Don’t be fooled by the name, but red cedarwood oil comes from a type of juniper tree (Juniperus virginiana),1 a member of the Cupressaceae or cypress family. These trees, which grow 30 to 65 feet tall, can be found in the U.S.,2 where they are commonly known as the Eastern red cedar.
Essential oils made from cedar trees grown in the U.S., such as red cedarwood oil, are primarily used in making perfumes. These oils are high in both cedrol and thujone as well, the latter often being used to “falsify” sage oil. Red cedarwood oil has a fresh and soft, but deep, woodsy fragrance,3 making it valuable for commercial purposes.
However, if you aim to use a cedar essential oil therapeutically, you may want to consider the Atlantic or Atlas cedar oil from Morocco, instead of red cedarwood oil. Atlas cedar oil is the only recognized cedar oil suitable for therapeutic use4 — more about this later.
Composition of Red Cedarwood Oil
Red cedarwood oil that’s extracted from the juniper tree found in Virginia is composed of alpha- and beta-cedrenes, ?-eudesmol, cedrol, cedrenol, widdrol, tricyclene, alpha-thujene, alpha- and beta-pinenes, camphene, and sesquiterpenes like caryophyllene, thujopsene, beta-elemene, cuparene, and alpha-acaradiene.5,6
Uses and Potential Benefits of Red Cedarwood Oil
The Eastern red cedar is commonly known as an ornamental tree, and its wood is used for furniture and other items like interior panels and fence posts. Certain parts of the red cedar tree have been valued for their medicinal purposes, too.
For instance, the Gros Ventres tribe ate the berries (whole or crushed) or brewed them as a tea to help cure asthma.7 A tea made from the fruits and leaves of the cedar tree was also utilized to cure coughs and colds.8
Meanwhile, red cedarwood oil is popularly used today as an ingredient for room sprays, cleaners, perfumes,9 herbal antiseptic creams and as an insect repellent,10 especially against mosquitoes.11 It blends well with other oils like bergamot, jasmine, lavender, rose, cinnamon, juniper, frankincense, lemon and rosemary.12
Despite Atlas cedar oil being more popularly used for therapeutic purposes, red cedarwood oil has recently shown aromatherapeutic potential as well, specifically for relieving anxiety. A January 2018 Physiology & Behavior animal study highlighted that this essential oil may deliver anxiolytic effects in certain body pathways.13 More studies may be needed to confirm this benefit, however.
How to Make Red Cedarwood Oil
Red cedarwood oil is obtained via steam distillation of the tree’s chopped wood, stumps, logs, wood shavings or sawdust.14 What’s good about this process is that even after extracting the oil, the remaining wood fiber can still be used to create other products.15
Other Types of Cedar Oil Are More Known for Their Therapeutic Uses
Aside from the red cedar, take note that there are other cedar tree varieties found around the world, such as the Atlantic or Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica) that’s native to the mountains of Morocco, cedar of Lebanon (C. libani), the deodar (C. deodora) from the Western Himalayas and Cyprus cedar (C. libani var. brevifolia). Oils extracted from these cedar trees may impart therapeutic benefits.
Different societies had their own ways of using cedar essential oils. The Egyptians used cedar oil for religious and embalmment purposes, as well as for medicine and in beauty treatments. The Greeks used this oil similarly, and added it to their repertoire for therapeutic massage and aromatherapy.16
Is Red Cedarwood Oil Safe?
I advise you to take extra caution should you purchase or use oils made from cedar trees. As mentioned earlier, Atlas cedar oil is your most ideal choice, since it’s the only oil made from cedar trees that may be used therapeutically.
If you’re using red cedarwood oil for other purposes, remember that it should never be ingested or come into contact with your eyes, inner portions of your ear and other sensitive parts of your body. Pregnant women should also refrain from using this essential oil (and other cedarwood essential oils) to avoid potentially life-threatening complications.17
As I always recommend, consult your doctor and take an allergy patch test before proceeding to use any essential oil. Lastly, before using Atlas cedar, red cedarwood or other essential oils, dilute them first in safer oils like almond, coconut, jojoba or olive oil before using.
