May 28, 2024

ALCOHOL? A NEURO NO-GO

But These Brain-Boosting Go-To’s Get Two Thumbs Up

By Carmen Greger

The marvel that is the human brain continues to fascinate the scientific community, and more importantly, the ways we can nurture and heal it. For individuals with neurological diseases or injuries, every action carries weight, especially when it concerns introducing substances like alcohol to their systems.

In this article, we will venture into the myriad reasons why consuming alcohol may not be in the best interest of these individuals. So, sit tight and get ready for a heady mix of facts, quotes, and sound advice!

The Delicate Dance of Synapses & Neurons

“A little alcohol now and then won’t harm,” one might think. However, when we delve deep into the neural pathways, synapses, and brain cells, the story tends to lean the other way.

Neurological Diseases & Alcohol’s Impact

Alcohol has a depressant effect on the system, meaning it slows down the brain’s functions. For someone with a neurological disease or injury, the introduction of alcohol could mean an even more disrupted function of their synapses and neurons. Disrupted neural pathways can exacerbate cognitive, motor, and sensory deficiencies.

The great Carl Sagan once said, “The brain is like a muscle. When it’s in use, we feel very good.” Alcohol could reduce this “use,” causing brain cells to work less efficiently.

Actual Damage to Brain Cells

Research has shown that excessive alcohol consumption can cause brain damage, including the death of brain cells. For individuals already grappling with neurological concerns, adding alcohol to the mix could magnify this damage exponentially.

Alternative Routes to Brain Health

Fear not, for every challenge presents an opportunity to embrace a better, healthier lifestyle. Let’s explore some brain-nourishing foods, activities, and other supportive measures:

Foods for Thought:

  • Walnuts: These resemble tiny brains for a reason! Rich in DHA, a type of Omega-3 fatty acid, they support brain function and delay age-related cognitive decline.
  • Mackerel: A powerhouse of Omega-3s, which can reduce brain inflammation and improve the health of brain cells.
  • Pumpkin Seeds: Contain Magnesium, Copper, Zinc and Iron, all positively impactful on neurological function.
  • Miso: Fermented foods like miso offer gut benefits, and a healthy gut often equates to a healthy mind.
  • Mushrooms:
  • Broccoli: Contains photo-compounds and Vitamin K, which can help to enhance memory and cognitive function.
  • Green Tea: Contains antioxidants and a chemical called EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) which prevents cell damage.
  • Eggs: Contain Choline and B vitamins for enhanced mood and brain function.
  • Blueberries: Contain anitoxidants and may improve memory.
  • Turmeric: Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and enhances the growth hormone that aids in brain cell development.
  • Oranges: Contain Vitamin C which protects brain from free radical damage.

Brain-Boosting Exercises:

  • Cardiovascular Exercise: Getting the heart pumping is known to enhance cognitive function and increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein vital for brain health.
  • Balancing on One Foot: A simple but effective exercise to enhance concentration and mind/body integration.
  • Counting Backwards from 100 by 7s: A mental agility exercise that provides a quick brain workout.
  • Recalling Lists: Memorize a list of 10 items and try to recall them after 10 minutes.
  • Playing Memory Card Games: Boosts memory and attention.
  • Visual ‘Walking’: Picture the exact roads you would need to take to get to a given place and notice the details as you ‘walk’ visually through the specific directions to get to your desired destination. Take a memory stroll as you visualize all of the details of your childhood home. Notice the rooms, the wallpaper, the staircases, focus on recalling specific details; tap into all of your senses during this visualization.
  • Mindfulness Walking: Paying attention to each step and its sensation. A double benefit of physical and mental exercise.
  • Breathing Exercises: Focusing on deep breathing for 10 minutes sharpens attention and calms the mind.

Engage the Mind:

  • Word Searches and Crossword Puzzles: Not just pastimes, these are like a gym workout for your brain.
  • Bridge and Chess: Strategic games enhance problem-solving skills and critical thinking.
  • Speech Therapy: Can aid individuals in relearning communication skills.
  • Meditation and Yoga: Not only calming, but they also promote neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to form new connections.

Remember, hydration is key! Our brains are about 75% water, so staying hydrated helps cognitive function and supports overall brain health.

Eleanor Roosevelt astutely said, “With every new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” Instead of turning to alcohol, channeling energies into activities and diets that fortify brain health can pave the way for a brighter, healthier future.

For those eager to dive deeper into nurturing their brain health, organizations like the Brain Injury Association of America and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke offer resources and research updates.

With the intricate and meticulous mingling of neurons and synapses, individuals with neurological diseases or injuries need to make informed choices. Alcohol, with its potential to harm, might be a melody best left unsung.

Instead, harmonize with activities, diets, and lifestyles that not only protect but also rejuvenate the precious neural pathways. Cheers to a healthier, alcohol-free, brain-protecting joyous journey through the rest of your life!