In the past decade, we’ve seen extraordinary developments in neuroplasticity and its resilience to the brain.
The brain can rewire itself or modify its connections by rerouting signals along a different pathway from damaged areas that can easily correct itself. Only two decades ago the medical view was that the brain was fixed.
While groundbreaking, in truth the brain doesn’t function on its own. The rest of the body kicks in contributing with healing messaging.
Everything is connected!
One of the central pathways that supports this process is the gut-brain axis. It’s not only the “gut feeling” concept but the communication lines between the gut and the brain. It consists of multiple connections, including the vagus nerve, the immune system, and bacterial metabolites and products.
In a recent study on the Gut-Brain Axis: How Microbiota and Host Inflammasome Influence Brain Physiology and Pathology, confers that intestinal bacterium can affect the central nervous system, physiology and inflammation. During dysbiosis (when gut bacteria become imbalanced resulting in serious intestinal problems such as diarrhea, cramping, bloating and indigestion), these pathways break down and can alter the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, that protects toxins from getting in and neuroinflammation upon exposure to certain microbes in the brain.
There are five effective ways to nourish the gut-brain axis to ensure optimal health:
- Dark leafy green vegetables (see chart) give you energy
- Probiotic foods keep you in balance
- Healthy fats maintain good blood flow and energy
- Mindful activities exercise mental acuity
- Daily movement stimulates muscle contraction and generates fun
A huge benefit for nourishing the gut brain axis are eating leafy greens in your diet daily. They are the richest in nutrients of any in the vegetable kingdom and the darker and greener in colour, the more nutrient-dense they are.
- High calcium and iron which you need for energy, bone building and muscle movement.
- High in dietary fibre and one of the best detoxifiers, beneficial for pooping
- High in chlorophyll to oxygenate the cells and build strong cellular structure (cell membrane)
- Loaded with beneficial antioxidants to fight free radicals for protecting the body against disease.
- Colourful additions to your meal plate. This is very important. Using a variety of colour from vegetables, fruits and other foods guarantees that you’re getting a broader array of phytonutrients in your food of vitamins, minerals and bioflavonoids.
Click on this chart-of-leaf-greens to get the nutrient value, ways for eating, cooking and storing eight leafy greens. The body loves greens!
Probiotic and prebiotic foods are essential for health as much as any other food. Probiotics are the live bacteria that line your digestive tract that support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection. Prebiotics are vegetables that are high in fibre compounds that when digested, ferment in the gut. They are chicory root, dandelion greens, onions, leeks and garlic to name a few.
When purchasing pre-packaged foods read the label first! For probiotic foods suhc as sauerkraut or fermented vegetables select ones that are not pasteurized and include salt, not vinegar and no preservatives or additives. (Select fermented vegetables that have apple cider vinegar). The same for the sugar content, select below 6% since most prepared fermented foods include sugar. Probiotic foods are: Tempeh, Natto, Kombucha, Kimchi, Miso, Natto, Raw cheese, Kefir, Probiotic yogurt, Pickles, Sauerkraut.
Include healthy fats at every meal because the brain loves those fatty acids. They are avocados, nuts and seeds, extra virgin oil, organic full-fat coconut milk, full-fat yogurt, flax oil, hemp oil, whole eggs, cold water fish i.e., sardines, wild salmon, mackerel, herring, organic, free-run, or grass-fed meats.
When eating yogurt, go for the full fat at 2% fat or more, not 0% fat which overcrowds the grocery store refrigerators. Enjoy the creamy taste and it’s good for you!
Your brain needs fats!
- The core of good health begins in your cells and the first stage of healing is supporting cellular health. Cell membranes are made from fatty acids derived from healthy fats.
- Processed foods and a high fat diet severely affect the cell structure because fats become less fluid in nature, clogging up the bloodstream with poor indigestible fats.
- With aging, your cells cannot divide and renew themselves indefinitely. The chromosomes shorten with each cell division until the death of the cell occurs. Also known as telomeres.
- Eating healthy fats keeps the cell membrane stronger.
Mindful activities are fun ways to manage stress, practice relaxation and being present. Pursue your personal interests adding curiosity, kindness, joy, to achieve calm and personal fulfillment. Challenge your brain with singing, writing, learning a new language, playing an instrument, doing puzzles, photography, making art, gardening, and moving your body daily are perfect ways to build mental acuity.
Mindful movement can go beyond the typical exercise regiment and include dancing, biking, tennis, yoga, tai chi, Qigong, volleyball, badminton and many more fun sports.
Adding a social component to whatever you do boosts the brain even more. The brain loves socializing and company.
The body has the ability to heal itself, if we become attuned to it and listen amazing things can happen!
In good health,
I’m Rani Glick, a certified holistic nutritionist, mindfulness MBSR trainer working with people struggling with chronic illness and stress. Applying nourishing foods, movement and mindfulness to cope with pain for living a better quality of life. If you are interested in knowing more contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.