In Honor of National Alzheimer's and Brain Month
June is National Alzheimers and Brain Month. The Alzheimer's Foundation of America defines Alzheimers disease as a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain's nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory, thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes.
In honor of this National Alzheimers and Brain Month, I wanted to do a post about nutrition and mental health. This is not the first time that I have done a post on this topic. See Complex Carbohydrates, All About Hydration and Essential Fatty Acids. For this post, I wanted to introduce a new concept that I have learned about: The Gut as the “Second Brain”
The Gut as the “Second Brain”
The “second brain” nickname for our gut or intestinal tract comes from the ability of the gut to produce neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters carry a signal or message from one nerve cell to another in our brains. These messages affect our entire bodies. For example, dopamine and glutamate are neurotransmitters. Dopamine regulates mood, blood pressure and activates pleasure and reward sensations. Glutamate promotes learning and memory. Alzheimer’s disease has been associated with excessive glutamate production.
Consuming healthy bacteria found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir and Kombucha can help to balance our “second brain” and help regulate neurotransmitter production. Such healthy bacteria may help lower the stress response by stimulating production of the neurotransmitter GABA. GABA production promotes relaxation and lowers the stress response.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are also important to protect brain health. See my Essential Fatty Acids post for more information!
The Alzheimer's Association offers 10 Ways to Love Your Brain to help prevent cognitive decline and 10 Early Signs of Alzheimer's among many other resources on their website. Living and health live style and early detection are very important to preventing and improving the prognosis of Alzheimer's disease.
As we enjoy the commencement of the summer season, lets also honor individuals and families affected by Alzheimer's disease. Show your support by wearing purple and using the hashtag #endalz. You can also check out alz.org for more ways to get involved!