Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mental Gymnastics

This week a friend invited me to join her in a class at one of the Sr. facilities on Brain Wellness, presented by Roger Anunsen - what fun! This week's topic was "Antioxidents vs. Free Radicals & Omega 3 Fats: Insulating your thoughts"

Each day, with 'normal' lifestyle, we are exposed to oxidative stress, & a daily intake of naturally available antioxidents helps counter that stress. The 'target figure' is ~ 3000 Units of antioxidents on the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity - or the capacity to absorb radical oxygen) scale.
The industrial revolution brought awareness of what happens when metal is exposed to oxygen, think of an old wagon, sitting in the rain - rust = oxidation!

Remember 'eat from the rainbow?' if we do, we are well on our way to meeting our ORAC 'quota!'
Think dark, think variety, think blueberries, raspberries (above photo), black berries, plums, carrots, broccoli, bright colours, dark beans, dark juices (3 glasses of red/purple juice a week was found in the 'Seattle Longitudinal study' to provide 34% reduction in risk of cognitive decline), think spices like curry (turmeric - & often coconut milk :), chocolate, carob & cinnamon. Various nuts, inc. walnuts, hazelnuts (filberts), brazil nuts & pecans are all high in antioxidents.
Green, rooibos, honeybush & herb teas are also good sources of antioxidents. Remember that you can use all of these 'iced' as well! Over on Peppy Lady's blog, there's a link to a site on chakra foods - fun way to tap the energy of those bright foods :)

This AM I made hummus - using some of the black beans (rather than garbanzo) that I cooked in my crockpot yesterday! I love hummus, & this is yummy! The black beans have the same phytochemicals as blueberries - so do purple potatoes!

Black Bean n Basil Hummus
1/2 C Black beans, cooked (I always soak several hours & drain before cooking)
1/4-1/2 C bean liquid, as needed
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 lemon, juice
4 fresh basil leaves, sliced
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C tahini
Tbsp coconut oil
-- blend or pop into food processor - add bean liquid as needed for consistency. Use as a spread.

Roger mentioned that one gal asked the ORAC rating for prunes, as she eats one with each meal. He looked it up, 400 (each) so 3=1200, about 1/3 of her daily antioxident quota!
My mom faithfully put ~ 1/2 dozen prunes in a juice glass & covered them with water each evening, then ate them with her breakfast, & drank the juice. She was thinking of 'regularity' & perhaps potassium & vitamin A - but was getting ~ 2400 ORAC Units. She loved broccoli & carrots, & made sure we had a veggie or two with lunch & supper.
When Lois moved into Assisted Living, they struggled to find the 'right' laxative, so I suggested they bring her prune juice each AM (which was always one of the choices) - 'don't ask her which she wants, just bring it!' I knew she'd prefer the 'natural' approach, & wasn't thinking of antioxidents - but it might have helped her growing 'fuzziness' as well!!

This AM we picked berries for the granola, & Kayleen ate the black raspberries first! I planted a bush in memory of my Hospice client Roberta, who loved them, though they were rarely available from a shop. My mother-in law had a bush, so I'd pick her handfuls in season, which she relished! She also loved radishes, & I'm not sure where her housekeeper shopped, as she often 'couldn't find any.' Well, that's an easy 'fix,' if you have a garden! I'd bring her those, too!

The antioxidents are needed daily, & think of getting more if you live in the city, smoke (or live with a smoker), are a heavy drinker, or otherwise have a higher need. I think of coconut oil in this 'antioxident' category, as it's absorption doesn't produce free radicals, so it reduces oxidative stress. (it's high in Omega 6 fats, so doesn't 'help' there).
"It's never too late to build up reserves!" Alcoholics who have gone into recovery will often experience a 'neuro-outburst' of brain regeneration within a few weeks!

The Omega 3 fats are necessary several times a week - as we tend to get more Omega 6 oils, but a 1/1 balance is ideal. Walnuts provide both Omega 3 fats & antioxidents - great double purpose food! Also avacados, pecans & filberts.
Fish (salmon, trout, sardines . . . ) & flax seed are two of the best sources. Eggs & meat from free range animals are much higher in Omega 3s; as soon as you begin feeding animals grain, the ratio shifts to higher in Omega 6s.

My 'yummy sprinkles' are a great way to prepare your own flax seeds, combined (if you wish) with sesame for better antioxident absorption (Vit E) & milk thistle to help detox & build the liver. I sprinkle some on my granola most mornings, & have fresh or frozen fruit as well.

Myelin, the 'white matter' of the brain, is the insulation that surrounds the brain & nerv axions. Cognitive decline is linked to loss of myelin, or 'de-myelination. Omega 3 oils support the recovery & regrowth (re-myelination - a relatively new concept!) of the myelin! (& the MCT found in human milk & coconut are an important factor in myelination in infants.)

