Welcome to Week 2 of The Brain guide. I hope you are doing well implementing some of the new tools you learned in Week 1 into your daily lifestyle. They are pretty easy to integrate, especially if your a fan of coffee and dark chocolate 😉 . So people will experience changes in as little as 3 days, some 3 weeks and others a little longer. Oh oh and did I mention weight loss and improvements on other health markers are a bonus? Well they are so be sure to give it your best effort and enjoy the ride xo
Moving on this week, we are looking at sleep, toxins and energy – how they effect our brain and how to use them to our advantage. Ready? Let’s move on!
Upgrade your brain with sleep –
I really love sleep and I feel its very under appreciated by many. I can tell through my cognitive performance when I have not had a good sleep or enough hours of shut eye. I will be irritable, groggy, slow to react, I get mad sugar cravings and I will feel my brain lagging (A phenomenon in video games where the game slows down or doesn’t perform to its best capacity) all day like an old computer that hasn’t been treated right.
Most people think that when you sleep, your brain goes to sleep, too. But it turns out that parts of your brain are several times more active at night than during the daytime. One of them is a newly discovered detoxification system called the glymphatic system (the rest of our body uses the ‘lymphatic’ system), which is kind of like your brains little cleaning and recycling system; its job is to remove and recycle all your brain’s toxins that have accumulated that day. Your brain actually shrinks by up to 60% when you sleep to allow the glymphatic system to do its job! One protein very actively recycled during sleep is involved in developing amyloid plaque, which is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. I’m not saying that Alzheimer’s is all caused by sleep deprivation, but it may be a factor.
Sleep is critical to your Brain performance. Lack of sleep impairs your attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, problem-solving ability, making it harder to learn effectively and contributes to poor decision making. Various sleep cycles also play an important role in consolidating memories in your mind. If you don’t sleep, you won’t remember what you’ve learned in the day. When we don’t get enough sleep we also get a spike in sugar cravings as our brain pretty much sends out a search party for a sugar fix – it screams for that glucose for energy when sleep is deprived. Yet many of us still neglect sleep and our sleep quality.
According to numerous studies, the power of sleep has no boundaries. The mind is a terrible thing to waste, which is why the findings of Sweden researchers from Uppsala University are so significant. Published in the journal SLEEP, the research team found sleep loss may have a compelling role in contributing to the loss of brain tissue. A total of 15 men were used in the study. They slept for 8 hours one night, and were sleep-deprived for another, as researchers analyzed their conditions — After the night of sleep loss, the researchers found increased blood concentrations of NSE and S-100B, which are molecules found in the brain. As those brain molecules are found in high amounts after brain damage, the team says the findings are indicative that that sleep-deprivation can promote neuro degenerative processes or cognitive decline.
So how can we improve our sleep to improve our brain health? Well first lets remember that —-
A good nights sleep starts first thing in the morning!
This means that when you wake you want to set your circadian rhythm** and hormones up for a good day which will have a ripple effect into your sleep. Getting direct sunlight for 15-30 minutes within the first two hours of waking can start that hormone cycle off right. This also is a great aid or precursor to your body creating its own Melatonin, your good sleep quality hormone, so you don’t have to depend on synthetic hormone replacements or supplements. Also getting ‘grounded’ or connected to the earth can be great for balancing out positive ions (we want to be negative for homeostasis). Then having an inner bath or 500 mls of warm water straight after your wake can slowly wake up your body up without shocking it.
**A circadian rhythm is a roughly 24 hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings, including plants, animals, fungi and bacteria. In a strict sense, circadian rhythms are endogenously generated, although they can be modulated by external cues such as sunlight and temperature.
The basics of a good night’s sleep are free
Whether or not you currently have trouble sleeping, there are several key things you can easily do to improve your current sleep. These are the most basic yet most critical hacks that will help you upgrade both the quality and quantity of sleep so you can optimize your rest every night.
- First, sleep in a pitch-black room. Make it as dark as you can possibly make it. Block all the light sources you can, whether it’s a curtain or just pinning up fabric as needed. Seriously, if you live in a city, you need blackout curtains that don’t allow in all the light pollution. Covering LEDs with black electrical tape will make a big difference too.
