Here are 12 Brain Body Tips extracted from Dr. Sara's Interview on the Today Show.
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1. Do you think that the brain-body connection / brain-body health is the key to health and wellness?
Absolutely, but I learned it the hard way.
Most of us don’t really pay attention to our brain-body connection. Yet your brain controls every aspect of your body, health, daily functions, and relationships. When one of these areas breaks down, your brain does, too—and vice versa. If you’re one of the hundred million women who suffer from foggy thinking, anxiety, depression, addictive tendencies, forgetfulness, overwhelm, exhaustion, and other seemingly brain-related problems, then this connection is the key to your future health, particularly the gut-brain pathway. If you’re one of the half billion women with an inflammatory issue that puts you at risk for one of these conditions—and stubborn weight gain—then brain-body health is your most important concern.
Remember: the instruction is bidirectional. My model of health in Brain Body Diet demonstrates a vitally important insight about the interconnectedness between brain and body: you can’t have a healthy brain if your body is out of whack, and you can’t have a healthy body if your brain is out of whack. The brain is the ultimate output center for all efforts of the body.
There is an interdependent relationship between the brain and the body, mutually dependent and mutually supporting. Understanding the brain body connection holds the key to reversing many chronic symptoms that you may feel you simply have had to live with.
2. How important is it to reduce inflammation in the brain and body?
Inflammation arises as a result of the stresses and environmental toxins of modern life. Think of inflammation as an ugly low-level burn that’s quietly robbing you of brain cells and the connections between them, making you fat, tired, and dim. You may experience symptoms of inflammation first in your gut and then your brain or the other way around.
The classic gut symptoms are gas, bloating, loose stool, gluten, dairy sensitivity, acid reflux, and difficulty losing weight. Feeling swollen or puffy, brain fog, anxiety, moodiness, and early memory loss (short-term memory first) are additional indicators of inflammation, which usually can be traced back to the gut.
Having a healthy brain body means you are clear of the inflammation that causes brain/body breakdown.
3. What does reducing inflammation in brain and body do for your overall health - short & long term?
In the short-term, reducing inflammation will improve the common symptoms, often gut-related ones such as gas, bloating, loose stool, gluten, dairy sensitivity, acid reflux, and difficulty losing weight. That swollen or puffy feeling will go away. You will also notice an improvement in your mood: feeling less anxious or stressed or have more mental clarity.
Long term, the benefits can be hard to quantify because we only notice them as we get older. The benefits include reduced neuroinflammation (brain inflammation), which translates into less depression, anxiety, memory loss, and less degenerative disease, such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
4. Can you succinctly and in layman's terms describe what "brain trash" is and why we should be trying to clear it out?
Brain trash is invisible toxic brain damage.
Not the major brain damage that we think of when we hear of a traumatic head injury, but the slow, low-level burn from brain inflammation--examples of environmental toxins include bisphenol A, alcohol, lead, and mercury. Brain trash is the insidious damage to our gray matter, which usually occurs below the radar. It is neuroinflammation. The main causes are weak DNA-repairing genes and habits (e.g., drinking too much alcohol), marginal stress-coping habits, poor toxin-coping habits.
Our goal in clearing out the brain trash is to prevent or reverse brain-related neuroinflammation and degenerative diseases, such as memory loss, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis.
5. How do you describe (again succinctly/layman's/tv friendly) what amyloid beta is?
& 6. What association is there with amyloid beta & Alzheimer's disease?
Amyloid beta is a toxin that accumulates in the brain that is believed to be involved in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. The body has its own natural ability to fight toxins that build up in the body. However, when the body is constantly trying to defend itself against the daily onslaught of stresses and environmental toxins of modern life, these toxin fighters are overwhelmed.
This is what happens in the case of amyloid beta. Our body cleans up this brain toxin with an enzyme called insulin-degrading enzyme. This is the exact same enzyme or substance that the body uses to process insulin after it is used. Here’s the problem: this enzyme can’t do both jobs at once. If the enzyme is busy breaking down insulin because your blood sugar is too high —thereby cranking out the insulin to try to drive the blood glucose into cells—your insulin-degrading enzyme won’t be free to break down amyloid beta.
And so the brain trash accumulates. The sticky amyloid beta builds up just like plaque in your arteries or on your teeth. This plaque in your brain is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
When amyloid beta builds up beyond a certain point, it becomes toxic to nerve cells, destroys synapses (the connections between nerve cells), and promotes brain inflammation, which then promotes more toxic amyloid beta accumulation. High blood sugar and amyloid beta accumulation become a vicious cycle you want to avoid—unless you prefer to lose your marbles as you age!