Side Effects of Red Cedarwood Oil
Some of the potential side effects of red cedarwood oil that may occur when used in high concentrations include:18
• Skin irritation
• Excessive thirst
• Extensive damage to the digestive system
By Dr. Mercola
If you are an American working 50 to 60 hours a week, a study1 out of Australia may give you pause. Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) suggest 39 hours to be the ideal work week to ensure you maintain life balance and good health. The study asserts working those who have domestic chores and caregiving responsibilities should trim their work schedules back to just 34 hours a week. The upper limit for those spending less time on domestic work was suggested as 47 hours.
According to USA Today,2 Americans spend about 47 hours a week, on average, working. Brits clock in at 37.5 hours and French employees a little less, at 35 hours a week. While it’s well known Americans work longer hours than many of our counterparts around the world, how often do you stop to consider the effects those extra hours are likely having on your health and well-being?
Long Work Hours Drain Your Mental and Physical Health
The research3 mentioned above was based on data drawn from about 8,000 adults, ages 24 to 65, as part of the Household, Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia survey. Lead researcher Huong Dinh, research fellow at ANU’s research school of population health, asserts, “Long work hours erode a person’s mental and physical health, because it leaves [them] less time to eat well and look after themselves properly.” According to Dinh, reducing the number of work hours seems particularly important for women. She says:
“They spend much more time on care and domestic work. Given the extra demands placed on women, it’s impossible for women to work long hours often expected by employers unless they compromise their health. Despite the fact that women, on average, are as skilled as men, women … have lower paid jobs and less autonomy than men, and they spend much more time on care[giving] and domestic work.”
Some of the study highlights published by Dinh and her team are as follows:
- While longer work hours are not necessarily bad and do not have a uniformly negative impact on your mental health, there is a distinct tipping point when the hours worked do begin to affect your mental health
- Due to constraints related to caregiving and domestic chores, if you are a woman, you are perceived to have a lower threshold when it comes to achieving work/health balance
- Australia’s current system of work-hour regulations and expectations appears to be negatively affecting women’s health in that country
- To encourage men and women to equally share caregiving responsibilities, work hours would need to be reduced
Working More Than 55 Hours a Week May Negatively Affect Your Heart
Research4 conducted by the European Society of Cardiology suggests it might actually be possible to work your heart out. Based on a study of 85,500 men and women over a 10-year period, researchers observed a negative tendency with respect to the relationship between work hours and heart health.
Specifically, individuals who worked more than 55 hours a week were 40 percent more likely than those working a normal workweek (35 to 40 hours) to develop an irregular heartbeat, or atrial fibrillation (AFib). The correlation between longer work hours and increased risk of AFib remained even after scientists adjusted for risk factors such as age, alcohol use, gender, obesity and smoking. Lead researcher Mika Kivimaki, a professor in the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, said:5
“Nine out of 10 of the atrial fibrillation cases occurred in people who were free of pre-existing or concurrent cardiovascular disease. This suggests the increased risk is likely to reflect the effect of long working hours, rather than the effect of any pre-existing or concurrent cardiovascular disease.”
The current study seems to support previous research linking long work hours to an increased risk of stroke. Kivimaki states:6 “These findings … could be one of the mechanisms that explain the previously observed increased risk of stroke among those working long hours. Atrial fibrillation is known to contribute to the development of stroke, but also other adverse health outcomes, such as heart failure and stroke-related dementia.”
Another very important factor to consider with atrial fibrillation, though, is exposure to EMF, just as cell phones, Wi-Fi, portable phones and sleeping in a bedroom that has the electrical power turned on to it. The heart has a high density of voltage gated calcium channels and is highly susceptible to EMF and one of the primary symptoms are cardiac arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation.
Other Reasons You Might Want to Cut Back on Your Work Hours
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics7 reveal nearly 15 million Americans work full time on the evening shift, night shift, rotating shifts or other employer-arranged work schedules considered “irregular.” According to 2010 U.S. health interview data, nearly 19 percent of working adults are on the job 48 hours or more per week.
