Brain Health

Experts say that maintaining a healthy brain requires a few different nutrition and lifestyle choices. First off, opting for healthy brain food, including healthy fats like omega-3s and lean proteins, is vital to providing nourishment for brain function. Regular exercise, as well as brainy activities like puzzles and books, can also keep your brain functioning well as you age. And don’t undercut the power of human relationships when it comes to keeping your brain strong—experts say socializing can be one of the most important tools in brain health. Turn to Project Wellness for advice about how to keep your brain healthy, how to nourish and exercise your brain and other brain health tips.

  • Better Brain Health (Video)

    Keeping your brain strong throughout your life can help slow cognitive decline as we age. Here, Dr. Brad Jacobs talk about the importance of social relationships, good sleep, a healthy diet and consistent exercise when it comes to brain health. In addition, he talks about supplements such as vitamin D, CoQ10 and B vitamins and their role in brain function.

  • Omega-3s for Better Health (Video)

    Learn why omega-3s are an important part of your diet. Here, Dr. Tieraona Low Dog talks about why you should be getting fish in your diet or supplementing with fish oil. Fish oil is especially vital during pregnancy and early childhood because it supports cognitive development and eye and nerve health, and can be great for supporting cardiovascular health in later life. Some evidence has even shown it can help prevent cancer, support weight loss, improve insulin resistance, reduce inflammation and more.

  • Ask the Practitioner: What Are Some Natural Remedies for Adult ADHD?

    Q. I have taken prescription stimulants for ADHD in the past, but would like to stop taking Ritalin and try a natural remedy instead. What can I take to help keep me focused on my work and other responsibilities during my hectic day?

    A. It's great that you want to try more natural remedies! There are many supplements that can help calm the mind, but here are my top suggestions:

    DHA is one of the two main essential fatty acids in fish oil (EPA being the other), and is very nourishing and supportive to the brain. Nordic Naturals makes a product called DHA Xtra that features a very concentrated dose of DHA in 2 pills per day. Give this supplement a few weeks of consistent dosing to build up in your system, as it is a fat-soluble oil.

    Albizzia Calm by Planetary Herbals is a wonderful herb for calming the mind and spirit as well as promoting happiness.

    Cut out or seriously minimize sugar, alcohol and caffeine. These all act as stimulants and have a draining effect on the body. Avoid processed foods, especially those with food dyes. Adopt a whole food-based diet. Eat smaller meals packed with protein throughout the day, as healthy sources of protein will stabilize your blood sugar and help your brain to stay focused.

    Exercise daily. Elevate your heart rate for a minimum of 20 minutes every day. Exercise increases serotonin, norepinephrine and epinephrine—three brain chemicals found to be lower in those with ADHD and required in proper amounts for calmness, focus and happiness.

    Try calcium and magnesium to help relax your body and ease tension (and support your bones while you're at it). I like Natural Vitality’s Calm Plus Calcium or Pure Essence Lab’s Ionic Fizz Calcium Plus—both in powder form for rapid and optimal absorption.

     

    The information provided here is intended for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

  • Help After a Head Injury

    Brain-TraumaIt seems that more attention is being brought to the effects of head/brain injuries these days. Depending on the severity of the injury, the effects of this trauma can last for months or even years. That’s why it’s important to know how to give the brain the nutrition and attention it needs after a head injury.

    Head injuries can happen in the middle of a sports game, from a car or bicycle accident, from a bad fall (a common occurrence in the elderly) or in the course of military combat. “Concussion” has been the long accepted term, but it’s interchangeable with mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) or minor head trauma. Though there is no one accepted definition for concussion, they are often described as a head injury with temporary loss of brain function, with or without temporary loss of consciousness.

    Here, essentially, is what happens during a concussion. The brain’s soft tissue is protected by the bony structure of the skull and facial bones. When injury or trauma occurs to the head, the brain can be shaken within the skull, causing damage to the brain tissue that causes swelling and/or bleeding.

    Depending on the severity of the brain injury, a variety of symptoms may occur: headache, brain fog, dizziness, vertigo, hearing loss, blurred or double vision, changes in the ability to taste or smell, fatigue, anxiety or personality change, confusion, emotional changeability, brief loss of consciousness, loss of memory, irritability, slowed reaction times, nausea and vomiting, and sleeping difficulties.

    Where most symptoms subside within a few hours or days, some may last much longer. In general, the more severe the injury, the longer the duration of symptoms. Most people will recover within three months, though children tend to heal faster than adults, and especially more quickly than the elderly or those with previous head trauma or psychiatric or substance abuse problems. Lingering symptoms are often referred to as “post concussion syndrome.”

    More severe symptoms such as coma, seizures, paralysis or weakness of an arm or leg suggest a more serious form of injury. Always seek medical attention with any of the following:

    • Drowsiness or decrease in alertness
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Confusion or amnesia
    • Fever
    • Blackouts
    • Slurred speech
    • Double vision
    • Irrational or aggressive behavior
    • Seizures
    • Numbness or paralysis

    Extra medical attention is also necessary if the patient is elderly, taking blood thinner, has a bleeding disorder or has a history of drug or alcohol abuse.

