Brain inflammation has been linked to long-term neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia, so it’s important to understand the link between diet and brain health.
When it comes to your diet, how much attention do you pay to eating to keep your brain healthy?
Diet and Brain Inflammation
Continually eating the wrong things can lead to general health problems, you’ll probably get sick more often, feel lethargic and you’ll eventually get brain fog. You know that feeling when you just can’t focus, you feel forgetful and you just don’t have any energy? That’s brain fog and it can be an early sign of brain inflammation.
Inflammation occurs in your body when the cells of your immune system group together to fight an infection, usually seen in the form of redness and swelling.
Inflammation can be caused by or associated with the following:
- Bacterial or viral infection
- High levels of stress
- Arthritis and other autoimmune diseases such as gout
- Trauma or injury
- An allergic reaction to external factors such as perfumes and cleaning products
- An unhealthy gut
- Eating too many highly processed, high sugar and high salt foods
If the inflammation continues for long enough, it becomes a normal state for your body and becomes chronic. Chronic, or sustained inflammation has been linked with brain and Central Nervous System conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
Severe inflammation of the brain, or encephalitis, is more than occasional forgetfulness and inability to concentrate, and is very serious. Encephalitis is very rare and can result in inflammation so severe it causes swelling of the brain, seizures and a rapid decline in mental state. It can be caused by certain viral infections, a brain tumour or transmitted by ticks and mosquitoes. Severe flu-like symptoms with rapidly developing confusion or fits should be investigated by an emergency doctor immediately.
Brain Inflammation and Your Gut
Your gut helps to manage levels of inflammation and therefore, keeping your gut healthy with the right foods is essential to keep your brain healthy and reduce your risk of brain inflammation.
The good news is, you can optimise your diet for good brain health.
Foods to Reduce Inflammation of the Brain
In particular, salmon and cod. Oily fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for good brain health. Make sure you buy wild caught salmon as farmed fish can often contain high levels of antibiotics, formaldehyde and other chemicals.
These tiny little seeds contain more omega-3 than any other plant-based food and can be sprinkled on breakfast cereals, added to smoothies and juices and even used in vegan baking as an egg substitute. Chia seeds must be soaked in water before consumption – 10 mins is sufficient.
Avocados are packed with ‘good fats’, the monounsaturated fats associated with good heart health. These good fats also help regulate blood sugar levels, which if not regulated, can contribute to an unhealthy gut and rising levels of inflammation. Avocados are also rich in vitamin E which keeps the immune system strong and helps protect brain cells. As with most things, moderation is the key so limit your avocado intake to two per week during their natural season.
Cacao is the raw form of chocolate before any of the fats and sugars have been added. It’s full of brain-protecting antioxidants and flavanols, which help reduce inflammation. It’s a little bitter so the next best thing is very dark chocolate which has a slightly sweeter taste and still has the inflammation reducing properties. This doesn’t mean you can eat an entire block every day: what it does mean is that if you feel like a little chocolate, choose quality and enjoy a small piece, occasionally.
Green Leafy Vegetables and Broccoli
Kale and spinach are truly nutritious and support all round health and they’ve been proven to particularly support brain health by helping to slow down the age-related mental decline. Kale is very high in vitamin K, essential for fighting inflammation. Broccoli not only has high levels of vitamin K, its full of choline which is essential for neurotransmitters (chemicals which help send signals to and from your brain) involved in memory processes. Rotate your vegetables – don’t have the same types of vegies on your plate every day. Include colour, especially all the greens.
Over the years, there have been many studies conducted into the health benefits of caffeine. Numerous studies have found that caffeine, in moderation i.e. no more than a couple of cups of coffee a day, is linked to a reduced risk of brain inflammation-related conditions such as dementia. What the studies don’t mention, is that the benefits of caffeine are linked to quality coffee (not instant) that is prepared fresh, not in a plastic capsule, and is consumed black.
In particular, hazelnuts and walnuts due to their high levels of brain-protecting, inflammation reducing vitamin E and antioxidants. If you live in a hot climate, store your nuts in the refrigerator as the high fat content can go rancid in the heat.
Not strictly foods, instead they are nutritional supplements, both associated with memory and brain health. Some herbs, such as Ginkgo biloba may support good circulation to the brain, thus aiding memory. Ginseng also aids memory and contains phytonutrients (nutrients from plants) which stimulate brain activity. Always consult a qualified natural medicine practitioner before taking any herbs, especially if you are taking prescription medications.
Healthy Practices for Brain Health
Remember to drink plenty of purified water to keep your brain hydrated and incorporate daily exercise to improve blood flow to the brain. Both are essential to help reduce long-term brain inflammation.
References: Posted by MINDD Foundation