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Does Your Brain Need a Shampoo?

"My brain feels like it's fried. I can't remember where I've put my keys and I can't seem to concentrate. Do you have any brain supplements I can take? “

My client went on to explain that yes, she’s taken herself to her GP for a recent check-up and all seemed to be ok, but each day is a struggle. She has work, study, family and a great long to do list that doesn't ever seem to get any shorter. She needed to be able to focus and clear her brain fog.

Oh, if it were only as simple as taking the latest you-beaut supplement that promises superior brain function. Reality check: it’s not. The brain is an incredible part of the body with brilliant capabilities. Much of its workings we don't really understand, but we do know of some of the fundamentals it does need to work well.

Be aware that the brain is not a magical piece of equipment with no limits; that will just keep on giving. It has a limit and it is when this is reached that we get into the realm of overwhelm where we struggle to think clearly, focus, maintain memory and make decisions.

Firstly, your brain needs to be able to give itself a good shampoo and clean. This is the job of the glymphatic system, the brain’s waste removal system, also acting to transport and deliver nutrients. This system is most active when we are at rest or asleep. Sleep and rest, both foundations for good health, often seem to be the first things that we sacrifice for the sake of doing or being more. No supplement in the world is more effective than a good night's sleep. So, choose to prioritise rest and sleep.

The brain contains around 160,934 kilometres of blood vessels. Given its work load it needs an excellent delivery system to continuously supply oxygen and nutrients. Support this delivery system by not smoking, exercising, and eating well. This means eating regularly to maintain a steady supply of fuel for the brain. This does not mean under-eating, regularly skipping meals or maintaining a daily level of activity that doesn't allow for eating lunch or drinking throughout the day. I know we all have the odd frenetic day, but if this is your normal pattern, the low blood glucose levels, dehydration, adrenaline and cortisol released will be pretty wearing on brain function.

The brain is around 2/3 fat, of which 20 percent is a type of omega 3 fat called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). We can't make DHA, so we obtain it from food. The best sources are fatty fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon and tuna. Vegetarians and vegans need to be aware that plant foods contain no DHA. The omega 3 fatty acid found in plant foods like chia, flax and walnuts is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). In some people a tiny amount of this ALA can be converted into DHA by the body, but most studies show this is less than 10 percent and many studies find a conversion rate of 0 percent.

If you need support with any of this, an experienced natural therapist can help.

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