ever experienced this…); the dreaded pounding headache that is a consequence of alcohol dehydrating the body and brain. In controlled research studies, it has been shown that after deliberate dehydration, there was an increase in errors during complex tasks and alteration in perceptual response. The general reccomendation is 1.5-2L
3. Sleep: Need I say more? Well, I’m gonna anyway. Studies have shown that after even one night of restricted sleep, children performed significantly worse on verbal creativity and abstract thinking. These results aren’t just applicable to the younger cohort; those with sleep apnea have also been shown to suffer impaired cognitive function and lower quality of life. So even if you have a big exam the next day, better to skip the all-nighter and catch some z’s. The magic number seems to be 7-9 hours/night for assimilation of memories from that day.
4. Exercise: Neurogenesis declines with age, however exercise reproducibly reverses – that’s right, reverses – the regular decline. Exercise increases IGF-1 (insulin like growth factor) and BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) which essentially means there is an increase in new blood vessel growth and neuron generation. Nice. Aim to get 180 minutes/week, but whats most important is some form of daily movement - go for a walk, do some living-room-yoga or bike to work!
5. Supplements: This is a short list of all of the brain go-to’s, but choosing the right supps depends on WHY you’re experiencing these symptoms. Fish oils, B Vitamins (if deficient), phosphatidylserine, Gingko and Bacopa are all common interventions but must be done under the supervision of a licensed naturopathic doctor. Go on – ask!
If there is a concern that goes beyond a regularly fatigued mind, consult your primary care physician. There are simple screening tests that can be done in office to explore whether more investigations need to be done. There are also many more factors that influence cognitive function including hormone fluctuations, mood, and social engagement, but that becomes much more complex. Contact your naturopathic doctor for an individual assessment of your needs to optimize that beautiful brain of yours!
Randazzo, Angela C., et al. "Cognitive function following acute sleep restriction in children ages 10–14." Sleep 21.8 (1998): 861-868.
Engleman, H. M., and N. J. Douglas. "Sleep· 4: Sleepiness, cognitive function, and quality of life in obstructive sleep apnoea/hypopnoea syndrome." Thorax 59.7 (2004): 618-622.
Kramer, Arthur F., and Kirk I. Erickson. "Capitalizing on cortical plasticity: influence of physical activity on cognition and brain function." Trends in cognitive sciences 11.8 (2007): 342-348.
Cian, Corinne, et al. "Influences of variations in body hydration on cognitive function: Effect of hyperhydration, heat stress, and exercise-induced dehydration." Journal of Psychophysiology 14.1 (2000): 29.