- Start winding down at least two hours before bed. This means less bright lighting at night, as well eliminating, or at least dimming, computer screens and TVs. Check out a free software from f.lux that eliminates blue light from phones and computer screens –> https://justgetflux.com/
- Third, though it may seem obvious, caffeine is not a sleep aid – stop drinking it by 2:00 p.m. each day, or at least 8 hours prior to bedtime (earlier if you’re sensitive to it or limit your caffeine intake to just 1-2 cups a day).
- Go to bed before 11:00 p.m. when possible because your body creates a cortisol surge after 11 p.m. to keep you awake. Ideally, getting to bed between 10 pm and midnight allows you to get double the amount of restorative sleep.
- Don’t exercise within 2 hours of bedtime, unless it’s relaxing yoga or something similar because you don’t want to spike cortisol (stress hormone).
- Keep your room cool to allow your body to get to the right temperature for optimal sleep.
- Keep a green leafy plant in your room so that oxygen is consistently being recycled.
These are basics that are easy to implement immediately at zero cost, and they ensure you’re starting off on the right foot – or right side of the bed, rather…
PS — Your brain uses a lot of energy while you’re sleeping for critical resting, healing, and repairing functions. It helps to fuel your brain optimally so it can get its job done! There is a powerful connection between what you eat and how you sleep so make sure you are consistent with your brain foods!
TASK: Start to implement a morning and bedtime routine daily that will help optimize your sleep. Also read over the food section in week 1.
Upgrade your brain by removing toxins –
As important as sleep, food and the power of thought are for your brain. It would be a disservice if I didn’t put in a section on toxins. Your body has an amazing ability to remove toxins all by itself but unfortunately some toxins can be a little harder to remove – especially those that cross the blood brain barrier (this is a semi permeable barrier that allows some material to cross from the blood to the CNS).
Each day our bodies get assaulted by toxins from all angles of our environment, And nowadays these toxins are at a greater number than ever. You likely are not aware of their presence but your brain definitely is, because these toxins stress and damage your cells.
Some of the most common substances found in everyday life are harming our cognitive function right now. Along with pesticides, you have substances like BPA, phthalates, mercury, lead, benzene, flame retardants and even toxins in your foods (mycotoxins) that are affecting you, even if you don’t realize it — which many people don’t. Toxins are everywhere in our environment, they are hard to avoid and your brain is taking the brunt of it.
There are many kinds of “everyday” toxins in the environment that can harm your brain. Some of the more common ones include:
- Carbon monoxide
- Cleaning products
- Nail polish remover
- Mold – in your home and also found on coffee, legumes and other foods (always buy organic if possible)
- Paint thinner
- Pesticides and herbicides
- Mercury, lead, and other heavy metals
- Drugs and alcohol
- Pharmaceutical drugs
Too often, memory problems are dismissed as something that happens with age, or because of life being too busy and we don’t take the proper steps to realize that this may be a symptom of something larger.
Did you know? About 28% of the population has a sensitivity to mold!
When these toxins attack the brain, they affect your ability to learn, love, and make wise decisions. It may feel like a family member is always forgetting something, but could it be something bigger? When there is a sudden change in personality, mood, memory, or sleep, it’s important to investigate the possible causes that may not seem as obvious.
Once they enter the body, toxins are carried through the blood stream into the brain. Toxins can impair brain function and even cause death. The degree and frequency of exposure to a toxic substance will impact the extent of brain injury from it. Chemotherapy treatments for cancer can also have a residual toxic effect on the brain.
Toxic brain injury can cause symptoms that include:
- Cognitive problems
- Memory loss
- Mood problems
- Personality changes
Remove toxins by —
- Eating a whole food diet that is mostly focused on Organic vegetables and berries, grass fed or wild meats and good quality fats. Not only does this avoid toxins from food, it also helps you remove toxins stored in your body’s tissues.
- Practice some sort of fasting. With a little intermittent fasting – you can remove a lot of toxins that would stay trapped in your cells.
