4 Secrets to Boosting Brain Function
We spend so much time protecting our physical health by losing weight and eating a healthy diet. But have you ever stopped and wondered if you’re nourishing your brain? The brain controls every biological function, making it the most important organ in our body.
One of the key factors in keeping your brain healthy is a little known molecule known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is a neurotrophin that plays a role in creating neurons and protecting existing brain cells.
By boosting BDNF levels, you boost brain function, which increases the ability to learn, focus, and recall. It may even lower the risk of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.
Here’s what you need to know about BDNF and four secrets to boosting levels in your brain.
What is brain-derived neurotrophic factor?
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is like a protein powder but for your brain. Just as protein helps you build stronger, healthier muscles, BDNF impacts the quality and quantity of your brain cells.
Your brain creates what is known as neurotrophins, which are a family of proteins that make neurons. And while there are many different neurotrophins at work in the brain, BDNF is the most important and most active.
Without BDNF, the brain is unable to create new brain cells. And without brain cells, well…you can’t do much of anything.
Not only does BDNF make new brain cells, it plays an important role in maintaining the health of existing brain cells. The neurotrophin is also crucial for a healthy peripheral nervous system, which is made up of the autonomic and somatic nervous systems.
Without BDNF, the body rapidly deteriorates and degenerates. A lack of BDNF will cause all sorts of side effects, including loss of:
Low levels of BDNF have also been linked to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Now that you know just how important BDNF is, you may be wondering how you can increase levels in the brain. The good news is that increasing levels is easier than you may think.
Here are four of the best-kept secrets for increasing BDNF levels to boost brain function.
Exercise does much more than keep your waistline in check. Physical activity is one of the most effective ways to increase BDNF levels, but you’re going to have to work for it! Intense exercise has shown to increase BDNF synthesis in the brain by threefold!
The more intense the exercise, the more BDNF your brain will produce. Now may be the perfect time to take up running or swimming. Keep your weight at a healthy level while keeping your brain sharp. Talk about a true win-win.
Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric, which is a commonly used herb in Middle Eastern and Indian dishes. However, turmeric is also an Ayurvedic herb that has been used for centuries to treat all sorts of ailments.
As you may already know, turmeric is well known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Scientists have been studying curcumin to better understand it’s health benefits, including its impact on the brain.
Animal studies have found that curcumin increases BDNF production in the hippocampus, especially in those with brain injuries.
Sunshine and BDNF are best friends. While sunshine is always touted as the source of vitamin D in the body, it also impacts BDNF levels in the brain.
A study conducted in the Netherlands found that BDNF levels increased in the summer and spring. Sunlight converts vitamin D in the body. This vitamin not only keeps the bones and immune system strong, it’s also needed to produce BDNF.
It’s possible that reduced sunlight, such as in the fall and winter months, may cause a decrease in BDNF levels. This could explain seasonal depression and other seasonal mental health disorders.
Sleep is one of the most important biological functions. When we sleep, the brain and body maintain homeostasis while also repairing cells from a long, stressful day. If you're having trouble falling or staying asleep, it may be caused by low BDNF levels.
Research conducted over the last few years has found a potential link between decreased BDNF expression and insomnia. The thought is that chronic stress deregulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system. In turn, this leads to depression, sleep disturbances, and decreases BDNF levels.
To protect your health and to maintain BDNF in your brain, aim to get no less than eight hours of sleep each night. The more shut eye you get, the healthier your brain is likely to be.
The impacts of low BDNF
As we learn more about BDNF, the protein has been linked to all sorts of health conditions. When BDNF levels are low, there’s an increased risk of low or abnormal cognitive function. You may be more likely to experience brain fog or the inability to concentrate on a task.
Low levels of BDNF have also been linked to:
The good news is that maintaining healthy levels of BDNF is quite simple. Head outside and soak up some sun rays. Partake in intense exercise at least three times a week. Get plenty of sleep at night and wake up with a delicious glass of golden milk or a turmeric latte.
Do you always forget where your keys are? Have you ever walked into a room and completely forgot what you went in there for? Mental lapses happen, but brain fog and forgetfulness could be a sign of brain related problems that could benefit from increasing BDNF.
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Want to learn more? Contact Align Integrated Medicine today. As your Meridian chiropractor, we use a unique and modern comprehensive approach to solve functional health problems. Instead of providing temporary relief, we use fundamental medicine to find and treat the root cause.