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How to Optimize Your Brain Through Nutrition

How to Optimize Your Brain Through Nutrition

I'm Dr. Amy Shah, and this is save yourself with Dr. Amy. No one is coming to save you. You have to get up and save yourself. This is the place where we present the science, the tips, the tricks. My personal clinical experience as a double board certified md in nutritionist on ways that we can learn to save ourselves, how to optimize your brain through nutrition.
I'm Dr. Amy, and thank you for being here. This another episode of save yourself. Now, we are well into the podcast, and I'm so grateful for all of you who have been following along and listening. It's been such a cool experience to be able to talk for more than 30 seconds to 90 seconds that I do on social media. Of course, I do talks all across the country, so these are more like that. And I've noticed that there's something special about going a little more in depth than social media. So thanks for being here. And before I start, I really wanted to thank my sponsor, trulean nutrition.
So, trulean nutrition has this wellness shot. It's delicious, okay? It's got ginger and turmeric. It's better than all the wellness shots that you get at these expensive grocery stores. And you just mix it in water, and it's delicious. You can add it to sparkling water. You can have it as a shot. They are offering 50% off to all of us. So if you use the code, Dr. Shah, 50 go to their site, you can get the wellness shot, my favorite, for 50% off. So thank you, truly, for believing in me, for helping us, for giving us this discount. I really, truly appreciate you for helping us.
All right, so let's get into it. How do we change our brain through nutrition? Until very recently, it was thought that the brain is completely separate from the body, that the things you do for the brain are very, very different. We didn't really talk about this brain gut connection, but over the years, we've realized that in development, when we're developing as just a ball of cells, the brain and the gut are one. And then as we kind of get separated, if you can't see my hands, it's basically like they're separating. The brain goes one way, the gut goes another, and they remain connected through the vagus nerve.
Now, the vagus nerve is not the only connection. A lot of people think, oh, yeah, the gut and the brain are connected through the vagus nerve. That's not the only way. In fact, there's at least four ways that the gut and the brain are connected. The vagus nerve is just one of them. Another one is short chain fatty acid. Another one is hormones. Another one is neurotransmitters.
So neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, they actually travel from the gut and send signals to the brain. So it is not the same dopamine and serotonin that you make in your brain. It's different, but it has similar effects, meaning the signals that your body, your gut sends to your brain signals what the brain should do. And so what happens in your gut actually doesn't stay in your gut. It's going all over your body. And when you want to change your brain through nutrition, you have to understand this brain gut connection. And absolutely, it is essential to improve your nutrition if you're trying to improve your brain health. And this is a relatively new concept, the way I want you to really understand it.
This really drove it home for me. Is this example of a study. So they were noticing that gut bacteria seems to be related to brain diseases like schizophrenia, like depression, like anxiety, adhd, et cetera. Okay, so just the gut bacteria of schizophrenia look different than the gut bacteria of ADHD, which looks different than depression, which looks different than happy, nondepressed people. So to kind of look further into this, they took the gut bacteria from patients who had schizophrenia, and they put it into mice who had no bacteria at all, germ free mice. And then they took bacteria from patients that did not have schizophrenia, and they put it into another set of mice, and they mixed the mice up. And just by transplanting the gut bacteria, researchers were able to tell which mice had gotten the Schizophrenic patient's gut bacteria. So they did nothing to the brain.
But just by transplanting the gut bacteria, they were able to tell which patient's gut bacteria those mice got, because the mice acted different. The brain of the mice changed based on the gut bacteria that they received. I mean, let's say this again, they only got the gut bacteria. However, it changed their entire mental state. Gut bacteria has a power to change your entire mental state. So now, if you think about it, you're like, wait a second. If it can be that drastic, then can't we change our gut bacteria and change our entire personality, change our entire mental health? Yes, you can. And it's possible to change your gut bacteria by changing the way you eat.