More than 7 percent logged 60 hours or more each week. The risk of heart disease and stroke are not the only reasons you might want to cut back on your work hours. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest when your work overtime, you put yourself at risk for:8
Edward Hitchcock, Ph.D., supervisory research psychologist and deputy chief of the organizational science and human factors branch, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, stated:9 “There is currently a lot of scientific evidence showing that shift work and long hours of work are associated with significant health and safety risks. Scientists believe these risks occur due to disruptions in sleep and circadian rhythms associated with these demanding schedules and strains on social life.”
Hitchcock also noted the disruptive effects lack of sleep and inconsistent sleeping hours can have on your body. He said:10 “The human body cannot naturally adjust to sleeping during the day or at irregular hours … consequently, many shift workers do not get the seven to eight hours of good quality, restorative sleep that most of us need.” A nearly two-year-long experiment in Sweden involving nurses working six-hour days instead of traditional eight-hour days at an elder-care facility revealed several benefits of shortened work days, including:11
- Being less tired and retaining more energy for home-based and free-time activities
- Demonstrating better attitudes and work behavior while on the job
- Getting an average of seven hours of sleep a night versus the less-than-six hours of sleep nurses working a traditional schedule achieved
- Providing higher quality care to their patients
- Taking fewer sick days than nurses working a longer shift
Five Tips to Help You Create a More Balanced Life
If you are in a job situation that is upsetting your work-life balance and detracting from the overall quality of your life, it may be time for a change. I believe you will find it worth your time to talk to your employer about possible options to help you reduce stress, be more productive and achieve greater job satisfaction. It’s important to remember that working longer hours does not necessarily mean you will be get more work done.
In fact, I imagine if you are routinely unhappy or stressed while on the job, you will actually be less productive and the quality of your work may suffer. Everyone wins when you feel good about the work you do, there is balance in your schedule and your stress level feels manageable.
Regardless of whether you are able to make changes related to your job, there are several areas you can address in and outside of work that will go a long way in helping you create a more balanced life. I recommend you choose at least one of these areas to begin working on today. (Over time, I believe you will be helped by addressing all five areas.) Some tips to help you create a more balanced life are as follows:
1. Create a support network: Isolation and loneliness can be a major source of stress, so it is important that you make a point to connect personally with people around you. Particularly if your work environment is filled with difficult, or even toxic, people, you’ll need to create a support network outside of your job.
Even a quick chat while you are sitting in a waiting room or standing in line at the grocery store can help you feel connected to the world around you. You might also consider attending community events, meeting friends for coffee, taking a class or volunteering.
While you may think you are connected to others through email, social media and texting, that type of connection is not the same as personal, face-to-face contact. If you are unsure of the extent to which you use technology as your interface to other human beings, keep track of how much “face time” you have during the next week. The results may surprise you.
2. Learn to say “no:” Sometimes the stress and strain on your life comes from your inability or unwillingness to set boundaries and limits. When asked to take on yet another responsibility at work, for your children or on a volunteer project, you may feel guilty for saying “no.” If you were raised to say “yes” to almost everything that comes along, particularly because this is the only way you think people will like or accept you, it’s time to rethink the powerful word “no.”
Especially if you feel you are continually busy — racing from one activity or commitment to the next, all day long — from the time you get up until you fall into bed at night, you are a prime candidate for change. Start this week to re-establish some balance in your life by saying “no” to any new request or activity you know will only serve to cause additional stress and imbalance.
3. Look inward: Because you cannot separate your physical health from your emotional well-being, it is important you take time on a regular basis to look inward. Every feeling you have affects some part of your body, so it is important to notice and address the feelings that come up in the context of your everyday circumstances and relationships.
When left unchecked, lingering negative feelings and the emotional stress that often accompanies them can wreak havoc on your health. This is true even if you are doing everything else — diet, exercise and sleep, for instance — “right.” Some tools you can use to look inward and explore your emotions include:
Coloring, drawing or painting
Relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing and positive visualization
My personal favorite tool to manage emotional stress is the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), which involves light tapping over the major energy meridians of your body. It is a handy tool you can use as often as you need to unload emotional baggage. EFT is quick and painless, and so easy even children can learn it.
