Brain Food 101

It’s been well-established that brain foods stave off illness, but recently scientists in neuro-epigenetics have taken a closer look at what constitutes brain food by turning the lens toward what environmental information is influencing the brain. Not surprisingly, the gut-brain connection continues to be implicated as one of the central tenets to whole person wellness. 

Your first brain may very well be in your gut. Or is it better understood that your gut, the one located in your abdominal region actually informs your brain? 

These are the questions researchers from gut microbiology, neuroimmunology, and neuroscience have been coming together for the past 20 years to ask, and they think they’re getting closer to being able to make assertions that could change the way we not only practice medicine, but how we think and feed ourselves “brain food” in general. 

A well-substantiated theory is that the gut is the first brain and it informs the brain anatomically located in your head about how to understand and make information useful to the rest of your body. 

In this way, the brain in your head is somewhat of a master transponder, while your gut is really in charge of what information gets there to begin with.

Not only are Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s rates climbing, these life-altering illnesses are beginning to hit people earlier and more rapidly. As a society so obsessed with health, we’re overdo to change the way we focus on brain health enhancement.

A popularly held theory is that intestinal permeability (aka: leaky gut) is responsible for allowing inflammatory biochemicals to travel everywhere in the body, and in many cases, directly through the blood-brain barrier.

As neurobiologists, microbiologists, epidemiologists, and clinical nutritionists work more closely together to study the gut-brain connection, one unified agreement exists: brain food is more important than ever in securing not only longevity, but daily wellness. 

An anti-inflammatory lifestyle diet can be very straightforward according to Caroline Rasmussen, founder of the brain-nutrient brand Antara. Rasmussen, a former corporate hustler on Wall Street formulated an evidence-based daily cognitive and anti-aging nutraceutical comprised of brain foods after her father was diagnosed with early-onset dementia and Parkinson’s. She thinks the last few years have yielded exciting insights about the brain — we’re learning that we have significant control over our likelihood of avoiding Alzheimer’s through our lifestyles, which is incredibly empowering. 

Rasumussen says we need-not overcomplicate things: minimizing sugar, refined carbs, trans-fats, and processed foods while maximizing fruits and vegetables (especially dark leafy greens and berries) and omega-3 fats (fatty fish, chia seeds, and avocados) are all powerful basics each of us can easily access. (Some of my personal favorite super-brain-foods are blueberries, eggs, salmon, broccoli, Lion’s Mane Mushroom, EVOO, rosemary, turmeric, and saffron.) 

Epigenetic research shows that our mindset and beliefs directly correlate to inflammation. Experimental studies reveal that depression and stress are linked to upregulating the immune system, resulting in pro-inflammatory cytokines. But why is this important? Recent findings in a neurobiology study out of Carnegie Mellon, showed that mindfulness reduced a type of modulating cytokine, interleukin-6, suggesting that brain food in the form of negative or positive information will either accelerate or decelerate the inflammatory process. 

How do you feed your brain? Have you repaired leaky gut-brain pathways? How has shifting your mindset fed your brain and therefore, your whole-person wellness? Please share your experience with the fullest community!

Christine Dionese, co-founder of flavor ID is an integrative, epigenetic health and food therapy specialist. She has dedicated her career to helping others understand the science of happiness and its powerful effects on everyday human health by harnessing the power of the epigenetic landscape. Christine lives, works, and plays in Southern California with her husband and daughter. Listen to her podcast for The Fullest, Well Examined, an exploration of where science and discovery meet intuition and wellness.

Comment