What is one of the best ways to support your immune system and brain health this fall? Reduce the amount of sugar in your diet!

Small amounts of sugar directly depress the immune system.  Even a glass of orange juice can alter your immune system activity.  And sugar indirectly affects your immune system by altering your gut flora.  As you probably already know, most of your immune system resides in your gut!

Sufficient sleep is key to a strong immune system.  Did you know that emerging evidence shows that your intestinal microbiota plays a critical role in how you sleep?

Research suggests that the intestinal microbiota is a source of sleep-promoting signals. Too much sugar – altered gut flora  –  less deep sleep – less immune resilience.

Excess sugar also has a great impact on the brain.  In fact, over time, you can develop insulin resistance in the brain (also referred to as Type 3 diabetes).  Once this happens, your neurons become unable to utilize the glucose in your brain – your brain’s primary source of energy.  Over time, this can ultimately lead to dementia.  This is when a ketogenic diet can be helpful; your brain can also use ketones as a source of fuel. 

Excess fructose consumption has long been known to be bad for your health. Most fructose consumed ends up in the liver. When there is too much fructose in the liver, it is converted into fat in the form of triglycerides, which can increase the risk of fatty liver and heart disease. 

Recent research shows that both the fructose and glucose in high fructose corn syrup appear to be as bad for your health as consuming sugar in the form of fructose alone, elevating the risk of several heart disease factors.  Plenty of evidence shows that cardiovascular risk factors play an important role in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Where is high fructose syrup found?  Most of the high fructose corn syrup we eat or drink comes from soft drinks and sweetened fruit drinks. However, high fructose corn syrup can also be found in canned fruits, boxed desserts, sweetened yogurts, baked goods including breads, breakfast cereals, granola bars, salad dressings, coffee creamers, and condiments like ketchup, barbecue sauce, jams and jellies.

Read labels carefully!

Interesting that new research out of the University of Colorado suggested that fructose made in the brain could be a mechanism driving Alzheimer’s Disease.  The researchers proposed that “Alzheimer’s disease is a modern disease driven by changes in dietary lifestyle in which fructose can disrupt cerebral metabolism and neuronal function.” 

In summary, reducing sugar intake supports a healthy gut and immune system, improved brain health, and reduces cardiovascular risk.  And as a bonus, you are likely to sleep more deeply!

Detoxify Your Brain While Sleeping!

You are probably familiar with your lymphatic system, simply because you can feel many of your lymph nodes, especially when they are swollen!   In addition to protecting your body against infection by producing white blood cells, your lymphatic system also serves as your drainage network. Lymph contains lymphocytes and also waste products and cellular debris together with bacteria and proteins. You can see how important the lymphatic system is to detoxification!  Homeopathic drainage remedies have been around for a long time and we also know that exercise/movement aids in supporting the movement of the lymph. Jumping on a mini rebounder is one of the best ways to support your lymphatic system!

A few years ago, scientific research finally confirmed that the brain also has a drainage system.  This drainage system is now officially named the glymphatic system.  The glymphatic system is most active while we are sleeping deeply.  It drains toxins and debris while we are fast asleep. Among the debris it removes is beta amyloid protein. The less sleep we get, the less beta amyloid clearance.  In fact, a recent study showed that just one night of sleep deprivation resulted in a significant increase in amyloid beta in the brain.

Tempted to cut your sleep short working late, watching Netflix, or engaging in a late night social media binge?  Think twice about cutting back on sleep if you want to take good care of your brain. As mentioned above, the less sleep you get, the less beta amyloid clearance.  And you don’t want a build- up of beta amyloid in the brain.  Unfortunately, a build-up of beta amyloid in the brain in susceptible people first targets the part of the brain that regulates sleep, resulting in a vicious cycle!

So if good sleep hygiene is not a part of your lifestyle, make sleep a priority today to save your brain.  I have written a lot on the importance of sleep: our entire body regenerates while we sleep and important hormones like growth hormone are secreted while we sleep.  And now we know that our brain detoxifies while we sleep too!   Wow!!

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do. Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone?

Is this addiction leading to lack of focus and depression?