Think of your nerves as an electrical wire, covered in a rubber insulation - the wire is the axion, the insulation, the myelin, which wraps around the 'wire' in a spiral. Each time you recall a bit of information, you 'make' another wrap - so old memories (your first grade teacher's name: ___ your first (or early) address: ___ a grade school 'best friend':____) are easy to recall - they are more heavily 'insulated!'
-- I love this image of a spiral around the nerve - I always think of insulation, & have offered this image to clients with a nerve injury. In anatomy class, we learned that if a nerve is injured or severed, the myelin needs to be repaired first, & if that happens, the nerve can regenerate! It often takes weeks to months - to years!
One client whose toes were numb for 4 years after knee surgery had feeling return ~ 6 months after beginning to recieve bi-monthly massage! Another client (& professional musician/guitarist) asked for Reiki on his Left hand, which had been bitten by a dog the summer before. Working with the image of nerve repair from the outside in & the Reiki, he noticed significant improvement by the next week!

A memory that's recent - the name of that gal you met last week: ____ only has a thin myelin coat - so less protected. That's why a name game & repeating someone new's name several times helps you encode (& insulate) it, for easier recall - how cool!
Mental exercises increase the electrical flow, & spur myelination & growth. We played several group mind games - group activities are more potent than the same exercise done alone - socialization! (check out my 'movement is medicine post last Nov - ballroom dance offers a 76% Altzheimer's risk reduction - movement, memory, social activity!)
Go to Roger's website to order some of his memory games! When my kids were little, we'd play 'concentration' with a set of Ranger Rick cards - & one of the 4 year olds was the hands down camp at instant recall! My grandkids have several of these, one with faces of kids from around the world.

Play, enjoy, remember to eat your ANTIOXIDENTS DAILY, & OMEGA 3s 3x a week! Like Roger says, in a couple of years, I want you to remember why you're doing this!

I notice this is my 77th 'Vale' blog - one of our mind gym games was 'Think Again' We would count off, around the circle (front OR back row - ~ 12-15 people in each), & when we came to a 7 or multiple of 7, that person would say 'Think Again!' & the flow would reverse (clockwise/counterclockwise/clockwise, . . .)
Throughout the class, Roger would flash several bird pictures on the screen, & invite folks to 'name' its group (a 'shimmer' of hummingbirds was one of my favorites! Or a 'charm' of finches). At other times, he'd have us play a round of 'Think Again' (5 or 6 times in 1 1/2 hour!) He'd start with a different person each time. We got to 36 a couple of times, & 42. This was the 8th of 9 weekly classes, so the rest of the group had been playing for WEEKS, & were all 70 or older!

It's tricky - I don't readily remember my multiples of 7 above 28 - can easily calculate them - but that takes time. Roger pointed out ithat when someone doesn't come up with 'their' number within about 30 seconds, they'll lose the train! I'm dyslexic, & much prefer pattern & number games to word games if spelling is involved (love ones involving the meaning of words)

For the numbers 7, 14, 21; 28, 35, 42; 49, 56, 63; say 'Think Again! Remember to include 7, 17, 27, 37,47,57,67, & say Think Again' for them as well. (complete set: 7, 14, 17, 21, 27, 28, 35, 37. 42 47, 49, 56, 57, 63, 67; 70)
At 70, say: "I don't have to Think Again!' (or 77, since this is the 77th blog :)

27/28 & 56/57 are two 'doubles' where the flow reverses twice, (so the person who said 'T* A*' for 27 will say "29" . . . Our row got 'stuck' at 42 several times - if you say the number rather than 'Think Again,' or don't remember 'your' number when the flow reverses, that round's over.

I've been 'reviewing' my times tables, & will see if my women's book group will play this evening!! (I'll let you know :)

I think fondly of my daughter's gradeschool classmate who, when I was trying to remember the date, said 'don't you know - if you think of weeks as a base 7 - now it's not really base 7, but you can use that - so if you know that in June, the 7th falls on a Sunday, each of the Sundays in June will be a multiple of 7?!! In July, the 7th falls on Tue, . . . " (which is part of the reason 7, 14, 21 & 28 are so ingrained - er, myelinzed - in my brain!)
Well, duh - but I hadn't thought of it that way before - I sure have ever since - thank you, Justin!!



peppylady said...

Love reading your blog so informative.
I been doing a teaspoon of flax seeds to increase my antioxidents.

Coffee is on.

This Guy said...

Ok, I just had to print this out! So much AWESOME information. My grandmother has been telling me for YEARS about the flax seed, I've just never started to take it, but I am going to now..

Your Humus recipe looks great, I might just make that for my lunch tomorrow! ;)