The brain is considered the most complex organ of the human body, consisting of approximately 100 billion neurons and over 100 trillion connections wiring these neurons together, with information traveling around 268 million miles per hour! While the brain only takes up around 2% of the average adult's body weight, it uses 20% of our energy.
Our brain health can affect our well-being on every level. Healthy cognitive function means we can focus well, learn new skills, maintain a sharp memory, and effectively clear waste from our brain, protecting it from neurodegeneration and oxidative damage. A healthy brain also equals a better quality of life and enhanced longevity as we age.
Functional medicine and integrative nutrition teach us that all bodily systems are intricately interconnected, which means the secret to keeping your brain healthy involves taking a holistic approach. Keep reading to learn the top tips to protect and maintain your brain health for happier, healthier, and more productive days ahead.
The gut-brain health connection
Your gut is full of nerves called the enteric nervous system, often called the “second brain.” The communication between the gut and the brain is called the gut-brain axis.
The vagus nerve is one of the largest nerves connecting your gut and brain, sending signals in both directions. 
Research now shows that around 90% of the neurotransmitter known as serotonin is produced in the gut! A healthy balance of microbes heavily influences the production of these feel-good neurotransmitters. Gut microbes also produce short-chain fatty acids, which play an important role in forming the blood-brain barrier, which plays an essential role in protecting the brain from circulating toxins and bacteria while allowing nutrients to enter.  
A common gut issue known as intestinal permeability or “leaky gut” can also contribute to poor brain health. Suppose the integrity of the junctions between the cells in the gut wall breaks down. In that case, inflammatory toxins and bacteria can make their way into the bloodstream contributing to systemic inflammation, which has been linked to brain conditions like dementia, cognitive decline, depression, and even mental health conditions like schizophrenia.  
Some factors that may contribute to a leaky gut include:
- Imbalances in gut flora
- Nutrient deficiencies (particularly Zinc, Vitamin A, and Vitamin D)
- Alcohol consumption
- Gluten & processed foods
The gut-brain connection demonstrates the importance of a holistic approach to brain health that includes gut-supporting prebiotics and probiotics and stress management, alongside a gut-friendly, healthy diet rich in whole foods and low in sugar and processed ingredients.
Let’s take a look at the research-backed holistic tips for brain health
Get 7-8 hours of sleep
We all know that a lousy night’s sleep can leave us feeling unfocused and less productive than usual. But a lack of sleep also affects how the brain forms and maintains the pathways that enable you to learn and form new memories, and research also shows that lack of sleep, as well as sleep apnea, may increase the risk of dementia. 
Amazingly, while you sleep, your body also clears out harmful toxins and waste materials from the brain using what’s known as the “glymphatic system.” 
Exercise regularly and get your blood flowing!
According to the American Heart Association, over 100 million Americans suffer from high blood pressure. How is this relevant, you may ask? High blood pressure is a potential risk factor for the development of cognitive impairment.
The good news is that regular physical activity has been shown to lower blood pressure, which protects against cardiovascular disease and may reduce the risk of developing cognitive impairment. 
Research also shows that physical activity may also help to reduce brain aging and the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s that can lead to debilitating memory loss over time.  
Not to mention, endorphins released during exercise can improve mood and also may enhance concentration/focus, and research even shows that people who exercise regularly have greater brain volume! 
What is the best type of exercise for brain health?
Aerobic exercise like brisk walking, jogging, and dancing appears to be the most effective form of exercise to keep the brain healthy since it boosts cerebral blood flow. 
Focus on targeted nutrition
Omega 3 fatty acid
The brain uses healthy fats like omega-3 to build nerve cells and promote anti-inflammatory pathways. While studies are conflicting, some research shows that omega 3 may support those with cognitive decline and lower blood pressure. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include chia seeds, seaweed, flax, hemp seeds, walnuts, and oily fish.   
