If you’re interested in optimizing your brain health, learning about the best foods and supplements for brain health, and preventing dementia and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases, then you’ll want to listen in to this podcast. Here’s the thing: Many people think that good brain health is just about “challenging your brain.” While that’s certainly important, brain health is about so much more than just being able to memorize trivia questions or doing crossword puzzles. Brain health depends massively on our nutrition and lifestyle habits. And no amount of brain games can make up for what’s lacking in nutrition and lifestyle habits.
Thousands of patients are diagnosed and die from neurodegenerative diseases every year. It’s a fast growing epidemic, and it’s one of the worst ways to go. People suffering from these illnesses often end up house-bound and as a burden to the people closest to them as they are dependent on others to receive care. The stress of seeing your loved ones wither away and lose their ability to understand what’s going on, and even to remember who their family members are is extremely painful for everyone involved. Fortunately, it is very likely that most of these conditions can be prevented with good nutrition and lifestyle habits.
So, what is actually the main cause of poor brain health? And more importantly, what can you do to heal your brain?
This week, I speak with Julia Lundstrom, the founder of Simple Smart Science. Julia had had the devastating experience of seeing her own aunt fall ill and pass away due to Alzheimer’s. Her aunt falling ill was the main trigger for Julia and her brother to found Simple Smart Science. We will cover topics such as; the best supplements for brain health, brain food, and the top 3 keys to Alzheimer’s prevention and optimal brain health.
In this podcast, we’ll cover
- The 3 main keys to optimal brain health
- Do toxins actually play a role in neurodegenerative diseases?
- The best supplements for brain health (why many get too little of it)
- Why working night shifts can be linked with poor brain health
- Why social connection is essential to good brain health and overall well being
- How technology is making us dumber (and how to improve your memory)
- The power of laughter
- The ultimate brain food for optimal brain health
- Julia’s take on why we sleep too little (and how it wrecks havoc on your brain)
- Julia’s top nutrient for brain health
- Why sleep is essential and often underrated (and why you should make sure to get your sleep every night)
- Why popping a pill isn’t the answer to fixing your health
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The Top Supplements for Brain Health, Brain Foods, and The 3 Keys to Alzheimer’s Prevention and Optimal Brain Health with Julia Lundstrom- Transcript
Ari Whitten: Hey everyone, welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host Ari Whitten, and today I have with me Julia Lundstrom, who is the founder of Simple Smart Science. She is an educator in the fields of neuroscience and brain health and she has helped over 47,000 people through her webinars, public speeches, books, and podcast interviews. With her knowledge of the brain, she combines neuroscience and brain chemistry to help people take leaps instead of steps in making measurable improvements in their memories and their lives. And for the last five years, Julia has collaborated extensively with doctors, scientists, and neurologists to develop an entire suite of brain health products. And as a result, Simple Smart Science was born. So with that said, welcome Julia. It’s a pleasure to have you on.
Julia Lundstrom: Thank you so much, Ari. It’s so great to be here. Thank you for having me on.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. So, I’ve checked out your blog very extensively. I love what you’re doing. I’m a fan of your work and, and I really appreciate your natural and holistic health approach to optimizing brain health. But what I would love to do to start off this interview is to have you actually talk about your background and why you got into all of this stuff because you have a fascinating personal story. So I would love if you could just talk a bit about what led to you getting so interested in the brain in the first place.
Julia Lundstrom: Yeah. So prior to starting this company with my brother in 2013 – 2014, I was working in the health industry but more of on the weight loss side, and my brother and I knew we wanted to go do something else. And right around the same time my aunt got diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and we are an extremely close family. And so we all flew over that summer to Sweden to actually see my aunt because that’s where she was living. My Dad is originally from Sweden. And it progressed so fast that by the time we got there, and this was probably only about three months from diagnosis, she already was having a hard time remembering people.
She had a hard time remembering the cabin that she built with her own hands in the sixties and seventies, it was very unfamiliar to her. She’d get lost going to the bathroom. And so it was progressing extremely rapidly and that really triggered something for me in seeing how her family had to deal with it, the financial aspects, the getting her help. And, of course, very quickly the marriage, they never got divorced, but they couldn’t even live together because he was aging as well. It was really traumatic on really the whole family and especially my dad, you know, his little baby sister and he’s the oldest and it’s not supposed to happen that way.
My brother and I became very passionate around the brain and brain health and decided to start doing a lot of research around this and synergies happened and we started working with the scientists who focused on Alzheimer’s and cognition and Simple Smart Science was born because it was just this natural flow into what we can do to help. Now, unfortunately, my aunt did pass away just last December. And in the end, for the last two years, she couldn’t, you know, it’s just one of the worst diseases, she couldn’t remember her kids. My dad flew over there last summer and of course she couldn’t remember him at that point and it’s just a terrible, I think it’s probably the worst way to go for the person and everyone around you.
