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...

Dr. Sarah Lobisco

SARAH LOBISCO, ND, is a graduate of the University of Bridgeport’s College of Naturopathic Medicine (UBCNM). She is licensed in Vermont as a naturopathic doctor and holds a Bachelor of Psychology from State University of New York at Geneseo. Dr. LoBisco speaks professionally on integrative medical topics, has several journal publications, and is a candidate for postdoctoral certification in functional medicine. She currently incorporates her training in holistic medical practices and conventional medicine through writing as well as through her position as Director of Clinical Education for a highly-esteemed nutraceutical and medical food company.*Dr. LoBisco’s recent blogs about living naturally in our complex world and on the applications of essential oils can be found at Her book, BreakFree Medicine, is set for release this year. *

*Currently, Dr. LoBisco is not seeing new clients or practicing naturopathic medicine with private consultation work. Although she holds a license in VT, her current role is to provide support for clinical education and technical support on natural products, exclusive of any medical or diagnostic consultations or services. Read more...