Be the BOSS of your Brain
Posted by Andrea Nakayama
Let’s get brainy!
I’ve been thinking a lot about brain health lately, and many of the practitioners in our Full Body Systems community have as well. Brain health almost always comes up in our live Q&A sessions.
More and more clinicians are making the essential connections: between the gut and the brain, between the inflammasome and the brain, between blood sugar and the brain, between sleep or meditation and the brain…And the web of interconnections goes on and on.
Understand How Your Brain Functions with Your Body
One of the things I learned early on in my journey to understanding the body, and in helping to navigate my late husband’s brain tumor diagnosis, is that the brain does not exist in a vacuum. Yeah, that’s right, you know it… everything is connected!
And while the brain has many functions and does many things for us, I’ll confess that I rely heavily on mine for clear thoughts, perceptions, and new theories. My brain is often bursting with new ideas, as I’m sure yours does throughout the day too.
Don’t Neglect Your Brain. Nurture it Everyday!
The truth is, I thrive with a highly active brain (and you might, too!), but it can be exhausting at times. Meditation is a playful wrestle with my monkey mind. And sometimes others can’t quite keep up with my objectives or suggestions, which can lead to miscommunications. That’s why I’ve been turning my focus to nourishing my brain. I want to foster those sparks of my imagination without blowing a fuse!
Whatever your recent mental machinations might be, I want to invite you to nourish your noggin too.
Try These Daily Tips for Functional Brain Health
Part of my brain nurturing includes dialing it back a bit:
- managing my stress levels
- governing my sleep patterns
- regulating my blood sugar balance
While each of these is a journey unto themselves, it’s this final point I want to highlight today. Not just the brain and blood sugar balance, but the brain and sugar.
Key Happiness Neurotransmitters
When we talk about brain health, it can also be helpful to think about our neurotransmitters. (Those are, of course, our brain chemicals.) We have three key neurotransmitters that produce happy feelings, foster relaxation, and increase our resilience to stress.
These brilliant brain chemicals are:
Ready to get brainy with me and learn more about this terrific trio?
What is Serotonin?
Serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, and it’s your “feel good” chemical. It helps quiet your brain and creates a peaceful, relaxed feeling.
What are Beta-endorphins?
Beta-endorphins are known as the brain’s natural painkiller. Increased levels of beta-endorphins are associated with higher self-esteem and improved ability to cope with stress. Lower levels can lead to feeling inadequate or stuck.
What is Dopamine?
Dopamine is an excitatory neurotransmitter. It produces feelings of pleasure, alertness, concentration, euphoria, and motivation. It’s synthesized in the brain from the amino acid tyrosine.
Sugar Brained: Avoid Falling Into a False Pleasure Trap
Here’s the catch (or the catch 22)…
Our desire to increase these brain chemicals (and feel good) often leads to the quest for the quick and easy substance that gets us there with the least path of resistance. One of the substances most commonly abused for that quick feel-good is sugar!
Raiding the cookie jar, grabbing that mid-morning mocha, and sneaking the last piece of cake might be your brain’s way of asking for more happy chemicals. And who can blame the brain?
Here’s what’s happening in your brain when that sugar craving hits…
Serotonin production requires the amino acid precursor called tryptophan. Increased insulin levels in the blood lead to higher amounts of tryptophan crossing the blood-brain barrier (BBB). More sugar spikes mean more insulin spikes, which means more tryptophan crossing the BBB, which means more serotonin, which feels oh-so-good (your brain likes it!)
What’s wrong with that, you ask?
The Problem with Sugar Highs
Constantly stimulating the body to produce high insulin levels can lead to inflammation, insulin resistance, and even yeast overgrowth. These imbalances can contribute to many of the chronic health challenges we face today.
It’s a domino effect that triggers more cravings for the white stuff (sugar, that is) to continue the cascade.
When you eat that sugar, beta-endorphins are also temporarily increased, leading to fleeting feelings of heightened self-esteem and resilience. Once the reliance on sugar for this confidence boost starts, it can be harder to stop.
Dopamine release is triggered by opiate production. Guess what triggers opiate production in your brain? You guessed it…sugar. The release of dopamine creates good feelings such as pleasure, alertness, and euphoria. It feels like a reward, and we subsequently seek more sugar to continue feeling good.
Find Happiness Without Sugar
But don’t despair, my friend. None of us are destined for a life of sugar consumption to get our happiness on. I promise!
There are plenty of ways to increase this terrific trio without turning to cupcakes and candy.
Ready for some tips on how to do it?
Download my free Be the Boss of Your Brain: What Balances Your Blood Sugar Balances Your Brain Chemistry. Stick it on your fridge (or better yet, in your cookie jar) and get started with these 10 tips today!
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