How Does Hydration & Nutrition Affect Brain Function And Mood?
In our lifetime, we will all experience episodes of poor physical health, whether it be the flu, an injury, food allergies, weight fluctuations or even the diagnosis of a disease. We accept that our body can have physical health challenges but what about the times in which we experience episodes of or an extended period of sub-optimal brain function, low mood, anxiety and stress and how can we best support the essential mind body connection?
Let’s first look at some of the diets that are supporting brain function and regulation of mood, stress and anxiety.
Burning Fat Increases Mental Sharpness and Energy
Leading edge nutritional research conducted by Dr Joseph Mercola published in his book Fat for Fuel brings into focus the revolutionary dietary approach and strategies to boost brain power, increase energy and even combat cancer; core to his findings are powerful strategies for nurturing and repairing mitochondria (the powerhouse inside our cells).
By shifting our metabolism from burning glucose to fat by replacing carbohydrates with healthy fats the potential benefits include: feeling sharper mentally, more energy and stamina whilst optimising mitochondrial functioning.
According to Dr Joseph Mercola by consuming a diet high in healthy fats (see below), moderate protein and low carbohydrates this can boost your mitochondrial health which in turn can reduce the risk of damage to your DNA and cells that can lead to disease.
The Mediterranean lifestyle – assisting brain function
The Mediterranean lifestyle, known for its nutritional balance is a protective factor in the maintenance of brain function and mood. The Mediterranean diet emphasises primarily eating plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts, using healthy fats such as olive oil, cold pressed coconut oil, herbs and spices instead of salt and in a general sense enjoying meals in a social setting. Dr Damian Kristof – Nutritionist, Naturopath, Chiropractor & zazen Water Partner recommends this diet (to read his republished blog on our web site with an introduction by us click here).
How does nutrition affect the brain?
Microbes in the gut manufacture our brains most important chemicals known as neurotransmitters within the gastrointestinal tract – up to 90% of them in fact!
Neurotransmitters that support brain function and mood require adequate amounts of amino acids, minerals and B vitamins which can be found in foods such as: eggs, grains, leafy green vegetables, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, fish, and poultry. Healthy oils such as coconut, olive and flax seed also support the above. All of these are contained within the Mediterranean diet.
So we see that nutrition activates signal pathways in the gut that support brain function and the quality of the foods and liquids we choose to eat and drink become critical to improved brain function.
All of this regulates our appetite, the energy we use, our ability to focus and think clearly, our moods and also our sleep. With all this in mind, paying attention to what we are eating and drinking on a daily basis is very important and can assist in preserving the mind body link for a healthy mind and body.
What about water? Your body’s foundation nutrient
Fueling our bodies well is important, however what about the water we drink and its purpose as a foundational nutrient in the body?... Our bodies are 75% water and our brains are 91%!
Have you ever found yourself reaching for food, even though it was a short time since you last ate? Are you confusing your thirst for hunger?
Did you know that if the body is dehydrated for extended lengths of time that it will loose it’s natural thirst mechanism!
- Dr Batmangheldj (Author 'Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, You’re Not Sick You’re Thirsty')
What that means is that if chronic dehydration sets in we don’t know when we are thirsty. So we think we are hungry but actually we are thirsty! So we reach for a sugary drink, coffee (caffeine hit) and processed foods most often including sweets instead a water.
Dehydration leads to headaches, mood swings, problems thinking clearly and more…
Since more than half of the human body is composed from water and 91% of our brain, every cell in our body depends on it, which means dehydration has the ability to rapidly compromise how we think, behave, perform and feel. With just a 1% drop below optimal hydration, this can take a toll on your brain health, affecting your mood, cause headaches and if you already suffer from anxiety and stress, getting even a little dehydrated can cause feelings akin to panic, dry mouth and flushing.
Did you know?
- The brain when dehydrated actually shrinks in volume. (This shrinking is what causes a dehydration headache.)
- Mild dehydration can occur even during the course of ordinary activities and interfere with daily activities – such as feeling fatigued, foggy thinking and poor concentration.
- Significant effects of dehydration can impact your mood and alter brain function causing mood swings, increased tension or even anxiety.
The great news -Within minutes of drinking a high quality hydrating water many of these effects are reversed and dehydration induced headaches are rapidly alleviated.
How to preserve and support your brain function for peak performance
Eating well to support and fuel your body is imperative, but even more essential is remembering to stay hydrated. Drinking zazen Water ensures that you are being hydrated at a cellular level, whenever I go anywhere I always ensure that I have at least over a litre with me and a healthy snack, this allows me to avoid feeling “hangry” and potentially making a poor food choice and keeps me feeling positive and energetic.
Plan ahead especially with the coming summer weather, as temperatures rise this increases sweating and thereby increases the chance of becoming dehydrated. Pack multiple bottles of zazen Water with you to keep you moving, thinking and feeling well.
Click here to learn how drinking zazen Alkaline Water supports healthy brain function and mood function.