- Be careful to choose high quality chocolate and coffee as these are other possible sources of mold or mycotoxins.
- Cook your foods at lower temperatures. Incorporate water into your cooking whenever possible – this helps pull any toxins out of food and leaves it in the water.
- Drink clean water, preferably spring or mineral water or use a reverse osmosis filter. Drink only out of glass or stainless steel.
- Avoid air fresheners, harsh synthetic cleaning products and new plastics.
- Make sure your house is well aired and is free from fungus or mold growing – check bed mattresses, curtains, carpets and sofas too.
- Rebounding and inversion moves can help support the lymphatic system in removing toxins.
- Use self care products made from good ingredients – I like Beauty counter for my self care products but you can find some good products on Amazon or at your local health food store.
- Use supplements that bind to toxins and support detoxification pathways – Dandelion tea, Milk thistle tea, Turmeric, Activated charcoal, Ginger, Calcium-D-Glucarate, Spirulina, Chlorella and Apple Cider Vinegar.
- Finally, to support your body further in detoxification, you can; sweat, burn fat with exercise (because fat cells store toxins), try chelation therapy (this is an IV injection of chelators that bind to toxins in the bloodstream), use Chlorella (it is a very effective chelator) and be aware of how you feel in different environments.
TASK: Now that you’re a bit more informed about toxins and your brain, you can get started on protecting yourself from the harmful effects, both short term and long term. Start eating an organic diet, reducing the use of furniture made with flame retardants and harsh chemicals, use glass or stainless steel containers instead of plastic and practice some lymphatic supporting moves.
Upgrade your brain energy –
Your brain is about 2% of your body weight. It uses 20-30% of your daily caloric expenditure. This means the breakfast you had today – about 1/3 of that went to feed your brain. Your brain uses a lot of energy to run well – more than any other organ in your entire body. But where does it get this energy? Well your body makes it through the food and fluids you consume but also through exercise, oxygen and sunlight.
How well your body makes energy dictates how you will manage your every conscious and unconscious decision, impulse, urge and desire. When your brain is stressed it uses more energy. If your sitting under a fluorescent light, your brain wastes more energy trying to filter it out. If your body and brain has to contend with toxins, you use more energy. If your brain has no energy you will have increased sugar cravings! So having optimal energy levels at all times – allows your body to meet demands and not sacrifice energy going to the brain.
So inside almost every cell in your body are at least several hundred mitochondria. Mitochondria are like little powerhouses that create ATP (adenosine triphosphate) or energy. If your mitochondria stopped making energy in all your cells – even for a few seconds, you would die. The higher part of your brain – the prefrontal cortex, which is in charge of advanced cognitive function, decision making, planning and behavior — has the most densely packed mitochondria of any part of the body (except for the ovaries). So your brain gets first dibs on mitochondrial energy, followed by your eyes and heart.
Why do our brains need so much energy?
Evolution baby. When we look through evolution we see that energy was imperative to our survival! Its part of natures plan to help use stay alive and continue our species. Our bodies have evolved so that we can withstand (almost) anything our environment throws at us and our mitochondria allocate that energy to our cells as needed. On a basic level we use energy for —
- dealing with scary stuff or running away from things that threaten us (fight or flight)
- reproduction so our species can live on
- feeding (hunting and feeding) so that we may fight, run away or reproduce
Whether you wake up feeling energetic or groggy depends on your brain.
In summary – we want to make sure you have optimal energy production by the mitochondria to ensure your brain gets all the energy it needs for optimal health and performance.
So how can we optimize energy?
TASK: Take out –
- toxic exposure
- fluorescent lights
- stress where possible
- bad sleep habits
TASK: Add in –
- good quality foods – fats and amino acids
- fresh air
- direct sunlight to the skin and eyes daily (no sunglasses)
- contact with the earth
- time in nature
- 7-9 hours of sleep a night
- clean water
- more natural light to our day
- exercise and stress relieving practices
- supplements (to come next week)
Sound good? A lot of great information again this week that you can start to add onto what you learned last week. If you have any questions – please don’t hesitate to reach out to me!
Your Model Health coach,