Hello, everyone! It’s Dr. Bob with Lowcountry Chiropractic. I hope all of you are doing well and staying safe! It’s a beautiful time of year and each day presents a new opportunity to be active and enjoy nature. Good weather and physical fitness are two conditions which can contribute to or subtract from a person’s quality of life. Similarly, brain function is another condition which greatly impacts how people complete their day-to-day responsibilities and respond to stressful situations. After the last year we’ve all had, it’s understandable many of us find ourselves more susceptible to stress. Unpredictable schedules and mass loss have weighed on all of us. However, heightened levels of stress can actually impair the executive function of the brain, which regulates concentration and emotions. Have you noticed you’re having trouble staying focused? Or controlling your emotional response to seemingly innocuous stimuli? Well, this may be an indication of decreased brain function due to stress.
According to a recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, nearly half of the respondents said they felt the pandemic had increased their stress levels. For many, this led to unwanted weight gain or weight loss, coping mechanisms such as drinking, and terrible sleep. The less discussed and perhaps more insidious effect of stress is the burden placed on our brain. Excessive amounts of stress can cause us to feel foggy, unmotivated, and scattered. Many attribute this to anxiety and depression, but the truth is: impaired executive function actually precedes these states. Individuals who are struggling to focus on their work may internalize their inability as laziness or lack of interest. In reality, their brain is working quite hard to perform as it once did.
The topic is important because, untreated, stress can worsen and have a negative impact on every single part of the body. From our mental health to our physical well-being, keeping brain function operating at a high level is in everyone’s best interest. Therefore, today, let’s discuss a few ways you can improve your brain function naturally. While many turn to stimulants such as caffeine for focus, and suppressants such as drugs for relaxation, these are temporary fixes which can contribute to health problems later down the line. Holistic remedies, like the ones I’ll share with you here, are beneficial in the long-term as well as the short-term.
To begin, the anatomy of the human body is anchored by the central nervous system. The central nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord, which descends from the neck to the low back. Sixty-two nerves branch out from the spinal cord and these make up the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system supplies organs, glands, muscles, tendons, and blood vessels with coded instructions that create optimal body functions.
Now, though each aspect of these nervous systems is vital, the brain is the final say in each function performed by these systems. Think of the brain as the “master control.” It’s the window controls on the driver’s side. It’s the overriding command on a computer system. It’s the breaker box on the side of your home. The brain is able to place “child locks,” per say, on any function within the body. Therefore, it is essential the brain operates with maximum efficiency. For maximum efficiency, the brain must send timely signals through the nervous system to regulate the body’s functions. These mechanical, chemical, and electrical messages prompt necessary processes, including motor function, digestion, and even our heart beat. As well, the brain must intake, sort, and classify various signals from parts of the body. When you bump your leg or have indigestion, your brain must recognize these signals and respond accordingly.
For these reasons (and more), ensuring proper brain function should be at the top of your to-do list. There are more than a few ways to do this, but we’ll begin with decreasing stress.
This is perhaps the most intuitive of the tips I’ll share today, but can be difficult to implement to effect. Many of us have stressful jobs or home lives, which seem to preclude us from having more than fifteen minutes of peace. As well, there are many others whose peaceful lives were turned upside down from the pandemic. I understand. However, there can be no long-lasting change to brain function without stress management. Instances of frustration are commonplace and to be expected, but existing in a state of low-grade panic is disastrous for one’s health.
In order to practice stress management, you must be able to self-identify when you are feeling stressed. This is relative for everyone. The feeling of stress coincides with the release of cortisol (and sometimes adrenaline) within the body. These hormones send the body into a fight or flight response. You may experience tense muscles, aching chest, an accelerated heart rate, stomach issues, irritability, or exhaustion. Many sufferers of chronic stress grind their jaw while sleeping or have high blood pressure, as well. And all of these symptoms are in addition to those mentioned at the start of this post.
After you identify your stress response, you can begin eradicating stressors from your life. Taking a step back from work or delegating responsibilities within the home can be hard for some, but just remember you’re doing so for your health. Learn how to say “no” when you cannot handle additional tasks. Learn to distance yourself from those who consistently disregard your well-being and state of mind. Cultivate a peaceful environment in which to work and sleep, free of distractions. Limit news updates if you find these spike your stress levels. Express your feelings readily and communicate when you’re finding something difficult to handle. Take breaks. Take walks outside. Sit peacefully among nature. If you worry you’re wasting time, remind yourself you’re doing the much needed work of returning your brain to its baseline.
Physical exercise can be an invaluable tool for managing stress. Research has shown those who are regularly physically active are less likely to experience decline in their mental function and have a lowered risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Now, to enable these benefits, at least 20-30 minutes of exercise is needed per day. Further, research has indicated stress and physical activity are inversely linked. This means people who are highly stressed are less likely to make an effort to exercise, while people who exercise regularly are less likely to be highly stressed. In order to reverse the relationship between the two, you must commit yourself to being the latter.
Once you’ve learned to manage your stress, the other tips have the most beneficial effect on your brain function.
Now, we’ve discussed subluxations and their impact on the nervous system before on the blog, but it’s important enough to say again. Misaligned vertebrae within the spine are called subluxations and these can impair nervous system function, as they compress nerves and impede signals from the brain. Obviously, with chiropractic care, these subluxations can be resolved. However, chiropractic care doesn’t just have an effect on the parts of the body which are targeted by the peripheral nerves. According to a study conducted by the Spinal Research Foundation, chiropractic adjustments increased brain activity by quite a lot! Participants underwent a brain scan before and after adjustment; and, after adjustment, they’re brains showed increased activity in the prefrontal cortex. Higher learning and cognition take place in the prefrontal cortex, and this area of the brain is responsible for: behavior, goal-directed tasks, decisions, memory, processing pain, eye movements, spatial awareness, and so much more.
It’s normal for chiropractic patients to leave an adjustment feeling spry, awake, and able to take on the day. Now, we know this is more than just a feeling. It’s backed up by scientific evidence--chiropractic adjustment alters brain function by almost 20% on average. This increased brain function leads to improved coordination, muscle strength in lower limbs, control of pelvic floor, and mental agility.
These findings are great news for individuals suffering from brain fog, an inability to focus, and trouble sleeping. Likewise, a healthy brain and well-performing nervous system bode well for the immune system, digestive system, reproductive system, and endocrine system alike! We here at Lowcountry Chiropractic are here to help. Send us a quick email or phone call. I’ll perform a thorough analysis of your situation. I hope this information was helpful to you! I look forward to seeing you and remember: I’m Dr. Bob and I have your back covered!
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