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Balancing Brain Power for Maximum Productivity | Vermeire Consulting


Here’s an article ​from Vermeire Consulting Balance and Power, about maximizing
brain performance and productivity

Have you ever wanted to get something done but didn’t have the mental energy or clarity to do so?  Have you ever struggled with shutting down your mind at night in order to get a restful sleep?  Have you ever found yourself reaching for your fourth cup of coffee at 3 pm to power through the rest of your work day?  Or maybe find yourself laying around endlessly scrolling through Netflix because you don’t have the “get up and go” to do anything else?

If you are from this planet, you probably answered “HELLZ YEAH” to at least one of those.

In this day and age we are flooded with an endless stream of information every second of every day.  Our pleasure seeking brains cause us to be reaching for our smart phones every few minutes in case there was some crucial new grumpy cat video posted on Facebook.  Our stimulating, high speed world has given us the need to constantly be able to do more in less time and “stress” (particularly in physiologic terms) is at an all-time high.  So now we find ourselves reaching for more caffeine, energy drinks, sleep aids, and psychiatric medications as a quick fix to keep going instead of natural regulation through things like quality sleep, sunlight, fresh air, movement, natural nutrient support.  In result we set ourselves up for perpetual burnout, fatigue, and resulting health issues such as insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, adrenal dysfunction, thyroid and hormone disturbances, and many, many more.

So now that we’ve identified the gargantuan problem, what do we do to break the cycle?

I’m a strong believer in that it all starts in the brain.  A complete approach to health and wellness absolutely needs to address neurological function through psychological and lifestyle strategies, as well as nutritional support.  “Positive thinking” practices probably won’t overcome severe nutritional deficiencies and likewise supporting your brain chemistry through nutrition won’t over power a lack of stress management.

Our bodies are programmed to have many mechanisms of “checks and balances” in order to drive us towards survival.  We are wired to bounce from a parasympathetic “rest and digest” state to a sympathetic “fight or flight” at any moment if need be.  These biorhythms ensure we are prepared for whatever activity is necessary to our well-being: fighting off a predator, scavenging for food, sleeping to recharge, digesting to refuel etc.

By understanding some of these mechanisms, we can regain control of our neurological function to optimize our mental clarity, energy, mood, satisfaction, cravings, productivity and more!

For the sake of this article we will focus on sleep patterns, light stimulation, and food choices for optimizing brain function.

Light Stimulation and Sleep Routine:

Our eyes perceive electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength of 380-760 nanometers as “visible light”.  It is this light that sets our circadian rhythms and onsets the chemical cascade in the brain to ultimately prepare you for a restful night of sleep, or heighten senses to begin our day of “hunting and gathering”.  Common sense would then tell you that controlling your exposure to light and optimizing sleep patterns are the first steps towards gaining control of your brain.

Recommendations:

  • Increase exposure to bright light in the morning to halt melatonin production and stimulate the release of excitatory, energy promoting neurotransmitters.
  • Sunlight is obviously ideal, but as the day shortens in winter months light therapy devices can be a possible alternative.
  • A mid-afternoon stroll outside on a sunny day is an easy way to take a break from the office to boost neurological function instead of reaching for the extra coffee.
  • Reduce exposure to bright lights 1-2 hours before bedtime to allow the conversion of serotonin to melatonin to ease you into a rested state for sleep.

Nutritional Choices:

Protein and its constituent amino acids not only provide the building blocks for muscle tissue, but they also form to create your neurotransmitters.  With that in mind we can now see how controlling protein intake can optimize brain hormone levels throughout the day.  Now the catch is that amino acids compete with one another for entry into the brain.  Your blood levels of the different amino acids will thus dictate your brain levels of the different neurotransmitters.  In the morning we might want more dopamine and norepinephrine which are associated with motivation, focus, mental clarity and energy.  L-Tyrosine is the amino acid responsible for the production of these neuro-hormones.  On the opposite side of the day we would want more serotonin and GABA to promote a calm and relaxed state to unwind from the day and ease into a restful night of sleep.  L-Tryptophan and L-Glutamine are the aminos responsible for those neurotransmitters.

Recommendations:

  • Eat a protein rich, low carb breakfast to supply adequate aminos for stimulating neurotransmitters to start the day.
  • If possible, try having some dark green cruciferous veggies early in the day as they supply the vitamins (folates) necessary for converting these amino acids into the specific neurotransmitters.
  • Different meats can be both a great supply of specific amino acids (tyrosine, tryptophan etc.) and also supply vitamin B12, another necessary co-factor for neurotransmission metabolism.
  • I understand meat and veggies isn’t always a realistic or appetizing breakfast, and certainly most people should probably be taking a high quality multi vitamin anyways.  Products such as this AM/PM formulation are designed to supply different quantities of vitamins minerals at different times of day for such biochemical reactions.
  • The popular method of eating multiple protein containing meals throughout the day can give your body a steady stream of amino acids for various functions including neurotransmitter synthesis.
  •  You may want to avoid carbs pre-workout to enhance motivation and focus.  However during the workout sipping on BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids) can ward off fatiguing brain chemicals by competing for entry into the brain.  This, on top of muscle protein synthesis (muscle repair) benefits are a prime reason why BCAA’s are so popular to drink intra workout, or throughout the day as needed.
  • Insulin obviously lowers blood sugar whereas our “stress” or excitatory hormones (dopamine, epinephrine, cortisol) for the most part, raise blood sugar.  So controlling amino acid supply AND insulin levels will determine what gets into the brain, and what needs to be produced.  If you need more stimulation at a certain point of the day, perhaps avoid the higher carb foods.  If you need more relaxation, a heavier carb meal could qualm that stimulation by directing most aminos to muscle tissue while allowing albumin bound tryptophan a straight shot at the blood brain barrier.  If you tend to be wired at bed, try saving some of your carb intake for your last meal of the day.

