I have two people in my life who recently fell and banged their heads pretty badly. The repercussions have been surprising and most unwelcome, to say the least. That, of course, got me thinking about the brain and our reliance on it to function.
I’d like to share some fascinating things about the human brain, a few ways you can take care of it and what the focus of my reflexology session is when working with folks with functional brain issues.
5 Interesting Facts About Your Brain
1. There are 100,000 miles of blood vessels in your brain, enough to wrap around the Earth four times!
2. A headache actually occurs in blood vessels around the brain, not inside the brain itself. The brain cannot feel any pain whatsoever since there are no pain receptors within it. That explains how people can be awake during brain surgery and not feel any pain. The ability to give immediate, much-needed feedback to the surgeons is essential; therefore patients must be awake and aware. That’s pretty amazing – and, I have to admit, I would prefer to be unconscious if someone’s got their hands inside my head!
3. Your brain is 60% fat, the nutrient that helps to transport water and protein through membranes to the brain cells. And that is why healthy fats are so important in the diet.
4. The brain is a greedy animal. It nabs about 20% of the energy generated by your body from the food you consume and more than 20% of the oxygen taken in; more than any other organ in the body. Greedy, yes, especially when you take into consideration that the adult brain’s weight – 3 lbs – is only 2% of the full weight of an adult. In fact, your skin weighs twice that of your brain! The brain also snatches 70% of the glucose stored in your body.
5. The brain has 100 billion neurons and one quadrillion connections – more than the Internet, and more than can be accurately counted. For you geeks out there, one quadrillion is 1,000,000,000,000,000.
Over the years, I have had the privilege of working with many people suffering from brain injuries; some from traumatic falls, others from strokes, and others that medicine just calls idiopathic (meaning they don’t know the cause). The improvements are slow and sometimes small, but they are measurable: people regaining their sense of smell or hearing of higher registers; learning to walk and or speak again; reduction in headaches; improved mood and sense of hope, to name a few.
In my work with these people, I constantly remind myself of the need to be patient, encouraging, to work slowly and with intention, and to offer stillness as opposed to ‘doing’. My sessions focus on the general brain reflexes at the tips of the toes, spinal reflexes, cerebral cortex, cerebellum and hypothalamus points.
6 Practices to Protect Your Brain
1. Eat healthy foods.
* Take a high-quality omega-3 fat supplement. (Remember #3 above?) The omega -3 fatty acids EPA and DHA keep the dopamine levels in your brain high, increase neuronal growth in the frontal cortex of your brain, and increase cerebral circulation.
* Protein is the essential item your brain requires, as well as vitamins and minerals from fruits.
* Spend time in the sun to maintain optimal vitamin D levels. Scientists realized the role vitamin D plays in the health of the brain when they discovered specific vitamin D receptors in the central nervous system. Vitamin D improves brain detoxification and is thought to provide protection from autism in infants’ young brains.
2. Exercise. Exercise encourages your brain to work at optimum capacity. If you want to change the trajectory of your life and that of your brain, then exercise. Dr. Wendy Suzuki explains how this all works in her short high-energy TED talk.
3. Get adequate sleep: eight hours/night. Sleep is not wasted downtime. Your brain is as active, and at times more active, when you are asleep than when you are awake. If you want to learn all that your busy brain is doing while you’re tucked in bed, check out Dr. Matthew Walker’s book, Why We Sleep. It’s a fascinating read. One of my top non-fiction books from 2017.
4. Turn off electronic devices such as TVs, computers and smartphones. Spend less time in front of these screens, especially a couple of hours before bed. Those blue screens have long-term effects on your brain chemistry.
5. Challenge your brain. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, board games; play an instrument; learn a new language or Tai chi. Make your brain work beyond what it does by rote each day. Studies have shown that it doesn’t even matter if you master the new activity; it’s the challenge of thinking in different ways that does the trick.
6. Avoid artificial sweeteners and additives. These chemicals have been shown to inhibit enzyme function in the brain and lead to neurodegeneration.
Those are just six easy practices that will help support your brain’s health. What other ways do you know to support your brain’s health?