After 40, things seem to derail. Our memory shrinks as our waistline expands, our motivation and focus are fading away and depression and anxiety start to kick in.
So it’s time to get brainy. Because our brain doesn’t function alone. It is intricately connected to the rest of our body and it needs support.
Did you know there is a deep connection between your gut and your brain? Did you know your blood sugar and your brain work together? Did you know your brain needs quality sleep? And above those, there are profound implications of your food choices on your brain. Implications that are short or long-term lived.
What you eat and drink, how much you exercise, how well you sleep, the way you socialize and how your manage stress is all critically important to your brain health.
So it’s time to become the boss of your brain!
The purpose to age gracefully, “clear-mindedly” and happily is to nurture your brain every day! You’ve got the power to unlock your brain’s potential at any age. Because your brain is dynamic, adaptable, and repairable.
So today, let’s talk about your brain health as the seat of your emotional health and happiness. Because happiness happens in the brain. So we need to detour through one specific neurotransmitter – the brain chemical that produces happy feelings, promotes relaxation and increases our resilience to stress. This brilliant brain chemical is serotonin.
Serotonin is your “feel good” chemical. It helps quieten your brain and creates this peaceful, relaxed feeling.
The trick is that we want more of this brain chemical to feel good. And we often look for a quick and easy way to get there. And that’s how one of the substances most commonly abused for this quick fix is sugar! Because when your blood sugar spike after eating sugar, the absorption of tryptophan, an essential amino acid needed for serotonin production, is accelerated. And then, tryptophan, with vitamin B6 and magnesium, is converted to serotonin. More serotonin is made available and you feel so good (your brain loves it) … for a time.
BUT the problem with sugar highs is that they keep your insulin levels high, which can lead to insulin resistance, from hypoglycaemia to diabetes. And sugar highs promote inflammation and yeast overgrowth, which lead to common chronic diseases we see after 40.
AND there is a domino effect. The more we rely on sugar to feel happy, the more we crave sugar to continue feeling happy and this may lead to sugar addiction. Over time, the serotonin machinery derails and you are left with carb-craving and unhappiness.
HOWEVER, you can find happiness without sugar. There are plenty of ways to increase this terrific neurotransmitter without turning to cupcakes and candy.
Here are a few tricks to increase your “feel good” neurotransmitter serotonin without falling into the sugar trap:
1- Nourish your body so you maintain your blood sugar levels – check you start your day with healthy fat and a good source of protein and ensure your lunch is balanced and nourishing
2- Add tryptophan-rich foods to your diet – start to think about turkey meat, eggs, mushrooms, spinach, lamb, liver ( check my grandma recipe) and pumpkin seeds as well as cheese in moderation.
3- Ensure you get enough magnesium and vitamin B6 in your diet – think about fish, seeds, spinach and bananas.
4- Practice mindful eating and chew well. Finding the pleasure in each bite as well as all mindfulness practices boosts your self-confidence and your ability to cope with stress.
What you have to remember is that your brain does not like your blood sugar to roller coaster but still needs quality carbohydrates found in vegetables and low glycaemic fruit. That’s where the Paleo-Mediterranean diet comes into play. If you know me, you know I often advocate this diet for women over 40. The Paleo-Mediterranean diet is more than food, it is a way of life. It includes mindfulness and movement, which both promote your feel-good hormone serotonin.