Monday, February 27, 2012

The Seven Brain Drainers

Okay ladies and gentlemen...that was the easy part - even though eating right is really very important - it is also about minimizing the here it is - the title of Part 2: Protecting your Brain by getting rid of the SEVEN Brain Drainers:

1. Oxidants - don't buy foods containing hydrogenated fats, (and don't heat up nuts and seeds - don't cook with flax seeds! Say no to Free Radicals! Flax is happier when it is stable) - they mess up the thinking process by taking the place of the good fats and even block conversion of these essential fats into GLA, DHA and prostaglandins- those spots are reserved for the good stuff - Omega 3's especially and if you aren't getting enough Omega's (see last blog) AND you are eating the bad fats, this is bad news. SMOKING too is bad news - no news really but here you have it - one puff of cigarette contains a trillion oxidants which are running to your brain...(ANTI-oxidants are vital for this reason - that's your Beta-Carotenes, Vitamin C's and E's and many others - another reason to eat your greens and take a supplement that is goooood)

2.Alcohol- moderate drinking - a glass of wine a day for example- is fine. Any more than that and you are seriously risking those intellectual capabilities.

3.Stress - When we are stressed, we forget things - why? Because stress increases levels of Cortisol - a hormone that damages our brain - shriveling up the dendrites - the connections between brain cells. The good news is that they can grow back once the stress has been removed. We will get into how to take that stress away more later. For now - stay cool! ;)

4. Nasty Sugar - Okay, we've been over this before - Holford esimates that, "a majority of people with mental health problems, from depression to schizophrenia, have blood-sugar problems as a major underlying cause." (pg87) One teaspoon of sugar uses up B vitamins - essential for maximizing mental performance. They have found that there is a correlation between consumption of sugar and IQ (the higher the sugar consumption, the lower the IQ - I know it isn't all about IQ of course - but it is a good indicator for knowing how the brain is doing) One study involving 1300 juvenile offenders placed on a reduced-sugar diet reported a 44 % reduction in antisocial behaviour. And still the doctors will say there is no connection between hyperactivity and sugar?? There are way too many studies listed in this book that I can't list here that clearly show that there absolutely is.

5. Stimulants - Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, Colas -they are all stimulants and they are all addictive. Caffeine blocks the receptors for a brain chemical called adenosine - resulting in levels of dopamine and adrenalin going up...ahhh - that feels good - but then - as this cycle continues and you continue to consume caffeine, and need more and more, the body continues to push to produce these neurotransmitters, the net result is adrenal exhaustion - an inability to produce these important chemicals when you actually need them.

Okay - so do you hate me yet? (Well - just you wait - but before I go on to the last points) How do we stop consuming these things we love so well? Don't quit all at once. Do one thing at a time - you don't want to add too much stress on to yourself as you to get healthier! A good way to start is to avoid one item for a month and see how you feel. Consume lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Take a good broad-spectrum vitamin again - these will help regulate your blood-sugar level and fill those spots where you are craving. (when we are craving, we are usually looking for some nutrient that is no longer in that product - sugar for example has choline in it when it is not refined and we need choline when we are craving sugar)

6.Brain Pollution- avoid! Heavy Metals are so prevalent today that the average person has body levels 700X higher than that of our ancestors.Lead (exhaust fumes); Cadmium (cigarettes); Mercury (Pesticides, Fillings); Aluminum (Cookware, water); Copper (water- from pipes - especially new homes and kettles); Tartazine (Food Colourings). The good news is that many nutrients like Vitamin C and Zinc assist with removing these pollutants from the body. If you have mental health problems, a hair-mineral analysis is recommended. I can't do those but a Professional like a Naturopath could help you.

7. Brain Allergies: This was a hefty chapter. I have read many books including Elaine Gotschall's Breaking the Vicious Cycle book which is wonderful and inspiring, but this book including so much of the scientific background that people have been asking me for - that was very exciting. To go in to it all here is impossible but I will do my best to summarize. Many studies in to allergies have been done and the connections between the brain and the gut are clear. In one study where 250 emotionally disturbed patients were examined - the highest percentage of symptoms occurred in patients diagnosed as psychotic. The emotional symptoms that they found were caused by allergic intolerance ranged from mild symptoms such as dizziness, blurred vision, anxiety, depression all the way up to severe psychosis. The most common food intolerances amongst the studies are milk/dairy and wheat, but of course not exclusively. This gives you a place to start. Each person is unique. Other foods common to these symptoms are eggs, oranges, other grains, shellfish, nuts, soy and nightshade family (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and eggplant).

"If you have a history of infantile colic, eczema, asthma, ear infections" (that was me!)"hay fever, seasonal allergies, digestive problems (especially bloating), frequent colds, or daily mood swings, or function better when you don't eat certain foods, you may have a food intolerance." (pg 116)

Often, there are other core issues taking place with intolerances too - mainly, digestive weaknesses like Leaky Gut Syndrome, Underactive stomach and Candidiasis. So, though it is completely safe to start eliminating culprit foods and adjusting your diet, you might find that you need to seek some aditional assistance with a solid plan - from a Nutritional Consultant. like what I am going to be in a year or so! :)
In the meantime, try to avoid Wheat and Dairy for two weeks and see how you feel. It might be difficult but many have gone before you and it is completely doable!

