Yes, we are aging. Every day. That's a simple fact of life. But we're also living longer than ever before and we have a remarkable opportunity to enjoy our longevity by making good choices and paying attention to the role of healthy cognitive function (HCF) in our overall ability to live - and age - with vitality, grace and dignity.
Healthy cognitive function means we're able to retain our ability to think, learn, and remember. We can mentally reason, concentrate, make plans, evaluate and organize information in a variety of ways.
Cognitive health falls along a continuum, from optimal to mild impairment to severe dementia. There's great variability in how dementia develops and how it progresses. Some people never show early signs and others can show a slow or a rapid decline. Some of the early signs of dementia include forgetfulness that disrupts daily living, inability to plan or solve problems, difficulty performing simple or routine tasks, and time/place confusion.
Genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors are associated with cognitive function. While we can't do too much about inherited risk factors, we can preserve and even enhance brain health with a few simple lifestyle practices. Here are some tips for keeping your brain active, healthy and sharp:
Never Stop Learning. Ongoing research shows the brain is able to evolve and learn across the lifespan. The key is to keep those neurons (brain cells) engaged. Actively seek to learn and experience new things. Read a variety of types of books and magazines. Play Sudoku, chess or other games that involve problem solving. Use an iPad. Travel. Learn a new language. Take (or teach) a class. This kind of mental stimulation helps your brain form new memories, strengthens existing memories, and creates new neural connections.
Stay Connected. Involvement with family, friends, and community creates positive emotions that are linked with overall vitality. People who are alone most of the time show sharper declines in cognitive function. If family isn't nearby, join a club or volunteer.
Move that Body. Research indicates exercise improves connections among brain cells and may reduce risk for dementia. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise, five days per week unless otherwise advised by your physician.
Protect Your Brain. If you smoke or frequently drink alcohol it's akin to draining the brain's natural resources. Smoking interferes with healthy blood circulation, not just in the body but also to the brain. Alcohol impairs communication between neurons and causes long-term changes in brain chemicals involved with memory, emotion, and coordination. Certain prescription medicines (or a combination of medicines) can affect cognition, memory or thinking. If you experience such changes, or notice them in a loved one, talk to your doctor.
And it goes without saying (but it's always good to be reminded): Eating whole foods and a low intake of sweets are the foundation for optimal brain health.
Remember, dementia is no longer considered a normal and inevitable outcome for an aging brain. We all have opportunities to retain HCF (healthy cognitive function), allowing us to maintain an independent and active lifestyle.
Bone broth, also known as stock, is a wonderful way to use the animal in its entirety. Bones are filled with healing minerals and beneficial nutrients. Bone broth is rich in amino acids particularly glycine and proline, as well as collagen and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs).
Glycine. A nonessential amino acid (body is capable of creating it by itself), glycine is involved in the formation of creatine (beneficial for athletes), glutathione (the mother of all antioxidants), and heme (and iron-containing and oxygen-carrying component of blood).
Proline. Evidence is mounting that proline should be classified as an “essential” amino acid. Proline is a great contributor in protein collagen, a key component of skin, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and healthy bones. It is needed for tissue repairs and wound healing. Proline is commonly found in animal protein. Research shows that plasma levels fall by 20 to 30 percent when individuals in normal health are put on proline-free diets (for example the vegetarian and vegan diets)
Collagen. The most abundant protein in the body and the main building block of connective tissue, including tendons and ligaments. Proline and glycine comprise of half the amino-acid composition of collagen. With age, collagen breaks down and leads to decreased stability, weaker and less elastic joints, thinner cartilage and less resilient skin. The bones in your bone broth are rich in collagen. Upon cooking, collagen breaks down into gelatin, which supports gut healing. Collagen and gelatin give your body the raw materials to rebuild its own connective tissue.
Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). These include hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate. These are commonly used for treating osteoarthritis.
Other key players found in bone broth include glutamine (supports immune health and integrity of the intestinal walls), calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur and trace minerals.
