Blow me away! That is what I thought when we got a reply from a research ethics committee once. The research committee actually rejected our research ethics application on the grounds that there is “no plausible link between what you eat and your brain”!!!!!
My gosh – have we really lost the connection to our bodies and health soooo much?
This was less than 10 years ago, and I would like to think that since then, we have regained a lot more of the knowledge that we lost about how what you eat will INDEED have an impact on your brain; how it is made up, how it functions and how you feel.
However, just this weekend, I was listening to a podcast that one of our customers recommended to me about the latest research in mental health, and another researcher had such a similar experience from the nobility that steers some academia. So I thought that OK - I will be one of the people helping to spell this out again.
Three categories to simplify taking care of your brain
In my view there are three important categories for good brain function and mental health;
-Molecular building blocks are at number one, because without them the next two categories won’t be as impactful
-Rest (deep adequate sleep and moments of awareness) and Stimulation (reading, making things, discussion and exercise)
-Emotional wellbeing (senses, learning, company and being by yourself)
Molecular building blocks start with food
The molecular building blocks of you brain come in at number one because – without a brain you can’t work on making it better! Your brain is made up of LOTS OF FAT! But it needs to be the right types of fat in the right places. The clinical study I referred to above went ahead after a second review by a different ethics committee that had some understanding about nutrition, and you can read about our findings on the importance of Omega-3 fatty acids and brain function. In fact the long chain Omega-3 that is hard to get enough of without seafood in your diet; which can be either from oily fish or algae rich in Omega-3.
The gut brain axis is real
The gut brain axis is a real pathway that has a big impact on our brain function. We can now see it anatomically, and measure the traffic that goes along it. However it remains a field of so much mystery and complexity, that science is still only scratching at the edges of interpreting so much new information.
One example is a species of Clostridium (a nice species, C. sporogenes) that uses an amino acid tryptophan to produce a highly potent neuroprotective antioxidant. This anti-oxidant is absorbed from the intestine and transported to the brain where it protects against brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Some of these tryptophan neurotransmitters are also the foundation for serotonin in the brain, which most of us have heard of as an important chemical for mental health.
Other bacteria such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillis produce GABA, which is one of the most abundant neurotransmitter in mammals. However it seems as though our own bodies also supply these gut bacteria with GABA as well – so who is feeding who in the zoo?!?!? We just don’t understand the details yet, but we do clearly know enough to take charge of eating a better diet full of Fibre, Omega-3 and LOTS of anti-oxidant triggering molecules.
One of the leading science journals, Nature, is currently calling out for scientists in the field to contribute to a synthesis of information in this space to help us even start to understand the whole picture.
Just adding more plants is the simplest way to cover all bases
You can’t lose by focusing on more plants in your diet – and adding a little bit of seaweed is a big step in getting you there. You don’t need much seaweed to make some serious gains in these building blocks. Just put a tub of Phukka on your kitchen bench and add it liberally wherever you can. If you find it easier to take a supplement, then that is better than not getting the right diet and not supplementing. I do both, and stay flexible about it, knowing that some days the meals I eat are more protein heavy and therefore a dose of Phybre, with GABA from our dried seaweed and wholegrain basmati rice, will bring it all into balance, or when protein has been missing, a snack of PhycoMuesli will add that extra bit of protein. Adding any one of the SeaFibre supplements will keep it all topped up.
Add the Stimulation
Once you have the building blocks of a good brain and a highway of the right molecules going to a from it, your rest will be more nourishing, your learning will be more sharp, and you exercise will stimulate a blood flow and neural transmitters that light it all up. The best exercise is the exercise that gets done – so even if you just take 15 minutes to get some stretch and resistance training on the floor space in the office, or make it a few miles of running after work, just do something each day.
Add the best social environment
Now that your building blocks and your transmission is in check, you are going to be so much nicer to get on with, and then everyone else will be nicer back to you. Your emotional wellbeing and social engagement will rise to a new level.
My favorite pastime is good food and discussion with friends, and it is so nice to close the loop on the cycle of food, stimulus and social engagement back to food again. This is the routine and cycle that will help you to keep all things in check and, hopefully, reading these thoughts helps with your next event of social, molecular and mental stimulus over a meal that has a dose of seaweed – somewhere....
because, apparently, spreading the word that food is linked to the mind is still needed!!!