That is the most powerful lever to changing your gut microbiome. And when you change your gut microbiome, that changes your mood, your affect, your energy levels, your motivation, your drive, and so much more. When I say motivation and drive, it reminds me of the fact that athletes, elite athletes, seem to have a different microbiome than non elite athletes and definitely different from people who don't exercise at all. So theoretically, if you could change your gut bacteria, you could become more athletic, you could become an elite athlete. And the potential there is just amazing, right? So this is why understanding how to change your gut is so, so fascinating, because you can really change your entire mental state. So let's get into how. So the way you eat is going to change your gut bacteria. And a lot of us are eating in a way that's very, very detrimental to our gut bacteria.

Most of us are eating too little fiber and so gut bacteria are dying off. And I think it's 95% of the american population does not eat enough fiber. Fiber is food for that gut bacteria. Fiber is what that gut bacteria needs to thrive. And so if you're not eating enough fiber, you're literally starving those gut bacteria, the ones that are going to make you happy, motivated, energized, all of that. So once you realize it from that lens, it's very easy to see why fiber is something that everyone should be having. But definitely, if you want to change your mood, you should be increasing your fiber. You also want to be increasing your probiotic foods.

So foods that actually have bacteria in it, because that increases the number of good bacteria, that increases the signals that they send to the brain to be happy, energized and have different personality traits. So you really want to be eating probiotic foods. So that's your sauerkraut, your kimchi, your probiotic yogurt, cottage cheese, miso tempeh. These are all ways that you can get more bacteria in your life into your gut and improve your health. Another way. This sounds daunting, but hear me out here is getting 30 different plant foods every single week. Now, you might be like 30 different vegetables. Well, plant foods also include seeds, nuts, and even include spices.

So one of the easiest ways to get 30 different plant foods every single week and improve your gut health is using a spice mix, six different spices, or an everything bagel mix, which has like six different seeds. And there you go, you get six different spices, you get six different seeds. You already have twelve right there. If you're having seasonal produce, it's not so hard to get 30 a week then. And 30 a week was the optimal number that you would want to get to improve the diversity of your gut microbiome, which seems to be the ideal way to change your gut. And remember, when you change your gut, change your brain. Changing your brain through nutrition also requires you to eat foods that support that brain gut connection. So omega three fatty acids, 3 grams or more a day, you want to get vitamin D.

This supports the brain gut connection, improves your brain health. You want to get enough magnesium, 550 milligrams a day through diet and supplements together, really trying to do as much as you can through diet, getting with your vitamin D, you want adequate vitamin K so that it can be absorbed. You want to be really optimizing that brain gut connection. So again, the things that improve your gut also will improve your brain. So the other thing that really, really helps with that brain gut connection is exercise. So technically, this is not nutrition, but it really goes hand in hand. Exercise is a way that the gut bacteria communicate with the brain. So what happens is when you exercise, the gut bacteria get really happy and they produce these magical compounds called short chain fatty acids.

