In the fourth blog post in our series on brain health, I want to discuss a topic that isn’t discussed in the medical world frequently: brain toxicity. Before I get started, however, I encourage you to check out the other blog posts in this series as they’ll help give you a foundational knowledge of the brain – why it’s important, what you can do to keep it healthy, and what to eat to prevent cognitive decline. You can check those out here, here, and here when you’re ready.
It is commonly believed that cognitive decline is a natural part of the aging process. We’re often told that it’s normal to become more forgetful or to have trouble recalling memories and information as we age, and many of us have resigned ourselves to the idea that developing dementia and Alzheimer’s is just a part of life.
However, I believe that it’s possible for the brain to be just as vital and strong in your 70’s and 80’s as it was in your 20’s. Part of maintaining this vitality includes incorporating the life hacks and nutrition recommendations offered in previous posts, but it also requires that we ensure that the brain and body are free of toxins as much as possible.
It’s been shown that high levels of heavy metals, specifically high levels of mercury and lead, lead to early aging of the brain (1).
In fact, studies conducted on brains during autopsy have demonstrated that the levels of lead in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s were the higher than those without Alzheimer’s (2), proving that there is a correlation between toxicity and brain health. This is something I have experienced and treated clinically, but also something that I have experienced in my personal life.
My husband is lacking the glutathione gene – a gene that is essential for detoxification. Since my husband is lacking this gene, his body is not able to properly remove toxins. Instead, when he is exposed to toxins like heavy metals, pesticides, chlorine, solvents in the air, and any contaminants in the water or soil, they accumulate in his body and affect his ability to think clearly.
A prime example of this was when we purchased a new car. Driving the car caused him to experience severe brain fog and fatigue. We didn’t realize right away but later discovered that the chemicals and toxins that are present in new cars, the ones responsible for the new car smell, were accumulating in his body.
The brain fog and fatigue he experienced were a direct result of his inability to produce enough glutathione to detoxify the chemicals from his body.
His symptoms improved significantly after we off-gassed the car for 6 months and supplemented with glutathione. While his risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia is increased due to the absence of this gene, he has used many of the life hacks, nutrition recommendations, and supplements I’ve discussed in the previous posts of this series to reduce his risk of cognitive decline and we’ve seen tremendous improvement in the health of his brain.
This is something I see often in patients, but it’s even more inspiring to witness it in my personal life!
In order to ensure that you don’t have a toxic brain, it’s important to have your toxicity levels tested. In my clinic, we use an environmental toxin test that measures up to 70 toxic chemicals as well as heavy metals. If it turns out after testing that you’ve been exposed to toxic substances, I recommend a course of treatment to help you detox using resources like glutathione supplementation, regular saunas, and colonic treatments.
In addition to heavy metals and environmental toxins, it’s also important to make sure you’re not consuming toxins in your food. One of the best ways to do this is by avoiding artificial sweeteners like aspartame, a neurotoxin often found in diet soda and sugar-free processed foods. Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners can adversely affect brain health and cause neurological issues, like vertigo and ringing of the ears.
It’s also best to avoid chemical based food colorings, dyes, and MSG as much as possible. This is especially important for children and adults with ADD/ADHD, autism, and those affected by mood disorders.
Other things to be aware of are electromagnetic frequencies (EMF), chronic infections, and negative thoughts. All of these can create a toxic brain.
We are exposed to electromagnetic frequencies frequently through the use of cell phones and wi-fi. Studies have shown that this exposure to EMF is negatively affecting the health of our brains. To reduce the risk, I recommend turning your cell phone off or putting it on airplane mode when you go to bed at night. It’s also best to use earbuds or an earpiece, when possible. Placing your phone on your ear to speak exposes the brain to high levels of radiation, which has been associated with an increased risk of brain tumor development (3).
Chronic infections can also create a toxic brain. If you’ve made changes to your diet and lifestyle with no improvement in symptoms like brain fog, memory recall, and general cognitive functioning, a chronic virus like Lyme disease, Bartonella, or Coxsackieviruses may be present.
I’ve seen many patients during my time as a clinician with symptoms that mirror those of early-onset dementia that is actually caused by an undiagnosed infection.
Since I believe in treating the whole person, I couldn’t end this series without discussing the importance of our emotions and thoughts. The health of our brains is not just affected by diet, lifestyle, and viruses. Toxic thoughts and belief systems also play a role as they can cause the brain to age more quickly. With this in mind, I encourage you to do your best to create a positive internal environment – attempt to see the glass half full as much as possible. I know it’s impossible not to experience negativity in our lives, but when you find yourself in a negative place, trust that it will pass.
You can also support the transition back to a more positive way of being by using affirmations, maintaining a positive support system, socializing, and making an effort to incorporate fun and pleasure into your life regularly. These elements are just as important as eating the right foods and taking the right supplements.
I’ve seen the benefit of this first-hand through watching my grandfather age. He died when he was 94 years old and was the perfect example of vitality and longevity. His memory was sharp until the day he died, and he was able to work until two weeks prior to his death because he was in such great health. His mind stayed sharp because he did many of the things I’ve suggested to you. He stayed positive, always focusing on the silver lining. He ate nourishing foods, free from chemicals. He also stayed active in his community and surrounded himself with joyful, loving people.
I hope this example will inspire you to either start or continue to take care of your body and live in a way that supports the health of your brain. It has certainly been an incredible influence on my life! Just remember that a toxic brain is not inevitable, nor are the symptoms it creates in the body and mind.
Learn something new in this series on brain health? Share what you learned in the comments. I would love to hear your insights!