Work, toxic relationships, kids, schedules, traffic, lack of sleep, and financial pressure can all cause you stress. They can also lead to poor brain function!
Do you have unhealthy symptoms of stress? Let’s see. No time for yourself? Not getting enough sleep? Always have a to-do list a mile long? No time to work out regularly? Not doing what you want with your life? Most of us will relate to some of these.
Stress promotes inflammation. Stress deteriorates the blood brain barrier. Stress is dangerous to your health, and especially to your brain.
Stress doesn’t just come from external forces, either. There are also physiological forms of stress. Conditions within your body that cause stress include things like elevated blood sugar, allergies, food intolerances, being overweight, parasites, gut infections and overgrowths, autoimmunity, anaemia, smoking and sugary, high carb diets.
Being under stress causes an elevation in the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is damaging to the hippocampus, an important part of your brain that helps you learn and convert short term memory into long term memory. It also helps regulate your circadian rhythms - the sleep-wake cycle - and if you’ve read any of our articles you’ll know how important sleep is! Chronically elevated levels of cortisol actually shrink your hippocampus. Basically, stress shrinks your brain!
Stress shrinks your brain!
Stress also damages your prefrontal cortex by shrinking brain neurons. This area of your brain helps you process emotions, regulate blood sugar levels, and helps you solve problems. It also affects your autonomic nervous system - all the things your body does that you don’t consciously tell it to do. These include your digestion, heart rate, and blood pressure.
The more you’re under stress, the more sensitive you get to it. Something that you could tolerate easily last year may now really stress you out. This is due to plasticity in the brain, and when put under enough stress it learns to favour the stress response.
If your goal is to slow brain degeneration, it is essential to tackle the stress in your life. While studies on Truehope EMP show it’s highly effective against stress, a supplement alone is not the solution. It might mean taking up meditation or yoga, but typically it means taking bigger action.
Stress is the hardest aspect of health to address because it takes personal courage, and making hard decisions. It’s up to you to decide which stressors to tackle first, but your brain will thank you.
Have you ever had “butterflies in your stomach” when you’re nervous or excited? What about getting that “gut feeling” when something doesn’t feel quite right? These are both example of your gut-brain axis at work!
Communication between the gut and the brain works in both directions (from the brain to the gut, and from the gut to the brain). The connection is through the vagus nerve. To optimize your brain health, it is therefore important to optimize your digestive health. The connection is so strong that, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 2001, 50-90% of patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome also have a psychiatric disorder such as anxiety, depression or PTSD. Even head injuries can instigate problems in the gut. For example, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), also known as a concussion, can cause severe digestive problems!
"50-90% of patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome also have a psychiatric disorder such as anxiety, depression or PTSD"
If we haven’t convinced you of the connection between these two critical areas of your body, consider that 80% of the serotonin in your body is located in your gut. Not only is it the “happy” neurotransmitter, but it regulates motility (explaining why constipation often accompanies depression). Also, the hormone ghrelin, produced primarily in the gut and most known for stimulating your appetite, also enhances memory and learning!
Symptoms of a gut-brain axis problem
Some signs of a brain that isn’t functioning optimally are:
Difficulty digesting foods
How to support the gut-brain axis
If your brain isn’t functioning well, the rest of you won’t function well either! Here are some basic tips to support your gut-brain axis.
While many factors are not in your control, there’s still a lot you can do to protect your brain from neuro-degeneration. Supporting your gut brain axis is a crucial part of that process!
It’s easy to forget that what we eat affects our brain, and this is particularly true of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and their balance in your food and your ability to digest them are of great consequence to your brain.
Your brain can’t just absorb the nutrients it needs from your bloodstream. It can only get them once they’ve been transported across the blood brain barrier, the protective layer that prevents dangerous substances from reaching your brain.
Many of the amino acids transported across the blood brain barrier are precursors to your neurotransmitters. They thrive in a delicate balance, and if it’s not optimal the amino acids can compete to cross into your brain. This could affect how your brain functions and how you behave.
