The exceptional thing about the mind is that it’s one of the tissues within the body that doesn’t undergo cell division. Your liver is always regenerating, so are your gut, your kidneys, and all of your organs. But with the mind, whatever set quantity of neurons (nerve cells that send and receive electrical signals throughout the body) you’re born with is what you’ve got for the rest of your life.
So if the mind is incapable of regenerating itself, is degeneration an inevitable outcome as we age? Fortunately, the solution is, not always. Here is why.
Neurons connect with one another and develop plasticity. Neural plasticity is the ability of neurons and its networks to alter itself both structurally and functionally in response to growth, new info, sensory stimulation, harm, or dysfunction. Neural plasticity is, hence, crucial to development, cognition, memory, and freedom.
It was once believed that neural plasticity only existed in very young people and that after neural pathways were formed, they had been put and couldn’t be altered. Modern brain research has revealed that neurons always rearrange themselves during the course of life. In actuality, new connections can form at any point in life, enabling people to acquire knowledge and pick up new skills even at an advanced age.
However, as you age, your mind is still likely to degenerate if you don’t do something to change the procedure.
Reasons For Brain Degeneration
Poor neurodevelopment in certain areas of the brain
Each individual has different areas of the brain that have higher connectivity or plasticity than other areas. The more plasticity you’ve got in a specific place, the better you are at that specific function represented by the region. The less plasticity, the less competent.
For instance, when you’re a child and you attempted to play sports. You weren’t coordinated and other children made fun of you. So you stopped playing sports and you avoided sports since you grew up. Then the area which represents your vestibular motor system never got an opportunity to develop. As you get older, neurodegneration will appear first in regions which have less plasticity. If you’re a person who didn’t have a very developed engine coordinated muscular system since you never played sports, you’re more likely to have instability, vertigo, or dizziness as you get older.
Or perhaps you’re bad at math when you’re in college, so you avoided all mathematics when growing up. Because of this, the parietal, prefrontal, and inferior temporal areas in the brain will have less plasticity. As you get older, you might realize that you’re no longer as great in remembering things or your grocery list.
That’s why when it comes to the mind, the expression that “if you do not use it, you will lose it” is really very correct.
Inflammation in the brain is wholly different from inflammation in the rest of the body. In the systemic immune system, you will find suppressor cells which may shut down the immune response to tame down the inflammatory process, the mind does not.
In the mind, there are mainly neurons and glial cells. Glial cells encourage, protect, and nurture the nerves; they clear away metabolic debris like the beta-amyloid plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers. They’re also the resident immune cells in the brain, but they don’t have an off switch. Without intervention, once triggered, they remain on, become hyper, and cause chronic inflammation in the brain. (Please keep reading to see ways to decrease brain inflammation.)
Factors such as traumatic brain and spinal cord injury, ischemia stroke, infections, toxins, and autoimmunity trigger the glial cells. This condition is frequently associated with a compromised blood-brain barrier, which is a finely woven mesh of specialized cells and blood vessels that maintain foreign substances from the brain. When this barrier is damaged, it becomes permeable or “leaky”. This permits toxins and pathogens to enter the brain. Additionally, it permits inflammation which originates elsewhere in the body to enter the brain and begin the inflammation reaction there.
Chronic brain inflammation reduces neuron plasticity and contributes to degeneration. It shuts down energy production in the brain cells, leading to mental fatigue, brain fog, and memory loss. It’s also linked to numerous psychiatric and neurological disorders, including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
Control Brain Degeneration
Blood sugar stability
Without a doubt, blood sugar dysfunction is the number one risk factor that devastates the mind. Including being prediabetic, diabetic, or hypoglycemic (low blood glucose ).
When someone eats too much carbs, which turn into sugar in the blood, the body puts out more insulin to bring blood glucose down. Too much insulin activates the glial cells in the brain and causes substantial inflammation and promotes the neurodegenerative process.
In hypoglycemics, there’s an insulin spike too as the body tries to bring down the blood sugar after a high carbohydrate meal. When the blood glucose drops too low, the mind can’t get enough fuel. They become spacey, lightheaded, shaky, and irritable. Hypoglycemics can’t go too long without eating.
If you would like to ascertain whether you’ve got a blood sugar problem, simply ask yourself how you feel after you eat. The normal response is, I’m not hungry anymore. There should be no change in power and function.
However, hypoglycemics will typically say, I feel so much better, I believe I could function again. I can think. I’m not hungry anymore. That’s a sign they’re dealing with a very low blood sugar rollercoaster ride.
Those who consume a meal and will need to have a rest, crave sugar, or need to get a java immediately are insulin resistant folks. They’re on the prediabetic or diabetic side.
