December 4, 2010

5 Ways Improve Brain Function Through Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture

Are you constantly online, texting or twittering? Worried about the long term impact of increased computer and gaming time on the brain? Many people believe the technological age will have a negative impact on memory, concentration and general brain function over time. Below are 5 simple ways to improve your brain function.

1. Acupuncture is a great way to reduce stress, improve sleep and allow the body to enter deep relaxation which will enhance rejuvenation. There are even certain acupuncture points which can impact the brain directly, as well as scalp acupuncture which targets specific areas of the brain. From a traditional Chinese medicine perspective enhancing brain function involves strengthening Kidney Essence, nourishing Heart Blood and tonifying Marrow, which is the spinal cord, brain, bones and bone marrow.

2. Chinese herbs can be used to promote cognitive function or help balance organ systems which may contribute to declining brain function later in life. Common herbs used to prevent mental decline are gingko biloba, ling zhi, ginseng, gou ji berries and others used more in traditional Chinese medicine formulas to strengthen the Kidney essence such as he shou wu, rou cong rong and wu wei zi.

3. Diet plays an important role in overall health including brain health. The nutrient luteolin which is found in vegetables and herbs such as carrots, peppers, celery, rosemary, peppermint and olive oil has been found to decrease inflammation in the brain which can be responsible for decreased memory and cognitive function. Whereas a Finnish study found that seniors with higher levels of B12 in the body had a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's. Certain foods are also considered to be brain tonics, such as walnuts, blueberries, kiwi, kidney beans and supplements like vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids which can be found in salmon, tuna, halibut as well as some nuts and plant sources.

4. Lifestyle is also an important factor in maintaining brain function, getting regular restful sleep, managing stress and finding time for relaxation will give the brain a chance to recharge. Activities such as yoga, meditation, tai chi and breathing exercises are all beneficial. If you prefer active sports like biking, skiing, skating and contact sports definitely protect your head as trauma to the head has shown to increase the chance of developing Alzheimer's later in life.

5. Learn a new skill to create neural pathways in the brain which will keep it healthy over time. Language and dance are often touted as good activities for the brain and recent research on bilingual children confirms it. Multilingual children were found to adapt to changes easier and focus better in confusing environments. In one study bilingualism helped to slow the onset of dementia, including Alzheimer's by about 4 years.

Angela Foran is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine with a private practice in Vancouver, Canada. She likes to incorporate all aspects of traditional Chinese medicine in her practice by encouraging clients to be proactive about their health using diet and lifestyle recommendations to enhance acupuncture and herbal treatments. Find out more about her Vancouver acupuncture practice here.


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