Bone broth helps to heal and seal your gut. Medical scientists have discovered that your health is in large part dependent on the health of your intestinal tract. The health of your gut and brain are also largely connected and intertwined. Leaky gut is the root of many health problems, especially allergies, autoimmune disorders, and many neurological disorders. The collagen found in bone broth acts like a soothing balm to heal and seal your gut lining, and broth is a foundational component of the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet, developed by Russian neurologist Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.
Make sure your bones are organic, grass fed, free-range, and come from a good farm. Animals that are fed an unnatural diet that is not beneficial for their intestinal makeup, and are given a variety of drugs and growth promoters are not beneficial to your health.
BENEFITS OF BONE BROTH INCLUDE:
- Promotes strong, healthy bones
- Reduces joint pain and inflammation
- Fights inflammation
- Healthy hair and nails
- Heals and seals the gut
- Promotes healthy digestion
- Inhibits viruses and infection
- Reduces swelling
- Calms the nerves
- Reduces recovery time
- Removes arterial plaque build-up
- Improves autoimmune diseases
You will find many articles out there from common sites that insist there is not enough scientific evidence supporting the benefits of bone broth. Our favorite Bone Broth article is Why Broth is Beautiful by the Weston A. Price Foundation and it's definitely worth a read. It's best to give bone broth a good go- try it for a period of time, see how and if it benefits you, and come up with your own conclusion.
It's the season for bone broth! It's one of our favorite winter time recipes. Nourishing and healing to the body from the inside-out. The longer your cook this bone broth the more concentrated it will be. You can sip this restorative bone broth on it's own as a meal or use it for cooking in place of water. It's hearty, healthy and regenerative. Use organic, grass fed, free-range ingredients.
Makes 6+ Servings
- 4 pounds organic beef bones (marrow and knuckle bones)
- 3 medium unpeeled carrots, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 3-4 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp black peppercorns
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (ACV)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- A dash of Himalayan sea salt when serving
- water (natural spring water is best; or filtered water)
- 6-qt. (or larger) slow cooker (crock pot)
Preheat a skillet, with a tbsp of coconut oil. Add carrots, onion and celery to skillet. Saute until golden brown. Add a tiny amount of hot water if vegetables become too dry.
Add the beef bones, bay leaves, peppercorns, and ACV to the slow cooker. The ACV is an essential ingredient to draw out the minerals from the bones. Once vegetables are golden brown, add them to the slow cooker. Fill slow cooker to the top with natural spring water. Cover and turn on medium heat for 12 hours. Decrease to low heat for the remainder of the time. Total cook time is 48 hours. Add more water to slow cooker as needed as the liquid becomes concentrated, making sure all contents are submerged.
Once bone broth is complete, let it cool. Strain bone broth with a fine-mesh sieve, and discard (or compost) bones and vegetables. Use wide mouth glass mason jars to bottle and store the bone broth. Let jars sit out to cool down until you hear them seal. Once sealed, place all jars in refrigerator.
When ready to use your bone broth, discard or save the top layer of solidified fat for cooking. Heat broth on low heat, add a pinch of Himalayan sea salt for taste and enjoy.
Freeze in ice-cube trays if needed.
Photo and Recipe Credit: Epicurious Beef Bone Broth.
Silica, abundantly found pretty much everywhere, is one element that is not so abundant in our body as we age. It is found naturally all around us in granite, quartz, rocks, sand, clay, soil and food. Food like bone broth and oats, and plants like horsetail and bamboo contain silica. Along with oxygen, silicon is the most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. Every cell and internal gland in our bodies needs silica to function optimally.
We are born with an abundance of silica, which is why babies have such beautifully smooth and glowing skin. As we age our silica levels decrease, revealing the telltale signs of aging such as dry wrinkled skin, bone loss, weakened gums and teeth, thinning or loss of hair, and brittle nails to name a few. We must supplement silica from our environment around us. Without silica, our bodies would literally break apart!
