Supporting Cognitive Health During Lockdown…
Brain fog, inability to focus and concentrate, disrupted sleep, these are some of the common concerns we are hearing about during this unprecedented lock-down. Stress can have a major impact on many aspects of our health, including immunity, digestive function and cognitive health. So what can we do to ensure we are firing on all cylinders, and supporting our mental as well as our physical health…
Sleep hygiene: Don’t compromise sleep, as this can spike our stress hormones, causing sugar cravings and low immunity. Good quality restorative sleep will give us more energy and help our overall health and mental performance. Put in place sleep hygiene techniques to ensure you are well rested. Avoid late night scrolling news or social media feeds, have a restorative magnesium bath, or meditate before bed, and use lavender drops, or a calming pillow spray for a zen night.
Meditation: Taking even 5/10 minutes out of the day for some mindfulness can have huge benefits for mental health and brain function. Yoga and meditation can help to calm your breathing and nervous system. Taking regular breaks and time away from your desk can aid mental performance too.
Diet: Ensure you are eating a well-balanced whole food diet which will give you consistent energy without any spikes in blood sugar, and make sure to avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine which can worsen anxiety. Feed your gut microbiome (known as the second brain) with feel good fermented foods. Also include plenty of brain loving omega-3 rich foods like flaxseeds, walnuts and oily fish to support cognitive health.
Exercise/Get outdoors: Exercise is a another great way of coping with stress. Getting outside will boost your serotonin levels- which is our happy hormone- helping to keep us calm and focused. Though we may be slightly limited in our daily outdoor time right now, it’s still important to get outside, and exercise in a way that makes you feel good both physically and mentally.
Herbs: Adaptogens are a group of plants which possess adaptive properties, meaning in nature they respond and adapt well to harsh conditions, and they support us in a similar way. Adaptogens help to balance, restore and protect the body, supporting our hormonal health, energy levels and immune system and can be super useful during this time. There are also some well known “nootropics”, or plants that naturally support cognitive health which can help mental functioning and performance. These are some of our current favourites for brain health:
- Lions Mane: Our favourite mushroom for brain health. Lion’s Mane has a traditional history of use by Buddhist monks to enhance brain power and heighten focus during meditation. It stimulates production of nerve growth factor (NGF) which helps to maintain the neurons, which are the brain cells responsible for helping us to process and transmit information, aiding learning and memory, as well as optimizing neurogenesis; the creation and growth of new brain cells.
- Holy Basil: An adaptogenic herb that helps to support cognitive functioning and protect the body from damage induced by stress. It helps to bring mental clarity and studies have found it decreases stress hormone levels which helps to improve cognitive functioning.
- Rhodiola: Rhodiola is one of the most powerful adaptogenic herbs and thrives under harsh conditions. It is revered for its ability to support physical and mental performance particularly when under stress. Rhodiola has an anti-fatigue effect so can help to improve mental processing and brain function.
- Green Tea: One of the oldest nootropic herbs, long utilized by Buddhist monks in the far East. Rich in antioxidants and L-Theanine which helps to promote calm and a clear mind. Helps to support learning, alertness and mental performance.
- Ashwagandha: Another adaptogen to help the body cope under stress. It has been shown to reduce levels of our stress hormone cortisol. It is useful in supporting adrenal function and addressing stress-related exhaustion, it is also called “withania somnifera” and in Latin, “somnifera” means the “sleep inducer”. Its ability to lower stress hormones can help to support regular circadian clock patterns, with cortisol decreasing naturally in the evening in preparation for deep restful sleep.
These are just a few of our favourite herbs, foods and fungi for cognitive health. We need to optimize our diet, sleep and stress management to support brain health and we can turn to these ancient herbs and foods for a little bit of extra cognitive support along the way. Now is the time to be extra kind to yourself and those around you, take everything day by day and remember it’s OK to feel however you are feeling.
At Living Nutrition we have formulated our kefir-kombucha fermented Cognitive blend combining some of our favourite herbs mentioned above including Lions Mane mushroom, Holy Basil, and Green Tea, to offer the best herbal support for brain health. We also have our adaptogenic Rhodiola, Ashwagandha and Holy Basil Alive fermented supplements which support the body’s ability to manage stress and anxiety.