We all come across several facts and write ups suggesting how our food and drink choices affects our heart, liver and other parts of body. But do we think the same about the brain as well? Modern research shows that a healthy diet improves brain performance and preserves brain function. As we know that our diet affects blood sugar level, blood pressure, and cholesterol; and when any of these levels are off, it may lead to damage to the brain and increase the risk of stroke, dementia, and decreased cognition. All the suggested diets have some common factors like healthy fats, limited saturated fat, high fibre, etc. Ayurveda proposes a sattvic diet in order to maintain rhythmic body functions.
Moreover, when we talk about brain health, we coin only physical aspects over the mental ones. Modern medicine is more focused on physiological strategies for treating age-related cognitive decline of the brain, while Ayurvedic approach is long lasting for the brain health and is different from traditional medicine. This is because Ayurveda sees the mind as something that spreads all over the body and not in a concrete way. The head is the epicenter of the logical mind and the heart is the centre for the emotional mind. For the brain to work and grow optimally, the two aspects of mind should be in harmony. Here the brain and the mind are intertwined.
Our brain is made up of 70% of fat. Fat is very important for brain function, provided the fat is good one. The essential building blocks of our brain are Omega 3 fatty acids which are important for learning and memory. Brain is a high energy intensive organ which uses 20% of body calories and thus it needs ample fuel to go through the day. Omega 3 fatty acids provide energy to the brain in order to build and repair brain cells.
Moreover, about 25% of cholesterol is used up by the brain. It requires cholesterol in order to establish a connection between the neurons. These neurons are the major links that underlie memory and learning. Thus, as neuron connection increases, the brain will get more & more healthier. Cholesterol serves as raw material in the formation of vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for the functioning of the brain, as it facilitates growth of neurons.
Thus, to maintain the brains and achieve logical and emotional ones, it’s necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle, diet and herbal intake.
There are seven Dhatus which are mentioned in Ayurveda. Amongst them, Meda Dhatu corresponds to fat tissue. It is formed from Mamsa Dhatu or the muscle tissue which lies fourth in the sequence of tissues. It also corresponds to waste products such as skin oil and sweat. Meda Dhatu is made up of water and earth elements. The nourishing aspect of Meda Dhatu is brought in by water and stability of body and mind is broadened by the Earth element.
Meda Dhatu is responsible for lubrication, storage of energy and nourishment. Excess of Meda Dhatu may cause diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, fatty tumors, or excessive thirst; while low levels of Meda Dhatu may lead to dry skin, weak muscles, and emotional disturbances. Thus, it becomes necessary to maintain the amount of Meda Dhatu within the body. It can be brought in by consumption of adequate water and earth via proper diet; which should be digested properly.
Further, essential fatty acids (EFA) are necessary for maintenance of optimal health and are obtained from dietary sources. An imbalance in dietary intake of fatty acids is directly linked to impaired brain performance and diseases. Dietary Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is essential for the optimum functional maturation of retina and visual cortex, with visual acuity and mental development seemingly proved by extra DHA. Besides the structural formation of the brain fatty acids are also useful as messengers and are involved in synthesis and functions of brain neurotransmitters and in molecules of the immune system.
This all brings us to a common point that the brain requires proper nutrition in order to function properly. According to Ayurveda a moderate lifestyle, diet, and daily routine adds up to the balance in functions of every aspect of body, mind, and soul. The principal behind the balance within the body is the rhythmic state of Agni. This means digestion is the basis for good health in every part of the body including the brain. The creation of Meda Dhatu requires proper burning of digestive fire. Therefore when digestion, assimilation, and elimination are in sync with each other, fat tissues and cholesterol level are balanced.
The classical text of Ayurveda suggests various food types that are helpful in maintaining the fat and cholesterol levels. This may include fresh organic fruits and vegetables, including ghee and nuts.
- Adding carrots and beets to diet helps to strengthen memory.
- Raw vegetable juices help to build blood and nourish the brain.
- There should be limited consumption of sugar, alcohol, caffeine and heavy foods like cheeses and meat.
Everything in our body is interconnected. Our brain is present all over the body and needs proper nourishment for its optimal performance. As it needs more energy in order to undertake tasks, it requires proper nutrition. That nutrition is what we intake in an entire day. Thus, good eating habits shall promote the health of the brain and a human, indeed.