Sunday, October 7, 2007

Brain and Memory Food

As one ages, the brain and memory seem to deteriorate (for various reasons), which is not a terribly comforting thought for those of us who rely on our memories for our income. As an actress, one needs to have a sharp memory and ability to focus, but I've found that those abilities have suffered in recent years. This makes my work doubly challenging and painful.

I started to notice a problem with the onset of my Rheumatoid Arthritis. So, I'm not sure if the R.A. is a factor, or whether it's just age, or perhaps a combination of both, but it is not very pleasant. I have found it much harder to memorize and focus, so I decided to do some research into foods and supplements that might aid in sharpening those skills. I found some interesting information on askmen.com. Yes, it's for men, but the information is, I'm sure, pertinent for both sexes.

It lists the following foods and herbs as useful for boosting brainpower:

Eggs: The brain needs protein and Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) and eggs provide plenty of that.

Oily Fish: This is another wonderful source of protein, and EFAs in the form of Omega 3s. "Oily varieties of fish -- such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and herring -- are high in the EFAs known as omega-3 fatty acids. These good fats are crucial components of our brain cells and improve learning powers and memory."

Soy: This is a good alternative for vegetarians. Full of protein, which ""triggers neurotransmitters associated with memory." Soy is "also valuable for improving verbal and non-verbal memory, as well as mental flexibility."

Gingko Biloba: Takes a few weeks to kick in, but is one of the most popular.

Green and Black Tea: I don't use caffeine so I will not try this, but they claim that it has a positive affect on Alzheimer's Disease. That it somehow seems to "prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a key chemical involved in memory that is lacking in Alzheimer's patients." Green tea seems to function better than black tea, however.

Sage: Apparently, sage might increase acetylcholine in the brain; and various studies have shown that the people who took sage did far better on word recall tests than those who didn't.

Rosemary: Is also helpful. It has also been shown to "strengthen mental clarity and alleviate mental fatigue. Studies have shown that rosemary enhanced subjects' long-term memory by around 15%."

B Vitamins: Vitamin B is a factor in brain power and a deficiency prevents acetylcholine from doing its thing. Both physical and mental stress depletes the body of Vitamin B, so it is highly recommended during periods of stress; which of course, is essential for those of us in the entertainment field. Performing can be both physically and mentally stressful, and the rehearsal period is as highly stressful as the actual performing, so needless to say, I do take a Vitamin B Complex. "B vitamins also carry oxygen to the brain and do away with damaging free radicals; this helps to enhance memory and sharpen the senses. You can either take a supplement or increase your consumption of vitamin B-rich foods, including liver, eggs, lentils, soybeans, and green beans."

Iron: Iron deficiency can be the source of many troubles, including fatigue and mental acuity problems. "Iron helps carry oxygen to the brain, and the lack of oxygen associated with iron deficiency can cause brain cell activity to slow down significantly." I have slight anemia, so I am on Iron supplements, but it can also be toxic, so check with your Doctor before you start taking supplements or increasing your iron intake. You can get your Iron from either Iron-rich foods or supplements. I tried with foods, at first, but it wasn't helpful so I switched to a supplement. They say that Vitamin C is important in aiding Iron absorption, so I take my pill with a glass of orange juice.

Water: I had no idea that dehydration was a factor in memory problems! But according to the article on askmen.com the brain is "70% water, this essential fluid is vital for your memory. In fact, water accelerates the functioning of the brain as a whole, and when it is dehydrated, it works at a slower pace. This is particularly true when it comes to memory; a dehydrated brain releases the hormone cortisol, which adversely affects the brain's capacity to store information and create memory.In addition, cortisol causes adrenalin to be released, which prompts the brain to function in a more primary, instinctive way; this also affects our mental functions and memory."

I know I don't drink enough water, so this was wonderful news. I'm going to substantially increase the amount of water I drink daily, and I'm going right now to the health food store to buy some sage and rosemary. I am about to open a show, and I have extreme brain fatigue. I normally buy all my supplements through vitacost.com (see their link on the side-bar) because the prices are so much cheaper, but I need this now. So, off I go. I will let everyone know if it actually works.


UPDATE:

It seems to have worked. I put the sage and rosemary on veggies, and made an infusion of the herbs and added it to my Sleepytime tea. I drank that twice a day. I also purchased a little bottle of aromatherapy specifically for Clarity and focus, and I got through opening week!

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