What you eat has a huge impact on your overall health, including your cognitive function. Your brain is a powerhouse that needs a constant influx of nutrients to function at its best, and some foods offer more of those nutrients than others. By adding the right foods to your diet, you can give your brain the boost it needs.
1. Fatty Fish for Omega-3
Eating fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel offers your brain a good dose of omega-3. Omega-3 is critical for normal brain function as well as for its development throughout all of the stages of life.
This fatty acid is present in the membranes of brain cells, making communication between them easier while also preserving them. Omega-3 also shows promise in improving brain function in people with memory problems, including Alzheimer’s, as well as those with mild cognitive impairment.
2. Leafy Greens for B Vitamins
Leafy greens like broccoli, spinach, and kale contain a large amount of B vitamins. These vitamins are essential for your brain health, helping boost the production of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that deliver messages between neurons. Vitamin B9 helps with intracellular detoxification, as well as improving low moods.
Leafy greens also add iron to your diet, which you need for energy. The brain uses more energy than any other organ, so encouraging healthy red blood cells by eating more iron is essential for its proper function.
Another benefit of leafy greens is they are packed with antioxidants, boosting cognitive function, mood, decision-making abilities, and so much more. They can do this by reducing or eliminating free radicals that cause damage.
3. Berries for Reducing Cell Damage
Berries are full of flavonoids, including flavanol, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that protect brain cells. Anthocyanins, which you find in red, blue, and purple berries, can cross the blood-brain barrier. They can protect the brain from diseases like cancer.
Eating blueberries increases blood flow to many areas of the brain, including those that control memory. The aging process can also slow down when you regularly add berries to your diet. This is because berries help create new neurons in the brain. Berries are also able to reduce inflammation and make nerve cells more flexible.
4. Whole Grains for Energy
Whole grains offer the energy your brain needs to stay healthy and function at its best. The fibers present in whole grains also aid in controlling blood pressure and reducing the chances of developing brain inflammation.
Whole grains are also rich in vitamin E, which helps the brain remain flexible throughout life. It has the potential to help people who have mild to moderate Alzheimer’s because of the way it reduces oxidative stress.
Vitamin E also helps regulate DHA; a type of omega-3 fatty acid crucial for brain function. In the brain, DHA forms DHA-PC, which is a component of neuron membranes. People with Alzheimer’s tend to have low levels of DHA-PC, so turning to vitamin E holds promise in its treatment.
5. Seeds and Nuts for Anti-Aging Properties
Seeds and nuts are full of nutrients, including zinc, which is important for memory enhancement. Walnuts offer great levels of omega-3 fatty acids to improve memory and brain function.
Many seeds and nuts are also full of vitamin E, which protects nervous cell membranes by targeting free radicals. Some seeds and nuts, like sunflower seeds, contain high levels of B vitamins, which are necessary for the production of neurotransmitters and the creation of cell structures.
6. Dark Chocolate for Antioxidants
Cocoa powder and dark chocolate are full of antioxidants like flavonoids, which gather in the parts of the brain that deal with memory and learning, helping slow mental decline. Chocolate is also a mood booster.
The flavonoids in chocolate improve blood flow to the brain as well. Chocolate also contains stimulating substances like caffeine and theobromine, which give brain function a short-term boost.
7. Oranges for Vitamin C
Oranges are rich in vitamin C, a key vitamin for preventing mental decline. Vitamin C helps boost memory, concentration, and decision speed while also helping fight off free radicals that cause damage to brain cells. Because of this, eating fruits and food options that are high in vitamin C can protect against conditions like Alzheimer’s.
Another way vitamin C helps the brain is by helping the process of forming new neurons, which is essential for memory and overall cognitive resilience.
Vitamin C helps with the formation of myelin sheaths that protect the neurons while also ensuring blood vessel integrity. This allows for better blood flow to the brain. It’s also necessary to convert serotonin into dopamine, making it essential for mood stabilization.
8. Eggs for Choline
Egg yolks offer a concentrated amount of choline, which is a micronutrient your body relies on to create acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that regulates memory and mood. Higher intakes of choline are linked to better cognitive function and memory.
Eggs are also rich in folate. Folic acid shows promise in being able to minimize age-related mental decline. You also get vitamin B12 from eggs, which you need to synthesize brain chemicals while also regulating sugar levels in the brain.
