What to eat to support the brain’s innate healing ability
Rebuilding through neuroplasticity
Science recently has discovered that the human brain is amazingly resilient and can reorganize and form new neural connections and pathways between intact neurons to compensate for damage and function loss. This adaptive mechanism is termed neuroplasticity. Because of their belief in the body’s innate recuperative power, homeopathic doctors are capable of leading the way in treating patients suffering from previously thought untreatable brain injuries, diseases, or disorders.
Diet and nutrition
Nutrition and homeopathic care always have been complementary, so what dietary and nutritional recommendations should the homeopathic community give to the brain-injured patient to aid the brain’s innate healing? The best way to ensure brain healing is to eat foods that add supportive nutrition to the brain, while eliminating foods that may be damaging. The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, moderate protein, high-fat diet that puts the body into a metabolic state known as ketosis (fat burning). This diet may be helpful for brain injury recovery and support.
Other diets that support brain health include the Mediterranean and Okinawan. Whether the patient chooses the Okinawan diet—one of the factors in the lives of high-functioning centenarians—or the Mediterranean diet, which has some evidence for being “a potential strategy to reduce cognitive decline in older age,” is discretionary. Because both emphasize vegetables, fruits, and fish as a source of protein and low glycemic load, both would be rich in polyphenols and the healthier polyunsaturated fats and would have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.1
The most important point, however, is to eat foods that are non-inflammatory and do not cause allergic reactions in the brain or body. Two of the most common allergic foods for most people are gluten and dairy. Recommended foods for brain health and healing are good fats; green and colorful vegetables; dark fruits and berries, such as cranberries and wild blueberries; good protein sources such as organic eggs (pasture-raised), poultry, beef (grass-fed), and wild salmon and fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kimchi, that promote gut health. Many herbs and spices also are known to have healing properties.
Brain support supplements
Experts in the area of brain support agree that a multitude of nutritional supplements aid brain health and cognitive function. Renowned medical doctor Mark Hyman is a firm believer that vitamins and minerals are essential for brain health. He recommends taking a high quality, high potency, highly bioavailable broad-spectrum multivitamin that contains all the basic essential vitamins and minerals: calcium (600 to 800 mg daily) and magnesium (400 to 600 mg a day); vitamin D3 (2,000 to 4,000 units a day); omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA in a ratio of 300/200; 1,000 mg twice a day) and probiotics as the foundation for a healthy brain.
Because specific B vitamins are so important for the brain and nearly every other function of the body, Hyman also recommends methylation nutrients: folate (800 mcg), B6 (50 mg), and B12 (1,000 mcg daily). Often, special activated forms of these nutrients are needed to be most effective for brain health. –2
The above list of supplements is considered foundational; they are important for overall health, as well as for brain health. Additional supplements aid in cellular repair, cell energy, and cell protection—zinc plays an important role in axonal and synaptic transmission; acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) is considered a cognitive enhancer with neuroprotective benefits, including support for age-related memory issues; and fish oil also is highly recommended for brain restoration and repair.
For more cellular protection and support, these supplements often are recommended:
Alpha lipoic acid, which decreases inflammation and helps detoxify the brain from heavy metals and other toxins
PQQ, which stimulates the growth of new mitochondria in aging cells
CoQ10, which works well in combination with PQQ
Phosphatidylserine, which has been proven clinically to improve mental focus and memory
N-acetyl cysteine, which is a glutathione precursor and a potent antioxidant
Uridine, which increases the production of synaptic proteins
Due to the gut-brain axis (GBA)—defined as bidirectional communication between the central and the enteric nervous systems that link emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions—studies suggest that daily use of probiotics, as well as the intake of fermented foods, may be very helpful to both the gut and the brain.
Brain support herbs
Herbs have been used for centuries as nature’s healing agents and commonly are prescribed in capsule form, in tandem with vitamin supplements, during nutritional counseling. A virtual smorgasbord of herbal supplements believed to support brain function are available in the marketplace. Interestingly, many of these seem to be herbs traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine: turmeric, bacopa, gotu kola, jyotishmati, and ashwagandha.
Turmeric is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that supports circulation, and is antibacterial and antiseptic. “Epidemiologic studies show a 4.4-fold lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in Southeast Asian countries where turmeric commonly is used as a dietary spice. Other studies indicate that the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory property of turmeric is associated with a reduced risk of AD.”3
Traditionally, bacopa has been used to improve memory and cognitive function, as well as enhance mood, learning ability, and overall brain health. Bacopa now has been introduced in the Indian market for treatment of memory and attention deficit disorders.3
Gotu kola is another Indian staple. In the Ayurvedic system of medicine, gotu kola is one of the important rejuvenating herbs for nerve and brain cells and is believed to be capable of increasing intelligence, longevity, and memory. 3
Lesser known, jyotishmati is a treasured medicinal herb revered for its effects on the brain and has been used for centuries in Ayurveda for sharpening memory and improving concentration and cognitive function.3 Jyotishmati extracts were found to protect neuronal cells against H2O2-induced toxicity in part by virtue of their antioxidant properties and their ability to induce antioxidant enzymes.
Lastly, ashwagandha has been used to calm the body and help it adapt to stress. In the central nervous system, ashwagandha has been reported to increase memory and learning.3 Ashwagandha currently is being given serious clinical study as a possible anti-Alzheimer’s agent.
Other common household herbs associated with increased brain function and neuroprotective properties include parsley; sage; oregano; rosemary; cinnamon; and even peppermint. Also, panax ginseng is thought to be effective for brain support.
If the saying, “You are what you eat” is accurate, then ingesting healthy, brain-supporting foods and supplements should go a long way in boosting the brain’s self-healing ability.
DAVID CHRISTENSON is a health care consultant for Photobiomodulation-Advanced Modalities and the founder and CEO of Neurocare Systems, bringing advanced state-of-the-art medical grade and LED light therapy equipment to medical practices for the treatment of neurological disorders. A lifelong advocate for pharmaceutical alternatives, over the last decade he has formulated numerous lines of award-winning advanced apoptogenic natural neurological supplements and currently is developing an advanced brain support program for clinical implementation. He can be contacted at 800-900-4045 or through neurocaresystems.com.