Scientists now think that chronic blood sugar imbalances play a massive part in the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s, enough to the point that some researchers are calling Alzheimer’s “Type 3 diabetes” because of the inflammatory blood glucose connection. Hence, blood sugar balance is irrefutably the most important element to address when working to enhance brain function.
Apart from managing your blood sugar through diet, many studies have demonstrated that intermittent fasting has a substantial influence on brain inflammation. It turns on a significant process called autophagy, where you eliminate the metabolic debris from the brain and you switch off the glial cells. The most usual intermittent fasting program is the 16/8 method that involves fasting for 16 hours and limiting your everyday eating period to 8 hours, state noon to 8 pm.
Activation of the mind
The regions of the brain that you don’t use will have less plasticity. Therefore, you must challenge your brain to stop it from degenerating.
If you always have a tough time with math, get a mathematics program and start performing multiplication tables or play mathematics games that elementary school kids do.
If you’re frequently challenged with people’s faces or shapes, do games like Tetris in which you look at shapes and attempt to fit them in to different spots.
If you lose or sway your balance when you shut your eyes while standing with your feet together or on one foot, you get to do more balance exercises.
The secret is to keep every area of your mind active and stimulated. Watching TV is passive and does nothing to assist the mind. Instead, do cognitive things like learn a new language, play Sudoku, or perform word puzzles. Be an athlete, be a scholar, that’s the best way to preserve your mind.
Exercise benefits your mind in two ways. One is biochemistry and the other one is plasticity.
The kinds of exercise that increase your heart rate alter the neurochemistry in the brain. Higher heart rate equals more blood circulation, more flow, more growth factors, and much more brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Exercise also causes neuronal branching, creates an opioid answer, and calms inflammation down. In summary, exercise only keeps your nerves healthy.
Physical activities that require more coordination increase neuronal plasticity in these regions of the brain.
For instance, if you ask a patient who has brain injury in the vestibular system (balance center) to perform bicep curls while standing on a BOSU (unstable surface), he/she is very likely to feel totally exhausted before the muscles become tired. The patient may believe that he’s so out of shape, but in fact, it’s that portion of the mind that has an issue.
Therefore, if you’re a person who just runs, bikes, or swims, including exercises which involve numerous plains can help develop the regions of the brain which are responsible for balance and coordination, which is essential as you get older.
Your brain can’t function in a sleep-deprived state. Your brain can’t branch. It can’t develop plasticity and it can’t eliminate debris when it’s in a sleep-deprived state. Studies clearly demonstrate that if people don’t get enough sleep, with time, the brain volume decreases in proportion.
So for whatever reason you’re not getting enough quality sleep, be it regular nighttime urination, too much stimulation in the blue light generated by electronics, hormonal imbalance, or low blood sugar causing you to wake up, you want to tackle the problem. Otherwise, without good sleep, there’s absolutely not any chance your brain can operate well.
Nutrients and supplements
The number one nutrient for turning neuroinflammation is short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). The three principal SCFAs crucial to health are butyrate, propionate, and acetate.
SCFAs are produced by gut bacteria from the digestion and fermentation of dietary fibers.
SCFAs can modulate neuroinflammation as the gut and the mind are intimately connected from the vagus nerve, that is the highway whereby signals from hormones, neuropeptides, and germs travel back and forth.
In studies, SCFAs are implicated in many neuropsychiatric disorders, from Parkinson’s to pneumonia. These patients have been found to have a lower abundance of SCFA-producing bacteria in their gut compared to healthy individuals.
Types of fiber which promote the production of SCFAs in the gut
- Inulin: found in green peas, rye, barley, sprouted wheat, Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, and onions.
- Pectin: found in peaches, apples, oranges, grapefruit, apricots, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, and peas.
- Fructooligosaccharides (FOS): found in Jerusalem artichoke, green peas, garlic, asparagus, leeks, onions, and chicory root.
- Arabinoxylan: found in wheat bran.
Besides eating foods that are rich in these fibers, you may also use fiber supplements. They’re known as prebiotics or prebiotic fibers because the good bacteria (probiotics) in the gut feed them to make SCFAs.
Foods that contain SCFAs
Butter and ghee.
Additionally, there are butyrate (or butyr acid) supplements available. Individuals with severe brain inflammation should consider using both prebiotics and butyrate.
Reduce brain inflammation
- Omega-3 fish oil: a polyphenol found in the skin of red grapes. It may cross the blood-brain barrier to help reduce brain inflammation.
- Turmeric/curcumin: a spice commonly found in curry powder. In addition, it can cross the blood-brain barrier. Liposomal liquid curcumin has 4-8 times greater absorption than the powder form, which can be more difficult to absorb.