I suppose it should come as no surprise, after living most of my life in Southwest Florida: a large percentage of my patients are over 50 years old.
With a demographic like that, there are certain health challenges I’m going to see more often than chiropractors in most other areas.
One of those challenges is dementia.
As recently as the 1980s, dementia was not well understood or diagnosed. Millions of seniors missed out on their golden years, institutionalized because their doctors (and their families) didn’t understand why they were struggling with relatively simple life skills, or how to effectively cope with it.
Why is it that so many people live well into their 80s, 90s, and beyond 100 without losing their cognitive capabilities while a constantly growing population is being sidelined in their 60s?
(Incidentally, this was one of the central questions of the Blue Zones Project carried out by researchers from the National Geographic Society as they studied regions around the world where people consistently lived to be over 100 years old. They identified several lifestyle patterns among the centenarians, that could basically be broken down into, “eat right, move right, think right, and live right.”)
When we look at the rise in dementia cases in the U.S., it’s worth observing that we’re also seeing an increase in the production of processed foods, toxic cooking oils, industrial chemicals, and heavy metals like aluminum, mercury, and lead in our air and water. As we go through life being constantly exposed to these toxins, they leave deposits in our brain tissue, where they become launch pads for free radicals. Match that against a steady depletion of antioxidants (that fight free radicals) and other nutrients from our food (thanks to poor soil management), and we are set up for a brain health catastrophe.
It’s difficult to comprehend how powerful the brain is, and yet so delicate and fragile. Man has still never developed a computer that rivals the number and complexity of interactions the human brain completes every second. Yet, the brain is one of the most vulnerable organs of the body, made up almost entirely of water and fat cells, and powered by oxygen and glucose. In fact, if the oxygen supply to your brain is cut off by a heart attack or choking, it takes less than five minutes for irreversible brain damage to begin.
Fighting Dementia With Food
Dementia research over the last twenty years has focused on Vitamins B9 (folic acid) B12. According to several studies, patients deficient in B9 and B12 were more likely to present with elevated levels of an amino acid called homocysteine that is associated with poor brain function. Elevated homocysteine is often a warning that a patient with mild cognitive impairment will quickly advance to Alzheimer’s Disease, stroke, or arterial blockage.
The simple version of all that is Vitamins B9 and B12 are key to protecting your brain from deterioration over time.
Vitamins C and E are a great one-two antioxidant punch to protect your brain from free radical damage, and Vitamins B1, B2, B6, and D3 are great for promoting production of neurotransmitters (which relieve stress, improve your mood, help you focus, and help you maintain and positive state of mind), but the building blocks of a healthy brain are B9 and B12.
This is where I throw in the big warning sign.
Before you run out and buy a cart-full of Vitamin supplements, it’s important to remember that the B complex works best when they work together in balanced proportions, the way they were designed. I’d much rather see you get your B Vitamins from food, not from pills (although there is one you may have to supplement).
Where Can I Find B-complex Vitamins In Their Native Form And Balance?
Green leafy vegetables (especially spinach and kale), bananas, berries, carrots, legumes, eggs, fish, and poultry are great sources of B-complex Vitamins. In this form, your body draws out the B-Vitamin units it needs and quietly discards the units it doesn’t need. My concern with so many vitamin supplements is that they don’t balance the B’s properly, and much of the value is lost in absorption. While your body is working to break down the molecules into useable components, much of the pill is wasted. There are exceptions, but as a rule, I prefer my patients get their nutrients from food.
The exception here is B12. B12 can only be found in meat products, and it’s getting harder to find good quality meat that has an adequate B12 content. Plus, many seniors have difficulty absorbing B12 and as many as 90 percent of vegans are B12 deficient because of not eating meat.
This is a real problem, because B12 deficiency is at the root of most brain degeneration and mental disorders, and many people have no idea that they are deficient.
B12 is one of the few nutrients for which I consistently recommend a good supplement – usually a liquid form taken under the tongue. The B12 molecule is one of the largest the body has to absorb, so taking a sublingual (under the tongue) liquid tends to be the most efficient way to ingest it.
Aside from that, though, I want to see you nourish your body (and your brain) with food as much as possible.
If this article was helpful to you, I hope you’ll take a few seconds to share it. You never know who might be feeling anxious about brain health right now. Also, if you have questions about Vitamin supplements and are not currently seeing a chiropractor (or wellness coach), I’d be glad to help answer them. If you live in the Naples area, call my office and let’s set up an appointment to see where you are in your health journey, and how I can help you get from here to your goals.
In the meantime, have a great day and join me here tomorrow for “Think Right Thursday.”
“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas