The 5 Best Nutrients for Brain Health
Nutrients with evidence of improved brain performance and disease resistance.
We talk a lot about brain health here on the blog, specifically when it comes to the effects that trauma, atlas displacement, and circulation play in the development of neurological disease.
However, we can’t ignore the role that nutrition plays in maintaining a high performing and disease resistent brain.
So without further adieu, here’s my short list on nutrients essential for a healthy brain along with their sources in scientific journals.
1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids – By now everyone knows about Omega 3’s, but primarily for their ability to prevent cardiovascular disease. What most people don’t know is how important they can be for the health of the brain.
EPA and DHA are the primary fats you want. There’s been some promising studies showing that they may be able to prevent chemical damage from concussion, improve certain types of depression, and memory.
The best source is always from food, so fatty fish like salmon is an ideal source. However, eating fish daily is impractical and undesirable for almost everyone so supplementation with a high quality Omega 3 fish oil can help make up the difference. Make sure your brand removes all heavy metals and has vitamin E to keep the oil from spoiling.
2. Curcumin – It’s one of the hottest cure-alls in the natural health community. Research using animal models have shown that the extract from tumeric can alter the biochemical processes that underlie tumor formation, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic pain, diabetes, and even delayed onset muscle soreness.
The theory is that the chemicals in curcumin are able to capture inflammatory molecules in the body called free radicals, and reduce the inflammatory burden on the body.
The problem is that most of these studies are done on rats, and there’s really not much clinical studies done on humans. One major factor is that curcumin gets digested pretty readily in the stomach by the harsh gastric juices leaving little to be absorbed into the blood stream. We also don’t know how to maximize curcumin’s delivery to make it useful for humans.
In my experience, many people show some benefit from getting curcumin supplements from a place like Whole Foods, but we have no idea if it’s a placebo effect or not. If you have chronic pain or are concerned about those conditions, supplementation is a pretty low risk and low cost endeavor with potentially high reward. Adding more tumeric in the form of curries can also boost your curcumin intake.
3. Healthy Gut Bacteria – The science of the body’s natural bacteria is one of the hottest fields in health sciences. While you are probably well aware of probiotics thanks to yogurt commercials, Nutrition Stores, and Kambucha drinks, most people only associate bacteria with the human gut.
One of the most exciting things about the field is the way that gut bacteria affects every other system in the body. Studies are linking gut bacteria to your body weight, Parkinson’s Disease, and blood sugar regulation. It’s clear to see that your gut bacteria affect more than your occasional stomach ache.
One of the most important ideas being studied is the effect that gut bacteria have on the brain and nervous system. Studies have shown that your child’s mood can be associated with the quality of their bacteria. Because of this excitement, scientists are working hard trying to find the association between gut bacteria and autism, depression, and movement disorders.
However, for all of the promise of studying our microbiome, we don’t know the best way to influence these organisms. We still need to know things like:
- What organisms work best for what person
- Are certain conditions related to certain bacteria?
- What’s the best way to re-populate your gut bacteria
Right now, the most viable ways to affect your own gut is through supplements like probiotics, which can be overwhelming when you’re shopping for your own. Another theory is to consume substances that are prebiotics, which is basically food that your gut bacteria want to eat and repopulate.
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Dr. Chung is a practicing Structural Chiropractor in the West Palm Beach area. He has been published in peer reviewed scientific journals and is a sought after speaker in health and wellness. Follow his blog at http://chiropractorwellington.com/category/keystone-chiropractic-blog/ or find him on twitter at @drjonathanchung