4. Nurture yourself: If you live a hectic, fast-paced life, the idea of nurturing and caring for yourself may be a foreign concept. It is a rare person who knows how to practice self-care on an ongoing basis. Sure, you may take an annual vacation or visit a spa occasionally, but do you have a daily practice of nurturing that contributes to feelings of balance, tranquility and wholeness?
If not, it’s never too late to start thinking about ways you can practice healthy self-care. I challenge you to create a list of at least 25 things you can do to nurture yourself.
For example, you might choose to prepare one of your favorite meals, get a massage, go for a bike ride, listen to music, spend time with a friend or take an exercise class. Some of the ways I nurture myself include eating healthy food, doing peak fitness, reading a book, walking on the beach and enjoying an occasional chocolate fat bomb truffle.
I caution you from falling into the all-too-common trap of adopting habits that start out under the guise of self-care but inevitably decline into unhealthy, self-destructive practices. Some of them may include drinking alcohol, eating out frequently, indulging in junk food or sugary treats, spending hours on social media and watching TV. Reliance on these and other unhealthy coping mechanisms will only increase the stress and imbalance in your life.
5. Prioritize activities: Being frequently late or constantly feeling hurried are significant stressors, making it important for you to carefully prioritize your activities. By focusing on the aspects of your day that are truly “must do” activities, you put your energy and time where they will garner the most positive effects.
Prioritizing also helps you identify possible responsibilities and tasks that can be delegated. Furthermore, prioritizing gives you permission to temporarily set aside any task standing between you and some much-needed self-care, because you don’t really need to have a certain task done until next week.
Finally, by making lists of your important activities, you can more easily schedule them into your day and time them conveniently and efficiently. For example, one of the easiest methods to reduce your stress level related to running errands is to group them together by geography. In doing so, you can more effectively run a series of errands on a single day with a prioritized focus.
Final Thoughts About Balancing Your Work Week
Life is short. Time flies. Upon retirement, very few people, if any, say they wished they would have worked longer hours during the many years they spent on the job. In fact, it’s often the people you work alongside and the relationships you forged that make the most impact on you. That said, no matter how close or far you are to retirement, your health and well-being simply will not self-manage.
You need to take active steps every day to balance the needs and expectations of your job with your life outside work and the people in it. Even if you cannot imagine working as few as 39 hours a week, as suggested by the ANU researchers, any reduction at all will be an improvement if you currently work more than 40 hours.
Particularly if you are working upward of 50 hours a week, it will be nearly impossible to optimize your health until you find a way to cut back your work hours and rebalance your life. Start today. You won’t regret it.
By Dr. Mercola
Even though your brain affects everything you do, you probably don’t give it — literally — much thought. Clever pun aside, how often do you actually consider what your brain may need to stay healthy? Given the fact your brain impacts all aspects of your life — from happiness and health, to relationships and rest — it’s important you understand how to take care of it.
While aging and genes have some effect, they may not have the final word about the fate of your brain. Your brain’s lifelong neuroplasticity enables you to have continual influence over its health based on how you eat, sleep, exercise, express yourself, manage stress and more. The actions, attitudes and thoughts you have today, as well as the daily lifestyle choices you make, all play a meaningful role in your brain’s health.
With more than 5 million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s disease and as many as 16 million expected to suffer with it by 2050,1 brain care is not a subject you can afford to ignore. Start today by reviewing the following 10 actions you can take daily to positively impact the health of your brain.2
1. Get Proper Sleep
About 1 in 3 Americans gets less than seven hours of sleep a night, and an estimated 83.6 million adults in the U.S. are sleep-deprived.3,4 You may be suffering from sleep deprivation if you work the night shift, have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea or spend a lot of time in front of electronic gadgets at night. Particularly if your habit is to sleep five or fewer hours a night, you may be putting yourself at risk of cognitive decline and memory issues that will only accelerate as you age.
Dr. Paul Mathew, neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, underscores the value of sleep to your overall health and well-being. He says:5
“Sleep is a critically important component of human existence. On average, humans spend about 25 to 35 percent of their lives sleeping. Sleep allows both the body and brain to rest and recover from the stress of daily life. As such, trouble sleeping can cause a range of health problems, and, if left untreated, dire consequences.
