Learning a new language, playing an instrument, socializing, staying curious, exercising…. To keep your brain in shape, there are many strategies you can follow. In recent years, however, experts have focused on a very special topic: the relationship between the brain and gut.
You’ve probably heard about the link between gut health and the brain. Neuroscientists such as Raquel Marin emphasize the communication between these two organs and their relationship to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia or depression.
In a sense, your diet is the foundation of your health, so you have to pay close attention to it. A healthy, agile, youthful brain, ready to change and respond effectively to its environment, needs a range of basic nutrients. For example, think of B vitamins and antioxidants.
Keeping your brain in shape for a better quality of life
Is there a specific way to train your brain? A way so that you can grow old in the best possible intellectual condition? Actually, there is not just one: there are many ways to do it.
Most have to do with paying attention to your daily habits. Raquel Marin, an expert in this subject, shows how the brain and gut are connected. She also shows how to keep your brain in shape.
dr. Marin, a neuroscientist and professor of physiology at the University of La Laguna, stands out for her work as a promoter of this topic.
She is particularly notable for her interesting publications such as her latest book Pon en forma tu cerebro (in Dutch: Bring your brain into shape). In it, she mentions the key to maintaining an active and healthy brain at any age.
Just as the poet Emily Dickinson said, the brain is wider than the sky. Somehow this fascinating organ, which people often compare to a computer, has many resources, processes and capabilities that you probably know little about.
Only experts can provide answers and objective data that everyone should apply in their daily life. If you want to know how to keep your brain in shape, this interview with Dr. Raquel Marin probably answer your doubts about that.
The relationship between the brain and gut
V(brush counter). In your book Pon en forma tu cerebro (Get Your Brain into Shape), you say that the brain is a very picky eater. Why is that?
People are always thinking about what to eat to keep their muscles, heart or skin healthy. However, they forget that the brain doesn’t just need anything when it comes to nutrition.
This organ is one of the most demanding when it comes to nutrients because it is metabolically hyperactive. That is, it burns a lot of calories and nutrients that it cannot produce. Without these nutrients it works poorly and sooner or later you start to feel this too.
Q. What can you say about brain-gut communication?
In recent years, some amazing studies have confirmed that the gut can be the brain’s greatest ally or worst enemy.
Degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, insomnia, multiple sclerosis, are set in motion early by an imbalance in the gut bacteria.
Q. How important is water to the brain?
The two fundamental brain components are fat and water. The brain is therefore very sensitive to dehydration (English article). That’s why if you have a headache or feel dizzy, you can easily rehydrate in a few minutes. You then just feel your intellectual health improving.
Q. People often confuse glucose with sugar. Can you explain the difference between the two?
Glucose is a simple molecule present in virtually all whole foods you eat. Sugar is a series of different molecules, some of which are synthesized by humans to sweeten, preserve and make food more appealing. These processed sugars can damage your brain and cause inflammation.
Q. What foods and activities are needed to improve intellectual and creative skills?
The best way to keep your brain in shape is to help neural communication and blood flow through the brain. Therefore, you should eat the following:
- Fatty fish
- vitamins B, C, D and E
- natural antioxidants (present in colorful fruits and vegetables)
- iodides (in seafood)
- fiber (for intestinal health), which is present in legumes, seeds, grains, vegetables and fruits.
The Mediterranean diet, for example, is one of the most neuro-healthy diets in the world precisely because it is rich in these foods.
Q. Which foods are the best for your brain and gut to improve sleep quality?
Tryptophan-rich foods such as grains, nuts, seeds, lean meats, fish, fruits (banana, kiwi, prunes, figs, grapefruit, cantaloupe and tomato) and dark chocolate.
This amino acid contributes to the production of melatonin, the hormone that encourages sleep. It is also better to avoid sitting in front of the computer or doing intellectually demanding activities before going to bed.
Also try to follow a routine to relax and prepare for sleep. For example, listen to soothing music, drink chamomile tea, adjust the temperature of your room, do low-intensity activities, and so on.
For example, if you go to the gym at 10pm or eat meat and chips for dinner with half a bottle of wine, it will be harder for you to fall asleep.
Q. Finally, in your book you spend a chapter on balancing a hectic lifestyle and the foods you need to consume for your brain. What exactly can we do about this?
I suggest a combination of steps that help you combine the food for your “two brains” (your actual brain and gut flora), your exercise routine, and habits that promote your brain’s activity and emotional balance.
The brain is like a set of muscles; depending on what you do, you develop one part or the other. Knowing your brain and gut is the best way to get the most out of it.