Take a break from alcohol, sugar, caffeine and digital overload this month because you deserve to give your brain health a kick start. People are always saying that a healthy body houses a healthy mind. I think it’s safe to say that when your body isn’t healthy, your brain health is sure to suffer.
Food substances and brain health
Many people find it surprising that what you eat can actually damage your brain. Have you ever heard someone say: “You are what you eat?” The thing is that it is valid argument and a great part of who you are comes from your brain. Let’s have a look at the effects that certain food substances has on brain health.
Alcoholic beverages are made up of many different substances, but the main substance that has the potential of damaging our brains is ethanol. The relaxing and euphoric effects of this psycho-active substance cause people to enjoy such beverages. Short term and long term alcohol use could have drawbacks for your brain health. Your brain cells will potentially degenerate and brain dysfunction is very likely to follow. The cerebellum, limbic system and frontal lobes are especially vulnerable to dysfunction and damage from alcohol use.
The thing with alcohol intoxication is that follows a time course of two phases. Initially, you feel relaxed and cheerful and then this gives way to feelings of depression, exhaustion and basically all the symptoms of a hangover like nausea and vomiting amongst other symptoms. Each person is affected in a different way as far as alcohol intoxication is concerned. The effects of alcohol on brain health and behaviour are directly connected to the blood alcohol concentration. Low doses of alcohol may be stimulating while higher doses may cause a depressant effect. 
Try to limit your alcohol consumption this month, so that you can detox your body and feel the difference.
The sugar (sucrose) we use in our diets is made up of glucose and fructose and in our bodies, our blood glucose levels are regulated by two hormones.
- Insulin: lowers blood sugar levels
- Glucagon: raises blood glucose levels
Our bodies have less control over fructose and this is where the trouble starts. If our blood glucose levels are in excess, the glucose is changed into glycogen which is a storage form of glucose in the muscles and the liver and from there it may even be converted into fat, again for storage. Fructose however, can be directly converted into fat and this may cause damage at any particular site.
It is also damaging to your brain health to eat too much sugar for too long, your body may become resistant to insulin and your brain health could be in severe jeopardy.
The reason why brain health is influenced by eating too much sugar is because our neurons are need a lot of glucose to function and they need this sugar to be taken in a balanced fashion, in other words, they cannot handle bursts of glucose. The uptake of glucose by the neurons is dependent upon the extracellular glucose levels. Hyperglycaemia (too much glucose) in diabetes for example may cause such extracellular glucose levels to increase up to fourfold. If this happens too frequently or persistently it leads to glucose neurotoxicity. If this remains the case over a long period of time, it may lead to diabetic neuropathy.
It is best to refrain from processes sugar, but if the burden of this task is too heavy to bear, at least try to limit you sugar intake.
Why do our brains need rest?
Sleep plays a major role in brain health and sleep disruption has an impact on cognitive functioning and brain recovery. It is of cardinal importance that we get some shut-eye during every 24 hour (or circadian) cycle. Cognitive deficits and poor overall functioning may result from sleep disturbances.
Sleep disruption after traumatic brain injuries range from metabolic disturbances and compromised blood brain barrier (BBB) to brain cell degeneration and it may also have an impact on neuroplasticity. It is believed that sleep is necessary to support the recovery process after a traumatic brain injury.
Experts advise at least 6-7 hours of sleep per night and they believe that proper sleeping habits may postpone or slow down the onset of neuropsychiatric, neuro-traumatic and neurodegenerative disorders. 
Lately it seems like many people are starting to forget the value of a good night’s rest. You need to listen to your body and stick to your circadian rhythm.
It is highly advisable to give your brain the treatment it so desperately deserves. Our brains are basically the computers of our bodies and they are at work 24/7. Listen to your body: stay away from sugar and energy drinks containing caffeine, dim your lights for a while before counting those sheep and try to stick to regular sleeping patterns to support the health of your brain and become a refreshed version of yourself!
For specific advice on diet and nutrition to support your brain health, book a consultation at Brain Hub now.
- Oscar-Berman M, Marinković K. Alcohol: effects on neurobehavioral functions and the brain. Neuropsychology review. 2007 Sep 1;17(3):239-57.
- Tomlinson DR, Gardner NJ. Glucose neurotoxicity. Nature reviews. January 2008; vol. 9: 36-45.
- Lucke-Wold BP, Smith KE, Nguyen L, Turner RC, Logsdon AF, Jackson GJ, Huber JD, Rosen CL, Miller DB. Sleep disruption and the sequelae associated with traumatic brain injury. Neuroscience & Bio-behavioural Reviews. 2015 Aug 31;55:68-77.
- Farooqui AA. The Effects of Diet, Exercise, and Sleep on Brain Metabolism and Function. Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in Neurological Disorders 2014 (pp. 1-42). Springer International Publishing.