Which amino acids help make neurotransmitters?
All these amino acids affect how you behave, and when you’re under stress your brain needs even more of these amino acids to work at its best.
That’s where Truehope Freeminos is helpful.
Truehope Freeminos is a free-form amino acid supplement. It does not need to be digested before it can enter the body. The ingredients are easily absorbed and because it’s so bio-available, and it nourishes your body and brain quickly. This is very helpful for anybody with suspected gut-brain axis issues, where protein digestion may be compromised.
Freeminos not only contains all the required amino acids, but also the nutrients needed for your body to use the amino acids. You’ll also find nearly twice as much glutamine and glutamic acid than other amino acid supplements to help you cope with mental and physical stress, plus calming L-theanine.
We tend to take our brain for granted. Have you ever thought about all the things our brain does? Cooking, appreciating music, reading your favourite novel, feeling the sun on your skin, laughing at a joke, running around with your kids, and much more - It’s all made possible by your brain! Today we’re going to focus on the most important nutrients to optimize your brain health, and where you can find them.
Vitamin B12 plays multiple roles in the brain and nervous system. It aids in the production of myelin, the protective layer around nerves. Myelin is like the plastic coating around electrical wires in your home. It’s a cofactor for methylation which is involved in gene expression, meaning it turns genes on and off. It’s even a cofactor in the metabolism of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and melatonin.
Where to find it: Liver and other organ meats, red meat, and shellfish. Vitamin B12 doesn’t occur naturally in plant based foods but it can be found in fortified foods and supplements.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega 3 fatty acid that’s crucial for brain cell function. Brain cell membranes are more fluid when they have enough DHA so nutrients can more easily enter the cells. It also supports the structure of the brain, makes it easier to release neurotransmitters, and improves memory by enhancing communication between neurons.
Where to find it: Cold water fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel and wild salmon, as well as shellfish. While plant based omega 3 rich oils such as flax or hemp can be converted to DHA in the body, the process is inefficient. Algae is the only plant based source of direct DHA.
Folate is another nutrient involved in methylation, lowering homocysteine and inflammation which are both involved in degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
Where to find it: Dark leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, chicken liver, and lentils. If you decide to add this as a supplement, make sure it’s folate and not folic acid (the synthetic form).
Vitamin B6 is another nutrient involved in methylation. Just like vitamin B12, it plays a crucial role in gene expression. It’s an important nutrient for regulating mood and making hemoglobin (which carries oxygen to the brain).
Where to find it: Fish, chicken, sunflower seeds, and avocados.
One of choline’s main roles is helping in the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involved in mental focus and learning.
Where to find it: Egg yolks, liver, and peanuts.
Iron is crucial to brain function. It’s used in hemoglobin to deliver oxygen to the brain.
Where to find it: Heme based iron is the most absorbable and is found in organ meats, red meat, and shellfish like oysters. Non-heme iron is found in plant based sources like legumes, fortified grains, and green vegetables. You can help absorption by pairing vegetarian sources with vitamin C rich foods.
Vitamin D is important for cognitive function as we age. It protects neurons and reduces inflammation. Vitamin D deficiencies have been associated with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, autism and dementia.
Where to find it: Fish eggs (roe) are an excellent food source, but you’re not likely to have them at home! In the summer months, we recommend full body skin exposure (as much as you can bare) to the sun for 10-15 minutes a day without sunscreen. In the winter months, vitamin D supplementation is a necessity to avoid a deficiency.
You can get many of the nutrients needed to support brain function in whole food form from the grocery store. Our broad spectrum micronutrient supplement Truehope EMP is the final addition. With it’s carefully balanced 36 vitamins and minerals, it delivers results far beyond other multi-vitamins.
We want to provide nothing but the highest quality information and advice for our followers to improve their health, which is why at Truehope Canada, we're happy to say our writer is a Certified Life Coach and Registered Holistic Nutritionist.