We explore 3 ways to help increase brain cells

Years ago it was thought that the adult brain didn’t make anymore brain cells. We were born with  a certain amount of brain cells called neurons and as we aged they would die. That has been shown to be incorrect. We now know that we can increase brain cells and we will go through these 3 areas in detail.

That is good news for us adults.

Most of us would know people in their senior years that are bright and active and others that are forgetful, perhaps have dementia and not so active. Why are some people ageing better with their brain health and others not?

We are going to look at 3 things that we can all do to increase our brain cells, called neurogenesis. The research shows, the earlier we can start this the better. In reality the more we look after our health by doing all the right things, then our health, most times, will reward us with good health and a sense of wellbeing.

The area in the brain that is believed to make the new brain cells is called the hippocampus. This part of the brain controls memory, learning, emotions and spatial awareness. A neuroscientist by the name of Sandrine Thuret, has done lots of research in this area.

She states ..

“So collectively, now we think we have enough evidence to say that neurogenesis is a target of choice if we want to improve memory formation or mood, or even prevent the decline associated with ageing, or associated with stress.” (1)

The 3 areas we are looking at are that can increase brain cells are :- exercise,  sleep and essential fatty acids.

1. Exercise                                                                                                                                                                                     

Getting some aerobic exercise not only increases the amount of blood circulation in the brain, but it increases a product called brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF). This product is needed to make brain cells. Exercise increases the production of testosterone, which assists in further neuron production.

One study conducted in 2016 showed that people that didn’t exercise in their midlife had brains smaller than their peers twenty years later. The study started in 1948 and it showed the link between cardiovascular fitness of people in their 40’s and the size of their brain over 2 decades. Those who had poor cardiovascular fitness, high blood pressure had a smaller brain size at the end of the study. (2)

“Promotion of midlife cardiovascular fitness may be an important step towards ensuring healthy brain ageing,” the study noted.

Less excuses now when it comes to getting up and exercises now we hope!

2. Sleep.

Adequate sleep has been shown to help the brain to detox and clear the toxins or waste products that have accumulated during the day. The brain does this extraordinary thing where the brain cells shrink, letting in the cerebral spinal fluid  (CSF) that surrounds the brain. The waste is flushed out in the CSF during sleep. A neuroscientist by the name of Jeff Iliff discovered this amazing function in our brains. The particular toxin in the brain that gets flushed out is amyloid-beta. If this builds up it causes plaques in-between brain cells. People with Alzhiemer’s disease interestingly, are found to have many of these amyloid-beta plaques in their brain. (3)

3. Essential Fatty Acids

Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid. What that means is that our body doesn’t make it as it does cholesterol. We need to eat foods with Omega 3. The highest source of omega 3 in any food is oily fish. Currently it appears that 80% of the population are deficient in omega 3. Not good news if you are trying to make more brain cells.

The Australian Heart Foundation recommends a daily intake of 500mg of marine-sourced omega 3’s per day. Most people are lucky to get a fresh serve of fish once a week. Two to three serves of fish is required to get the recommended weekly does of omega 3.

This is what the Heart Foundation suggest: :‘Fish with the highest levels of omega-3 include salmon, blue-eye trevalla, blue mackerel, herring, canned sardines, canned salmon and some varieties of canned tuna. Other good sources of marine-sourced omega-3s include barramundi, bream, flathead, squid, scallops and mussels.’

If you haven’t been eating the recommended amount of fish for a while, then you can get your omega 3 levels tested. One such test it is called Omega-3 Index test. Supplementation may be required to bring your levels up to an ideal level. Then maintaining with 2-3 pieces of fish a week should follow.

What about vegetarians or vegans?

How do they increase their omega 3 intake. Adding flaxseeds and walnuts and their oils to your diet will help. Chia seeds do contain some omega 3. You will need to consume very high amounts of these as compared to marine foods to your diet, as their levels are considerably lower than in oily fish. There are some algae based supplements that have recently come onto the market and contain hight levels of omega 3. Metagenics have released a product for vegetarians and vegans called MetaPure Algal oil.

If you do need or wish to supplement your omega 3 then it’s very important to seek the advice of a trained naturopath or health practitioner to assist you. Many supplements on the market are not of high quality and may contain some impurities.

Other ways that may increase your brain cell numbers…(4)

  • Calorie restriction. Fasting or having periods of not snacking has been shown to have a beneficial effect on your brain health
  • Reduce sugar intake. Limiting the amount of highly processed sugar will help your brain
  • Sunshine. BDNF loves the sun. (3) Sun is required to make Vitamin D, which is then needed to make BDNF.
  • Flavonoid containing foods such as green tea and blueberries are great for neurogenesis

For information in how to exercise with lower back pain then CLICK HERE.

Find out the 5 exercises a healthy spine should be able to perform. CLICK HERE to find out more.

1.Neurogenesis – Making New Brain Cells Published by  Spinal Research at  June 8, 2016.   

2.Midlife exercise blood pressure, heart rate, and fitness relate to brain volume 2 decades later. Nicole L. Spartano, PhD, Jayandra J. Himali, PhD, Alexa S. Beiser, PhD, Gregory D. Lewis, MD, Charles DeCarli, MD, Ramachandran S. Vasan, MD and Sudha Seshadri, MD February 10, 2016, doi: http:/ / dx. doi. org/ 10. 1212/ WNL. 0000000000002415 Neurology 10.1212/WNL.0000000000002415

3. Australian Spinal Research Foundation blog ‘Sleep is Important in Detoxifying at the Brain’ May 26 2016.

4. Australian Spinal Research Foundation at  August 4, 2016 What if you could make more BDNF?


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