Vitamin B12 is necessary for the formation of red blood cells and the normal functioning of the nervous system. Those with vitamin B12 deficiencies have an increased risk of cognitive impairment.
Helping Boost Your Brain’s Function
Ensuring you are getting the right nutrition is vital for all parts of your body, including your brain. By incorporating foods that provide antioxidative and anti-inflammatory benefits, free radicals have a harder time causing damage to brain cells. Additionally, including foods that offer B vitamins to your diet helps with the formation of neurons.
People with dietary problems sometimes may not have access to all the nutrients they need, which is why turning to vitamin infusions and oral supplements makes a difference. You can give your brain what it needs with minimal effort and without triggering allergies or other sensitivities.
Parkinson’s disease is widely known as a neurological condition that causes motor symptoms. Typically, patients with Parkinson’s disease have pill-rolling tremor, cogwheel rigidity, and a shuffling gait. However, about half of all patients with Parkinson’s disease also have psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety and depression. It can be challenging for patients and caregivers to deal with Parkinson’s disease, but if anxiety and depression are also present, it can make matters worse. When psychiatric symptoms occur, they can make Parkinson’s disease more difficult to treat, increase the burden on caregivers, and greatly reduce quality-of-life for patients.
One of the things that make psychiatric symptoms so difficult to treat in patients with Parkinson’s disease is that doctors have limited treatment options. The antidepressants that they would normally use to treat depression and anxiety can make motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease worse. People with Parkinson’s disease often struggle with sleep disturbances, and typical antidepressants can make sleep problems worse, too. Not surprisingly, many patients with Parkinson’s disease suffer from depression and anxiety and never find adequate treatment.
Physicians recently reported their experience with a patient with Parkinson’s disease who they treated with hyperbaric oxygen. The man had struggled with Parkinson’s disease for 1.5 years and had slipped into a severe depression. He had lost interest in pleasurable activities, was only sleeping about 2 to 3 hours each night, unintentionally lost over 40 pounds, and was having thoughts of suicide. He also had significant anxiety issues that made his life very difficult. Regular drug and psychotherapy treatments for anxiety and depression did not work for this man, so physicians were left with few options.
The man with Parkinson’s disease, severe depression, and anxiety underwent 30 days of hyperbaric oxygen treatments. He inhaled pure oxygen in a hyperbaric chamber for 40 minutes per session at 2 atm of pressure. In as little as four days of hyperbaric oxygen treatment, the man was sleeping better and longer than he did before treatment. His mood has also improved.
After 30 days of hyperbaric oxygen treatments, the man was able to sleep for 8 to 10 hours a night. Not only did his psychiatric symptoms improve, but his Parkinson’s disease symptoms also improved. While he still had Parkinson’s disease symptoms after hyperbaric oxygen treatment, the symptoms had improved substantially.
When physicians followed up one month after treatment had ended, the patient was still sleeping through the night, his mood was good, and he did not need assistance with his activities of daily living.
It is important to remember that this is a case study, the results of a single patient. Nevertheless, the improvements in both Parkinson’s disease and severe symptoms of anxiety and depression are incredibly impressive. For this man, at least, hyperbaric oxygen therapy had a substantial positive effect in his life where other treatments had failed.
Patients can also combine Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy with Regenerative Medicine. Regenerative Medicine is an alternative option to help manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. The stem cells have the potential to replicate and repair numerous cells of the body, including those damaged by Parkinson’s. These advancements in the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease work to fully regenerate missing or damaged tissue that the body would not ordinarily regrow.
Call your dedicated Care Coordinator at 800-531-0831 for more information.
Reference: Xu, Jin-Jin et al. (2018). Hyperbaric oxygen treatment for Parkinson’s disease with severe depression and anxiety. Medicine. 2018 Mar; 97(9): e0029.
Cartilage plays several important roles in the way joints move and function. Joint cartilage provides lubrication, acts as a shock absorber, and helps the joint move smoothly. Joint cartilage is comprised of two substances chondrocytes (i.e. cartilage cells) and extracellular matrix (proteins such as hyaluronic acid, collagen, fibronectin, etc.).
