Did you know that your brain has its own unique immune system? The brain is highly specialized, with a precise arrangement of nerve tracts and an unusually high content of very delicate fats, so part of its protection is simply staying separated from the rest of the body.
Keep Those Microglia Happy
But even beyond that brain barrier, the brain has its very own team of protective immune cells called microglia. Nerves have longer lives than most cells, and these microglia drape themselves around important nerves and bodyguard them throughout their lives.
Brain cells and their cushioning microglia also have long memories, and are supremely sensitive to things like blood flow, blood sugar levels, stress hormones, and messaging from the body’s main immune system.
In addition, the high-fat environment of the brain is totally dependent on us for supplying it with beneficial omega-3 fats and other nutrients it needs in order to keep your cognitive function healthy and happy.
While the brain hungers for high-density nutrition from your diet, it also craves a good challenge — whether mental, social, physical, emotional, or a tricky combination of these. And brains REALLY need some solid down time every day, in order to consolidate the lessons of the day and incorporate them effectively into your memory.
Brains need a lot of input — yet they are pretty picky about the quality of what they get. What are a few ways of keeping a brain and its helpful microglia in top form?
- Your muscles are some of your brain’s best friends! Blood flow to your noggin depends on staying active, so consider ways to break up long spans of sitting with some deep breathing, exercise, or some other enjoyable activity. This is great for managing the build-up of stress, too.
- High peaks or extended rises in blood sugar can really gum up your blood vessels, along with your brain. To keep your blood sugar on a more even keel, eat plenty of fiber-rich foods like beans and buckwheat, and try to limit the span of time between your first and last calories of the day to a 9- or 10-hour period.
- Brains, immune cells, and nerves are especially starving for omega-3 fats. These are a fat we really need, though we usually get a lot more of the non-necessary kinds that, in excess, can harm immunity and blood flow. So enjoy a handful of nuts or seeds with your food each day, and consider supplementing with omega-3s.
For a Deeper Dive
Isn’t it amazing that omega-3 FATS help brains deal with blood SUGAR? If you’re curious about how blood sugar and omega-3s affect your brain and how well you age, here’s a scientific article that explains more.