A few months ago while driving to a meeting I heard Catherine Price, author of “How to Break up with your Phone” interviewed on NPR radio. I was intrigued with the interview and immediately put her book on my wish list.  Then a couple of weeks ago I saw her book mentioned again on a newsfeed I follow. Okay, I thought, time to buy the book!  I have been interested in how our smart phones and other wireless mobile devices are affecting our brains and happiness levels for some time now. In a blog post from a few years ago, I wrote about this topic after I attended a forum with journalist Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows: what the internet is doing to our brains”. 

Life has drastically changed with the introduction of smartphones.  I love that I can easily check the weather in the morning, track my steps for the day, get directions to wherever I need to go, and research a good lunch place with my iPhone.  But there are also a lot of downsides, like people just don’t interact with each other much anymore. Does anyone remember when the airport used to be a great place to people watch?  Now it is so uneventful, everyone is looking down at their phones.  We used to talk to the people around us on the airplane – at least sometimes!  And no one looks out the window anymore when flying.  All windows are shut to reduce glare on tablets.  But there is so much to see when looking out the window of an airplane!  And so much to contemplate…like I can’t believe I am flying at this altitude…how crazy is this!  What a perfect time to let ideas go wild and get the creative juices flowing.

According to Catherine Price’s new book, Americans check their phones about 47 times per day and the average is 82 for people between 18 and 24 years. She also cites that we are spending more than 4 hours a day on our phones and 80 percent of us check our phones within a half hour of waking up. How do you relate to these statistics?  I thought I didn’t fit into these statistics…after all, I was aware of all this stuff…I didn’t have a problem. Well, after starting Catherine Price’s 30 day break up plan, I realized that I do have an addiction to my smartphone.  I often reach for it mindlessly, without purpose, and check my email far too often.  It has had a huge impact on my brain.  My ability to focus has declined; I am easily distracted.  It has become harder to complete projects on time. I have developed OCD over the number of steps I take each day. My addiction to my wireless mobile devices has started to erode my creativity and rob me of my clarity.

I remember when neurologist and researcher Dr. Dale Bredesen said during one of his trainings that adult ADD or ADHD can be a first sign of Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease. Wow, I was surprised. But it makes sense. If we are not using the areas of our brain responsible for concentration, then those neural circuits will weaken over time and we end up constantly distracted and forgetting things. And when we use our smartphones, we typically are not in deep thought, concentrating really hard, or memorizing anything. We are skimming! Repetition and practice are what strengthen neural circuits. So what happens when we are skimming through information for minutes at a time on our phones all day long?  We are weakening our neural circuits for memory and concentration and strengthening our circuits that encourage distraction and forgetfulness.

In Dan Buettner’s The Blue Zones of Happiness You Tube video, he says that a commonality among the happiest cultures in the world is that they socially interact face to face 6 hours per day. How much time are we spending on social media and NOT interacting in person with family, friends, colleagues, or even strangers?  No wonder all these studies and reports are coming out that Americans are more isolated and depressed than ever…especially teenagers who are growing up with smartphones wired to them at all times, even when they sleep.

If you find that you don’t do the things that really nourish you and bring you joy as often as you used to, this is the time to assess your relationship with your smartphone or other wireless devices. I discovered that I don’t read as many novels as I used to or explore new music and recipes as much, and I certainly don’t talk on the phone with friends like I used to!

If you own a wireless mobile device, which is highly likely, unless you are reading this blog at a public library on a shared desktop, then I highly recommend reading Catherine Price’s book How to Break up with Your Phone. It is one of the best books that you will read this year. The intent of the book is not to throw your phone out, it is to help you have a healthy relationship with it, so it becomes a tool to help you create the life you desire, NOT the life that smart engineers, marketers, and social media giants want for you!


Insulin Resistance in your brain: Why you don’t want this and how to test for it

When you hear insulin resistance, you probably think of diabetes or blood sugar issues.  When you have insulin resistance, your cells are not responding very well to insulin’s message to take up the circulating glucose or sugar in your bloodstream for energy and suddenly you are on the path to Type 2 Diabetes. Your blood sugar remains high and your cells do not get the energy they need to perform optimally.  And you feel crappy.

Did you know that insulin resistance also happens in the brain? Your neurons end up not getting the energy they need from glucose to produce energy and communicate with each other and your brain health suffers.  A slow down in energy metabolism caused by insulin resistance leads to oxidative stress, DNA damage, and mitochondrial dysfunction which then ultimately leads to inflammation.  A not so pretty cascade of events.

Dr. Dale Bredesen, author of  The End of Alzheimer’s  lists insulin resistance as one of the major underlying causes of Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease.  This has also been called Diabetes of the Brain.

Maintaining optimal blood sugar levels is imperative to your brain health and the health of your whole body.  In fact, keeping your blood sugar levels in a healthy range is crucial to aging gracefully!  And the good news is that simple changes in diet and lifestyle can make your cells more receptive to insulin and bring down your glucose levels. You can be proactive about protecting your brain from insulin resistance!

Step 1: Get tested! Especially if you have not been to your primary care physician in awhile!  When you check in with your primary care physician each year, make sure that he or she is testing for fasting glucose. This means that you need to make your appointment in the morning!  Optimal fasting glucose levels are between 75 and 85 mg/dL.  Please note that optimal does not correspond with typical lab reference ranges.  If you start to see your blood glucose levels inch up every year, you most likely have the beginning stages of insulin resistance. Warning bells should be ringing when you start to see fasting glucose numbers in the mid 90’s and alarm bells should be going off when you see numbers in the high 90’s and 100’s.

Ask your doctor to test for Hemoglobin A1c as well.  This lab value gives you a better picture of how you are managing your blood sugar levels long term – approximately a three month time period.  This is also a great test to do when you are assessing how your diet and lifestyle changes are impacting your blood glucose levels! Optimally, Hemoglobin A1c should be below 5.6%.

Knowing your numbers helps you determine how assertive you need to be with dietary and lifestyle changes and if supplements are needed to support lowering of blood glucose levels and to combat insulin resistance. It is never too early or too late to start testing and make changes!

If you need help figuring out what to do when you get your test results back, please set up a complementary strategy session with me here.

My Five Top Super Foods for Optimal Brain Health!

Blueberries are loaded with polyphenols and flavonoids.  Long-term consumption of blueberry polyphenols and flavonoids has been shown to improve and even reverse cognitive decline in animal studies.  The cognitive enhancement provided by blueberries is closely related to higher brain production of glutathione (our master antioxidant) and the inhibition of acetylcholinesterase activity, which prevents excessive breakdown of acetylcholine. In the brain, acetylcholine functions as a neurotransmitter and is important to attention, memory and  motivation.

Broccoli sprouts are one of the richest sources of sulforaphane.

Sulforaphane activates a genetic pathway in our cells called Nrf2.  This pathway controls over 200 other genes that carry out anti-inflammatory and anti-antioxidant processes and the ability to inactivate other harmful compounds that we are exposed to on a daily basis.  Excess inflammation and toxic load have been linked to cognitive decline.

Top your salad with broccoli sprouts or add the sprouts to a veggie wrap! 

For optimal effects, consume ¼ cup of broccoli sprouts 5 times per week.

Wild salmon:

Rich in the Omega 3 fatty acids which decrease systemic inflammation and help keep our cell membranes fluid.  This fluidity allows all of our cells to communicate better, including our neurons!  We do not want rigid cell membranes!

Purslane plant:

Purslane is an edible weed with a juicy, lemony flavor.  You will find it at farmers markets in the summer. I recently learned at a conference on the topic of neuro-inflammation that it is very high in Alpha Linoleic Acid (an Omega 3 fatty acid). In fact, 100 grams of fresh leaves contains 300-400 mg omega 3’s! It is also very high in melatonin, a hormone that’s great for regulating sleep.

Pull the leaves off the larger stems and toss them with lemon juice, olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Pretty simple!  Or combine with other greens like kale!


Flavanols in cocoa have been studied for many years. They have been shown to help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, prevent blood clots, and fight cell damage. And cocoa is such a nice treat too. Just make sure that you are not consuming the cocoa with a lot of sugar!



Although technically a herb, I include rosemary on this list because it is so good paired with food! Among the most important group of compounds isolated from the plant are the phenolic diterpenes that account for most of the antioxidant and many pharmacological activities of the plant. Rosemary diterpenes have been shown in recent years to inhibit neuronal cell death induced by a variety of agents.

Add rosemary liberally to your foods. It pairs especially well with roasted chicken and vegetables!