Did you know it is possible to increase your brainpower, immunity and cancer fighting ability with not only your diet, but also by how you live your life? Epigenetics is a growing field of research that focuses on changes in gene expression of our given DNA without altering the underlying genetic sequence. New scientific studies are supporting that by the way you eat and live your life, you can turn on or off certain genes. Making you more prone, or less prone to certain cancers, for example. You have the power to turn on or off certain biological characteristics simply by how you live day to day. Include these 5 tips in your diet/lifestyle everyday to optimize your health by making sure you get the most out of what your momma and dad gave ya!
1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids:
Omega threes are vital to our heart health, cardiovascular health, memory, and to prevent inflammation.
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is an omega-3 fatty acid, and is the precursor of the longer chain omega 3 fats eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and to a lesser extent DHA can be made in the body from ALA. Flax seed, chia seeds, walnuts, sacha inchi (incas peanut), are great sources of ALA. Fish and Algae are good source of EPA and DHA.
DHA has been shown to be extremely important for brain health. DHA turns on the growth of new brain cells, offers protection for existing brain cells, and enhances the of ability of one brain cell to connect to the next. This is called neuroplasticity. DHA also acts as an anti-inflammatory. Chronic inflammation of the brain plays a huge role in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and virtually every other neurodegenerative conditions. DHA also produces glutathione, the master detoxifier, master of our immune system, and major antioxidant of the nervous system. Glutathione also helps regulate the function of how protein is produced. To make sure we are producing enough Glutathione, we need to make sure we are getting enough DHA in our diets.
A vegan and vegetarian diet provide little EPA and DHA, even those consuming a lot of walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds can be still be low in DHA. Try supplementing with Dr. Furman’s EPA/DHA supplement, it is derived from lab-grown algae and has no environmental contaminants. Vegans need to load up in this department for optimal neurological function. Non-vegans and non-vegetarians need to be careful as to where they get their fish, and what type of fish, due to the mercury content.
Turmeric is a root with a deep orange/yellow color that has been used throughout history in Chinese and Indian medicine. We are just now catching on to the powerful healing benefits of Turmeric here in the west. Research is showing that Turmeric can possibly treat depression, and be as effective as the medication prozac. The main phytochemical in turmeric, called curcumin, fights against depression by reducing inflammation, modulating the level of neurotransmitters in the brain, and turning on a gene to make a growth hormone called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). BDNF is known for making knew brain cells. Regular physical activity and getting enough DHA can also activate the gene for making BDNF.
Black pepper combined with turmeric enhances the bioavailability of curcumin, which means you get more benefit from it. If supplementing, be sure to buy a supplement with organic curcumin extract that contains black pepper. Check out this amazing recipe for Golden Milk too!
3. Prebiotics & Probiotics
Did you know that you are made of 90% microbes, and only 10% human cells? You do not look like a giant blob of bacteria because your human cells are much larger than your microbes. Your gut makes up much of the microbes, and they play a special role in your health. The bacteria inside you right now can affect your digestion, immunity, and even mental health. The emerging science on this topic is very exciting, and the variety of bacteria in your gut can say a lot about you.
A bacterial infection called Clostridium difficile, or Cdiff resulting in debilitating diarrhea, and sometimes death is common in patients visiting the hospital. Patients are treated with antibiotics, which kills all of their good and the bad bacteria in their guts. Sometimes the antibiotics fail, and this is where a Fecal Microbiota Transplant can come in. Fecal transplantation is the transfer of stool from a healthy donor into the gastrointestinal tract for treating the recurrent C. difficile. This treatment is very safe and effective. Fascinating, right?
Did you know that the gut bacteria of obese people are imbalanced too? The obese microbiome has an increased ability to extract energy from food, breakdown fiber, and absorb dietary fat, due to the abundance of the two dominant bacterial strains, the Bacteroidetes and the Firmicutes. In one study scientists gave germ-free mice a fecal transplant with obese microbiota, and this resulted in an obesity! This diminished biodiversity in the gut’s ecology explains the loss of functionality to maintain proper physiology.