Neurochemistry is a very complex topic and simply can’t be summarized within one article.  With that said, we have more power over our body’s biochemistry than most of us realize.  You don’t need to be a scientist to implement basic strategies to optimize how you feel throughout the day.  The first step is developing the awareness to monitor subtle changes in your body and recognize the “biofeedback” to make adjustments as needed.

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Overworked and Overwhelmed: 27 Things Moms Need to Know

  1. Understand why your lack of sleep is making you gain weight.  Sleep deprivation will make you eat more and burn less.  Your female hormones, thyroid, and stress hormones all change for the worse to slow your metabolism when you are not sleeping.  Click Here
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  2. Why mom is stressed:  This is one of my favorite posts to share with your husband.  She is so right!  This is one of the reasons we are so stressed!! Click Here.
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  3. Mommy Brain:  Did you know that lower progesterone after birth actually causes the learning center of your brain to shrink?  You also have changes in the part that processes emotions.  This can really change the way your brain works!  Learn one way to deal with mommy brain without meds or any outside cost: Click Heremom's-brain-out-of-order
  4. Brain Power:  There are 5 simple things you can do at home to improve your brain function that you can start today.  Read about balancing brain power with super easy lifestyle choices: Click Here
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  5. Nutrients for Stress:  In my experience, the biggest nutritional helpers for stress are vitamin C and B vitamins.  Check out this article for more info!
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  6. Lifesavers for childhood illness:  Dr. Johnson summarizes years of experience as a doc and a mom to give you safe easy ways to keep kids healthy at home.  Click Here

  7. Insomnia and hormones:  The hormone that is making you wake up (sleep and progesterone) Click Here
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  8. Chemical exposure in the home:  The free thing you can do right this minute to greatly reduce the toxins coming into your house. Click Here
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  9. 3 crucial reasons people eat too much:  Your overeating—what is happening and why?  It doesn’t matter how good your dietary program is if you can’t follow it!  Click Here

  10. Thyroid:  what you need to know.  We all know that thyroid causes weight gain, but so do a lot of things.  I ask a ton of questions to assess thyroid weight gain vs. other reasons.  Here are some of the things I am looking for:  Click Here
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  11. Fast super easy meals:  Here are some super simple 5 ingredient crockpot meals that are gluten free, dairy free, and sugar free.  I love easy!  Enjoy! Click Here
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  12. Tricks for raising a picky eater.  I love these ideas!  With picky babies, I always liked to do “bubbles for bites”.  It made meals fun and easier. Click Here
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  13. Why you should do a 21 day sugar detox  Click Here21-day-sugar-detox
  14. Stress related weight gain:  In my experience, people who carry blood type A seem to be more susceptible to stress related weight gain.  Click Here
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  15. When people tell you to stop caring about what others think, this is why that’s stupid.   Don’t let anyone beat you up because you are woman who cares what other people think sometimes.  Most of us care about how people view us as mothers, wives, friends, neighbors, and even strangers.  You know who doesn’t?  People with personality disorders, spectrum disorders, and other serious problems.  So don’t feel bad because you care!  Just find balance.  Check out this point of view too:
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  16. Cereal is not a good breakfast.  If you only want to change one thing about your diet, please start here.  Eggs are good, steel cut oats with nuts can be good, but no cereal! Click Here
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  17. Your difficult child:  Your kid’s most difficult qualities right now may be their best assets later.   I  often see kids with weaknesses that could become strengths in adulthood! Click Here
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  18. Cheap and easy whole foods for people who can’t afford all organic foods.  Click Here
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  19. Connecting with your school age kids:  I walk my boys to school every day, and I try to make conversation fun and light.  I love these ideas for conversation starters.  Sometimes it is easy to ask the same old boring stuff. Click Here
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  20. Tantrum Free:  Check out this excerpt from my favorite toddler book. I still use these techniques on my older kids!! Click Here
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  21. Introducing food to babies.  The easiest way to raise a good eater is to start babies with veggies! Click Here
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  22. It’s not all your fault when your kid has problems.  There are so many reasons to believe that fears and anxieties can actually be passed down generationally!  Of course our behavior influences our kids, but there may be more to it than that. Click Here
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  23. Understanding hormones and weight loss video: This one is Tina Sprinkle and I talking about weight loss and some surprising things you might not have known about diet and hormones:  Click Here
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  24. Premenstrual moodiness:  This is a huge trigger for premenstrual rage, and most of us have absolutely no idea that it matters at all!  What you can do with your lighting to change your mood. Click Herepremenstrual-moodiness
  25. Hidden Sources of Sugar: Click Here
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  26. The Science of addictive foods video: Click Here
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  27. Your average doctor doesn’t have time to talk to you about your hair loss, weight, mood, sleep, or energy level. Click Herewhat-your-doctor-doesnt-have-time-to-tell-you

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