Part 2 done! Part 3 is Improving your IQ, Memory and Mood - Wow - for sure I'm in...what about you? :)

Optimum Nutrition for the Mind

Module 5 arrived on Friday. I am studying again. The first book I picked up from the six in the box has quickly become my favourite. (The New) Optimum Nutrition for the Mind, by Patrick Holford. I have recently felt very drawn to exactly such topic, and am enthralled and hopeful with what I have learned thus far. A lot of this information is not new to me but it is brought together in a consise and clear way, backed up by a major amount of research and study. There really is hope for those suffering mental health issues.

Humans have never been under as much enormous adaptive stress. Are we coping well with the pace of life? In many cases the answer is No."Fatigue, anxiety, sleeping problems, mood swings, memory problems and the blues are the hallmarks of our age. ADHD, autism, schizophrenia and suicide are all on the increase." I intend to spend the next few weeks summarizing some very realistic solutions for you and for those you care deeply about. My prayer is that it is not only helpful but life changing!

"I believe the solution to the mental health problems that plague our society lies in a combination of optimum nutrition and good psychological support, which includes having a place you can call home, being treated with respect and dignity and counseling." (pg 8) Holford practices in the UK and has worked for many years with a team of psychiatrist who, he claims, find that while drugs can be lifesaving in the short term - they become unnecessary when people begin to receive the correct combinations of nutrients and psychological support. So what does this right combination of nutrients look like?

The book begins with Part one: Five Brain Foods.
1.Balance your GLUCOSE: The brain consumes more glucose than any other organ, but don't eat simple carbs and sugars - instead consume the complex carbs that take a while to be digested and release their energy steadily and gradually - wholegrains, lentils, beans, raw nuts and seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables
2. Essential FATS: keep your brain well and safely oiled - seeds and nuts again, coldwater carnivorous fish like herring, mackerel or wild salmon 2 -3 times a week - cut out fried and processed foods; supplement with filsh oils for omega 3's and borage oil and evening primrose oil for omega 6's.
3. Phospholipids: Memory molecules give oomph to the brain - lecitithin granules - one teaspoon per day sprinkled on your cereal in the morning (I have recently added this to my daily regiment! I will let you know how it goes!)
4. Amino Acids: The Brain's messengers - from proteins but if you are having mental health problems, supplement in adition with a free form amino acid
5. Intelligent Nutrients:vitamins and minerals that are in tune with your mind. Multiple studies have been done but one that I will highlight: They tested what would happen to school children if given an optimal intake of vitamins and minerals. Half were given an excellent supplement and the other half were on a placebo. After 8 months the non verbal IQs in those taking the supplements had risen by over 10 points. NO changes were seen in those on the placebos. The results are clear. Adults and children think faster and can concentrate for longer with an optimal intake of vitamins and minerals. In adition to 5-7 servings of fresh fruit and vegetables daily, supplementing with B's, Magnesium, Manganese, Zinc, Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin C is vital.

In adition to these 5 areas - your homocysteine level is an indicator of how well your body is 'methylating' - faulty methylation (I am not going in to what it is here!) predicts depression, memory loss etc. Getting your homocysteine level checked at the doctors is recommended if you are suffering from mental health issues. If your homocysteine level is below 6 than it is not a concern, but if it is higher than 6 - especially higher than 10 he lists a number of temporary supplements as well - and then in 8 weeks get it checked again.

To sum up, receptors - the receiving stations in the brain - are made up of essential fats, phospoholipids and amino acids. Even the neurotransmitters are made up of amino acids. In order for amino acids to turn into neurotransmitters enzymes are needed and those enzymes must be nourished by specific vitamins and minerals.
It used to be thought that all the thinking and feeling is done in the brain - but now we know that the digestive system contains millions of neurons. The brain and the gut are in constant communication - every time you eat something the gut sends signals to the brain. This can work very well if the body is given what it needs. You truly are what you eat and absorb.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chores Revisited

I'm back! For today anyway - it has been a really long time but I just felt like I wanted to record this 'new 'leaf' for today.
I had a revelation this morning. Our weekly chore plan is not working and it is about to make me crazy. It is terrible. We have been trying to do "Zone Cleaning" for the past 8 months. Most of the time the zones go untouched and when we do get to it we panic and do more than one zone at a time. So - clearly this is not working for our family. I just received my 5th Module for my studies yesterday and I need to get my Family helping me to manage so that I don't loose it from too much to do.
One thing that is working is the daily chore plan. They each have the exact same chore to do each day - each meal in fact and they are totally doing this. When both mom and dad are out, for example, they do it like a well oiled machine. So if this is working - how can I adapt this to make it work for our big weekly cleaning? This is the plan. Give them ownership of one area of the house so that they can get good at that one thing - that is why the daily chore plan IS working. Each child is still responsible for their own rooms but now also a different area of the house - 12yodd takes care of living room/entrance way, 9yods bathrooms and hall, 7 yodd recroom - then the two little mermaids get to just do their room and the chalkboard. I am starting another Tidy Up chart for them too so that they can stay more on top of the daily cleaning up of their toys - man they can make such a mess!
The three oldest are responsible for cleaning, vaccuuming, mopping, dusting whatever area it is before Saturday at noon. They can do it earlier in the week if they like, but it has to be done by then. First of course we are in training mode - it took longer today because of stopping and teaching my son how to clean a toilet and scrub out a tub, for example. So this is going to take time - I get that. There may be tears, there may be struggles, but is it just me or is it possible for our house to be cleaner with less work from yours truly?
When I go to study in the evenings, knowing that the house is tidy and clean is a huge factor in whether I get lots of work done or not.
Let's see how it goes!