Increasing the diversity of the gut bacteria can help to manufacture some of the vitamins and cofactors needed for building bones, including B6, B12, K, and folic acid. Scientists also suspect that a healthy gut flora helps the body properly digest calcium, and increases vitamin D receptor expression.
There are a number of ways we can increase our gut diversity. Limiting antibiotic usage is important, and including more prebiotic foods and probiotic foods in our diet. Prebiotic foods feed the good bacteria in our gut. Prebioitcs include garlic, onion, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, dandelion greens, baobab tree powder. Also include probiotic foods daily,which contain the friendly bacteria themselves, such as kombucha tea, water kefir, kvass, rejuvelac, fermented veggies like kimchi, sauerkraut, and fermented soybeans like natto.
4. Medicinal Mushrooms
Mushrooms have been used for centuries for their therapeutic benefits. Research has shown that certain mushrooms can increase the immune system, decrease inflammation, restrict blood vessel growth feeding tumors, cause programmed cell death of cancer cells, provide antiviral properties, restrict growth of harmful bacteria and even assist with conventional anti-cancer drugs to work more effectively so they can be given at lower doses. Mushrooms are functional foods, which support our systems on a multi-factorial level. Try including some of these medicinal mushrooms in your diet.
Reishi: The Queen of medicinal mushrooms. Reishi is highly researched, and has been shown to reduce stress, detoxify the liver, increase immunity, and promote better sleep. Reishi is an adaptagen, which means if you are feeling tired it will give you energy, or if you are feeling anxious it will calm you back down.
Lion’s Mane: Helps to improve memory, boosts creativity, helps with concentration, has anti-dementia effects, helps with neurological damage and can penetrate the blood brain barrier. Lions’s Mane is a think food. Plan on taking Lion’s mane consistently for maximum benefits and noticed results.
Chaga: Is considered “black gold,” and has one of the highest sources of antioxidants in the nature. It fights against pathogens, and balances out the immune system. Chaga is also very high in zinc.
Cordyceps: Supports adrenals and produces long lasting energy levels. Cordyceps is wonderful for endurance athletes because it increases oxygen uptake, decreases recovery time, and increases ATP levels. You will feel cordycep’s benefits relatively quickly after consumption.
Check out FourSigmatic.com for their amazing mushroom powder drink packets. I highly recommend them!
5. Meditation and Mindfulness
Neuroscience research has shown that staying in the moment, and being mindful changes the way your brain functions. It changes and improves the way we experience ourselves in the world. It is not just mumbo-jumbo! We spend a lot of our day in the personal narrative of our life. We obsess about the future, we dwell on that conversation we had last week, or last year, and we remain entrenched in the storyline of our life. Researchers call this the “default network” and it’s dominated by cortical midline structures (CMS). While this “default network” has benefits, when we spend too much time in self-referential thinking, especially if we are caught up in negative thinking, it can lead to poor emotional and behavioral outcomes, including depression and anxiety.
Mindfulness practice is about attending to the present moment. It teaches us to notice how the body feels, right now, paying attention to the breath and observing, without grasping onto our current state of mind. By definition, mindfulness moves us away from our personal narrative about how our life should be and into how life actually is, moment to moment.With as little as a few minutes a day, studies have shown increases in grey-matter density in the hippocampus region of the brain, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. Studies have also shown that meditation decreases grey-matter density in the amygdala region of the brain, which is known to play an important role in anxiety, stress and the fight or flight response.Decreased grey-matter in the amygdala does not negatively impact the fight or flight response. If you get chased by a bear, you will still be afraid and want to run away. The decreased grey-matter helps you lower the stress and anxiety levels faster after a stressful situation, say getting chased by a bear or getting in trouble with your boss at work. Check out a guided youtube meditation or buy a guided journal to de-stress at the end of your day, or to start your day off stress free.
❤ Colleen Poling, RD