Silicon maintains healthy hair, skin, and nails. It sits inside collagen, acting as glue, providing strength, flexibility and resilience to collagen and elastic connective tissues. Silica is a natural anti-inflammatory that soothes and calms skin irritations and helps to alleviate eczema and psoriasis. Silica contributes to skin’s youthful glow, brightness, firmness, smoothness, thickness, elasticity, strength, and hydration. It reduces skin’s facial pores, blemishes, and wrinkles while increasing elasticity and firmness of blood vessels. This improves the delivery of oxygen and essential nutrients to your skin cells.
It’s no wonder the symptoms of aging are linked with the degradation of silica production. As we age there are many ways to increase the amount of silica we absorb through the body, both internally and externally.
While in London, UK, Dr. Isabel Sharkar collaborated with SÖND skin care as their resident naturopathic expert on silica. If you are interested in silica skin care products that are good for psoriasis, eczema and other sensitive skin issues, check out their website.
Touted as the "brain herb," Ginkgo Biloba extract (GBE) has received attention for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, particularly to support cardiovascular and neurological and brain health. Over the past 10-15 years, numerous studies have tested Ginkgo for various actions in treating dementia and Alzheimer's disease, as well as preventing cognitive decline in healthy people.
Ginkgo contains a number of biologically active compounds that work in different ways to support brain health. How these compounds act is not fully known - and is still being researched in animal and human studies - but there are some excellent theories. Ginkgo may work by increasing blood flow in the brain, helping to remove free radicals that can damage cells, and reducing inflammation. It may even protect nerve cells already damaged by Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia.
Hundreds of published studies have evaluated the effectiveness of Ginkgo in people with dementia and other types of cognitive decline. Several studies show that GBE has a positive effect on memory, learning, and thinking in people with Alzheimer disease or vascular dementia. In fact, Ginkgo may work as well as some prescription medications for Alzheimer's.
Gingko extracts are standardized to specific dosages when used in studies and medical treatment. GBE can interact with blood clotting medications. Be sure to consult with your holistic practitioner before taking Ginkgo.
Have you ever seen a science fiction movie where an actor wears a thin skull-cap with wires extending from it and connecting to a recording machine? That machine, called an electroencephalogram or EEG, records brain waves in response to different types of physical, mental, or emotional stimuli. It's not just science fiction! It's Neurofeedback (NF), a scientifically supported modality that can help improve or change behavior, including learning and memory.
From the moment you're born and throughout life, your brain is making neural connections based on your experiences. Everything you do, see, sense - performing a task, responding emotionally, learning a skill, or making observations - creates a neural pattern. The more you practice something, the stronger that neural pattern becomes. The less you use a certain neural pattern, the weaker it becomes (and eventually you "forget" how to do something!).
NF uses video, music, games, and/or specific tasks (like writing your name) to help train the brain to form new neural connections. A specially trained clinician monitors the EEG to assess how a person is responding. Once a pattern is established, regular NF sessions help reinforce the pattern. Over time, this results in new learning that can endure for years or a lifetime.
There's good evidence that NF can help prevent cognitive decline in the normal aging process. Healthy older adults have shown improvements in working memory after a short, intensive series of NF sessions. New research is looking at whether or not NF improves symptoms associated with dementia disorders. In fact, a study with older adults with Alzheimer's disease, NF brought about improvement in recall of information and recognition.
In many states, health agencies regulate the practice of NF practitioners who treat medical conditions. If you're interested in learning more about NF, ask your physician for resources or check for a practitioner listed with your state association of neurofeedback practitioners.
Last year one of our dear friends experienced neurofeedback first hand by visiting the Biocybernaut Institute for a seven-day training workshop. Research has shown that Biocybernaut Alpha Feedback training increased intelligence as measured by a sophisticated IQ test: up to 49 percentiles in one individual and 11 points average in a study reported in February 2000. Men and women suffering the effects of brain aging, memory loss, ADD and ADHD, depression, panic and anxiety disorders, addictions, and even stroke can transform their lives.