The basic working unit of your brain is a neuron. It can also be called a nerve cell. It gets electrically excited to transmit information to a wide variety of cells through synapses. When this is humming, your brain is said to have a high state of neuroplasticity and you have no brain fog or brain diseases in your future. So you might think that the real deal of protecting your brain is protecting your neurons. But that’s not the case.
The real protectors of your brain are glia cells that protect your neurons by feeding them proper substances. It always comes down to food. Glia fuels your brain food in the form of supportive substances. Glia cells are the real caretakers of your neuro-plasticity.
Shockingly, the real difference between a younger and older brain isn’t so much the number of neurons, but the presence and function of these supporting glia cells. The number of neuron cells between a young and older brain is about the same, their mass doesn’t change very much. But glia cells do.
As glia cells age, so do we.
Researchers who examined postmortem brain samples from 480 individuals (from 16 to 106 years old) found that the state of someone’s glia was so consistent across their years of life that glia cells could actually be used to determine a person’s age.
Thus, brain protection comes down to glia cell protection. Here’s how to protect your brain from aging:
- Exercise. Exercise boosts a glia-protective growth substance called “glial cell line-derived trophic factor.”Exercise also boosts hormone production, like testosterone, in both men and women. Testosterone protects glia cells; buffers unhealthy stress that can harm glia cells, and helps controls threatening inflammation. Interestingly, too, is that hugging and intimacy also boost testosterone production in both males and females (stay tuned for my new book SEXY BRAIN, launching in Feb. 2017)
- Nrf2 activators: Glia cells release care-taking nutrients to keep neurons healthy. Nrf2 activators help them do it. Compounds that activate the Nrf2-ARE pathway are referred to as “Nrf2 activators,” such as sulforaphane (found in broccoli, broccoli sprouts, black Spanish radish, etc.), and Polygonum cuspidatum extract containing 50% resveratrol. Foods and herbs like this help the glial release nutritional substances to feed your brain nerves healthfully.
- Good Fats.The brain is 60% fat. Healthy fats boost healthier glia, neuronal and brain function. Omega 3 fatty acids, especially docosahexaenic acid (DHA), which comes from oily fish, and some plant oils like hemp, flax, and chia seeds, boost brain wellness. DHA is the major structural component of the brain, so you want to consume DHA daily to keep the architecture of your brain strong.
- Blueberries.Making 2% of your diet blueberries has been shown to keep brain cells living longer, resisting adverse changes like the deposit of gooey, nasty beta-amyloid (found in Alzheimer’s disease), and boosting harmonious glia/neuron interactions. Blueberries tamp down nasty inflammation linked to neuro-degeneration and even boost anti-cancer stem cells. These berries rock.
- Turmericreduces nasty inflammation that can damage glia cells and boosts healthy autophagy, which is a healthy “auto-correction” of cells to keep them in a state of physiologic ZEN-ness. Meriva turmeric is 80% absorbable, while many others are only about 8% bioavailable. Turmeric is healthy, but you should always take probiotics when taking robust dosages of it to protect your microbiome.
- Vitamin D. Glia inflammation is a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease and other neuroinflammatory brain issues (linked with severe migraines, headaches, brain fog, cognitive decline, etc.). Glia inflammation has been shown, in animal models, to be reduced or halted by Vitamin D replacement in adequate dosages.
- Avoid sugar and refined foods.Sugars and refined junk foods fight all the positive benefits of the above. Unhealthy fats (like hydrogenated or deep-fried) and excessive carbs cause oxidative damage to glial cells and contribute to hastening brain aging and cognitive decline.
Cell Reports, January 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.12.011
Major shifts in glial regional identity are a transcriptional hallmark of human brain aging. Soreq et al.
J Neuroinflammation. 2014 Sep 16;11:162. doi: 10.1186/s12974-014-0162-y. Diet-induced obesity and low testosterone increase neuroinflammation and impair neural function. Jayaraman A, Lent-Schochet D, Pike CJ1.
SEXY BRAIN – how sizzling intimacy and balanced hormones help prevent Alzheimer’s, cancer, depression and divorce, Awakened Medicine Press, 2017, Berkson DL.
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J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2016 Dec 16. [Epub ahead of print] Vitamin D Treatment Attenuates Neuroinflammation and Dopaminergic Neurodegeneration in an Animal Model of Parkinson’s Disease, Shifting M1 to M2 Microglia Responses. Calvello R1, Cianciulli A1, Nicolardi G2, De Nuccio F2, Giannotti L2, Salvatore R1, Porro C3, Trotta T3, Panaro MA4, Lofrumento DD2.
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Published online 2013 Nov 26. doi: 10.1179/1476830513Y.0000000092
Damaging effects of a high-fat diet to the brain and cognition: A review of proposed mechanisms.