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TOPIC: Strengthen Your Brain, Naturally

Strengthen Your Brain, Naturally 22 Oct 2007 13:12 #2836

  • Debra
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Alex & all,

Take a look at this article....some very helpful information for you about your concerns regarding PMDD and Alzheimer's disease and keeping a sharp brain.

Strengthen Your Brain, Naturally


Recent headlines have trumpeted the exponential growth in the number of people with Alzheimer's disease -- according to one report I read, someone in this country develops the disease every 72 seconds. It is estimated that within a few decades, that rate will more than double, with Alzheimer's striking a new victim every 33 seconds. Researchers are working to isolate the causes and develop effective treatments... but more important is finding ways to prevent the disease -- and certainly those who already have it would benefit from avoiding or minimizing side effects caused by treatments.

Keeping memory sharp with brain teasers and other mental activities won't stave off Alzheimer's disease altogether (if only it were so simple) but, I recently learned, it actually can help decrease the intensity and persistence of symptoms and help maintain functionality.

Wondering whether there were particular foods we should eat, supplements we could take or exercises to do to fortify memory, I called Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, a leading expert in integrative medicine, Alzheimer's disease and memory loss. An Associate Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and the medical director of the Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation, Dr. Khalsa has created a program for avoidance and treatment of Alzheimer's disease and memory loss, called the Brain Longevity Program. Understanding that age-related memory loss (normal forgetfulness that occurs with advancing years) and full-out Alzheimer's exist on a continuum, it's important for all people to work to keep their memory skills sharp and strong. "Just like your muscles, the brain gets weak as we age -- but it doesn't have to be that way," he said.

INVESTING IN THE MEMORY BANK

As opposed to dementia, Dr. Khalsa believes that mild cognitive impairment is something of a "disease of lifestyle." He said that some intriguing new research is focused on a concept called cognitive reserve, which he likened to a savings account for your brain in that its capacity can be built up over time. "By building up your cognitive reserve through healthy diet and mental and physical exercise, you will not only have better brainpower now, you'll have better ability to resist challenges to the brain later in life," he said.

The three basic strategies Dr. Khalsa recommends to accomplish this aren't exactly new -- but they bear repeating:

Eat well and take supplements. Research shows that people eating plenty of vegetables each day (around three or four servings or more) seem to have a slower rate of cognitive decline. Interestingly studies suggest that fruits are not as protective as vegetables in this regard -- Dr. Khalsa speculates that since vegetables are so loaded with natural anti-inflammatories, they reduce inflammation, which is known to figure in cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's. Basic supplements, including a multivitamin, and B vitamins (including folic acid), vitamin C and vitamin E, are also helpful.

Manage stress. Stress causes the release of cortisol into the bloodstream, which in chronic and excessive amounts can cause cell death in the brain's memory center, Dr. Khalsa told me. He said that meditation and other relaxation techniques are excellent ways to reduce damagingly high levels of stress hormones.

Exercise. Can you walk and talk at the same time? According to Dr. Khalsa, "for optimal impact on the brain, both physical and mental exercise need to happen -- preferably at the same time." For instance, he suggests taking a walk -- but instead of daydreaming, sing a song or talk aloud, mindfully. "Say, 'I'm walking up a hill, the tree over there is green with a brown trunk, and there goes Dave driving his new Ford,' " he suggests. "This kind of mental involvement literally lights up the brain." You could also just walk with a friend, discussing current events or anything else you find interesting.

Though we hear an awful lot about mental exercise nowadays, Dr. Khalsa explained that it does not have to be sophisticated or difficult to be effective. "You don't need to do Sudoku puzzles or crosswords to benefit. Going to a museum with friends and talking about what you've just seen is great. Many recent studies have shown that merely being mentally engaged, no matter what the topic, actually increases blood flow, leading to the building of new brain cells along with enhanced cognitive function. You're literally increasing your cognitive reserve!"

FORTIFY YOUR MEMORY WITH SUPPLEMENTS

Finally, Dr. Khalsa closely follows research on dietary supplements and cognitive function, and told me he believes that certain ones are quite helpful. He likes:
  • Phosphatidylserine. This naturally occurring molecule, known as a phospholipid, is important for the integrity and maintenance of the brain cell membranes. Because it is depleted by stress hormones like cortisol, it is often deficient in people with chronic stress.


