My 8 go-to's for boosting energy & mental clarity
Brain fog and fatigue are two extremely frustrating MS symptoms that can derail the best intentions. MS fatigue can be so deep that you really can't describe it to your friends and family. It can leave me feeling exhausted, withdrawn, misunderstood and sometimes just plain useless.
Brain fog on the other hand can be quite unsettling. Sometimes you can struggle to get words out, remember things, form a coherent sentence, find the right words to say or you embarrassingly draw a complete blank mid sentence, or sometimes altogether.
Both of these symptoms for me have improved immensely over the last 18 months and even more so recently. I have no doubt that OMS and eating so many plant based foods have been key to my wellness and health. However during this time I've noticed there are some foods and therapies in particular that give me a boost over others. So I wanted to share them with you today as I now use these everyday if I can.
My absolute number 1 go-to when I need energy and brain power is Acai. I'll use it when i'm feeling sluggish, rundown, heading out for a big day or when I have lots of admin to do and require a bit more concentration and clarity. I find Acai literally revitalises and energises me and keeps me going all day. I love the frozen Acai packs and I use these in my smoothie bowls for breakfast almost daily or the freeze dried powder. The flavour is a dark berry flavour almost chocolatey, it's delicious! and available at most health food stores or online. I also use it after a good work-out. In one of my previous posts I talked about all the wonderful health benefits of Acai including its immense antioxidant power.
The antioxidants in Acai are anthocyanin compounds such as resveratrol and cyaniding and ferulic acid, which not only give fruits and vegetables their distinct pigment, but also team up with flavonoids to defend the body against cell damaging free radicals.
"Research suggests that flavonoids, including anthocyanin's, have the ability to enhance memory and help prevent age-related declines in mental functioning. Extensive research in animals has shown that the flavonoids found in fruit and fruit juices can improve memory and slow age-related loss of cognitive functioning. Several other studies have found that berries which are rich in anthocyanin's, can effectively reverse age-related deficits in certain aspects of working memory. Anthocyanin's and other flavonoids are thought to work by inhibiting neuro inflammation, activating synaptic signalling, and improving blood flow to the brain. It appears that some dietary anthocyanin's can cross the blood-brain barrier, allowing the compounds to have a direct beneficial effect...
...modern science is affirming that anthocyanins are a medicine chest in a vibrant package, foods and herbs with these particular hues have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer properties. Research indicates that purple and red fruits, vegetables, and herbs - as well as supplements of concentrated anthocyanins - may help to protect against cancer, cognitive decline, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity...
...Anthocyanins have a wide range of biological activities including: redox/antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-carcinogenic, fostering eye health, neuro-protective, prevention of LDL oxidation, improvement of capillary stability, supporting collagen, and increasing intercellular levels of vitamin C."
- Denise Web Phd, RD Todaysdietitian.com
“anthocyanins have been associated with increased neuronal signalling in brain centres, mediating memory function as well as improved glucose disposal, benefits that would be expected to mitigate neuro degeneration. A 2012 study reported in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias found that eating more berries reduces cognitive decline in the elderly."
- Certified nutritionist and clinical master herbalist Donnie Yance
My mental clarity go-to along with Acai is Ginkgo Biloba and this is one supplement I discovered through reading Managing MS Naturally by Judy Graham.
"Ginkgo biloba helps maintain healthy peripheral circulation, including blood to the brain, so it can help maintain cognitive functions. It helps keep blood vessels dilated, allowing blood to flow more freely to the extremities, including the brain. Blood carries oxygen and essential nutrients as it circulates and these are especially important to the brain which demands high levels of oxygen and glucose for its many functions. It also works as an antioxidant and has a positive effect on platelet function. The active constituents of gingkgo biloba are natural substances called ginkgo flavone glycosides, ginkgolides, and bilobalide. These play a beneficial role in scavenging free radicals and in preventing platelets from clumping"
I also have a beautiful herbal mixture from Orchard St here in Sydney called "Immortality Herbs" that contains powdered Ginkgo Biloba along with some other lovely healing herbs. I tend to just add it to tea or a smoothie in the morning. I find it helps with clarity of mind and concentration. My brain just feels ready when I have it and I work more efficiently.
3. COLD SHOWERS/ SEA SWIMS OR CONTRAST SHOWERS
This might sound a little strange but it really works. Pre diagnosis I swore by a freezing cold swim in the ocean to relieve a hangover and clear my head. It washes away that tired, foggy, groggy feeling instantly. And I find a cold shower does the same for my MS. Right now while its high summer and the nights are warmer i've been having a cold shower first thing in the morning over my whole head and body. It instantly clears my head, wakes me up and gets my body temp down. In the lead up to Summer I was doing contrast showers of hot to cold which was a bit easier in the cooler weather. This therapy has many perks, apart from encouraging blood flow and energising you it can actually help with depression, weight loss, candida and muscle recovery after a workout. This is more of a temporary measure and I find i'll do cold showers or swims throughout a hot day to re-energise. The added bonus of doing this is that it's also great for weight loss and reducing the appearance of cellulite!
