With all the stress of busy lives it may sometimes feel like you’re losing your mind, but a little forgetfulness is a normal and short term condition in most cases to a number of triggers. Luckily there are brain foods and other natural solutions that can help boost brain function and improve memory. According to Majid Fotuhi, MD, PhD, founder and chief medical officer of NeurExpand Brain Center in Luterville, MD, the brain has the ability to improve and change. Even just being aware of some of the stressors that can affect memory can help you make plans when you know you need to be at your best mentally.
Nutrition For Your Brain and Mind
The first thing to know about feeding your brain is that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. You can improve short-term memory and attention according to research studies, just by getting a good start to the day with a healthy breakfast. Include fruit, dairy and a food high in fiber according to nutrition experts to jump start your brain for the day. Avoid eating a heavy meal with lots of calories though as that can interfere with concentration.
Protein is another important brain food and protein foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as coldwater fish like salmon, tuna, cod, and mackerel give you the best brain power. Omega-3 fatty acids have been reported to boost memory, lower the risks of dementia, stroke and mental decline that can come with aging. If you just don’t like fish, eat like a fish instead with AFA bluegreen algae supplements. A form of AFA bluegreen algae that gives you the heart of the algae with the cell wall removed provides essential omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins and nutrients to help maintain normal, healthy blood chemistry that feeds the brain, prevent memory loss and help the brain function properly. It also has amino acids that are the building blocks of healthy nerve cells and neurotransmitters needed for the brain to function properly. You can get Ginkgo biloba as well as the whole food nutrition of AFA bluegreen algae, eleuthero, wheatgrass juice, bee pollen, Lion’s Mane mushroom and noni in this natural supplement. That means not only do you get the memory enhancing benefits of Ginkgo biloba, but also the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, antioxidants, B vitamins and other nutrients that feed the brain.
Glucose made from sugars and carbohydrates you eat are a good source of fuel for the brain. Don’t think that means donuts and candy bars though. We’re talking about the natural sugars from whole foods. Complex carbs are healthier for you than simple carbs so adding whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa, and starchy vegetables like potatoes, beans, peas and lentils to your diet will help fuel your brain. Glucose is a small enough molecule to be able to pass through the Blood Brain Barrier, but these molecules must first be paired with the appropriate proteins before they will be allowed to pass. Choosing a glass of fruit juice or a complex carb when you need to really concentrate and improve memory will help give you a natural short term solution.
Green tea is another natural brain food. Chemicals such as EGCG and L-theanine found in it have been found to increase brain cell growth in the hippocampus which helps with short-term memory and the ability to learn new material according to Dr. Fotuhi.
Sleep and Memory
Getting adequate amounts of sleep lets your body have the time to recharge and that includes your brain. Sleep time gives the brain a chance to process information and put that information into your memory centers for later recall. Not getting adequate amounts of sleep can leave you with brain fog, trouble concentrating and problems transferring information to memory. While more study is needed on how sleep affects memory, experts such as Allen Towfigh, MD, medical director of New York Neurology & Sleep Medicine believe that areas of the brain that deal with memory become more active when we are asleep. This could include the hippocampus reviewing information from the day and the neocortex processing that information to store in long-term memory.
How Stress Affects the Brain
According to Dr. Towfigh stress can be damaging to the brain and memory. Stress hormones can negatively impact brain cell receptors that control memory and the processing of thought. Stress can also affect brain tissue that regulates emotions and self-control. Meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga are all good for stress management. Meditation has also been shown to create growth in the cortex area of the brain which is responsible for memory. Eating foods with magnesium, B vitamins and chlorophyll can help your body deal with excess stress. As your body becomes stressed it uses up these stress relievers more quickly so that just when you need them the most, they are the least available to you. Eating lots of leafy greens, halibut, oysters, nuts and seeds can give you the extra nutrition you need to support your body through the times you are coping with stress.
Exercise to Boost Memory
Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, decreases adrenaline levels, helps make new brain neurons and increases dopamine and serotonin production which are hormones that regulate mood and give us a lift. Just taking a brisk 5 minute walk outside can release endorphins which make you feel happier, increase circulation to the brain so you can think more clearly, and reduce the adrenaline and cortisol produced by stress. Having a regular exercise routine is also conducive to good quality sleep that helps memory and cognitive function. One study found in Brain, Behavior and Immunity, done with animals, reported running daily increased growth of brain cells. Exercising your brain through activities that cause you to learn new information are also good for keeping brain function and memory in good shape.
When you are engaged in something that really requires concentration and focus, many people don’t realize how distractions serve to get them off track. Every time you stop what you are doing and put your focus somewhere else, your concentration is interrupted and it takes longer to get your focus back. In this day of instant messaging, texts, social media and email there are always tones and ringers going off to distract us. Instead of checking every tweet, post and email as it comes in, turn off your sounds when you need concentration time and set specific break times that you will adhere to for getting up and moving around and checking in on communications. Many people pride themselves on being able to multi-task, but research reports finding that every time your attention changes focus you are taking more time to get tasks accomplished. Concentrating on one task at a time until it is completed when you can will save you time and be less stressful.
Your brain performs so many essential functions for you that now is the time to do something good for it. Make sure you feed it the nutrition it needs, give it the proper amounts of exercise, avoid stress and overworking it and get enough sleep and your brain will keep doing the best job for you possible. A mind is a terrible thing to waste so make sure you treat your brain with all the care it deserves.