Has the summer heat gotten to you? Is it hard to focus for long periods or remember simple to-do list items?  Maybe you feel overdependent upon coffee to boost your moods, and you know something isn’t right. We have 4 easy tips to share that will help you have a happier, healthier brain for the summer and beyond. 

Summer isn’t the easiest time to keep a sharp brain. The temperature rises, which zaps our energy earlier in the day than normal. We may decide not to go on that afternoon run if it just feels way too hot. Hopefully we find an alternative indoor workout option, but if not, we have even lower energy from not keeping our bodies moving. Another challenge in the summer is the tempting solution to the heat. The ice cream is cold, so we may decide to eat it, but then we regret it. At the end of the day, we may even find ourselves on the couch, tired from the heat, full of carbs, and trying to figure out why we are so tired! 

In order to find the real reason we are so tired and foggy, we have to take a U-turn here and go back to the ice cream (or whatever simple carbs we ate) and then dive into brain chemistry. 

Excessive carbohydrate cravings are a sign of a brain imbalance. The craving is legit, but you have to know what your brain is telling you and why, to regain balance. 

A balanced brain needs the right amount of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the brain that normally help us have good moods, creativity, a sense of well-being, and a sharp memory. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter for happy moods and memory. When serotonin levels are low, we feel anxious, sad, and even depressed or foggy. Our brain turns on the “I need carbs now” signal, because our brain needs carbs to make serotonin, and we go for the fridge. The issue, and another connection here with memory and overall well-being, is that if we eat the wrong foods (simple carbs) when our brain is just yelling “CARBS!,” then we get the wrong result. We have to keep in mind that our brain is telling us it needs just the right amount of complex carbohydrates. If we eat the simple carbs, we will feel anxious, have memory issues, low energy, and weight gain. This can also happen when we eat too many of any type of carbs, even if it’s a healthy sweet potato. If we eat too much, we can throw our body and mind out of balance and deplete our serotonin. 

And the cycle begins again. 

Serotonin is the happy neurotransmitter which reduces carbohydrate cravings because it makes us feel happy and content. When the neurotransmitter is low, we feel sad and anxious, and we may literally try to eat our feelings. 

Keeping serotonin levels optimal by eating healthy foods and maintaining a healthy lifestyle that supports optimal brain balance is critical. If we ignore the signs and keep going in the wrong direction, we may be tempted to “go see a professional,” but an antidepressant is the last thing we need. Antidepressants only temporarily increase serotonin, and then they cause lower levels than before. Antidepressants can cause feelings of detachment from reality, sadness, and even suicidal thoughts. Don’t go anywhere near them if you aren’t already on one. If you are taking one now, you’ll have to talk to your doctor about how to try to taper off of it. Never just stop taking an antidepressant “cold turkey.” It’s very dangerous.  

Having a healthy, well-balanced brain without medications is totally achievable and makes everything easier. It can boost our mood, improve our memory, and even help us sleep better. A better mood makes our days happier. A better memory can help us remember names, faces, and places. Better sleep helps the next day go smoothly. 

Here are 4 tips for a happier, healthier brain:

  1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Your brain is 75% water and needs to be hydrated in order to function properly. Water is the quickest, easiest solution for a lack of focus, and it’s also one of the most commonly overlooked causes, especially in the summer while the air is hot and dry. The best way to beat the heat and perk up is to drink water.  Make it a rule that if the temperature is going above 100 degrees, you aren’t drinking any alcohol or coffee, and only drink water. Also, make sure you drink about a gallon of water per day.
  2. Detox with a “veggie day” once or twice per week. This helps hydrate the body and creates an extra boost of energy from the nutrients in all the healthy veggies. This also helps reduce the amount of blood your digestive system uses, which allows more blood flow to the brain. Allow yourself to eat one small complex carbohydrate serving per day, such as half a sweet potato. Your brain probably does need it, especially if you are active. The key is to stop there and not eat too much. If you are on the Yeast-Free Diet you will have to get your complex carbs from vegetables, which is also pretty easy to do.
  3. Take B-Vitamins and Fish Oil. These nutrients work together to help fuel a balanced brain, and  lower stress and inflammation. Low levels of B-12 have been associated with increased levels of depression. The omega-3 nutrients in fish oil are healthy fats that have been shown to preserve the integrity of the myelin covering of our brain cells. The myelin is 60-75% fat and it’s critical to maintain these healthy levels to preserve memory and proper brain function. Symptoms of a deficiency of healthy fats, which leads to damaged myelin, are things like double vision, cognitive disruption, and fatigue. Damaged myelin can lead to severe nerve disorders like multiple sclerosis.
  4. Take something for extra brain power. If your brain has slowed down lately, and you just need a little boost in speed, take Acetyl L-Carnitine for better brain energy. If you have trouble with recalling information, like names or places, or if you need to remember a lot of information, take Phosphatidyl Serine (PSC) for an improved memory bank. It’s like turning your brain into a big file cabinet. It may take you a moment to think about it, but with good PSC levels, you can recall far more information than you ever thought possible. Or, you can take Cognitive Support for an overall healthier brain.

But here’s the good news from your local nutritionist. If you eat healthy most of the time and you aren’t on the Yeast-Free Diet, go ahead and have some ice cream when it’s hot. Have a couple of bites, drink water afterwards, and then find a way to burn it off. Get back in the pool for a few minutes or go on a walk indoors. The main issue we battle is eating too much of something our body only needs in small amounts (or not at all). Make sure you are still eating to live rather than living to eat. Sometimes we just need a reminder.