If you want to learn about the scientific side of thermogenisis this is a great podcast episode by Ben Geenfeild interviewing an expert Dr Jack Kruese
I also found these great articles for further reading on the health benefits
4. Frozen head bands
These are headbands that you can get from outdoor stores like Kathmandu. When you put them into water they expand and soak the water up, I put them in the freezer and when heat peaks in our apartment around 2 to 3pm I get one out, let it rest for about 5-10 minutes and tie it around my head or neck. They're fantastic at keeping extra cool in the summer. When Ben works from home we'll often both be walking around the house wearing them - they're lifesavers!!
5. Dry Body Brushing
I started dry body brushing when my limbs started falling asleep during the night, something I noticed happening after my diagnosis. I've since read on forums this is something a lot of people with MS suffer from although my neurologist thinks it's not related. None the less I wanted something to help so I turned to dry body brushing to increase blood flow and circulation. This is a really beautiful Ayurvedic therapy that's been used for thousands of years in India. It's ment to be done first thing in the morning before a shower and I find I can feel it amp up my blood flow and the sensation is also quite therapeutic.
"The Garshana is a traditional Ayurvedic dry massage that refreshes and stimulates the skin and lymphatic system, enhancing blood circulation and the release of accumulated toxins. To perform a garshana, you will need natural silk gloves, a soft sponge, or a dry brush that gently removes dead skin layers leaving the skin supple and glowing."
For more reading on the health benefits of dry body brushing and how to do it...
It sounds boring but it works, it literally makes me feel so. much. better. I alternate long walks with a strength workout at the gym most days. I had 1 session with a personal trainer when I started the gym, I told her I wanted a full body workout that will keep me walking and she was fantastic. She put me on to various arm weights, leg weights and abdominal work and its made me so much stronger. But I also love getting outside in the sun and going walking so I do what I feel my body is craving.
Not surprisingly, exercise increases blood flow and endorphins, so thats more oxygen and nutrients around the body and the brain along with a nice mood boost. Brain fog and fatigue be gone! I certainly found keeping a regular exercise regime harder when I was sicker as some days I was way more tired. I just listened to my body and would sometimes have 2-3 days off in a row. Then I slightly increased it over the months. I've only recently had the energy to get to the gym 3 times a weeks with alternate walks, and I'll usually have a rest day once a week. I also try to exercise first thing in the morning which I find sets me up for feeling great for the rest of the day.
7. Cacao powder
Another superfood that gives me a good boost in both energy and cognition is Cacao. Cacao is vaso-dialating so it boosts circulation, again carrying more oxygen and nutrients around the body and to the brain. I find it great for stamina and concentration, it's effect is much like Acai. I add about a tablespoon to a smoothie in the afternoon, sometimes if I need it in the morning i'll do a Cacao, Acai and banana smoothie bowl or add some into whatever I'm eating. Cacao nibs are also great sprinkled on smoothie bowls. Both are great healthier replacements for chocolate chips and cocoa powder.
"Cacao is considered a superfood due to its more than 300 nutrients. It could hardly be "the food of the gods" if it weren't powerful, with nutritional and medicinal value (which in turn gave it value as a currency as well). The vitamins, minerals, and dietary nutrients in cacao include protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, iron, zinc, copper, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. It also has quercetin, flavonoids, flavanols, xanthenes, polyphenols, caffeine, theobromine, phenylethylamine, and anandamide, among others. It has many uses as a stimulant, antibacterial, antioxidant, and protector of the cardiovascular system."
8. Green Tea
I'm a green tea girl, I absolutely love it. I have one most mornings and most afternoons. It's much lighter to drink than other caffeinated teas and coffee and I love how it gives a gentle boost without the jitters of caffeine. I find green tea also gives me a really nice clarity and helps with my concentration and focus. I usually always have green tea with food as I find it's softer on my system. I found a study and article on green tea proving to boost cognition and brain signalling here which is quite interesting.
If your a green tea drinker like me I found this great article by Dr Mercola on How to get the most out of your green tea. In this article he explains that "One reason green tea is so good for you is because of its incredibly potent antioxidants. Like many fruits and berries, green tea contains high amounts of polyphenols, particularly a catechin known as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). This most predominant antioxidant offers 25 to 100 times more antioxidant activity than even vitamins C and E.1"
My 8 go-to's for boosting my energy & mental clarity
2. GINKGO BILOBA
3. COLD SHOWERS / CONTRAST SHOWERS / COLD SEA SWIMS
4. FROZEN HEAD BANDS
6. DRY BODY BRUSHING
8. GREEN TEA
I use all of these foods and therapies together on a daily basis and absolutely love them and I havn't noticed any adverse effects. Check-in with yourself on the days you try these and see how you feel - have you had a more productive day? is your thinking clearer? did you accomplish more? i'd love to know how you go. Or if you have any other hacks in this area please share, i'd love to hear them.
Of course if you are worried their not for you then don't persist and ask your health care professional for advice.
Much love & productivity!!