Biohacking Your Brain May Be Easier Than You Thought
March 12, 2018 | 950 views
By Dr. Mercola
It goes without saying that optimizing your brain function is crucial for your well-being. However, the rising incidence of brain-related disorders affecting people worldwide are a cause for concern.
The good news is, you can mitigate your risk for these conditions by “biohacking” your brain, allowing you to work faster, smarter and harder.
Your Mitochondria: Tiny Organelles, Gigantic Impact
It’s been emphasized time and time again that mitochondria serve as your cells’ powerhouse, functioning like a cellular battery charger. The mitochondria charge structured water in your cells, allowing the latter to function like a battery and create the energy (ATP) your body requires for optimal function.
Proper mitochondrial function is the foundation of good health. Lifestyle changes that optimize your health at a cellular level can potentially provide a wide range of benefits including weight loss and improved mental acuity.
Dave Asprey, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, CEO of Bulletproof.com, and author of two bestselling books, discovered this the hard way after experiencing severe brain fog that negatively impacted his career. He realized that:
“If you can hack those little mitochondria to make them leak [fewer] electrons, to make them more effective and efficient in creating energy, to make them [create] less inflammation when they make energy, you’re probably going to live a lot longer.”
However, environmental toxins (natural or synthetic) may threaten optimal mitochondrial function and diminish the body’s ability to produce energy for its daily needs.
As Asprey emphasizes in his book “Head Strong: The Bulletproof Plan to Activate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster — in Just Two Weeks,” it’s vital to reduce your exposure to toxins that decrease mitochondrial efficiency. It is also important to make sure you focus on performing energy-enhancing activities and take full advantage of natural energy boosters. Such measures can positively impact the brain by lowering disease risk and boosting your cognitive power.
Sunlight’s Role in Enhanced Mitochondrial Function
Conventional medical advice has warned people to stay away from sunlight, however, this can be counterproductive if you wish to enhance your mitochondrial health. This is because near-, mid- and far-infrared light in sunlight may increase electrons in the mitochondria.
Infrared light, a source of thermal heat, can trigger changes in the structure of water in the cells. The light serves as a catalyst that promotes structured water and results in increased mitochondrial efficiency. Plus, even if sunlight is absent, near- and mid-infrared light bulbs may still deliver this benefit. Asprey further explains:
“There are basically three different types of beneficial infrared ranges that humans have been able to recreate. … The near-infrared is one that you hear less about. This is warming, more so than far-infrared, which you oftentimes hear about [in relation to infrared] sauna, where far-infrared heats more deeply and near-infrared heats more of the surface. …
You need a little bit of ultraviolet light even in your eyes. It can help to fix near-sightedness. Take off your hat. You’re not going to get wrinkles in 20 minutes of sunshine. It’s OK. Don’t put on sunscreen. Take off your shirt and go for a walk in the sun.”
What Role Does Ketosis Play on Your Brain Health?
Ketosis occurs when the body is able to burn fat as its primary fuel, instead of sugar. It’s mainly achieved when you consume a diet with high amounts of healthy fats, low quantities of carbohydrates and low to moderate portions of protein.
A wide range of benefits have been linked to nutritional ketosis, such as lessened hunger and food cravings, and enhanced mental clarity. These benefits can be traced to the intricate interplay between cholecystokinin (CCK), a satiety hormone, and ghrelin, the hunger hormone. Once a person is in ketosis, the ketones produced may boost mental clarity, since these are the brain’s preferred fuel, and they also help combat hunger.
Plus, compared to sugar, fat is a more slow-burning fuel. This enables the body to feel more energized, and once ketone levels increase, ghrelin will reset itself. The increase in ketone levels also causes CCK to be activated, and this helps to eliminate food cravings and hunger pangs.
Don’t Forget to Cycle in and out of Ketosis From Time to Time
Asprey touches on the importance of shifting in and out of ketosis once you’re at the fat-burning stage. Not only does it mimic our ancestors’ eating patterns, but it also allows the body to not remain in one metabolic state for a long period of time.
However, a problem that people who are already in ketosis may encounter is that excessive, and poor-quality protein may trigger inflammation. When protein is limited to only what the body requires, a vital metabolic pathway called the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) ends up being suppressed and aids with decreasing cancer risk.
However, it’s not advisable to block this pathway all the time, since it needs to be activated now and then to assist with muscle mass retention. Asprey highlights:
“The three things that suppress mTOR … are intermittent fasting … exercise … and coffee … These push mTOR down. Then, as soon as you feed again (especially with protein), mTOR comes bounding back. This is when you'll put muscle on really rapidly.
This cyclical approach to ketosis and protein consumption will activate mTOR when you need it (ideally on days when you're strength training), so you get more return on the time spent exercising. You also lower inflammation and your cancer risk.”
The Ideal Diet and Lifestyle May Assist With Improving Brain Health
As mentioned earlier, there are certain foods that are essential for triggering ketosis, such as:
- Healthy fats, such as avocados, coconut oil, organic grass fed butter, pastured egg yolks, and raw nuts like macadamias, pecans and pine nuts
- High-quality protein from organically raised, grass fed or pastured animals
- Organic, fresh and low-net-carb vegetables
However, it’s not enough to simply include these foods in your meals. How and when you consume your foods can play a role in promoting ketosis and better brain health in the body too. This is where intermittent fasting can greatly help.
By cutting your calories and limiting your mealtimes to specific times per day, you may improve your mitochondrial health and energy efficiency, switch from burning sugar to burning fat as primary fuel, and eventually trigger positive changes to brain health.
To learn more on how you can make the most out of your brain and utilize it wisely, read the article “Bulletproof Plan to Activate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster.”