Many conditions can lead to joint cartilage defects. In young people, the most common cause of the joint cartilage defect is an injury. For instance, a football player suffers a hard contact that injures the joint. Another example is a gymnast who repeatedly places substantial impact forces on the knee and other joints of the lower body, resulting in damage. In older people, the most common cause of joint cartilage defects is Osteoarthritis. Over time, the joint cartilage breaks down in the cartilage loses its ability to lubricate, absorb shock, and support the smooth movement of the joint. This leads to stiffness, pain, and “trick” joints, among other symptoms.
Orthopedic surgeons, rheumatologists, and other physicians have attempted to treat these conditions by injecting the damaged joint with one of the two main components of joint cartilage: extracellular matrix. Physicians inject hyaluronic acid (and sometimes related extracellular matrix proteins) to help replace and restore damaged joints. This approach can be helpful for some patients, but it is certainly not a cure.
Only recently, have researchers attempted to replace the other component of joint cartilage: chondrocytes. Specifically, researchers have focused their efforts on mesenchymal stem cells that have the ability to differentiate and become cartilage cells. Li and colleagues injected combinations of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells and hyaluronic acid into animals with experimental cartilage defects. They showed that hyaluronic acid injections alone modestly repaired the cartilage damage. However, when stem cells plus hyaluronic acid was injected, the joints were almost completely repaired. In other words, stem cells plus hyaluronic acid resulted in much greater improvement in joint cartilage damage than hyaluronic acid alone.
The authors of the study concluded that “bone marrow stem cells plus hyaluronic acid could be a better way to repair cartilage defects.” While additional work is needed, these results are extremely exciting for people who suffer from joint cartilage defects such as osteoarthritis. In the future, people who are candidates for hyaluronic acid injection treatments may instead receive a combination of hyaluronic acid plus stem cells and may enjoy an even greater benefit than hyaluronic acid treatment alone.
Reference: Li et al. (2018). Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Combination with Hyaluronic Acid for Articular Cartilage Defects. Scientific Reports. 2018; 8: 9900.
Most organs of the body recover from injury by generating new, healthy cells. Not every organ of the body has the same ability to form new cells, however. The skin is an example of an organ that has an amazing ability to regenerate. Liver and lung also have the ability to form new cells, but not as dramatically as skin. Kidney and heart have even less ability to repair and regenerate. On the opposite end of the spectrum from the skin is the brain, which has very little capacity to regenerate once it has been damaged or destroyed. All of these organ systems, especially those that are relatively unable to repair themselves, could theoretically benefit from stem cells.
Mesenchymal stem cells, also known as stromal cells, are multipotent stem cells derived from bone marrow, umbilical cord, placenta, or adipose (fat) tissue. These cells can become the cells that make up bone, cartilage, fat, heart, blood vessels, and even brain. Mesenchymal stem cells have shown a remarkable ability to help the body to produce new cells. Researchers are now realizing that the substances stem cells release may be more important than any new cells they may become. In other words, stem cells can directly become new healthy cells to a certain degree, but they can also release substances that dramatically increase the number of new, healthy cells.
Mesenchymal stromal stem cells release small packets called exosomes. These exosomes are filled with various substances that promote cell and tissue growth. Some of the most interesting and potentially useful substances are cytokines and micro RNA. Cytokines are the traffic cops of cellular repair, signaling certain events to take place while stopping others. Having the right cytokines in a particular area is critical for new tissue growth. The micro RNA released by stem cell exosomes is potentially even more exciting than cytokines. These tiny bits of RNA can directly affect how healthy and diseased cells behave. Micro RNA has a powerful ability to control the biological machinery inside of cells.
Exosomes exhibit a wide array of biological effects that promote the repair and growth of damaged and diseased organs. They promote the growth of skin cells and help wounds heal. Exosomes can reduce lung swelling and inflammation and even help the lung tissue heal itself (i.e. reduced pulmonary hypertension, decrease ventricular hypertrophy, and improve lung vascular remodeling). These small packets released by stem cells help prevent liver cells from dying (i.e. prevents apoptosis), promote liver cell regeneration, and slow down liver cirrhosis (i.e. fibrosis). Exosomes can also help protect the kidneys during acute injury and reduce the damage that occurs during a heart attack.