Even if sleep duration is good, sleep quality can be quite poor. People who wake up many times during the night can have some nights with zero hours of deep, restful sleep. Poor sleep quantity and/or quality can cause excessive daytime drowsiness … chronic fatigue, headaches, mood issues, irritability, poor memory and cognitive dysfunction.”
The National Sleep Foundation offers three tips to support your body’s need for quality sleep:6
- Vary your wake-up time on the weekends no more than an hour from your weekday schedule to better support a consistent sleep-wake schedule, also known as your body’s circadian rhythm
- Take a 20-to-30-minute nap on weekend afternoons, ideally between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
- Keep your naps on the shorter side to avoid feeling groggy or cranky after them, and especially to prevent feeling too awake at bedtime
Whatever your approach, research suggests adults need right around eight hours of sleep a night. The sleep needs of seniors, young adults, teenagers and children vary. If you are not sure how much sleep you should be getting, review the sleep needs according to your age. Using a wearable fitness tracker at night may help you gain more insight into your sleep patterns.
2. Train Your Unconscious Mind
According to the documentary “Automatic Brain: The Magic of the Unconscious Mind,” your subconscious mind manages about 90 percent of everything you do whether you are asleep or awake. You may be surprised to learn your conscious mind plays only a minor role in guiding your life. In reality, most of what you think, say and do every day is a function of your “automatic,” or unconscious brain (also known as your subconscious). Without you fully realizing it, your brain essentially is running your life on autopilot.
Because your subconscious plays such a big role, you will benefit from a better understanding of it, which will help you leverage it to your full advantage. Writing in Psychology Today, Matt James, Ph.D., president of The Empowerment Partnership and master trainer of neuro linguistic programming, assigns several qualities to your unconscious brain. Among them, states James, your unconscious brain:7
• Acts like a young child: Similar to a young child, your unconscious mind needs clear, detailed directions and lots of reminders. It takes instructions literally, so be sure to give it specific (and positive) guidance.
• Communicates through emotion and symbols: To get your attention quickly, your unconscious mind uses feelings, imagery and symbols. It’s your job to discern what they mean.
• Deals with positives only: Negative words like “don’t,” “no” or “not” are largely ignored by your unconscious mind. For this reason, it is better to say, “I am going to improve my health by avoiding smoking” as opposed to “I don’t want to smoke.” You can also use creative imaging to center your mind on positive thoughts.
Because your unconscious mind has a pervasive influence on your life, you can actively harness its power and direct its influence in positive, life-giving ways by:8
• Expressing yourself artistically: Artistic endeavors such as coloring, drawing or painting make use of your subconscious by allowing your creativity to surface and making space for the expression of your true feelings. Because the goal is to tap into your unconscious mind, you don’t need to be a great artist, just open to the creative process.
• Rehearsing desired outcomes: A great way to program a new activity, skill or thought into your unconscious mind is to rehearse it and repeat it until it takes root. Similar to the countless songs and jingles lodged in your subconscious, you can rehearse new attitudes, ideas, outcomes and thoughts that you want to become reality. By frequently repeating out loud what you want, you aid your subconscious mind in catching on and helping you achieve your desired outcomes.
• Reviewing before bed: A great way to learn new material, such as exam material, goals, presentations or speeches, is to review it right before you go to sleep. Doing so helps transfer the content to your subconscious, putting it at the forefront of your mind as you drift off to sleep, and potentially influencing the content of your dreams.
3. Focus on One Task at a Time
Multitasking is perceived to be more efficient than a single-minded focus, but you’ll feel calmer and more relaxed if you choose to focus on one task at a time. Think about the last time you tried to talk on the phone with a friend while cooking supper or checking your email. I bet you missed much of what your friend was saying because your brain was trying to split time between two very different activities.
Research conducted by Stanford University suggests multitasking reduces your efficiency because your brain can only do one thing well at a time. The study authors said: “People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.”9,10 So, give your brain a break and put your focus exclusively on the one task or person at hand. You may be surprised at the results.
