One in three people are expected to die of dementia, killing more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. This report covers the principles for good mental health and how you can use them to preserve and regenerate brain function.
It isn’t simply ‘not having a mental illness’ that we are looking to accomplish. We want our minds to function at the best possible level and have a completeness and fulfillment, even well into old age.
Neurodegeneration is the progressive loss of structure or function of neurons (nerves), including death of neurons, which results in disease. Neurodegenerative diseases can occur at any age, and although they haven’t always been known as autoimmune diseases, they do show all the same features, and they are just as debilitating.
While genetics may make an individual more prone to neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases, it generally takes one or more of several factors to trigger the expression of the genomes that results in the disease. Without a triggering factor, the genomes can lie dormant and the inherited genetic potential for a disease may never develop. Here are the factors and what they include.
Environmental stressors may include heavy metal toxicity, mold, parasites, and Lyme disease and its coinfections. These can cause a weakened immune system, inflammation, and even nutrient deficiencies.
Dietary food choices can cause inflammation, a weakened immune system, food sensitivities, allergies, microbiome imbalances, hormone imbalances, and nutrient deficiencies from lack of nutrients and/or inability to absorb nutrients.
Mental/mind/emotional stressors include Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s), physical and emotional traumas such as abuse, brain injury or infection, life-threatening experiences, and multiple life stressors such as death, divorce, serious disease, accident, etc.
Leaky gut or intestinal permeability is where the junctions in the gut are open bigger than they should be, letting things into areas where they shouldn’t be. And when things get in that shouldn’t be there, like big, undenatured proteins or any type of food or pathogen, the body starts attacking it. Then autoimmunity and neurodegeneration starts getting triggered because the body can’t tell the difference between the large foreign particles and the normal particles of the body. Then the body attacks its own particles, such as in specific organs like the thyroid, adrenals, joints, nerves, and brain.
While there are some factors that we cannot/could not control, the sooner we begin a lifestyle that reduces the factors that cause disease and increase the factors that cause health, the less likely we will develop neurodegenerative diseases. Similarly, the earlier we begin to practice a healthy lifestyle, the more likely we’ll be able to turn around any diseases we may already have, or at least prevent or slow their advancement, including neurodegenerative disease.
A Mediterranean diet has been scientifically shown to improve brain health. Not only is it a possible natural treatment for Parkinson’s, dementia and Alzheimer’s, but it is also shown to improve mood, preserve memory and lower brain shrinkage.
This diet is rich with fresh vegetables (particularly leafy greens such as spinach and kale), fruit, whole grains, legumes (such as lentils and chickpeas), nuts, herbs and spices (like oregano, rosemary and parsley), healthy fats such as olives and olive oil, and is low in red meat and processed foods.
It is good for brain health because many of the included foods are anti-inflammatory, and it’s full of protective vitamins and antioxidants like B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and polyphenols. Certain B vitamins help regulate the production of neurotransmitters, the chemical substances that transfer messages from one cell to another in the brain.
Fasting is another critical element of diet. Fasting allows the body to purge itself of some of those old cells, and then the immune system creates new, vibrant stem cells that haven’t identified anything, and now they’re looking for that new cancer cell or that new fungus or virus, and they can react to it.
On a daily basis, we should be fasting for 16 to 18 hours without food, and on a monthly basis, a 3-day water-only fast, preferably 72 hours, but no less than 48 hours.
Too much inflammation in the body can damage neurological tissue and cause problems. Food can be a big contributor to inflammation. Inflammatory foods include dairy, sugar, refined grains, grain-fed meat, and bad fats, such as corn, unfermented soy, and non-organic canola oil, hydrogenated oils, all oils that have been used for frying, and fried foods.
Exercise is another critical element for the brain and for the body. Researchers suggest that any aerobic exercise (the type that gets your heart pumping) should do the trick. Standard recommendations advise half an hour of moderate physical activity most days of the week.
Hydration is critical. It washes out toxins and waste products, and contributes to cellular function. The best water is fresh water that’s cleansed with activated charcoal and other substances, preferably right in your own home and stored in glass.
Getting enough sleep at night is absolutely critical for your cognition. When you sleep, your brain drains fluids carrying waste products. Melatonin protects the nerves and the neurons from falling apart. Your body produces melatonin while you’re sleeping, so if you’re not sleeping, you’re not producing melatonin.
Our emotions play an important role in our physical and mental health. Mindfulness. Meditation. Practicing loving kindness in our relationships with others. All of these things will help us manage stress.
There are so many natural ways to combat the devastating neurodegenerative diseases of dementia and Alzheimer’s that we can’t cover them all here.