Several clinical trials are underway designed to allow these exciting developments to be used to treat patients. As the researchers state, “Extensive research and clinical trials are currently underway for the use of MSCs as regenerative agents in many diseases including spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, liver cirrhosis and hepatitis, osteoarthritis, myocardial infarction, kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes mellitus, knee cartilage injuries, organ transplantation, and graft-versus-host disease.” We can reasonably expect that exosomes will be used to treat at least some of these conditions in the very near future.
Muscle health and strength is an important determinant of a person’s ability to function in daily life. One of the major determinants of healthy aging is how well people retain their muscle mass. The more that skeletal muscle declines, the more likely someone would not be able to care for themselves independently. Injury to muscles whether through trauma, burns, or toxins can greatly interfere with a person’s ability to perform activities of daily living. While muscle cells have a limited ability to regenerate themselves, quite often, patients never regain their former strength and level of function after serious injury.
Stem cells would seem to be ideally suited to help in this regard. Since stem cells have the potential to become muscle cells, one could imagine infusing stem cells into an area of muscle damage or injury to restore overall muscle function. While this makes sense intuitively, it may not be the case. Stem cells, for example, form new muscle cells, but they do not form cells that participate in muscle function. And yet, stem cells are able to help muscles regrow into functional skeletal muscles.
How could stem cells promote skeletal muscle regeneration without becoming functional skeletal muscle cells? The answer, as it turns out, is that stem cells produce molecules that strongly promote muscle regeneration and muscle function.
Stem cells release these molecules in tiny packets called exosomes. Exosomes are tiny spheres that “bubble out” of stem cells, in a manner of speaking. Exosomes have a cell membrane, like cells themselves, but are much smaller, and they do not have the ability to reproduce. Instead, exosomes are highly packed with proteins, DNA, messenger RNA, micro RNA, cytokines, and other factors.
Nakamura and co-researchers showed exosomes can help regenerate muscle. These researchers showed that by injecting exosomes harvested from stem cells (without any of the stem cells themselves), they could increase muscle growth and blood vessel growth. In short, these molecules accelerate the rate at which muscles regenerate.
While more research is needed, this work suggests that exosomes retrieved from mesenchymal stem cells could be used to help regrow functional muscle in patients with various forms of muscle injury.
Reference: Nakamura et al. (2015). Mesenchymal-stem-cell-derived exosomes accelerate skeletal muscle regeneration. FEBS Letters. 2015 May 8;589(11):1257-65.
Spinal cord injury can be one of the most devastating
injuries. Long neurons that extend from the brain down the spinal cord are
severed and scarred. In most cases, this damage can never be repaired. If
patients survive an injury to the spinal cord, they can be permanently
paralyzed. Researchers have attempted to use high-dose steroids and surgery to
preserve the spinal cord, but these approaches are either controversial or
Ideally, one would create an environment in which nerve
cells in the spinal cord could regrow and take up their old tasks of sensation
and movement. One of the most promising approaches to do just this is stem cell
To test this concept, researchers used
stem cells derived from human placenta-derived mesenchymal
stem cell tissue (not embryonic stem cells) to form neural stem cells in
the laboratory. These neural stem cells have the ability to become neuron-like
cells, similar to those found in the spinal cord. The researchers then used
these stem cells to treat rats that had experimental spinal cord injury. The
results were impressive.
Rats treated with neural stem cells regained the partial
ability to use their hindlimbs within one week after treatment. By three weeks
after treatment, injured rats had regained substantial use of their hindlimbs.
The researchers confirmed that this improvement was due to neuron growth by
using various specialized tests (e.g. electrophysiology, histopathology). Rats
that did not receive stem cells did not regain substantial use of their
hindlimbs at any point in the study.
This work is particularly exciting because it shows that
stem cells can restore movement to animals who were paralyzed after spinal cord
injury. Moreover, the researchers used human stem cells derived from placenta,
which suggests that this effect could be useful in human spinal cord injury
patients (perhaps even more so than in rats). While additional work is needed,
these results offer hope to those who may one day develop severe spinal cord
Zhi et al. (2014). Transplantation of placenta-derived
mesenchymal stem cell-induced neural stem cells to treat spinal cord injury.
Neural Regen Research, 9(24): 2197–2204.
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