Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from anxiety, depression, and dementia, and new research reveals a key reason: "The female brain is more susceptible to toxins that trigger inflammation," explains Sara Gottfried, MD, author of Brain Body Diet ($18.89, Amazon). "This weakens the crucial connection between brain and body, causing foggy thinking, forgetfulness, blue moods, and exhaustion."
Fortunately, it's possible to ease your toxic burden and regain harmony between brain and body. "And when your brain and body are in balance, you'll feel more energized, upbeat, and smart," Dr. Gottfried assures. Read on for the smart strategies that have already helped thousands of women.
Breathe and stretch.
"Yoga gently stimulates toxin removal," notes Dr. Gottfried, who suggests trying Kundalini yoga, which focuses on slowly repeating movements, for 15 minutes daily. "Studies show that regularly doing yoga increases the size of the hippocampus, which regulates mood, learning, and memory." A top rated DVD to try: Kundalini Yoga for Beginners and Beyond ($15.95, Amazon).
Do this while driving.
Inhaling automobile exhaust has been shown to inhibit the growth of new brain cells and impair memory. To reduce exposure while you're stuck in traffic or stopped at a light, Dr. Gottfried recommends keeping your car windows closed and setting the fan on "recirculate" — strategies that have been shown to reduce in-car air pollution by 76 percent.
Decorate with houseplants.
"Houseplants combat brain fog and body bog by removing pollutants from the air," says Dr. Gottfried. To get the benefits, she advises placing proven air-clearers (like bromeliad, dracaena, and jade plants) in the rooms where you spend the most time. In a study presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, these plants cut levels of airborne toxins by more than 80 percent within 12 hours.
Load up on nature's candy.
Enjoying fresh produce strengthens the brain by keeping a lid on insulin. "Stabilizing insulin prevents 60 percent of cognitive decline," says Dr. Gottfried. The reason: The enzyme that processes insulin also clears a toxic protein that harms the brain. But the enzyme can't do both jobs at once, so she suggests avoiding sugary foods that spike insulin in favor of fresh produce. "That way, there's more of the enzyme available to keep the brain clean."
Cool down at night.
"During sleep, the body removes toxins and tidies your brain so you feel refreshed when you wake up," says Dr. Gottfried. To ensure restful shuteye, she suggests sleeping in a room that's 64 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler, a temperature that increases the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. If your bed partner finds that temperature too cold, negotiate: "My husband prefers 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and I prefer 64 degrees Fahrenheit, so we compromise at 66 degrees Fahrenheit."
Take a prayer break.
Praying reduces toxins triggered by stress, so Dr. Gottfried advises taking 20 minutes a day to say a centering prayer. To do: Select an uplifting word like "love," close your eyes and silently repeat it, letting other thoughts fall away. "This helps me create a connection to the Divine and detoxify stress," shares Dr. Gottfried. And Boston University research reveals that daily prayer increases memory and focus by 45 percent.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.
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