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Brain Drain

By Amanda Gore
Sunday Life, 7/07/2003

According to a fascinating new book I found recently, stress is making us stupid. Dr Dharma Singh Khalsa, in his book Brain Longevity, says information is overloading our poor brains.

He says the average American sees 16,000 advertisements, logos and labels a day. All this ‘cerebral noise’ creates sharp jolts on our nervous systems and cortisol, a major brain enemy, is perpetually released. This noise is a continuing onslaught of our nervous system and it keeps our levels of cortisol too high.

The consequent of this over-secretion is to exhaust the adrenal glands, disrupt metabolism, destroy hormonal balance and damage the immune system. Cortisol destroys brain cells and affects blood-sugar levels. All of which affects our ability to concentrate, focus, remember things and experience pleasure.

Now the good news: these effects can be reversed. We need to lower our cortisol levels and feed our brains. Khalsa outlines a four-step regimen: nutritional therapy, stress management, exercise and pharmacology.

A ‘brain-longevity’ day is when we minimize damage to this over-stimulated organ. Wake up slowly. Do not use an alarm clock. Lie in bed for a few minutes quietly contemplating a pleasant day. Gently get out of bed and meditate for 20 minutes followed by 30 minutes of exercise. In his book, Dr Khalsa recommends yoga and walking. Have a shower and finish it with cold water to stimulate the nervous system in a healthy way.

Have a healthy, nutrient-rich breakfast of fruit, whole grain cereals, soy products, yoghurt and flax oil, with no coffee, newspapers or TV heralding disasters and misery. And no rushing. Rushing, or a sense of being permanently rushed, is a fabulous way to increase cortisol production. Drink pure water during the day. And drink tea rather than coffee. Make lunch the day’s largest meal and eat more protein than starch.

Then in the evening, it’s time to unwind, recharge your batteries by spending time with your family or friends; to contemplate the day and life and to feel love, contentment and peace. Dinner should be slightly smaller and have more carbohydrates than protein. Then relax deeply before you go to bed. Have a bath, a massage, and sleep for eight hours.

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