Does Your Brain Need a Detox from Overstimulation?
Do you ever forget why you went downstairs? Or have gone into a room and left because you could not remember why you went in? Do you say, “It’s just on the tip of my tongue,” but can’t find the words? Do names just fly out of your head as soon as you hear them? Are people telling you something and you miss the whole conversation? Do you often search around the parking lot looking for your car?
Busy Lifestyle Syndrome (BLS) was first described by researchers in Glasgow, who labelled the condition saying, “forgetfulness can be caused by a hectic lifestyle and constantly being bombarded with information from mobile phones, blackberries, television, radio and the internet.”
As we age, it is normal to begin forgetting certain things, but people afflicted with BLS begin to have trouble remembering daily tasks at an earlier age. The “information overload” exacerbates this decline in memory. This kind of memory loss is not to be confused with Alzheimer’s or early dementia. Busy Lifestyle Syndrome is caused by daily overload of stimuli.
The human brain purges meaningless information to make room for more important material; it’s a priority system. When overloaded, the brain knows you don’t need to remember everyday or mundane information, and makes room for the more significant information by eliminating it. If our brains did not clear the mental clutter, we would be continuously remembering meaningless facts and have no room for processing important things.
The problem is most noticeable when performing daily functions. The more overloaded we are, the more our brains are erasing.
Sleep is the most important factor in how much we forget. Sleep deprivation, or less than 6 hours of quality sleep, is a key in determining the amount of forgotten information. Most people have some amount of forgetfulness, but when it starts to impact your day, it’s time to seek help.
The Impact of Social Media
Every day millions of Americans spend countless hours on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. When we are searching through our friends’ posts, we are immersed in a surplus of information. Most of the information that our brain experiences from these sites is stimulating, but useless, and we become addicted. Unfortunately, this massive stimulation causes the brain to erase important information that is valuable in our day to day life. Our body works in balance, needing periods of stimulation and relaxation. The brain needs periods of time without stimulus to recharge and store information. It’s necessary to unplug and disconnect from this type of media, even for five minutes each hour.
Instead of reading about your neighbor checking in at the dentist, or new flavors of cat treats available at the local pet store, spend a few minutes with the phone in your pocket. Consider spending more time doing activities that do not involve excess stimulation like meditation, deep breathing, or simply taking a walk. When we give our brain the relaxation it requires, we are able to recall information more easily, specifically things we don’t want to forget. It is recommended that you take an entire week off from social media to detox the brain.
Improve Your Sleep
Having healthy and consistent sleeping habits is the easiest way to increase and sustain your energy and reduce your chance of having problems associated with Busy Lifestyle Syndrome. However, sleep doesn’t always come easily. Here are some simple methods for improving your ability to fall asleep and the quality of your sleep:
The Perfect Environment for Sleep
Try sleeping in complete darkness by covering or removing the lights from digital alarm clocks, TVs and other electrical devices. Bright lights can disrupt the production of important hormones for sound sleep.
As when we were children, an appropriate bedtime is critical to your health. Getting to bed by 11:00 PM is essential for our adrenal glands to recharge, recover, and build our reserves of energy for the next day. In addition, sleeping 7.5 to 9 hours a night will allow your body to restore itself.
An Active Mind is an Un-rested Mind
Like your body, your mind craves rest after a long day of work. It is important to let your mind have a break too. Make a habit of relaxing for at least 30 minutes before getting into bed. During your relaxation period, avoid watching TV, as it is mentally stimulating. Instead, try listening to soft music, mediating, or catching up on some light reading. Taking Epsom salt baths help to reduce the mental clutter of the day and allow deep relaxation before sleep.
When suffering from Busy Lifestyle Syndrome or frequent forgetfulness, it is very important to make sure that you have proper testing. This is needed to rule out any serious memory conditions, such as early Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s recommended to see your holistic practitioner for a complete workup. Holistic practitioners try to find the root cause of the problem and support the body back to balance. Everyone needs individualized treatment to find the particular cause for forgetting information quickly.
