How Diet and Toxins effect brain function
Dr. Joseph Mercola wrote in his August 13, 2015 newsletter that Alzheimer’s is the cause of death for 500,000 Americans every year. It is the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. Diagnoses of Alzheimer’s are predicted to triple in the next thirty years. I think that is too conservative. The number of people with brain disease in my circle of friends is staggering.
Dr. Russell Blaylock, neurosurgeon and natural health advocate, writes that Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig’s, depression, anxiety, and all brain diseases have several things in common. Aging, poor diet (the typical American diet of bread and meat at every meal and sweets in-between every meal) and constant exposure to environmental toxins all work together to disrupt proper brain repair and regeneration. Nutritional deficiency allows these factors to manifest into disease and is present long before the disease presents itself. For example, most Alzheimer’s patients have low levels of vitamin C, beta-carotene, B1, B6, folate (also a B vitamin) and B 12. Deficiency in B vitamins causes an increase of homocysteine, which is evidence of rapid aging. Studies have also shown high homocysteine levels are common in Alzheimer’s patients. Homocysteine is toxic to brain cells and generates large quantities of free radicals, which destroy DNA.
The standard American diet of hamburgers, sandwiches, pizza, cheese, pre-packaged food and soft drinks increases the deficiency of important nutrients. Most scientists believe this is the beginning of the downward spiral into brain diseases. From my six years of study, I would agree and add to that, insulin resistance and high blood sugar, both fueling inflammation, which adversely affects brain health.
Environmental Brain Poisons
Constant exposure to environmental toxins seems like a risk factor we cannot avoid but not so. Here are common environmental toxins we can eliminate with just a few changes: fluoride, mercury, lead, plastics, and pesticides.
Drink only purified water and consider installing a whole-house water filtration system or digging a well. And, switch to non-fluoridated toothpaste to limit fluoride exposure. Trader Joe’s has it and Tom’s brand can be found at Walmart.
Have amalgam fillings safely removed, don’t eat Albacore tuna or swordfish, and avoid vaccinations if possible to eliminate mercury exposure.
The most common source of lead poisoning is through household paint. If your house was built before 1978 it could have lead paint. If you did renovations and disturbed the paint you have been exposed. Other sources are makeup products containing kohl, children’s toys and toy jewelry.
Plastics are everywhere and we’ve gotten in the bad habit of using them excessively with our food. Replace plastic containers with glass. Stop microwaving in ANY plastic, even the “steam-able” bags that frozen vegetables come in. And, don’t store hot food in plastic. Reduce the amount of plastic that goes in the landfill by going back to storing food in plastic wrap instead of zip-top bags. Better yet, use glass or waxed paper to store food. It all adds up.
The amount of pesticides we consume is also staggering. A recent European study found Roundup in the breast milk of 60% of women tested. I’m sure it is higher in American women as all wheat, corn and soy eaten in America is sprayed with the herbicide. This is an easy one to eliminate. Eat organic grains and only meat that has been fed organically. Look for the “Non-GMO” label on food. Wash all produce.
Cook for a Healthier Brain
The absolute BEST thing you can do for your health is to make your own meals. Restaurant food is engineered to make you come back for more. It contains more salt, fat, and chemicals to enhance the flavor than you would ever add to a home-cooked meal. Eating out should only be in case of extreme emergency or special celebration. A bag of raw trail mix, an apple or banana, or some hummus and carrots make good on-the-go meals to get by until you get home.
Antioxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, resveratrol, vitamin E, plant flavonoids all protect the body and brain from free radicals. All plant foods contain antioxidants but the queen of all antioxidants, Vitamin C, is deactivated by heat. That is why eating raw plants at every meal is very important. Drinking raw vegetable juices is also very beneficial.
Dr. Mercola lists these steps to treat and prevent brain disease:
Plan Brain Nourishing Meals
My recommendation is to consume a plant-based diet. That means plan meals around the vegetables. Pick a bean then add a starch, and two or three non-starchy vegetables. Your perfect plate would have a half-cup of pinto beans, a small baked potato with ½ an avocado mashed and spread on top, a cup of lightly steamed broccoli, and a cup of roasted squash. A delicious meal loaded with protein, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B complex, carotenoids and flavonoids!