Eating for Your Best Brain Health in 2017
By Dr. Pamela Costello, M.D. Neurosurgeon, Neuroscientist
Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food. Hippocrates 460-370 B.C.
Hippocrates, the Ancient Greek philosopher, considered to be the ‘Father of Medicine’, stated in the 4th century B.C. that disease was a product of environmental factors, diet, and lifestyle. Proper nutrition can serve to heal the brain and nervous system through multiple modalities. A healthy diet can support the neuroimmune system, aid in detoxification, repair the gastrointestinal tract, create a healing pH, decrease inflammation, and correct Candida overgrowth and bacterial imbalances (dysbiosis).
We all have individualized genetic makeups, with predispositions to disease. The increasingly deleterious effect of our toxic environment, including that of our altered food supply, has had an increasingly negative effect on that template. This contributes to higher incidences of neuroinflammatory disease, from developmental, behavioral, and neuromuscular disorders of the nervous system in children, to increasing cases of multiple sclerosis, ALS, CIDP, chronic pain syndromes, cognitive dysfunction and mood disorders in adulthood, and to earlier onset of dementias and other neurodegenerative disease in the elderly.
Reclaiming your physical health and intellectual independence, therefore, requires a focused renewed strategy of identifying and removing major dietary stressors and enhancing the diet with those foods supportive of healing your gut, immune, and nervous systems. Such an approach begins with realizing the relationship of your immune system to your gut, or gastrointestinal tract, and its health to the nervous system. Approximately 75% of our bodies’ immune system lies in our gut wall. The effects of exposure to environmental toxins, particularly adverse dietary choices, take a heavy toll on your gastrointestinal health, which can predispose you to virtually any neuroinflammatory illness.
Dietary stressors are typically components of the foods themselves, but also include additives, preservatives, processed sugars, pesticides, added growth hormones and antibiotics, genetically altered foods, and products of the food containers. Some general dietary guidelines to follow:
- Buy Organic. Toxins such as heavy metals, aluminum cans, plastics, pesticides, radiation, additives, artificial sweeteners, and solvents in our food and water acquired during processing, preparation, and packaging, are all neurotoxic.
- Glycemic Index. High glycemic index foods cause immune imbalances and adverse inflammatory reactions that directly affect the brain.
- Avoid GMO foods. Genetically modified foods (GMOs) such as wheat, soy, corn, etc. stress our nervous and immune systems, create inflammation, and are neurotoxic.
- Dairy Intolerances. Milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, cottage cheese, and ice cream, are all potential sources of inflammation, due to compromised tolerances of the protein (casein) and sugar (lactose) components.
- Gluten-free. Gluten, which is highest in wheat and other grains, is a troublesome protein for nervous and immune systems, creating an increasing incidence of neuroinflammatory illness. Understanding which foods contain gluten, as well as safe gluten-free alternatives, is critical to neuroimmunologic recovery.
- Macronutrients: Adequate consumption and proper balance of the ratio of macronutrients (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates), is required for detoxification and establishing a healthy immune system; e.g., some fats cause inflammation, while others reduce it , repairing brain tissue!
- Alkaline pH. Our bodies degenerate under acidic dietary imbalances and heal with an ideal blend of a majority ratio of alkaline to acidic foods.
- Direct Neurotoxins. Alcohol, tobacco, and neuroactive substances including glutamates, cause brain chemistry imbalances and directly kill brain cells.
- Irradiated Foods. Remove microwaves from home and work environments. Replace with toaster or convection ovens.
- Micronutrients. Maintain sufficient daily intake of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), which are best utilized by our bodies when in their most bioavailable form, i.e., through healthy dietary sources.