Over the last few weeks, several things have worked together to focus my attention on brain health. First, there was a book, then a conversation, then a phone call. I feel like I’m being surrounded by resources to help me tackle this important issue.
As a chiropractor, it’s natural for me to emphasize the brain in my work, in the context of how it fits into the nervous system, along with the spinal cord and vertebrae. As a wellness coach, though, it goes way beyond that. The brain is not only the electrical command center that regulates all the organs, glands, and neurotransmitters, it is also the seat of the intellect, decision-making processes, emotions, creativity, speech, and much more. As I mentioned last week, it is the hub of wellness.
It’s All Connected
Here at my practice, our guiding principles are summed up in the phrase, “move right, eat right, think right, live right.” Wellness can be measured in all of these facets. What’s more, when wellness is reduced in any area, it affects all the areas. The example I often give is that, when you feel anxiety in your emotions, it can upset your stomach or make your heart beat faster. The emotional component manifests in the physical, the physical component affects the mental (ever tried to make decisions with a headache?), and so on.
That’s why I believe that a complete understanding of wellness requires a balanced view of all these areas…and the brain is connected to all of them.
As we continue our study of brain health, I want to expand on something I shared last Thursday night at our first Fundamental Foods and Friends Dinner of the season. If you weren’t able to attend, watch the Facebook Live videos we shared. We shared it in two parts and the first part is sideways because I put my phone on the tripod the wrong way. Please bear with us; it’s the first time we’ve broadcast it live, so we are still learning some things.
The Book That Communicated So Much To Me
During that presentation, I mentioned a book I strongly encourage you to read if you have a brain that you want to preserve as long as possible: The End of Alzheimer’s by Dr. Dale E. Bredesen, MD. His story is fascinating because he comes from a pharmaceutical background. He set out originally to study Alzheimer’s Disease with the intent of developing a medical cure to wipe it out once and for all. Alzheimer’s Disease is now considered the third leading cause of death in America, and it’s only increasing.
One of the early clues that showed him he might be going the wrong direction for a cure came from his wife, a family physician. When he told her that he was going to find a medical cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, she told him flat-out that he wouldn’t be able to do it. Shocked, he asked why she thought that. She told him that no drug could undo what years of poor lifestyle habits does to a brain over time:
- Lack of sleep
- Not drinking enough water
- Eating junk food
- Drug use
- Not getting enough sunlight
- Social isolation
- Excessive addiction to dopamine-stimulating activities
- Among over thirty different causes.
A Different Kind of Disease
Maybe most importantly, Alzheimer’s Disease is not like cancer. Cancer is an abnormality in the body. In a sense, your body’s protective systems fight cancer 24 hours a day. In some cases, they finally fail and the cancer wins. At that point, you have to go in and remove it with surgery, chemicals, or radiation.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the opposite: Alzheimer’s Disease is your body’s protective systems doing their job to protect your brain from the results of a destructive lifestyle. The body lays down a series of proteins to protect your brain from the toxins in our food and lifestyle, but the result is that your brain gradually loses its function.
It’s the same with statin drugs. Statin drugs don’t cure heart disease. They are trying to break down cholesterol, but cholesterol isn’t a foreign invader. LDL cholesterol is your body’s natural response to try to protect your heart from the results of poor eating habits. The only way to prevent heart disease (or repair what damage has been done) is to eat right, move right, and live right. And to do that, you have to think right about your lifestyle. (See how those work together?)
One Drug To Fight Them All?
Another thing he said that was so interesting to me is that you can’t fight Alzheimer’s Disease with drugs because Alzheimer’s Disease is the result of 37 different functions and malfunctions in the brain. Drugs are designed to handle one problem each. There is no one drug that can make up for the damage done by 37 different lifestyle issues.
That being said, a healthy lifestyle in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s is the key to enjoying good health all through your 80s, 90s, and beyond. There’s no substitute and no miracle cure that will supersede a destructive lifestyle. Unfortunately, this is the hardest thing for people to grasp.
So Simple, So Difficult
For example, I have started hundreds of patients on the 28-day cleanse to detox years of destructive food choices. We remove sugars, dairy, artificial “foods,” preservatives, and several other foods that are known to cause inflammation and disease. Some of the days even involve 24 straight hours of fasting. My hope is that, as they experience the relief from pain that accompanies clean living, they will choose to continue the healthier lifestyle on their own. But it’s not that easy. The truth is, many can’t wait to get back to the lifestyle that was making them sick in the first place.
Why would anyone do that?
Because humans gravitate toward behaviors that cause them to experience pleasure, and the very foods that cause sickness in most people are highly addictive. Which would you rather have: potato chips and candy or broccoli?
(Don’t even pretend you would choose the broccoli without some internal struggle unless you have really disciplined yourself in that way. Good for you if you have.)
Diet Choices Determine Our Future
We live in a culture that promotes eating for pleasure instead of eating for nourishment. As a result, our brains, livers, and hearts pay the price. I believe we are going to see an explosion in dementia cases over the next twenty years as the lifestyle choices we’ve made for the past 50 years manifest in our health.
I’ve said it many times, but I’ll say it again. Stay away from processed foods, soda, sugary drinks, refined sugar, white flour, all that junk. Basically, if they can keep it in a cardboard box or a plastic bag, it’s not really food. Your body will treat it as an invader. You know what I’m talking about – all that pre-processed food on the shelves in the middle of the grocery store. Sadly, hundreds of millions of people are quietly being poisoned by a food system that either doesn’t know or doesn’t care what effect it is having on people’s health.
The Danger of Hyperbolic Discounting
One of the topics I covered at the Fundamental Foods and Friends Dinner is the concept of “Hyperbolic Discounting.” It’s a psychological process that directs much of our behavior toward addictive and destructive behaviors. Basically stated, it’s why we might choose to engage in “easy” behaviors now, but pay for them later, even when we know that choosing more “difficult” behaviors now (like exercise and eating right) means reaping greater benefits later.
If you haven’t seen the videos from last Thursday, I encourage you to watch them. I had some great comments from the people who attended, and I think you will learn a lot from it. I certainly did. Too bad I can’t make a way for you to enjoy the amazing food we shared that night. Maybe it will make you decide to join us in person next month.
In the meantime, if this article was helpful to you, I would bet it is helpful to someone you know. You might be surprised at who you know that is looking for this information right now. Protecting your brain is a big deal for an increasing number of people. Please take a few seconds right now to share it on your favorite social media channel. Let’s work together to get the word out about wellness. Thank you for being my partner in this work.
“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas