Optimize all 3 brains

We have three brains that all have complex neural networks that need to work together in sync, for us to be able to live our best lives — our heart, brain, and gut.

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The connection between the heart, brain, and the gut

You’ve definitely experienced these connections in your lives so far. For example, when you’ve had butterflies in your stomach, when you were nervous to speak in front of people, or when you just followed your heart and made a decision based on that. 

There are so many instances where you have felt and experienced these deep connections. And these three brains, these three independent nervous systems, our heart, our brain, and our gut, are so powerful in how we communicate, listen, and make decisions.  

The brain

We have our first brain, which has billions of neurons that are constantly creating new wiring and information. It allows us to be able to have memory, communicate, have language, and to be able to have conscious thought and perception. It’s also where our limbic system is, the emotional center of our brain. 

Gut

Our second nervous system, our gut, is responsible for digestion and all of the metabolic functions associated with that. The gut allows us to absorb and process the nutrients we get from our food. It’s not only important for all the different enzymatic reactions in the body, but it also has neurotransmitters like serotonin. 

Ninety percent of our serotonin, for example, is in our gut and is formed by the bacteria in the gut microbiome. 

The gut has a huge role in hormonal and immune function, too. 

Heart

Our heart functions independently outside of the brain. We have numerous electrical and chemical reactions happening. Our heart brain acts as our emotional center. As mentioned previously, when we “follow our heart,” we are “following our emotions.” 

The common link between the three brains

What is the common link among all three of these nervous systems? The vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve is the common connection. It exits the brainstem, moves into the carotid sinus of the heart, the SA node of the heart, and then innervates the entire digestive tract. This is the common link where more information comes from the viscera to the brain, called afferent information. 

How to optimize the three brains

The one simple way that we can optimize all three of these brains at the same time is diaphragmatic breathing.

There are so many different types of breathing, such as pranayama breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, and box breathing.

The key is diaphragmatic breathing.  Place the tongue at the roof of the mouth, gently touching the top teeth. Inhaling through the nose, allowing the abdomen to expand 360 degrees, and exhaling through the nose, letting the belly button move towards the spine, allowing the abdomen to contract and the ribs to come down. You could do this seated or lying down, whichever you prefer.  

Tapping into our most optimal breathing pattern (ideally, you’re working towards 5.5 seconds in and 5.5 seconds out) is where we really get a lot of benefit from diaphragmatic breathing; we are stimulating the vagus nerve.

Stimulating the vagus nerve creates a release of acetylcholine, which creates that relaxation response. We are creating GI motility because the diaphragm moves down into the abdomen as you inhale, and as you exhale, the diaphragm moves back up. Think of it like you’re massaging the vagus nerve. 

Of course, as it relates to the relaxation response, you’re creating a calming effect here, so we’re not in that fight or flight limbic system, but we can move more towards our prefrontal cortex in our brain, where we have more insight and rationale, while we are able to consciously and deliberately make better decisions. We’re able to listen more attentively.

Diaphragmatic breathing, I always say, is your superpower; you have it within you, so please make sure to use this throughout your day, regularly and repeatedly. I tell my patients to take three diaphragmatic breaths every hour.

To one connect all these brains, bring yourself to a parasympathetic state through breathing so that you can think and act more clearly and respond rather than react. 

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GUT-BRAIN CONNECTION 101

The gut-brain connection is so powerful in your immune health, hormonal health, and nervous system. If you’ve ever had a gut feeling then you know exactly what the gut-brain connection is.

The gut-brain connection is bi-directional communication between the gut and the brain. The gut, meaning our second nervous system or our enteric nervous system, and our brain, our first nervous system. This bi-directional communication happens through multiple pathways, including hormonal, immune, and our nervous system.  The objective of the gut-brain connection is to maintain normal gut function, as well as appropriate behavior.

The first brain has 100 billion neurons, and our second brain, our gut has about 500 million neurons. You can see how powerful this neural connection is, and this neural connection happens primarily through the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve originates in the brainstem and then wanders down to the gut. It signals in both directions. For example, if you are getting anxious about a presentation that you have to give you might feel that in your stomach, but if you are eating some kind of inflammatory foods, then that can cause you to potentially feel anxious.

Now, the next connection is hormonal, and this is based on the neurotransmitters or the chemical messengers that we have that communicate between the gut and the brain. Ninety percent of our serotonin is located in the gut that is produced by gut bacteria. Serotonin provides us with a sense of happiness. We also produce 50 percent of our dopamine, our feel-good hormone, in our gut. Another hormone we produce is called GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid), which decreases feelings of stress and anxiety.

Last but not least, our gut-brain is connected via immune pathways. Seventy percent of our immune system is in our gut. So, when we have any kind of gut issue, we typically have an immune or inflammatory issue. In the case of a leaky gut, for example, when you begin to have pathogens and toxins that are crossing the epithelial lining and moving into the bloodstream, this is going to cause an immune reaction. If this continues, this can cause a leaky brain because those pathogens and potentially undigested food can cross the blood-brain barrier causing inflammation in the brain feeling things like brain fog. So, as you can see there is a very strong immune system connection as well.

You may be asking, what can I do to optimize my gut-brain connection? The first thing you can do is try to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, which simply means whole food, natural, clean diet. Make sure that there are lean proteins, healthy fats, and lots of vegetables and fruits. If you are experiencing any specific gut or health issues, please make sure to reach out to us we’d be more than happy to help you.  We can see you virtually or in person.

The next thing is to manage stress. Stress is one of the biggest things that can impact the gut-brain connection on both levels. You can help to decrease your stress through mindfulness, meditation, breathwork, yoga, journaling, reading, or whatever is helpful for you, perhaps even speaking with someone.

Next, is making sure you’re getting enough sleep. Also, make sure that you’re getting an optimal amount of sleep as well as quality sleep.

Lastly is movement. Instead of thinking of exercising 30 minutes a day, try to just move as frequently as you can throughout the day. This will help to optimize your immune system, nervous system, as well as your hormonal system by getting in regular quality movement.

I hope this helps you become more successful and achieve what you want in your life and your health.

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

For more content, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel here.

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UNLOCK THE POWER OF EXTREME FOCUS | Wake Up Your Reticular Activating System

Do you want to unlock the power of extreme focus and be able to use your mental energy to do whatever you want? Well, let’s start by waking up the reticular activating system of your brain.

Have you ever decided to buy a car, or if you’ve bought a car and you’ve picked a certain color and now you see that everywhere? When I decided that I wanted a jeep, I began to see jeeps everywhere. When I bought a jeep, I realized that the roads are inundated with Jeep’s.

My Reticular Activating System has brought to my attention, to my consciousness, that all these Jeeps were around all along, but now, I am noticing them. The Reticular Activating System (RAS) is a bundle of neurons located inside of the Reticular Formation, which is in the brainstem. This is the most primitive part of our brain.

The Reticular Formation is responsible for cardiovascular function, pain perception, sleep cycle, consciousness, and habituation, which is directly linked to the Reticular Activating System.

What is the Reticular Activating System (RAS) responsible for?

The Reticular Activating System is responsible for our wakefulness, our ability to focus, our fight-flight response, and how we ultimately perceive the world. It can control what we perceive in our consciousness, essentially a gatekeeper of information.

When we are at a restaurant and we’re speaking to our friend or significant other, we can tune out all of the extra noise that’s happening. We are then able to focus on the conversation that we’re having. That is a perfect example of the RAS at work. Otherwise, our system would be overwhelmed and just inundated with constant sensory information.

The RAS acts as this gatekeeper so that we can focus our attention on specific things, and remember… these specific things can help us meet the goals that we’ve set for ourselves.

How can you wake up your RAS so that you can have extreme focus, better sleep/wake cycles, and be able to have a deeper consciousness and intention throughout your life? Read on.

1) Evaluating the head and neck position.

If you have had a concussion, some kind of traumatic brain injury, a sports injury, whiplash from a car accident, or just chronic overuse and repetitive stress injuries; you could have some type of misalignment in the cervical spine. This can cause compression on the brainstem and affect cranial nerve innervation.  As the head comes forward into this extended posture, it can create compression. It, therefore, decreases blood flow around the brainstem for the cranial nerves and the reticular activating system to function at its optimal capacity. So, reach out to your physical therapist or movement expert to help you with this.

2) Vestibular/Visual Exercises

The RAS is connected to our vestibular system. Think of our inner ear, and the connection with our visual system. A great exercise to do is to hold your finger out in front of you. Keep your eyes focused on your fingertip, and then turning your head back and forth. As you’re continuing to gaze right at your fingertip, you can start to move your head side to side, then you can go up and down, and you can even go on a diagonal.

3) Meditation

Meditation is a fantastic way to be able to use your senses to hone in on your present experience and filter out whatever is unnecessary. Of course, just like anything, meditation is a practice that needs to be cultivated over time. It is probably one of the best ways to begin to tap into the power of the RAS. This can help bring you clarity and focus to allow you to reach your goals.

4) Turning your brain on the exact messages that you want

If you want a silver Jeep, start thinking about the silver Jeep. It’s that simple. If you want to be confident in a dress that you want to wear, then start thinking about it. If you keep thinking that you can’t do that, you keep getting distracted from your goals. You keep thinking about all the things that you haven’t done or you can’t do, then unfortunately you will not be directing your attention, focus, or drive and activating this RAS to achieve what you want. So start thinking about what you want in your life. Use that as a way to really drive your conscious behavior and therefore your subconscious behaviors.

I hope this helps you become more successful and achieving what you want in your life and your health.

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

For more content, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel here.

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How To Exercise Your Brain

Have you ever feared losing your mind as you age? Have you ever wondered how you can exercise your brain?

It is really important to do since it is estimated that by 2050, we are going to have 30 million Americans suffering from dementia, and currently there are five million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s. After the age of 40, we are going to begin to have some cognitive decline and after the age of 60, we really should have a brain evaluation, otherwise known as a neuropsychological evaluation. I know that many of you have the fear of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s, and dementia. So, let’s discuss how to prevent all of this!

Stages of Cognitive Decline

There are three different stages that are associated with cognitive decline.

Preclinical Stage

The first is a preclinical stage where we might notice some memory difficulties or other subtle changes, but it would never show up on an actual test.

Mild Cognitive Impairment

The second is a mild cognitive impairment (MCI). In this stage, we might begin to forget people’s names, and we may go into a room and forget what we were looking for.

Dementia

The third stage is dementia. This is where those types of memory loss really begin to interfere with your day-to-day capabilities to go through life.

Dementia vs. Alzheimers

Dementia is an umbrella term and is in fact, a group of symptoms, very different than Alzheimer’s, which is classified as a neurodegenerative disease. The process for Alzheimer’s is very different and it is important to make that distinction.

How can you prevent cognitive decline?

So, what can you do about it? Exercise, exercise, exercise! Specifically, exercise geared towards integrating your brain and body. All of your aerobic activity, strength-building activity, and really any skill development are critical for cognitive health and preventing cognitive decline over time. Try a new practice or discipline such as Thai Chi or Qi Gong, deadlifts, aerials, dance, golf, tennis, etc. At the end of the day, all movement is really important for brain health. A 2015 study showed that those who make aerobic activity part of their life are able to decrease brain disease risk by over 50 percent!

Additionally, I am going to provide you with three exercises that you can do on a regular basis that can be super valuable to preventing these declines, and keeping your brain and body healthy for a lifetime.

1.) Puff breathing with a march

Inhale for two quick sniffs and exhale for four as you march forward.

Extended exhalation-based practice can improve CO2 and oxygen. Oxygen is one of the top two sources of energy for the brain. Take two puffs in through the nose and follow it with four puffs out through the mouth. Add marching, walking, sidestepping, cross crawl pattern.

2.) Cross crawl pattern

Place your hands behind your head and bring your elbow to your opposite knee as you march forward.

The cross-crawl pattern of the brain stimulates more complex and nervous system integration. In essence, you are reorganizing your mind-body connections by stimulating the corpus callosum, the dividing of the two hemispheres.

3.) Dual tasking

Walk backwards as you count back from 100 by threes.

Performing a physical and cognitive task together can yield excellent benefits in both gait and executive function in the brain. Try walking and the alphabet backward, too!

Summary

These are simple things you can incorporate daily to prevent losing one of your greatest assets. Make sure to “build the time in” not “fit it in.”

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

For more content, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel here.

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