Nutrition for Brain Health

Brain and Gut Bacteria
The brain and the gut are connected through the nervous system, the gut being the house of bacteria, and a lot of bacteria in our gut is transferred to our brain. Have you ever asked yourself why, when you’re angry or anxious you feel pain in your stomach? This is all because of the brain and gut development. We have more bacteria in our body than we have cells. Bacteria affects different functions of our body, such as depression and autism, which usually link to gastrointestinal problems such as leaky gut and irritable bowel syndrome. Beneficial bacteria usually affects your body in a positive way as it helps to control bad emotional feeling such as anxiety and depression. A recent study showed that people who suffer from Parkinson disease tend to have different gut bacteria than healthy people. Another study also shows that every beneficial bacteria in the gut has its effect on different areas of the brain affecting its function.

Brain and Healthy Fats
It’s surprising that 60% of the brain tissue is made of fat, which is why fat is an essential nutrient for brain function. A lot of people, especially pregnant ladies, tend to diet and decrease the fat to a very low amount, which affects their brain chemistry and brain development of the baby. When we talk about healthy fats, we must talk about essential fatty acids like omega 3 and omega 6. The ratio should be 1:4 (omega 3: omega 6), but nowadays the ratio among people is 1:8, it means that people are having a much higher amount of omega 6 compared to omega 3.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are two of several omega 3 fatty acids, which are highly concentrated in the body and affect its functions such as vision, concentration, memory and brain development in kids. In addition, it helps maintain a good mood through controlling neurotransmitters, that’s why people who tend to have a very low fat percentage have mood swings all the time.

Mind your Sugar
Yes, its right that glucose is the only nutrient the brain uses for energy, and the brain uses
about 20% of total energy expenditure and around 25% of total glucose in the body.
Although glucose is needed for main functions of the brain such as thinking, learning, memory, and neurotransmitter release; too much glucose might reverse its benefits. High sugar intake, referred to as sugar crush, affects blood sugar peak and drop which will make you experience symptoms like irritability, mood swings, brain fog and fatigue.

In addition, highly sugared food affects the release of insulin (a hormone that controls blood sugar and is protected by the pancreas), insulin also regulates the function of the brain cells. One thing to note is that your brain recognises glucose as a drug: Writing in The Atlantic, neuroendocrinologist Dr. Robert Lustig, professor of pediatrics in the division of endocrinology at University of California, San Francisco, states: “The [U.S.] war on drugs has taken a back seat, but not because it has been won. Rather, because a diff erent war has cluttered the headlines — the war on obesity. And a substance even more insidious, I would argue, has supplanted cocaine and heroin. “The object of our current affliction is sugar. Who could have imagined something so innocent, so delicious, so irresistible could propel America toward medical collapse?”

Hydration and Brain Function
Water is not only essential for the brain, because 80% of our brain is made from water, but also because water is essential for the nervous system, as it facilitates communication between brain and the body, and the brain is made of complicated connection of nerve cells.

Dehydration affects body functions in different ways, increases total mood disturbance and reduces cognitive and motor skills, because everything is connected to the nerve cells. It also decreases your reaction time. A Japanese study done on Army soldiers shows that dehydration makes your brain more sensitive too. Whenever you have a headache, make sure you drink two cups of water before you have a painkiller because most of the time a headache is a way your brain is telling you, you are dehydrated.

Exercise and Brain Health
It is common to hear from our grandparents, parents, teachers, doctors… that a healthy brain is in a healthy body. What is healthier for your heart is healthier for your brain, as the heart helps to pump more oxygen to the brain. According to a study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions and will help decrease the level of the stress hormones.