4. Exercise Regularly
If you exercise regularly, you not only will have a healthier body, but a better brain, too. Regardless of your age, exercise can provide enormous benefits for your body and your mind. If you’re over 40, it’s especially important to step up your exercise program because your physical strength, stamina, balance and flexibility are beginning to decline due to age. Fortunately, doing the right type of exercise can help you counteract these declines.
To achieve optimal benefits, you’ll want to establish a comprehensive exercise program that includes high-intensity exercises, strength training, core exercises and stretching. I also urge you to consider walking, in addition to your regular workout regimen, aiming for 10,000 to 15,000 steps per day. Avoid sitting as much as possible — limiting your sitting to three hours a day or less. Prolonged sitting is a risk factor for chronic disease and early death — even if you are very fit and exercise regularly.
In terms of the effect exercise has on your brain, scientists have suggested it can trigger a change in the way your amyloid precursor protein is metabolized, thereby slowing down the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s.11 Exercise also increases your levels of the protein PGC-1alpha. Research has shown people with Alzheimer’s have less PGC-1alpha in their brains.
A meta-analysis of 19 research studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine12 suggests exercise has strong, positive effects on the brains of individuals ages 6 to 35. The study authors said, “acute physical exercise enhances executive functioning” in preadolescent children, adolescents and young adults.
5. Write Down Your Thoughts
The prevalence of computers, smartphones and tablets, as well as the diminished emphasis on handwriting means communication involving pen and paper is becoming less common. As such, technology is causing us to miss out on the brain benefits of writing. For example, research suggests writing things by hand helps you better internalize information and ensures you retain it.13,14 The study authors stated:15
“[E]ven when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing. In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show … laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim, rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words, is detrimental to learning.”
In addition, getting your thoughts down on paper can help you remove “mind clutter,” especially before going to bed. If you are feeling highly stressed and anticipate not sleeping well as a result, make time to write out your thoughts before going to bed. Simply take out a pad of paper and a pen, set a timer for five to 10 minutes and begin writing whatever comes to mind. Avoid editing yourself and write literally anything and everything that comes to mind.
When left unchecked, lingering negative feelings and the emotional stress accompanying them can wreak havoc on your brain health. This is true even if you are doing everything else — diet, exercise and sleep, for instance — “right.” Over time, as you stick with this habit — ideally as a weekly or even daily activity — your brain will connect with your subconscious, uncovering and surfacing valuable insights and thoughts of which you had previously been unaware.
If you are not sure how to address the issues and concerns that surface as you write them on paper, you might try the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). It is a handy tool that involves light tapping over the major energy meridians of your body. EFT is quick and painless, and you can use it as often as you need to unload emotional baggage.
6. Eat a Healthy Diet
The following dietary recommendations are vital for maintaining brain health and staving off Alzheimer’s:
• Eat real food, ideally organic. Be sure to choose organic grass fed meats and animal products. Research has shown vegetables to be particularly beneficial for slowing age-related cognitive decline due to the antioxidants they contain. Avoid processed foods of all kinds because they contain items known to be harmful to your brain, such as refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, glutinous grains, genetically engineered ingredients and pesticides.
• Replace refined carbohydrates with healthy fats. Contrary to what most people think, your brain does not need carbohydrates and sugars for fuel. What it does need is healthy fats, such as saturated animal fats and animal-based omega-3s, which are far more important for optimal brain function. Avoid all trans fats and hydrogenated fats such as margarine and various butter-like spreads, as well as vegetable oils like canola and soybean oil.
Healthy fats support your mitochondria, a topic addressed more thoroughly in my book “Fat for Fuel.” Healthy fats to add to your daily diet include:
Animal-based omega-3s, such as those found in krill oil and small fatty fish like anchovies and sardines
Butter made from raw, grass fed, organic milk
Coconuts and coconut oil
Ghee (clarified butter)
Grass fed meats and pastured poultry
Olives and olive oil (Avoid cooking with olive oil. Use it cold.)
Organic pastured egg yolks
Raw cacao butter
Raw nuts, such as macadamias and pecans
Seeds like black sesame, cumin, hemp and pumpkin
• Avoid gluten and casein. The main items to forgo in this category are wheat and pasteurized dairy, but not dairy fat such as butter. Research shows your blood-brain barrier is negatively affected by gluten. Gluten also makes your gut more permeable. This allows proteins to get into your bloodstream where they promote autoimmunity and inflammation, both of which play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s.