    Supporting brain recovery

    Trauma to the brain can lead to injury or even death of brain cells. It’s also possible that cells can be chemically altered through a process called oxidation. The body‘s response to oxidation is a state of inflammation—and while inflammation is a normal part of the healing process, when it is prolonged or left to run out of control it can cause headaches, as well as problems in thinking, remembering, smelling or tasting. That’s why it is especially important, post-injury, to supply the brain with compounds that promote healing and prevent oxidative damage and inflammation.

    Here are some suggestions for nutrients that can help support and protect brain tissues. (Note: Before taking any supplements for a brain injury, always discuss with a qualified health care provider to ensure there will not be interactions with current medications and that they are appropriate for your type of injury.)

    Omega 3 Fatty Acids (fish oil containing EPA and DHA), 1-3 grams/day. Hopefully you are already aware of the benefits of supplementing with fish oil. Both EPA and DHA are anti-inflammatory on their own, and DHA is a major building block of the brain that’s critical for optimal brain health and function. Try Nordic Naturals’ Ultimate Omega, Pharmax’s Finest Pure Fish Oil or Pharmaca’s Ultra Fish Oil.

    Coenzyme Q10, 100-300 mg/day. CoQ10 stabilizes cells, promotes general cell health, acts as an antioxidant (preventing oxidation) and provides energy to the cells. Try Pharmaca’s Coenzyme Q10, Pharmaca’s CoQ10 Ubiquinol QH or New Chapter’s CoQ10 Food Complex.

    Alpha-Lipoic Acid, 400-800 mg/day. Helps to prevent oxidation and spares other substances in the cell for recycling so they may perform their natural anti-oxidation functions. Try Pharmaca’s Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Jarrow Formulas’ R-Alpha Lipoic Acid or Source Naturals’ Alpha Lipoic Acid Timed Release.

    Acetyl-L-Carnitine, 500-1,000 mg/day. Utilizes fats for cellular energy production and is necessary for brain cells to communicate with each other. Try Source Naturals’ Acetyl L-Carnitine & Alpha-Lipoic Acid.

    Homeopathic medicines can also be very effective in aiding recovery from symptoms of head injury or can be used preventively against possible longer-term effects. Look for potencies in the lower ranges (6c, 12c, or 30c).

    Arnica Montana, to address and prevent shock and trauma associated with head injury and assist with swelling, pain and inflammation from injury. Even if the person does not feel much pain (because they are still in a state of shock), it can be helpful to take Arnica.

    Belladonna can be taken when there is heat, swelling, redness, throbbing and fullness with the head injury.

    Hypericum Perforatum helps when there are sharp or shooting pains, spasms or seizures.

    Natrum Sulphuricum is useful when there are long-term symptoms lingering after the trauma, and/or when there is depression or personality changes after injury, such as irritability and confusion.

    Ask a Pharmaca practitioner for help if you know someone with brain trauma or a head injury.

  • The Healthy Benefits of Omega-3s

    The reported health benefits of omega-3s keep piling up—from boosting heart health to improving memory and concentration. Omega-3s are considered “essential” fatty acids because our body needs them for a variety of bodily functions. Since we can’t make them on our own, however, we must get them through diet or supplementation. The two main omega-3s are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are found most commonly in coldwater fish, but are also present in oils from algae, plants and flaxseed.

    Despite their “essential” label, many people are still deficient in omega-3s, and this deficiency has been cited as one of the top 10 causes of preventable death in the US among dietary, lifestyle and metabolic risk factors.

    Here are some of the most well-researched benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.

    Cardiovascular health
    Omega-3s have more scientific research backing their benefits for cardiovascular health than any other nutritional supplement. Strong evidence—thousands of clinical trials, in fact—suggest that EPA and DHA enhance overall cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol, high blood pressure and elevated triglycerides. The American Heart Association even recommends that people with coronary heart disease get 1 g each of EPA and DHA per day.

    Omega-3s also seem to reduce the risk of recurring heart attacks and abnormal heart rhythms in people who have already had a heart attack. In addition, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, large population studies have shown that people getting significant amounts of omega-3s in their diets have a 50 percent lower risk of stroke.

    Alzheimer’s and Dementia
    Recent research has shown that omega-3s may slow cognitive decline and reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. In a study published in May in the journal Neurology, researchers found that people who consumed the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids had the lowest levels of beta-amyloid plaque buildup, a marker in the brain for dementia and Alzheimer’s.

    Depression
    According to the Mayo Clinic, omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in brain function. Because people with depression may have lower levels of EPA and DHA—important brain chemicals—they can benefit from supplementing with the EPA and DHA found in fish oil. It has also been shown that cultures that consume more omega-3 rich foods have generally lower incidences of depression.

    Prenatal health
    It is widely know that the EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids are vital for healthy infant development, especially for the eyes, nervous system and brain. In addition, supplementing with fish oil during pregnancy has been found to reduce the rate of respiratory illness in infants (according to a study published last year in the journal Pediatrics).

    Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, MD, member of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board, recommends 200-300 mg of DHA starting in the 25th week of pregnancy (learn more about her prenatal nutrition recommendations).

