Is it Outrageous to use diet and exercise to boost mental acuity? We don’t think so. In fact, the more we learn about this topic the more it resonates with our personal experiences. However the way of looking at brain health outlined below is still far from the common medical approach. Let’s talk about it…
Brain health expert Max Lugavere is a go-to pro on the Dr. Oz Show and has commissioned himself to shed more light on this crucial health topic. His upcoming documentary, BREAD HEAD, takes on dementia prevention through diet and exercise – a “radical” perspective we’re ready to see more of in all areas of health and wellness. Read below as Max breaks down three major myths about our brains. These non-harmful ideas can help each of us take better care of our own noggin’s while we wait for more research and hope the medical community catches up…
The brain is our most fundamental organ. It not only makes human life possible, but worth living, allowing us to feel the sensations we associate with being in love, enjoying a delicious meal, watching a favorite film or experiencing the wonder of a starry night sky. But the brain doesn’t always work how we want it to. Even the most resilient among us get moody, experience anxiety, sadness, or worse: depression, brain fog, cognitive decline.
As somebody passionate about understanding how to optimize our cognitive abilities and enhance our brain health, my research into the brain, nutrition and lifestyle factors like exercise and sleep has taken me around the globe to interview many of the leading scientists situated at the forefront of brain science. I’m here to tell you that the days of “neurological nihilism,” a term coined by neuroscientist Norman Doidge, are over. The field is aflutter with new insights that seem to come out by the day, showing us the remarkable degree to which our choices can model (and remodel) our brains. And yet, as much as I’ve learned, I’ve had to unlearn quite a bit as well, including these three straight up lies we’ve all been told about our brains.
“You have to accept the way your brain functions.”
Many people aspire to improve the way their brains function. The problem is, few people actually know how to, according to survey research. But various mood and learning problems have been linked to inflammation both in terms of risk and mechanism, which is driven to a large degree by our diets and lifestyles. Depression for example, is now being evaluated as an “allergic reaction” to inflammation, and compounds that can reduce inflammation, such as a specific fat-friendly formulation of curcumin, have been shown to be effective at reducing symptoms even in major depression. Even psychosis has been associated with an inflammatory trigger, revealed recently at the International Early Psychosis Association meeting. Anti-inflammatory measures like exercise and fish oil, providing pre-formed omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, have been found to be protective against symptoms of this crippling and broadly reaching disorder.
“Only pharmaceutical drugs can improve the way your brain performs.”
While it makes intuitive sense that hours spent in the gym would help to perfect our six packs (or at least bring us closer towards having them), what can we do to actually — and meaningfully — improve the function of an organ locked away in the dark and windowless cavity of our skulls? Actually, we may already be doing it — if we’re exercising, that is. Exercise not only increases blood flow to the brain and fortifies it with new blood vessels (called angiogenesis), but increases the expression of a powerful growth hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. BDNF actually primes the brain for learning and promotes the growth of new brain cells, while acting as a protector to your existing ones. Weight training has been shown to improve cognitive function via a number of complicated but important mechanisms, with muscle strength related to measures of brain health. Many drugs treat merely the symptoms of ill brain health, but the ability to improve the underlying architecture of the brain often falls within our hands — usually in the form of a dumbbell.
“You only use 10 percent of your brain.”
This is a pervasive myth whose time has come to die. Over the course of a day, you use 100 percent of your brain, but thankfully not at all times. Our brains are built to function like iPhones — to offer the greatest and most balanced functionality to the highest number of users. The most common cognitive processes have been streamlined for utmost efficiency. While certain features may be “hidden,” options greyed, and individual “apps” kept at arm’s length from one another for usability sake, underneath the surface lies a powerful supercomputer with endless potential and little wasted space. This aspect of the brain is what Aldous Huxley called the “reducing valve” of waking consciousness. All it takes are psychoactive substances like psilocybin or LSD to momentarily disrupt the “default mode network,” a pattern of the most common permutations of resting neuronal activity, to understand that what we “see” at any given point is just one small part of the story (this was shown recently with groundbreaking fMRI scans). The takeaway? Do more psychedelics? No – appreciate your entire brain, not just one-tenth of it.
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program.
Great post! I love that we’re talking about how great exercise + a healthy lifestyle is for brain health.
Can’t wait for Breadhead!
I really enjoyed your interview on the Food Revolution Summit last night. We have been getting healthier with grassfed/pastured meats, eggs and dairy but I’m trying not to be distressed by how much we’re not doing, especially where the brain is concerned. The entire presentation was such an eye opener and a life changer. We sat down this morning and started a plan of action (especially dietary changes) that will remove a lot of the meat and eggs we’ve been eating and adding way more fruits and veggies.
Thank you so much for your easily understood, very compelling knowledge and your friendly manner.
I’m 72 and my husband is 68 and we are going to change our brains!!