• Optimize your gut flora. You can strengthen your gut microbiome not only by abstaining from processed foods, but also by avoiding antibacterial products, antibiotics and fluoridated water. You can fortify your gut by regularly eating cultured and fermented foods, or using a high-quality probiotic. My 2015 interview with Dr. David Perlmutter explores the compelling connection between your gut microbes and brain health, relating it to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
7. Keep Your Mind Active
Keeping your mind active and mentally stimulated has been shown to be an effective antidote for resisting cognitive decline, especially as you age. Challenging yourself with mental exercise is believed to activate processes in your brain that keep your brain cells alive, support the growth of new nerve cells and foster communication among your nerve cells.
If you frequently watch TV and think of it as a form of mental stimulation, you need to know it is actually associated with mental decline.16 A few of the beneficial activities you can do — at any age — to keep your mind active include:17
- Learn something new, such as a second language or musical instrument
- Play board games, cards or online games (choosing games that foster social connection will further boost your brain health)
- Read and write on a regular basis
- Solve crossword, number or other kinds of puzzles; assemble physical puzzles
- Take a class online or at your local library or community college
8. Eliminate Toxins
You can help your brain by eliminating toxins that have been shown to negatively affect it (and the rest of your body). A few of the toxins you should avoid are:
• Aluminum: Aluminum can cross your blood-brain barrier and has been directly linked to Alzheimer’s. Sources of aluminum include antiperspirants, nonstick cookware and vaccine adjuvants. Learn more about how to detox aluminum.
• Dental amalgam fillings: Dental amalgam fillings, which are 50 percent mercury by weight, are a major source of heavy-metal toxicity. If you have amalgams and are in reasonably good health, review my mercury detox protocol and enlist the services of a biological dentist to remove them.
• Flu vaccinations: No matter what you have been told about its effectiveness and importance, carefully consider the risks before getting the flu vaccine. Many flu vaccines contain both aluminum and mercury, which are considerably more damaging to your health than the illness itself. Studies have also repeatedly shown the flu vaccine rarely works.
• Statins and anticholinergic drugs: Statin drugs are problematic because they suppress the synthesis of cholesterol and deplete your brain of coenzyme Q10, vitamin K2 and neurotransmitter precursors. Drugs that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, have been shown to contribute to memory loss in some individuals.18,19 These drugs include certain antidepressants, antihistamines, bladder-control medications, narcotic pain relievers and sleep aids.
• Microwave radiation from cellphones and other wireless technologies. Last year, Dr. Martin Pall published a scientific review20 showing how microwave radiation from cell phones, Wi-Fi routers and computers and tablets not in airplane mode is clearly associated with many neuropsychiatric disorders, including Alzheimer’s.
Microwaves emitted from devices such as these increase intracellular calcium through voltage gated calcium channels (VGCCs), and one of the tissues with the highest density of VGCCs is your brain. Once these VGCCs are stimulated they trigger the release of neurotransmitters, neuroendocrine hormones and highly damaging reactive oxygen species, significantly raising your risk for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Based on this mechanism, it seems clear that chronic exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) can play a significant role in dementia and that as a society, we need to take this very seriously. On a personal level, be sure to limit your exposure to wireless technology. Simple measures include turning your Wi-Fi off at night, not carrying your cellphone on your body and not keeping portable phones, cellphones and other electric devices in your bedroom.
Meditation helps you take a deliberate break from the stream of thoughts constantly flowing in and out of your mind. Some people use it to promote spiritual growth or find inner peace, while others use it as a powerful relaxation and stress-reduction tool. A 2012 study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience asserts meditation can have a long-term effect on your mental state because it prompts changes in your amygdala, a region of your brain associated with processing emotion. The authors stated:21
“[Eight] weeks of training in … meditation yielded distinct changes in amygdala activation … This finding suggests that meditation training may affect emotional processing in everyday life, and not just during meditation. This is consistent with the hypothesis that … meditative states … can result in enduring changes in mental function.”
