The brain is about 80% fat by dry-weight. The brain builds itself from fat and cholesterol derived from diet. If you recently quit a lifestyle that was robbing your brain of its vital fats and cholesterol, you might be having problems such as depression, poor memory, brain fog, or difficulty thinking or focusing.
Whether you are recovering from a low-fat diet, a vegan or vegetarian diet, the Standard North American Diet, or from lipid-lowering drugs, here are 10 things you can do to help your brain and nervous system recover and rebuild.
The most important thing to do right now is to eat a high-fat, ancestral diet with plenty of healthy animal-derived fat sources. The methods below are not numbered to represent a priority or order — it is best to do all of these at once. As the months pass, monitor improvements in memory, mood, cognition, speech, or coordination.
1. Eat plenty of animal fats. Source pastured eggs and bacon, grass-finished beef and butter or ghee, and properly raised meat and organ meats. This will give your body the specific fats and cholesterol it needs to rebuild. Our brains are literally built from the fats we choose to eat. Choose the right fats!
2. Eliminate all vegetable oils. This includes canola oil, corn oil, soy oil, and seed oils. Watch out for hidden sources of these, like commercial mayonnaise, salad dressings, and restaurant-fried foods. Try making your own delicious baconnaise.
3. Limit the fruit oils and nut oils during your recovery. Although these oils are healthier than the vegetable oils, they are less appropriate for providing the building blocks your brain needs than animal-derived fats. So skip the olive oil and grab the local, small-farmed lard and bacon.
4. Reduce carbohydrates. Cool the fire of systemic inflammation by reducing carbohydrates to under 150g/day. This is an excellent time to enter a 3 to 4-week keto cycle, reducing carbohydrate intake below 50g/day and letting your body purr along on fats and ketones as its primary fuel source.
5. Consume 1-2 cups of bone broth every day. Make your own bone broth from pastured chickens or grass fed beef.
6. Stay 100% primal in your food choices. Keep the grains and legumes completely out. This is no time to be 80:20. Protect your blood-brain barrier.
7. Eliminate alcohol. I’m talking zero-tolerance. Don’t be swayed by sporadic news reports of heart-health benefits. Alcohol is a neurotoxin (among other damaging systemic effects). Don’t let it undo your progress.
8. Go to bed. Sleep is critical while your brain heals. If you need an alarm to wake in the morning, you aren’t getting enough. If anything is interfering with your sleep, try to identify it and deal with it. If you’re hitting the snooze button on your alarm, you’re hitting the snooze button on your health.
9. Get in sync with the sun. Regular moderate sun exposure is necessary to proper cholesterol-vitamin D metabolism. There is no substitute for the sun. Try stepping outside first thing in the morning to help synchronize your biorhythms and improve your sleep-wake cycle.
10. Move. The modern media has tried to convince us that the purpose of movement is to burn calories. Put all that nonsense out of your mind. Movement is about life. It is intrinsic to our health and well-being. And our brains become healthy when we move! Try to get outdoors and walk at least half an hour a day to start.
These are just a few of the steps to recover brain health, and they are part of an overall lifestyle. Message me for one-on-one coaching and individualized help for your recovery.
Nora Gedgaudas. Primal Fat Burner. Atria Books, 2017.
Lierre Keith. The Vegetarian Myth. Flashpoint Press, 2009.
David Perlmutter. Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, And Sugar. Little, Brown And Company, 2013.