Brain fuel masterclass for focus, sleep, and energy
Chief of Science and Spirituality at Heights Dr. Tara Swart teaches you how give your brain what it needs to thrive.
Dr. Tara Swart: Chief Science Officer at Heights, neuroscientist, medical doctor, executive advisor, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan, and author of best-seller 'The Source'.
It All Starts With Sleep
Your sleep hygiene routine starts first thing in the morning. It includes what you eat, what supplements you take, how much you expose yourself to natural light and blue light, and all sorts of other things.
The 5 Musts
When you wake up and notice you’re groggy, you grab a coffee right to wake yourself up, right?
Actually, the biggest reason behind morning grogginess is dehydration.
Dehydration is the biggest contributor to a lack of focus and concentration, memory problems, and brain fog.
Water lubricates the chemical and electrical signals that go between our neurons and you know our neuromuscular junctions.
You need to be drinking half a litre for every 15kg/30 lbs of your body weight per day.
Drinking the right amount of water hydrates your skin, which is your largest organ, and lubricates your brain, which is your most metabolically active organ.
3 Important Ingredients for Brain Health
‘Good fats’ you find in omega-3 fatty acids. You can find them in oily fish, olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, it's hard to get the amount you need.
Blueberries. They're high in antioxidants which fight oxidative damage by combatting ‘free radicals’- electrons in the brain that attack healthy tissue.
B complex vitamins. They are essential for the nervous system as they help prevent fatigue induced by a stressful life.
How do you feel about elimination of certain food groups (e.g. dairy)?
If you’ve excluded so many food groups that you have to take certain supplements for deficiencies, I wouldn't advocate that as being a healthy diet.
It’s individual. If you’ve got celiac disease then certainly exclude gluten. If you're lactose intolerant, exclude dairy.
Unless there’s a health reason behind needing to eliminate a food group, try to have a little bit of everything. Don’t have too much of specific things like dairy and gluten.
What is intuition? Are there daily practices that you have to strengthen your intuition?
Intuition is a higher order function of the brain. We don't need it to live, but our life is better if we have good access to it.
Your gut bacteria is incredibly important in terms of things like insomnia, negative thinking, anxiety, and even depression.
You can decrease the quality and diversity of your gut bacteria through antibiotics, jet-lag, alcohol, and eating a lot of processed, high-sugar, low-fibre food. This then causes the signalling between the gut neurones, the gut bacteria, and the brain to become leaky and damaged.
The gut neurones connect to the limbic system, the intuitive part of the brain, through the vagus nerve.
It also has an element of the sympathetic nervous system. Gut bacteria use cytokines, which are chemical messengers sent in the blood directly to the brain. If they are sluggish and compromised, due to antibiotics or processed food, then the messages that they send to the brain are wrong messages. The good news is that if you eat healthily, drink lots of water, eat pre and probiotic foods, you can keep your gut bacteria really healthy!
What are your opinions on nootropics?
Me and my neuroscience colleagues think of nootropics as Viagra- they might improve your performance in the short term, but they won't save your marriage.
When it comes to brain health, most people skip all of the things they need for their brain to actually start to feel good. Instead of piling on creatine into your brain, get the building blocks.
You need the natural nutrients, like omega 3, vitamin B, or blueberry extract. If you go straight to nootropics, it might work for a day or two, but there's no long-term sustained energy in that.
If you are looking for a plant-based, premium quality supplement - our Smart Supplement includes omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and 18 other key nutrients your brain needs in the right dosages according to science.
What do you think about functional mushrooms like Lion's Mane?
When I was at the most stressful point of my life, post divorce and starting up my new business, I did a lot of research into building resilience.
I found that a range of mushroom powders is the golden nugget for that. I add mushroom powders to my smoothies, and also eat a lot of mushrooms like shiitake.
What things can I try to increase my cognitive power and my ability to process complex thoughts?
Sleep for 8 hours a night.
Eat a nutrition dense diet.
Drink the amount of water that you need to per day for your body weight.
Meditate every day.
Even if you have a healthy diet, supplement with the basics to make sure that you’re not deficient.
Removing substances that impair your cognitive power (e.g. alcohol).
The strategic use of caffeine, which is the most basic nootropic. The quarter-life of caffeine is 12 hours. This means that 12 hours after you had your last coffee, a quarter of that caffeine is still hanging around in your brain.
I used to suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and want to take supplements but am apprehensive because of how it'll affect my stomach. What do I do?
Take a probiotic. It would be a good way to start protecting the lining of your gut.
Unfortunately, all you can do is try a supplement and see how it makes you feel.
Stay on the healing journey to get to the point where you can take a good quality supplement.
I’m in a really high stress job and often get distracted. What can I do to improve my focus?
During the day, find time to nap or take a walk.
If you can’t do that then take 10 deep breaths, drink some water, and do some meditation.
Look into vedic meditation- it’s very powerful.
Studies have shown that probiotics reduce anxiety, negative thinking, insomnia and also have helped people either reduce their dose of antidepressant, or completely come off them. The same has been said for meditation.
Is there a guide on the basic vitamins you should be taking, any over-the-counter vitamin brands that you should avoid, pre and probiotics? All the information can be quite overwhelming.
The entire supplement industry has a legal loophole. Every single supplement brand is able to market a claim (e.g. healthy heart function, healthy brain function, etc.) at a minimum dosage level that is way off the scientific dosage level.
The good news: they are legally required to put their actual scientific doses on the back of their packets (it’s normally in tiny text).
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