Antioxidants to the rescue
Increasing your intake of antioxidants can assist with protecting the brain from damaging free radicals. You see, the brain is very susceptible to oxidative stress due to its high metabolic activity and demand for oxygen. The most antioxidant-rich foods to look out for to incorporate into a brain-healthy diet include cacao, nuts, seeds, brightly colored berries, green tea, leafy greens, and turmeric. 
Over 40% of the US population is thought to be deficient in Vitamin D. 
Recently, studies have confirmed a connection between Vitamin D deficiency and cognitive impairment. This makes sense since Vitamin D receptors are widespread throughout the brain tissue, with Vitamin D3 showing neuroprotective effects and an essential role in early life neurodevelopment. 
One of these neuroprotective mechanisms includes the clearance of beta-amyloid plaques from the brain, a hallmark feature of Alzheimers disease. 
Research also shows an important link between low Vitamin D levels and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. 
What makes our AdaptoZen D3 + K2 drops the best option to optimize Vitamin D levels?
- It contains bioactive D3, which is around 87% more effective at raising Vitamin D levels than D2. 
- It’s already in a fat-soluble base for maximum absorption.
- K2 helps to direct calcium into the bones and teeth and away from soft tissues. 
Try a nootropic supplement
What is a nootropic?
Nootropic supplements are natural compounds that may prevent mental decline and support healthy brain functions such as memory, focus, creativity, mental clarity, and overall cognitive health. Examples include:
Mushrooms can act as potent nootropics and are a nutrient powerhouse, rich in prebiotic fiber, antioxidants, polysaccharides, vitamins, and minerals.
Mushrooms naturally support better brain health through their antioxidant/anti-inflammatory properties while also helping to promote a balanced gut microbiome for a healthy gut-brain axis.
Lion’s Mane is a brain-boosting neuroprotective mushroom that supports memory and the healthy balance of microbes in the digestive tract. For example, a randomized controlled trial examined the effects of lion’s mane mushroom on brain health in older adults with mild cognitive decline. The lion’s mane group showed significantly increased scores on the cognitive performance scale compared with the placebo group. 
Reishi has been used traditionally for centuries in Asia to promote overall wellness, longevity, healthy aging, and immunity. A clinical trial in healthy adults found that reishi supplementation significantly enhanced the activity of antioxidant enzymes while reducing biomarkers of oxidative stress. These results indicate that reishi’s antioxidant benefits may offer neuroprotection. 
Turkey Tail contains a unique polysaccharide that helps to regulate the immune system. 
Shiitake is a good source of prebiotic fiber and minerals, which play an essential role in gut health, brain function, and immunity.
Add super seaweeds to your diet
Irish sea moss and bladderwrack are rich in fucoxanthin - an antioxidant phytochemical that has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier in animal research and may help reduce inflammation in brain cells! 
Seaweed is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which the brain uses to build nerve cells and promote anti-inflammatory pathways. 
Some preliminary research suggests that Irish sea moss may help protect brain tissue from degeneration resulting from its antioxidant mechanisms. 
Suboptimal thyroid function has been associated with brain fog, memory problems, decreased attention and concentration, low mental energy, and low mood. Since seaweed provides an abundant iodine source, it may help alleviate these symptoms by naturally supporting thyroid health. 
Here’s a quick summary of what you’ve learned today:
- Brain health is closely interlinked with nutritional status, gut health, thyroid function, and sleep.
- Supporting the gut microbiome can positively influence the production of feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin.
- Getting enough sleep is not only essential for mental focus and memory but helps to keep the brain healthy by clearing waste through the glymphatic system, which may reduce your risk of cognitive decline.
- Including omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidant-rich foods is an essential piece of the puzzle in helping to protect the brain against inflammation and age-related cognitive decline.
- Mushrooms like Lion’s Mane can provide neuroprotective and memory-enhancing properties alongside prebiotic fibers for a diverse gut microbiome.
- Seaweed may help to protect the brain from oxidative stress while also boosting cognitive function via thyroid-supporting mechanisms.
Note: This article is for informational purposes only and not intended for use as medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any dietary supplement.