7. Describe what insulin is (it's considered a hormone), what role/function it plays in the body/your health and why you think it's so important to regulate it?
Insulin is the hormone that regulates how your body uses fuel from your food. Insulin directs your muscle, liver and fat cells to remove glucose from your blood and store it. It is the key to open the door of the cells. When insulin knocks on the door, the cells allow the glucose in. However, when your blood sugar is consistently high, more and more insulin is needed to knock on the door. The cells become resistant to the knock of insulin. This is what we call insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance leads to further weight gain, in particular around the midriff section. Insulin resistance also puts us at risk of prediabetes, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, including stroke. It also increases our risk of Alzheimer’s because of this amyloid beta connection.
This is the reason why I believe keeping blood sugar under control is one of the single most effective and impactful things we can do to manage our health and how we age. Its effect is wide-ranging, not just on our weight but on our heart health and blood vessels (think less stroke risk) and on our brain health (less memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s).
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8. How does stress management (or lack thereof) impact long term health?
My amygdala, the primitive part of the brain that’s constantly on the lookout for danger, is hot. I don’t clear stress well. The amygdala decodes emotions, including threat, which trips the body’s alarm circuits. It provides vigilance, which can be a good thing but not if it starts to run the show.
There are three situations that make your brain set off an alarm: social conflict, social rejection, and social isolation. When the brain perceives the potential danger of this type, it triggers the immune system to prepare for potential physical injury- which sets off a cascade of inflammation. Unfortunately, that’s a double-edged sword. Inflammation can be healing and reparative right after an injury. But if it doesn’t turn off, you get chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is bad – the fire that keeps burning past the point of utility, damaging DNA, distorting proteins, making you age way too fast. It may also lead to chronic disease—everything from stroke to cancer and depression.
Therefore, the goal is to avoid these situations that trigger the immune system to make you inflamed.
Meditation is one of the best ways to give the mind a warm bath and reset stress levels. There are so many wonderful meditation guides or apps out there to help you make meditation part of your daily routine.
9. How important is it to monitor and regulate your hormones?
Essential for women’s health. Hormones drive what you’re interested in and have thousands of jobs, big and small, in the body. Estrogen is the master regulator hormone for women and can start to get out of whack around age 35 to 40.
Unchecked, your hormones can work against you in serious ways, and contribute to the doubled risk of anxiety, depression, insomnia, and Alzheimer’s disease in women. In my opinion, when you get these hormones back on track, you can reduce your risk of debilitating disease.
For those that know me, know I am obsessed with tracking. If you can measure it, you can improve it. We are more likely to stick to our healthy lifestyle if we are tracking and getting feedback about our efforts. 50% of us use some form of tracker and in less than a decade, I predict we will all be using trackers to monitor our health.
I don’t only track my hormones, I also track my deep sleep, blood sugar, and my heart rate variability (HRV).
10. How often should women be monitoring/testing their hormones? (seems like that varies -- some weekly, some quarterly, is that correct?)
Hormones: get a baseline test of estrogen, progesterone, cortisol. Testosterone, DHEAS, thyroid, and Vitamin D.
Based on the results, I would recommend retesting every 6-12 weeks while you work to get them in the recommended ranges, using diet, exercise, lifestyle changes, supplements, and bio-identical hormone supplementation, where necessary. For my patients in hormonal balance, I check once every 6-12 months.
Do the same for your fasting and post-meal blood sugar and your HbA1c. Once you have got them within to a good range, you can continue to test your blood sugar 2-4 times per year.
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11. Do you think monitoring/regulating hormones reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease?
Probably, based on the research of hormone therapy begun before or within 5 years of menopause. The closer we are to restoring the balance between our brain and body, the more likely we are to improve our health span and longevity. However, to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease requires a multi-layered approach that includes a strategy that addresses the gut-immune-brain axis too and reduces brain trash (neuroinflammation).
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12. Do you think monitoring/regulating hormones reduces anxiety & irritability and could get rid of stubborn extra pounds?
After 25 years of taking care of women, I can answer YES.
By keeping the entire orchestra of our hormones playing in harmony, we stay within the parameters of our body’s natural state of homeostasis or balance. Our body knows how to maintain its own physical, mental and emotional health. We drive it off the road with our diet, lifestyle and environmental stressors but we can get it back on track. It is never too late to start with the way you eat, move, think, and supplement.
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