    Rheumatoid arthritis
    A number of small studies have found that fish oil helps reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, including joint pain and stiffness. A 2007 article in the journal Pain analyzed studies that tested the effects of omega-3s on pain and inflammation and showed that by taking omega-3s, patients were able to lower their doses of prescription anti-inflammatory medications and experienced a decrease in pain.

    Dr. Tori Hudson, ND, and member of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board, highly recommends omega-3 fatty acids for her patients experiencing any kind of joint pain.

    Explore our selection of omega-3 fish oils either in store or at pharmaca.com.

  • Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Cognitive Decline

    We often hear that the Mediterranean diet is a great way to eat—when done right, it can be packed with good fats, fiber, fruits, veggies and antioxidants, all of which can help boost heart health, reduce inflammation and help stave off chronic diseases

    According to a study published last year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the Mediterranean diet can also help reduce cognitive decline in the elderly. The study followed nearly 4,000 Chicago residents over the age of 65, tracking their adherence to the diet, as well their mental acuity at three-year intervals. The results showed that participants who most closely followed the Mediterranean diet saw the slowest rates of cognitive decline (even after controlling for smoking, education, obesity and other factors).

    In a similar study published this February in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers focused on the connection between the antioxidants that are abundant in the Mediterranean diet with cognitive performance among older adults at high cardiovascular risk. The Spanish study followed 447 people, between 55-80 years old, to assess the effects of food intake on brain function. The team discovered that some foods were specifically linked to certain areas of cognitive function: olive oil may improve verbal memory; walnuts may improve working memory; and wine may improve scores on a test used to assess mental health and clarity.

    Want to get more of the Mediterranean in your diet? Here’s what the Mayo Clinic says:

    “The Mediterranean diet emphasizes plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. It replaces butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil and canola oil, and uses herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods. Red meat is limited to no more than a few times a month, while fish should be on the menu twice a week.” (Click here for some great recipe suggestions from the Mayo Clinic.)

    Read more from a Pharmaca expert about other ways to maintain good brain health throughout your years, including sleep, exercise and supplements.

  • Nordic Naturals Extends Their Environmental Commitment

    We’re happy to say that one of our best-selling, and most practitioner-recommended brands of omega-3s is now even more eco-friendly. Nordic Naturals just announced that their new headquarters in Watsonville, Calif. earned LEED Gold certification from the US Green Building Council.

    Nordic Naturals is already well-known for their commitment to sustainably sourcing their fish oils, and they’ve extended that environmental commitment by creating an eco-friendly space to house their operations. The 87,000-square-foot building features environmentally friendly elements like recycled rubber and cork flooring, low-VOC paints and solvents, and water and energy-saving fixtures and lighting.

    Learn more about Nordic Naturals’ commitment to purity, efficacy and sustainability. And shop our everyday low prices on Nordic Naturals at pharmaca.com!

  • Brain Health Questions: How does stress affect brain health?

    Our webinar with Dr. Bruce Price on July 27 sparked some interesting questions on brain health from our participants. Since Dr. Price wasn't able to answer all of them during the webinar, we thought we'd tackle some common ones here. These answers come from Dr. Haythum Tayeb, a behavioral neurology and neuropsychiatry fellow in Dr. Price's department of neurology at McLean Hospital.

    Q. How does stress affect brain health?

    A. Stress, anxiety and depression can all negatively influence cognitive performance because of their effects on attention and concentration. Stress activates the cortisol system, which has specific effects on the brain.

    Maintaining an active social and mental life is associated with better cognitive outcomes, however, and stress avoidance should not lead to an attitude of intellectual retirement. Seeking to remain intellectually active, and engaging in a motivating endeavor that does not induce pathological stress can increase cognitive reserve, which buffers cognitive dysfunction later in life.

    The information provided here is intended for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  • Brain health questions: Is there a connection between ADHD & Alzheimer's?

    Our webinar with Dr. Bruce Price on July 27 sparked some interesting questions on brain health from our participants. Since Dr. Price wasn't able to answer all of them during the webinar, we thought we'd tackle some common ones here. These answers come from Dr. Haythum Tayeb, a behavioral neurology and neuropsychiatry fellow in Dr. Price's department of neurology at McLean Hospital.

    Q. Is there a connection between ADHD & Alzheimer’s?

    A. There is no known direct connection between Alzheimer’s and childhood ADHD. There have been recent early reports of an association between adult ADHD and risk of Alzheimer’s, though this association needs to be confirmed. It may be that the symptoms of early dementia, often subtle, can be mistakenly attributed to adulthood ADHD in people with a previous history of the disorder. A potential explanation for the association, should it be proven, is that ADHD may lead to a lower cognitive reserve to buffer insults later in life, or that there could be an unidentified overlap between the genetic and environmental factors causing both disorders.

    The information provided here is intended for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  • Webcast: Boost your Brain: How to maintain good memory & cognitive function as you age

    Join Dr. Bruce Price, associate professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, as he offers expert advice on supplements and lifestyle changes to keep your brain working smarter at any age.

    July 27, 2011
    Click icon on bottom right to view full screen
    Download a PDF of the presentation >

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