There are many ways to accelerate brain health, and one of them is essential for everyone, managing the hormone Cortisol, aka. "The stress hormone."
Produced by the adrenal glands, Cortisol is essential for the "flight or fight" response and is critical to our survival. The Keener Intelligence - Cortisol and Brain Healthphysical effects of Cortisol are designed to give us that adrenaline rush, push the energy into our extremities, and prepare us literally for the fight of our life or the sprint away from the enemy as fast as we can. Obviously this has really worked well or we wouldn’t be here.
However, modern science has discovered that there are some problems with Cortisol that gets too high, or that doesn’t regulate back down after the danger is resolved. The most important distinction as it relates to brain health is that elevated Cortisol causes massive inflammation in the body and in the brain. In fact, high Cortisol causes dementia and even is part of Alzheimer’s disease.
Let’s take a look at how this happens. First of all, remember that the purpose of Cortisol is to prepare the body for and carry it through the fight or flight response. What that looks like inside the body is that all of our energy (except for the very vital functions of lungs and heart) moves into our arms and legs, while our brain power shifts to the more reptilian parts of our brain that are hard-wired for survival. This means our thought s are more about calculating distances to that cave, or tree branch to outsmart the enemy. This is strictly “kill, or be killed” thinking.
So far so good, right? But let’s look more closely at how humans evolved. All the scientific experts on human evolution agree that the average hunting/gathering human had a very distinct lifestyle. The average man enjoyed a 23-hour work week, the average woman 24 hours per week. Wait, what?! That means all work, from hunting, to building a safe home, to rendering meat, making food, clothing, etc. added up to 23-24 hours per week. The rest of that time was leisure!
Furthermore, it is also scientifically agreed that the size of the adrenal glands (the size of the last joint of our thumbs) has not gotten any bigger since those times. So when you look at our cultural norm of a 40-hour work week, and the existing culture of fear that dominates our populations, it is quite easy to see that there is a real problem in paradise: we are all over-working and under resting our adrenal glands.
The built-in safety for the body with Cortisol has always been the RESULT of the spiked adrenaline: Running flat-out or fighting all-out. The result: either out of the gene pool or victory, and well deserved rest, which allows the body to down-regulate Cortisol and resume normal body functions such as moving back into the frontal and POT lobes of the brain, strong digestion, normal reproductive hormone flows, and proper immune response. Let’s face it, when you are fighting for your life, do you need to be digesting breakfast?
Now here is the billion dollar insight: once a body has experienced enough "Cortisol Spikes," or adrenaline bursts without the proper high-level physical activity, the very mechanism for bringing down the high Cortisol breaks. Gone and forgotten by the body, which is now in a level of dissociative compensation. Here is where real problems begin in the body, chronic inflammation being the most recognized by science. But that is actually just the beginning, as digestion slows down, causing fermentation of our foods in the gut tract which over-loads the liver with toxins. Now the liver has over 100,000 functions that we know of so far, from purifying the blood, to conjugating and recycling hormones, to helping blood sugar and even mental cognitive functions. Stressing this powerhouse out is a big No-No for brain power.
Lots of people start having sleep problems, which makes sense as the body is in that heightened flight or fight response with no Keener Intelligence - Cortisol and Brain Healthmechanism for correction.
The thyroid gland has to go "hypo" or underactive with high Cortisol, a fairly recent discovery, which can be devastating to the body. Things like weight gain, premature balding and hair loss, cold extremities, reproductive hormone imbalances, more mental/cognitive dysfunction like poor concentration and depression (to name a few of the symptoms of low thyroid) start to show up.
It does not take long for the blood sugar mechanism of the pancreas to start to go hay-wire, initially causing low blood sugar, eventually causing diabetes. Low blood sugar also creates enormous brain and nervous system symptoms, the most common ones being short-term memory loss, anxiety/ panic attacks, irritability, forgetfulness, shakiness, depression, weakness and even fainting spells.
As a Naturopathic doctor with over 3 decades of clinical experience I can attest that the vast majority of "Brain symptoms" that my patients present when they walk in my door are not originating in the brain, they are originating from things like high Cortisol. *Think of this culprit like the Darth Vader to all of our positive hormones including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, thyroxin (thyroid hormone) and insulin. Think of it as on a seek and destroy mission to your brain as it overrides your neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) Serotonin, Dopamine, Gaba and Norepinephrine and causes real changes in how you think and process memories. Hint: High Cortisol suppresses DMT, and keeps us in duality.
So the common strategies that work are regular aerobic exercise (start slowly if you have been sedentary) everyday such as Keener Intelligence - Cortisol and Brain Healthwalking, rebounding, running (if you are in shape) for 20 minutes per day, or more. Eating 3 meals per day, focusing on proteins, healthy fats and low-starch vegetables can make a huge difference as it stabilizes blood sugar. Cutting back on or reducing caffeine can make big changes to the body as well.
Because of the "hit" to digestion from excess Cortisol, taking digestive enzymes before meals and even some Hydrochloric Acid (Hcl) after meals ensures that things aren’t fermenting and that you are actually getting the nutrients broken down. There is an old saying that you are what you eat, I think the new Intelligent saying is "You are what you can absorb."
Breath work to relax the body and balance the brain is very helpful; any breathing sequences designed to relax the body. There is a direct link from the adrenal glands to the diaphragm, so when Cortisol is too high, opening up the belly with the inhale makes a huge difference. The "Box" Breath is terrific, where you inhale for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, hold the breath out for 4 seconds, and repeat.
Processing memories where you were in a big fight or flight response is also important, using the Brain Training process over at Immortal.ai and allowing the technology to do its thing, is essential. I have seen no faster way to resolve trauma! Times where you went into shock, nearly died, or Keener Intelligence - Cortisol and Brain Healthhad a major trauma occur are the best ones to get big results from. Although you may not want to, there are bigger rewards from processing the most epic Cortisol times. You can always start with smaller ones like a relationship break up, a minor car accident, being fired, etc. and get your confidence built up to take on the big ones. That is a great way to go.
You will also want to process positive times where you felt cool, calm and collected, such as after a fulfilling work-out, or perhaps after making love to your sweetie, being on vacation, etc. These steps are more appealing, so you can start here if you wish, and then progress to some negatives.
Any change you make will likely show up quickly in the function of your brain, as you get smarter, sharper and retain more of the important information you are processing throughout your day. Remember, your brain wants to function at its optimum; it is up to each of us to support that!
There are many excellent stress Adaptogens to help the adrenal glands learn to regulate Cortisol better. Professional Formulas, one of my above vendors, makes a great combination in their Stress Adaptogen Complex and their Phyto-Calm supplements. I like taking them together and multiple times per day if I am highly challenged.
*There may be other reasons such as yeast-fungus overgrowth, food sensitivities, and side effects from medications, etc. but those are for another article.