Protect Your Brain with Reishi

by Dr. Melissa Carr, Dr. TCM

October 11th, 2018

Memory is an odd thing. Somehow you can remember the lyrics of songs you listened to 30 years ago, but still forget why you just walked into the kitchen. Like most people, you’ve probably experienced the occasional brain blips—those frustratingly forgetful moments that can leave you scratching your head. While the occasional bout of forgetfulness is common and normal, for individuals suffering with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss and a decline in cognitive functioning is a major concern. As the population continues to age, the need for effective forms of treatment of this serious disease is more important than ever.

About Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

Dementia is a general term for a progressive set of symptoms—including memory loss; problems with thinking, solving problems, speaking, and comprehension; and possibly changes in behaviour or mood—that affect a person’s everyday life activities.

While the term Alzheimer’s disease is commonly used interchangeably with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is a specific type of dementia. Dementia can also be caused by strokes, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, head trauma, and more.

It’s true that a slowing of cognitive processing is common with aging and is termed “age-associated memory impairment,” but neither dementia nor Alzheimer’s disease are a normal part of getting older.

In some cases, symptoms that are similar to dementia could actually not be dementia, and they are treatable. This is why it’s important to properly assess and treat vitamin deficiencies, thyroid imbalances, medication side effects, mental illness, and sleep disorders.

Alzheimer’s BrainAlzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of dementias. Hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease are plaques and tangles. Plaques are tiny, dense deposits of protein called beta-amyloid (A-beta) that become toxic to brain cells when there are too many. Tangles occur when proteins called tau collapse and twist on themselves, creating jumbled tangles that prevent the flow of nutrients to brain cells. When brain cells die, the brain shrinks noticeably.

As the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, it’s clear that we need to learn to recognize its symptoms, determine ways to treat it, and, most importantly, work on ways to prevent it.

Reduce your risk; protect your brain

Feeling like you are powerless to address Alzheimer’s and dementia and all the symptoms that go along with it—memory loss, confusion, and issues with language and judgement—can make anyone feel helpless. While there is currently no cure for these progressive neurological disorders, there are a few lifestyle things you can do to help reduce your risk and slow the disease’s progress.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, autopsy studies show that about 80 percent of those with Alzheimer’s disease also have cardiovascular disease. It’s interesting to note that while some people develop the plaques and tangles associated with this disease, they don’t progress into Alzheimer’s symptoms because their vascular system (heart, lungs, blood vessels) is healthy.

Since heart disease and strokes are leading causes of death and disease as well, taking care of your circulatory system to protect your brain bodes well for your overall health.

Some simple things you can do to take care of your brain health include:

  • Get regular physical activity.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Eat a variety of healthy, whole foods with an emphasis on vegetables.
  • Manage stress.
  • Monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and weight to keep them within the recommended ranges.
  • Use your brain, challenging it with activities like learning a new language, skill, hobby, or game.
  • Protect your head with a helmet during activities like cycling, skateboarding, or playing hockey or other sports.

Reishi mushrooms and brain health

reishiLooking for a natural way to protect your brain against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? Reishi mushroom just might be the answer you’ve been searching for to support brain health and boost healthy neurological function.

Reishi mushrooms contain a wide range of bioactive compounds, including sterols, polysaccharides, and triterpenoids that can help fend off the effects of neurodegenerative disorders. Scientists have discovered that this miracle mushroom may not only protect the brain from inflammation, but even encourage nerve growth in the brain!

In a 2017 study, researchers fed Ganoderma lucidum (reishi mushroom) water extracts to mice and found it helped with the growth of new brain cells (neurogenesis) and improved the cognitive function of mice bred to have brains prone to Alzheimer’s disease.

Another reason why reishi mushroom may help with brain health is its ability to support cardiovascular function. Studies have demonstrated that reishi can lower elevated blood pressure, improve blood flow, lower cholesterol, and more, as covered in this previous article. [link to Protect Your Ticker: Heart Health Tips]

As an adaptogenic herb, reishi mushroom is a protective powerhouse, able to support your heart and your brain! What more could you ask for?

Dr. Melissa Carr is a registered Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine with a B.Sc. in Kinesiology. In practice since 2001, Dr. Carr has a passion for sharing health information. She has been a nutrition instructor and a health consultant, lecturer, and writer for 24 Hours Vancouver newspaper, Fraser Health Authority, UBC, and the David Suzuki Foundation, amongst others.


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