Research from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine also supports the notion of meditation as a form of “mental exercise” that can help regulate your attention and emotions and improve your well-being.22
10. Be Optimistic
A study published in Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience23 suggests healthy adults who have a larger orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) tend to be more optimistic and have less anxiety. Your OFC is a region of your brain located in your prefrontal cortex just behind your eyes — it plays a key role in regulating your emotions and behavior through the integration of intellectual and emotional information.
Researchers believe the size of your OFC appears to predict your tendency toward either anxiety or optimism. According to Psychology Today,24 the study:
“[S]hows that optimism may ultimately protect [you] from anxiety by stimulating changes in the OFC. It appears that [you] can create an upward spiral by altering the gray matter volume of the OFC. In future studies, [researchers] plan to test whether optimism can be increased and anxiety reduced by training people in tasks that engage the OFC, or by finding ways to boost optimism directly.”
Lead researcher Florin Dolcos, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, believes cultivating optimistic thoughts can have a lasting effect on your brain. He said, “If you can train people’s responses, the theory is that over longer periods, their ability to control their responses on a moment-by-moment basis will eventually be embedded in their brain structure.”25
Even One Change Can Make a Big Difference in Your Brain Health
Dementia and Alzheimer’s have become so common that you may be unconsciously accepting these conditions as a natural part of aging, unfortunate family genes or both. The truth is, you can positively influence your brain. The actions I suggested above will help ensure your mind remains sharp and resilient for many years to come.
I encourage you to choose one of the suggestions and begin acting on it today. Making just one change can make a big difference in your brain health. Take care of your brain and it will take care of you.
Have you ever thought this to yourself? Maybe when times get rough, or you’re not feeling as sexually attracted to your partner? I believe in full transparency and asking ourselves the difficult questions that some like to hide from at all costs. Even if things aren’t on the rocks, what’s the harm in asking yourself an honest and valid question? Is this relationship serving me in my highest good?
Being clear and checking in with yourself is a powerful tool to create a deeper and more sacred connection. Thoughts of doubt can seep into our actions and words which then have an impact on our relationships, so it’s important to be mindful of our thoughts and create the space we need to find clarity for ourselves.
Below are some questions to reflect on if you’ve been wondering if your relationship is the right one or not.
Do You Challenge Each Other?
A sign of a great partner is that they celebrate your successes and challenge you to be the best version of yourself. Long story short, you mirror one another! Getting along, having a great time and being attracted to each other are all very necessary elements to a thriving relationship but if we’re not showing up for each other, celebrating and challenging each other to be our best selves, are we truly thriving?
Challenging one another doesn’t mean arguing or fighting. It means being transparent, honest and forward. My partner and I constantly check in with each other, our emotions, goals, the relationship and our personal lives outside of our relationship.
Are You Attracted To Each Other?
It’s important to keep physical intimacy alive, although a relationship should not be built around it, it’s a strong energetic exchange that keeps you feeling connected on another level. Sometimes this might be the string that holds you two together through a difficult time.
Do You Respect Your Partner?
You respect and admire your partner for who they truly are; mind, body and soul. There is no judgement or no secrecy, but transparency and love.
Is There Trust?
You have trust in your partner and don’t project your insecurities onto them. You allow your partner the space to explore other friendships and celebrate them creating experiences outside of your relationship. When you’re in love, you don’t fear unfavourable outcomes. You are not consumed with feelings of doubt and you want to see your partner thrive.
Do You Feel Free Within The Relationship?
We often forget that we are two separate beings living two separate experiences. We have agreed to be together but we don’t have ownership over the other and we don’t have expectations of our partners. You allow your partner to just be, you receive anything your partner has to offer as a gift rather than expecting it of them.
What If You Are Unsure?
If you read through this article and felt that your relationship could improve, that some aspect of you is feeling out of alignment, then maybe it’s time to make some new agreements together. Most of the time our partners are unaware of what it is that we need. Sometimes a simple conversation can spark a new and exciting time in the relationship.
I coach relationships to build new agreements, stop projecting their shit at each other and choose a life of joy and abundance together. Contact me at dereklovellcoaching.com if you want to work together 1-on-1 or 2-on-1.