Short chain fatty acids go to your brain, calm the inflammation, and make it happier and healthier. It also goes all over the body. It's kind of like an anti inflammatory, magic fairy dust. Short chain fatty acids. Okay, so you want to get more short chain fatty acids. And how do you get those? You exercise, you eat fiber, you eat foods that they got bacteria like, and they produce short chain fatty acids. And these are essential if you want to improve your mood, your health, and just have a low inflammation body. So remember, inflammation is not bad.
If you fall and you get hurt, you want your body to create a little inflammatory response to fix it. What we don't want is that chronic inflammation, we want something to go around the body, like short chain fatty acids, and heal some of the inflammation that's going on. And so it's really important, I think, to understand that inflammation is not all bad, but we do want to kind of produce more antiinflammatory compounds in our body and eat more anti inflammatory compounds so that we can calm the chronic burning inflammation that's going on all over our bodies. So the other way to improve your brain using nutrition is actually things you stop doing. So 60 plus percent of the american diet is ultra processed foods. This is foods that could never be recreated in a kitchen. So think a frappuccino, think Starbucks, think like cupcakes, think twix bar. No matter what ingredients you had in your home or any culinary kitchen, you would never be able to recreate these foods because they contain non food ingredient chemicals and doritos, oreos, all these things.
They cannot be homemade, right? Like, you cannot make them, no matter how many ingredients you had some of those ingredients are not culinary ingredients. And what we found is when a food becomes ultra processed, it becomes very toxic to our system. Meaning that ultra processed foods, the highest levels of ultraprocessed foods are related to highest levels of inflammation, of depression, of anxiety, of all kinds of things, including early death. So, ultra processed foods are something you want to start to decrease in your life. It's really hard. Teenagers eat like 75% ultra processed foods. I mean, I know I have teens, right? So I see the teenage culture, and here in America and all industrialized countries, ultra processed food is a huge part of their lives. And a lot of them, for a lot of them, that's when they first get food freedom, where they're not eating what their parents gave them and they're choosing food.
Sometimes that is just really tasty, convenient. And unfortunately, it almost becomes a habit into your. Carry this through your life, because ultraprocessed foods, they taste good, they're convenient, they really have flavors that can't really even be replicated in a kitchen. Right? But ultraprocessed foods has time and time again, in studies, been related to poor mental health. And so if you're someone who's trying to improve your child's mental health or your mental health, you want to decrease the amount of ultra processed foods that they are having, or that you're having. So, ultraprocessed foods, in addition to ultraprocessed foods, is liquid calories, okay. Sweetened liquids, so sodas, juices, drinks, alcoholic drinks. These are absolutely ways that you can drive up your glucose levels.
You can drive up inflammation and leads to worse mental health. People who consume the most sugary beverages tend to have the worst mental health, and they also tend to be ultraprocessed, which is also associated with poor mental health. So you really want to minimize the ultra processed foods as well as sweetened drinks. And that brings us to alcohol. So, alcohol has been very controversial through the years. There's doctors, including me, who are like, oh, moderate alcohol has been seen to be protective for brain and heart health. New studies really negate that. And a new study in nature that was kind of a groundbreaking study, really told us what we need to know about brain health and alcohol.

It's that one drink a day, as little as one drink a day, every night, chronically, is enough to shrink the brain. I mean, that, to me, was just mind blowing, that just one drink a night, on a regular basis, one glass of wine, was enough to age the brain and to shrink it over time. And the effects are really exponential. So it's like the more you drink, the more it shrinks your brain. And if you're someone who's looking for better mental health, you really should look at your relationship with alcohol. Maybe it's time to take a break. Maybe it's time to take a permanent break. Maybe it's time to reduce it to three drinks, four drinks a week.

This will be a little bit different between men and women. Women might be more in the three four range a week, and men might be more in the five, six drinks a week. But if you're worried about brain health, really don't want to be going to that daily drink or more. This is just too much when it comes to brain health, and we're just learning more and more about the alcohol effects on the brain. We think that in a few years from now, we'll have even more data that says that it's not good for the brain. It's a little bit different for the heart. We're still thinking that a little bit of alcohol may be anti inflammatory. But for the brain, the data is pretty clear, the less the better.

So that's kind of how it goes for drinks. So when it comes to changing your brain, the last thing I want to mention in this episode is that your inputs become your outputs. So the things that you input, including food, thoughts, social media, and people, become your output. That becomes your mood, your energy levels, your gut health, and your overall health. Your inputs equal your output. So what are you inputting to your mouth? What are you inputting to your brain? What are you inputting into your spirit? Really? It's like the people, the thoughts, the environment, the sunlight, the social media, those are your inputs. The foods, the drinks, the alcohol, the smoking, that creates your outputs. So if you want a better output, create better inputs.

And that starts with food. So thank you so much for listening. I'm so excited that you got kind of a blueprint for improving your brain health through nutrition. I hope you find this helpful. I know that the people that I counsel on this really appreciate this information. I hope you found it helpful, too. Thanks again for listening. I appreciate you guys so much.