As summer fast approaches, our brains can tend to go on hiatus.
During summer people often don’t have to think as hard, particularly students. In the fall teachers often have to spend several months reviewing old concepts to bring students up to speed.
In elementary school, there is evidence to suggest that summer reading loss on students, particularly those at risk, is significant.
The reading proficiency levels of students from lower income families declined while the reading proficiency levels of middle-income students improved modestly, according to a review of 13 studies representing approximately 40,000 students, (Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsay and Greathouse 1996). Over time, the cumulative affect can add up to nearly 1 ½ years of lost reading spanning the years in elementary school.
While summer time can make our brains a little lazy, there are many factors that can affect brain health and the loss of concentration and focus.
One of the foods that is most detrimental to good brain health is too much sugar, which can increase candidiasis in the body, making the brain foggy and concentration difficult.
Another contributing factor is the amount of free radical damage from additives, pesticides, etc. Free radicals deteriorate brain health so high anti-oxidants are needed to counter the damage.
Inflammation can be another leading cause of poor brain health. Foods that are highly acidic contribute to inflammation in the body, leading to disease and poor brain health.
An anti-inflammatory diet means eliminating or reducing items such as red meat, sugar and alcohol.
Exercise the Brain
When it comes to brain health, the term ‘use it or lose it’ definitely applies. This is where exercise, both the physical and mental kind, can help keep the brain active and healthy.
Doing puzzles, playing cards and board games, doing crossword puzzles or word scrambles are all great ways to keep the brain active. People often assume brain health will deteriorate with aging but that’s simply not true.
Feelings and Emotions
Brain health is often affected by how we feel about situations in our life. These feelings and emotions can cause an unwritten program in the brain that is played over and over again, affecting us in our careers and relationships.
Neuro Linguistic Programming, NLP, can help change that to clear the negative stuff and move people forward, particularly in the unconscious mind.
The Law of Attraction, for instance, is about changing how we think; focusing on what we want instead of what we don’t want. Hypnotherapy can improve brain functioning and so can neurofeedback.
A more efficient brain also means less incidences of anxiety or depression. It also helps those with Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Supplements for the Brain
Gingko Biloba is the herb commonly associated with helping people think better. The ‘anti-aging’ herb has strong effects on memory, brain function and circulation.
‘The herb’s popularity is well deserved because strong clinical evidence shows that it can help improve declining brain function in elderly people, even those with Alzheimer’s disease,’ according to the Encyclopedia of Popular Herbs.
‘There is some evidence that ginkgo may enhance the uptake of serotonin (a neurotransmitter), increase the number of serotonin receptors in the brain and inhibit the effects of monoamine oxidase (MAO). Serotonin and MAO are two substances important in the regulation of anxiety and mood,’ states the Encylcopedia of Popular Herbs.
Two supplements that enhance brain function are phosphatidylserine and to a lesser degree, phosphatidycholine.
Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid nutrient found in fish, green leafy vegetables, soybeans and rice, and is essential for the normal functioning of neuronal cell membranes.
Phosphatidyl Serine (PS) is proven to be a safe and effective in treating memory deficit disorders and for improving other higher brain functions.
Over 3,000 published research papers and more than 60 clinical trials have established that phosphatidylserine (LECI-PS) can rejuvenate your brain cell membranes and thereby:
* strengthen your memory,
* increase vigilance and attention,
* boost learning,
* increase mental acuity,
* intensify your concentration,
* relieve depression and improve mood,
* inhibit exercise and stress induced increases in cortisol,
* decrease stress—whether you are young or old.
Phosphatidylserine enables your brain cells to metabolize glucose and to release and bind with neurotransmitters, all important to learning, memory and other cognitive functions.
Scientific studies demonstrate that phosphatidylserine restores the brain's supply and output of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter so important to memory, and so may turn back the clock in an aging brain.
Phosphatidylserine also stimulates your brain to produce dopamine and this is likely why patients diagnosed with clinical depression have shown marked improvement in their symptoms as a result of taking phosphatidylserine daily. Reduced dopamine levels are also thought to contribute to attention deficit disorder and this natural substance has proven to be an effective therapeutic agent for ADD and ADHD.
There is some evidence that Phosphatidylcholine may be useful in the management of Alzheimer's disease and some other cognitive disorders.
Essential Fatty Acids
The brain needs food and one of the best ways to feed it is with essential fatty acids, like fish oils and lecithin, a lipid material composed of choline and inositol.
Lecithin is found in foods such as egg yolk, soybeans, grains, wheat germ, fish, legumes, yeast, and peanuts, to name a few. Lecithin supplements are sold to the public in capsule, powder or granular form and it is usually taken in a pill form or mixed into health shakes.
In the brain, lecithin choline is transformed into acetylcholine, a vital compound for the transmission of messages from one nerve to another. This has a proven effect on memory, thinking ability and muscle control.
Fish oils, which contain the omega-3 fatty acids, are important in regulating the uptake of a brain chemical called serotonin (Hibbeln et al, 1998)
Detailed investigations have suggested that the long chain omega-3’s are important in regulating the re-uptake of a brain chemical called serotonin, according to a study by Hibbeln et al, 1998). The well-known anti-depressant Prozac also works by influencing this process. Hence the idea that fish oils might be Nature’s Prozac!
What was I supposed to DO again?
Loss of memory is a common symptom, particular in the elderly. Memory loss may also be associated with concentration symptoms.
Many people fear a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease but many other possibilities exist, including simply the normal deterioration of memory function with aging. Other possibilities include the side effects of various medications and other medical conditions such as depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, certain brain conditions (e.g. stroke or brain tumors) and various types of dementia. Any memory-related symptoms need prompt professional medical advice to determine the correct diagnosis.
The years leading up to menopause can have an effect on memory with fluctuating brain hormones. Progesterone imbalance causes forgetfulness that can occur with PMS or perimenopause. Stress can also cause issues with memory.
Put these tips to use to have a strong, healthy brain over summer.