Living Well Blog: Saratoga's Holistic Health Forum

Healthy Body, Healthy Brain

Did you know what's good for your brain is also good for your body? At least, according to Dr. Amen, MD. Dr. Amen is a psychiatrist who uses SPECT scans to visulaize how the brain FUNCTIONS. In other words, he looks at the brain's activity and its neural pathways, not just the structure of the brain. He has performed  more than 50,000 scans, and uses various techniques which include lifestyle modifications, nutritional support, supplements, and medication,  in order to assist and achieve balance in the brain's biochemistry. The results are profound. 

I have been studying his techniques, specifically incorporating some neurotransmitter balancing protocols, and have seen the results turn around many of my patients a lot quicker than other modalities. Still, do we need all this fancy biochemistry to have healthy brains? Although it's fun, what is the easiest and best secret for both brain and body health may surprise you. It's not found in a pill, it doesn't cost a thing, it makes you look good, and it gives you energy. Do I have you interested? It's not diet, though very important and a close second... it's exercise!

Here's a summary of the benefits of exercise according to Dr. Amen:
  • Increased cognition (by modulating BDNF (brain derived neuropeptide factor) in the temporal and pre-frontal cortex)
  • Mood balancer (by modulating tryptophan into the brain and enhancing serotonin). Exercise is documented as effective as antidepressants in various studies.
  • Stress buster.  (The effects of cortisol on the brain shows the same degeneration on the brain as dementia patterns- a shrinking hypothalamus and limbic region)
  • Cognitive enhancer- see above
  • Increases NO  (nitrc oxide) (NO signals smooth muscles in blood vessels to vasodilate, allowing for better circulation). This helps keep the heart healthy, decreases blood pressure, and helps with increasing libido.
  • Aids sleep- exercise stimulates melatonin
  • Balances hormones
  • Acts as an insulin sensitizer
  • Increases glutathione for better detoxification
  • Reduces the risk for arthritis, breast and colon cancer
  • Builds muscle 
  • Makes you beautiful. Exercise aids skin in collagen production and turnover of cells from increased circulation
-Change Your Brain, Change Your Body. Dr. Amen

Here's a scientific journal finding on brain health and exercise from a 2002 article in Trends in Neuroscience:

Exercise is a simple, reproducible behavior that activates molecular cascades in the hippocampus; these cascades center on BDNF and other growth factors,and mediate structural changes that maintain brain function and support plasticity.

And what about supplements to enhance fat burning??
Substances such as antioxidants, green tea, and arginine may boost brain function. However, let me once again get on my soap box and recommend that supplements work best when they address the cause, not when taken haphazard due to a journal review.

In other words, if your memory is low because you have a lot of oxidative stress, the gogi berry might boost brain function, but not help you if you are low in protein and need amino acids or neurotransmitters. That's why it's best to consult with an integrative practitioner. They can also aid you in the perfect exercise routine that fits your individual needs!

Here's some peer-reviewed journal article of effective nutritional enhancement. 
Supplements for Brain Health in Elderly 
Arginine & Antioxidants were able to boost anaerobic threshold in elderly cyclists in a randomized placebo controlled study comparing reported in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition. 

The results of a Swiss-German clinical trial suggest that a modest amount of EGCG from green tea can increase fat burning (oxidation) by one-third (33 percent).
Importantly, this was about as much as fat-burning as was produced by a modest dose of caffeine.
And they showed that a combination of EGCG and caffeine raised fat-burning by a whopping 49 percent (Thielecke F et al. 2010).
Accordingly, the researchers viewed their results as a breakthrough:
"This pilot study provides the first evidence that a single green tea catechin, EGCG, can increase fat oxidation [burning] in obese men, at least within 2 hours after meal intake ...[which means that] ... EGCG is equipotent with [equals] caffeine with regard to fat oxidation."
Note from me: Although caffeine and green tea didn't increase calories burned, they did something better-they increased fat burn! It seems ECGC, a catechin in green tea has been found to also decrease the formation of fat cells and increase fat excretion.  What the author concluded is that 2 cups of green tea would provide enough caffeine and ECGC catechin for the fat-burning effects seen in the above trial. 

Body Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance in Relation to Habitual Caffeine Intake and Green Tea Supplementation (Obesity Research 2005)

Discussion: High caffeine intake was associated with weight loss through thermogenesis and fat oxidation and with suppressed leptin in women. In habitual low caffeine consumers, the green tea-caffeine mixture improved WM, partly through thermogenesis and fat oxidation.

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Reisa Mehlman

As a New York State Licensed Aesthetician, New York State Licensed Nail Specialist, and the Director of Living Well Healing Arts Center & Spa, Reisa combines her love of spa services and healing arts to achieve optimum skin and nail health, create greater overall wellness and bring forth our optimal, individual beauty.

"I believe that the day spa should be an instant getaway; a place that is quiet without being stuffy, relaxed, elegant and yet entirely comfy. You should feel warm and welcome, surrounded by people who care about you and what they are doing. This is the environment we strive to create at Living Well Healing Arts Center & Spa. Here, you are never just the "next" number; we allow ample time for your services, offer a flexible schedule and can be reached after hours. After all, to me, spa craft is not really a business, it's a lifestyle." Read more...

About Dr. Sarah Lobisco

Dr. LoBisco has been in holistic healthcare for over 10 years. She became interested in holistic medicine when she was able to heal two herniated discs through nutrition, yoga, supplementation, and chiropractic. She has mentored with holistic practices throughout New York, Vermont, and Connecticut. In addition to her Naturopathic and Functional Medical training, Dr. LoBisco has extensive training in a variety of healing modalities, including therapeutic essential oils, nutraceuticals, herbs, whole food supplements, nutritional medicine, and mind-body therapies. She is a graduate of the accredited, four year post-graduate program in Naturopathic Medicine at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. This program includes clinical rotations and a demanding scientific curriculum in integrating conventional and natural medicine. Dr. LoBisco holds her license from the state of Vermont.

Dr. LoBisco is a candidate for certification in Functional Medicine through the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM). Dr. LoBisco is also certified in Applied Kinesiology and holds a BA in psychology from SUNY Geneseo. She has contributed as an item writer for the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE)and has several articles that have been published in the Naturopathic Doctor News and Review Digest (NDNR) and the Townsend Letter, both physician- based journals. Dr. LoBisco is also a hired speaker on integrative medical topics for medical professionals.

Dr. LoBisco currently incorporates her training in holistic medical practices and conventional medicine through writing, researching, private practice, and through her independent contracting work for companies regarding supplements, nutraceuticals, essential oils, and medical foods. She has a small, private wellness consultation practice through telephone and Skype. Dr. LoBisco also enjoys continuing to educate and empower her readers through her blogs and social media. Her upcoming book, BreakFree Medicine, is set to release within the next year. Please inquire here for more specific information.