  • Fish oil. The anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil are very helpful in reducing inflammation in the brain which many scientists believe increases vulnerability to Alzheimer's. Interestingly, the National Institutes of Health has begun to study omega-3 oils and their effect on cognitive function, though no conclusive findings are yet available.


  • Ginkgo biloba. "A recent study showed that patients taking gingko performed no differently on standard memory tests than a matched group of patients taking donepezil (Aricept), a common medication for Alzheimer's," said Dr. Khalsa.


  • Turmeric/curcumin. This spice is a significant anti-inflammatory and therefore thought to be helpful to all brain function. Take in supplement form or simply use the spice when cooking as much as possible.


  • L-Alpha Glycerylphosphorylcholine (Alpha-GPC). Naturally present in all cells, this molecule can also be taken as a supplement. It is a pro-phospholipid, used by the body to build cell membranes. Numerous studies have shown that, used as a supplement, it benefits attention, mental focus, recall and other higher mental functions.
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While there is no proven way to prevent Alzheimer's, employing some or all of these strategies may help you stay sharper and more functional longer. Who among us wouldn't benefit from doing that?

Source(s):

Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, one of the world's leading experts in integrative or complementary medicine, Alzheimer's disease and memory loss. Dr. Khalsa is an Associate Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, and has formulated a holistic medicine program for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease and memory loss (The Brain Longevity Program). He is author of seven books including The Better Memory Kit (Hay House) and Brain Longevity (Grand Central) and is president and medical director of the Alzheimer's Research and Prevention

Strengthen Your Brain, Naturally 24 Oct 2007 22:40 #2837

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great article, debra. thanks for giving him a call. sounds like a very interesting conversation. i've got a couple of questions:

"Dr. Khalsa speculates that since vegetables are so loaded with natural anti-inflammatories, they reduce inflammation, which is known to figure in cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's."

inflammation is a problem with me that hasn't been addressed directly as a stand-alone item. you of course, suggested i avoid saturated fats and this was instantly and completely helpful with breast swelling and somewhat with cramps. osteopath recommended cod liver oil for its anti-infammatory benefits and this helped more with cramps (along with anti-spasm and anti-pain homeopathics). i just hate the taste. it makes me gag. i know from my biopsy that everything inside me is swollen from my thyroid down my esophogous to my stomach. this i was addressing with a gluten-free diet. don't know if it has stopped the inflammation. i think we were gaging this by how i absorbed vitamin d. correct? is there a way to see if swelling has gone down? can you recommend what omega 3s to take if i am also taking 2 tbs cod liver oil per day? (i've got flax, primrose, and fish oil omega 3s).

second question. about the cortisol. is there a way to test my levels? i know stress for me is extreme, even when nothing is happening. all of this health stuff is anxiety-making too really. does this contribute to swelling?

third question. where do we find phospholipid and L-Alpha Glycerylphosphorylcholine (Alpha-GPC), a pro-phospholipid, and should i be taking them as supplements?

i walk and talk all the time. its a great pleasure in life.
thanks again, debra.

a

Strengthen Your Brain, Naturally 25 Oct 2007 13:02 #2838

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Hi Alex,

Inflammation is the general term used by many to explain a reaction in the body that's related to several detrimental tissue destruction or interruption processes.

One being caused by antibody response to antigens and in your case gluten intolerance.

And another inflammation reaction due to how the balance of fatty acids and fats are handled. The more saturated fats you eat, the more inflammatory prostaglandins you produce.

There's another measure for inflammation in the way of c-reactive protein or CRP. Many doctors are taking this measurement for total body inflammation and the possibility of heart disease.

Cortisol also plays a role in how the body reacts to inflammation, meaning increasing stress on the body.

If you continue to eat bad fats without balancing them with essential fatty acids you will experience more pain from the flammatory prostaglandins your body produces.

Alex, it doesn't matter if you decide to take cod liver oil or omega 3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil capsules or just eat more wild salmon, but if you eat more red meats without the omega 3's than you're setting yourself up to suffer. Sorry, you already understand this through your dietary changes of the past.

You should be able to find Alpha-GPC in any health food store or GNC.

I hope this answers your questions. I need to go back and re read your post...you have a lot of questions.
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