Getting Smarter as We Age
If you thought you had only one brain and it was the one you were born with, get ready for a mind bender. Neuroscientists, are now saying we can grow new brain cells at any age. They say we can create new nerves that perform better, improve our moods, improve our memory and brain speed even as we get older. So let's take a moment and really appreciate what this means. We can literally regrow our brain. Let's get our heads wrapped around that one just for a minute. What that really means is that our brains are plastic and will regenerate if given an opportunity to do so.
There are many regions of the brain and neurogenesis or growing new nerves can happen in two very important parts of the brain that we know of now; the hypo-campus where we store our memories and the sub ventricular zone. So how do we take advantage of this new knowledge that we can actually grow new neurons and increase our brain volume and improve our memory and cognitive ability to focus and have more stable and peaceful moods. The first, and it seems always a place to start, is with exercise. It is shown to have a direct link in neurogenesis. When we exercise we take care of a few different needs of our brain:
1) We get blood and nutrition to our neurons
2) We are stimulating our brain by activating our muscles
3) When we are building our muscles, we produce a compound called BDNF which increases neurogenesis.
Then we get to look to supplementation that:
1) Reduces inflammation in the brain
2) Increases and balances certain neurotransmitters
3) Increases the building blocks of our brain
By far, the very best anti-inflammatory for our brain is going to be curcumin which is extracted from turmeric. Curcumin reduces five separate inflammatory pathways that, if left unchecked, reduce the efficiency and functionality and literally destroys our brain. Curcumin also increases BDNF and anytime BDNF goes up, our brain gets the signal to regenerate and grow. Loosely speaking there are two major categories of neurotransmitters, excitatory and calming. The positive side of excitatory transmitters is that it gives our brain speed and potentates the rest of our body making us feel energized. The most common excitatory neurotransmitters are dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine and acetylcholine.
The calming-down neurotransmitters are generally serotonin, dopamine and GABA. Yup, some neurotransmitters are both excitatory and calming depending on what part of the brain they are activating but that is a topic for another time.
If you want to build the brain, you get to add some building blocks. Since the dry weight of our brain is about 60% fat we get to increase these vital oils. DHA is about 30% of these fats and is also needed for the retina and vision and visual acuity and mental development is improved by extra DHA.
I consider DHA to be conditionally essential in that, when we are under stress, the enzymes that convert other oils into DHA turn down to the point where there just isn't enough to help our brain maintain stability never mind rebuild and grow.
Another conditionally essential oil is EPA which is a great for reducing inflammation not only in our joints and heart but also in our brain. Remember, Inflammation is the number one killer in our brain.
The omega -3 fatty acids EPA and DHA keep the dopamine levels in your brain high, increase neuron growth in the frontal cortex where you make good decisions, and increase circulation.
Another major challenge to our brain is blood sugar and insulin fluctuations. The better regulated we keep our blood sugars and insulin the better we fuel our brain and the better we fuel our brain, the more efficiently it works and the less inflammation it will have. So keeping our brains healthy and focused and serving us for our entire lives comes down to these few important steps. We get to stimulate our brain with creating new learning and strength training exercise, fuel our brain but not too much, supply blood and oxygen through healthy blood vessels, and supply the building blocks so it can rebuild and regenerate.
All this tends to stimulate stem cell production, repair mechanisms and the growth of new brain tissue.
This is vital to maintaining and improving our brain as we get older.