Brain cells require oxygen and proper blood flow to perform functions. Oxygen is delivered to each cell through the hemoglobin. The essential nutrients for hemoglobin are iron, folate and cobalamine (B12). Anemia is a lack of or poor functioning hemoglobin, which will immediately affect the ability to recall any information. Iron is an essential metal that is required for the delivery of oxygen, but excess iron can be very damaging to the body, so be sure to have your iron level tested before trying to increase it. Some individuals have a genetic predisposition that requires supplementation of key nutrients. Without those nutrients, many people suffer from diminished cognitive thinking.
Support Brain Repair
Repairing the brain is another major factor in the body’s ability to deal with bombarding stimuli. Fatty acids, or omega fatty acids are essential building blocks for the cell membrane of brain cells. These provide permeability to the cell so it can exchange information in the synapse, the basic form of communication between all cells in the brain. The brain uses chemical signals or neurotransmitters to communicate from cell to cell. Having plenty of omega fatty acids provides healthy communication within our brains and increased cognitive health.
Key Nutrients and Herbs
- Antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E, Selenium and Alpha-lipoic acid, protect brain cells from damaging free radicals.
- Flavonoids, which repair the damage that occurs in the brain, are found in plants like blueberries, apples, spinach, citrus fruits, black and green tea, and cocoa.
- Vitamin D is responsible for the growth and production of certain proteins that activate neurotransmitters and improve synaptic communication.
- Phosphatidylserine (PS) is the fatty protein in brain cells that facilitate communication. Increasing the amount of PS supports memory.
- Vinpocetine helps protect brain cells from damage, in addition to enhancing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the brain.
Specialized testing may be recommended for hormonal balancing, including checking for thyroid and adrenal function. Adrenals are responsible for handling stress and BLS is all about how your brain and body handles stress.
The adrenals are small glands on top of the kidneys, which are responsible for the fight or flight stress response, i.e. the rush you feel when under stress. They are our evolutionary safety mechanism, responsible for meeting the demands to run away from danger. Adrenal glands release hormones into the blood stream and set off a cascade of survival responses. When we are continuously under stress, the body has increasing difficulty handling it, so we start to feel unbalanced. Conventional doctors only look at the adrenal glands when there is a life-threatening emergency. Having too much of the hormone Cortisol (Cushing Disease), or too little (Addison’s Disease) is the primary concern of most conventional doctors. These diseases are not the only concerns related to adrenal health.
When the amount of stress is not balanced with the amount of Cortisol produced, you are suffering from adrenal dysfunction. This increase in adrenal stress can lead to BLS type symptoms. Supporting adrenal gland functions will help you better manage stress and the effects of BLS.
Nutrients Responsible for Supporting Adrenal Functions:
- B Vitamins are the most important vitamin when dealing with the adrenal glands. It is the co-factor that is responsible for the production of Cortisol.
- Rodidola increases your resistance to stress. It has a long history of improving fatigue, poor attention span, and decreased memory.
- Ashwaganda improves learning, memory, and reaction time while helping to fight the effects of stress.
- Siberian Ginseng is used to improve stamina, help with fatigue and increase the ability to handle all forms of stress.
To find your car in the parking lot, remember why you came downstairs and recall the name of that person who stopped you in the grocery store, it is important to reduce the amount of overwhelming information your brain processes. Remember to do the following:
- Do a media detox (or at least reduce the amount of media each day)
- Improve your quality of sleep
- Give the brain the nutrients it needs
- Support your adrenal health
You can help your Busy Lifestyle Syndrome by making these changes to improve your health.
Dr. Summer McAllister is a naturopathic doctor at ProNatural Physicians Group in Berlin, CT. She sees patients with a variety of health conditions and specializes in individual treatment plans using essential nutrients, herbs, acupuncture, homeopathy and tools for stress and trauma recovery.
ProNatural Physicians Group is an integrated group of practitioners including naturopathic doctors, acupuncturists, APRNs and massage therapists. The practice is growing to include more medical modalities and to offer more family treatment options.
For more information go to www.ProNaturalPhysicians.com or call 860-829-0707.