The main causes of poor brain health
Ari Whitten: Yeah, that’s brutal. So what did you find in all of this research that you’ve done? And I, I know that is a very general, broad question and that is the whole purpose of your brand and that you could probably talk for 20 hours on that subject. But what I would love is maybe if you could summarize kind of a 30,000-foot view of what are some of the key factors as to why we’re having so many brain health issues these days because there is an epidemic that is rapidly increasing in the prevalence of dementia, of neurodegenerative diseases. And why is that happening? What’s going on in our environment, in the modern world, in the lifestyle that is leading to that? And if you, again, like to kind of condense 20 hours or maybe 50 hours of material into maybe like a two minute or five minutes, sort of very succinct encapsulation of what some of the big factors look like.
Julia Lundstrom: Sure. And you’re right, I can talk forever on this subject because there are so many different components and I think that’s kind of the point. Uh, I ride a lot around my nine pillars of brain health because what I think is the really big component that we overlook is that it’s not just about one part of your health, one part of using your memory or you’re losing your memory. It’s the holistic part of your entire being. And that’s what most people miss. But I would say, you know, there’s a couple of really overlooked ones that people talk a lot about in different aspects. But when it comes to your brain. I’d say two really key ones I talk about often because it’s most overlooked or sleep, which is really, really key, not just for all the diseases and lack thereof, but it’s estimated that 76 percent of Americans don’t get enough sleep and it’s really quite an epidemic and no one talks about it.
Everybody thinks well, no one sleeps very well, so it must be okay. The issue comes down to when it comes to your memory is sleep is where not only when your brain is clearing out the toxins overnight, and so if you’re not getting enough sleep, it’s like you have a dirty city and the street sweepers can only clean out, you know, 10 percent or 50 percent of it, and then the other 50 percent stays dirty, but it’s also the time when your memories consolidate, they stick. So it’s when you’re short-term memories turn into long-term memories. So if you think about that? We think about, okay, so if I’m getting an hour less sleep a night, that’s an hour’s worth of short-term memories that are not going to be there. They’re going to be gone, poof, because I didn’t give my brain a chance to consolidate those to make those stick.
So, I talk a lot about sleep in the context of memory and you know there’s a ton of different views around sleep, but in general you’re looking to get between seven to nine hours of sleep. It doesn’t all have to be in one block, but it’s really important to get into that rem sleep too because that’s where a lot of the consolidation takes place. And I would say the next one, you know, I know you’re passionate around nutrition that I would say they’re released specific nutritional components that people aren’t getting, especially older people. A one is B12. It’s found in fish and meat and dairy products. If you’re a vegetarian or Vegan, you have to supplement with B12. But it is one of, I would say four nutrients that are so important for brain health and think it’s something like 40 percent of everyone over 50 years old is deficient in B12.
So that’s a really critical nutrient to either supplement with. I say if you’re over 40, just supplement with it. The other one is DHA and it kinda goes hand in hand because DHA is also found in fish, mainly. It’s also found in flax seeds and things like that. So for me, the nutrition plays such a key role and people don’t really look at the nutritional side of your brain health. I’ll look at it when it comes to your weight or your heart, but no one’s talking about the brain when it comes to nutrition. And that’s really what I want to try to get out there because there are these nutrients like DHA that again, most people aren’t getting and there’s a deficiency. And so there you’re mega threes and DHA makes up 90 percent of the, of the Omega threes in your brain. Twenty-five percent of the overall fat content. So talk about important for your brain. I mean, it helps your brain communicate, helps the electricity to move faster. So it’s things like that that we can do that are so simple that everyone can do and it’s not expensive. And that’s what I love to talk about. What are the little things that you can do day to day that is really going to help your brain health?
Ari Whitten: So what else? Sleep, nutrition, any other big factors that are playing a role in that? The epidemic of neurodegenerative disease that we have going on right now?
Julia Lundstrom: Sure. There’s a big one that really no one’s really addressing and that’s our technology. And I actually just heard my phone go off as we’re talking here, but a really big issue is that we’re not using our memories and with our technology. We don’t remember. We don’t have to remember anything anymore, right? We have, hey google, can you add this to my shopping list? And then you go to the store and it’s on your shopping list or your calendar or phone numbers or even people’s names. We put them on our phones and we don’t ever use our memories and it’s like a muscle. And if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. So it just becomes atrophied. And so we’re seeing that more and more that with technology people don’t have to use their brains, they don’t have to use their memories and so people are getting dumber and they’re getting slower and it’s harder to remember. And there’s always this, oh, I can never remember names or dates. Well that’s a different subject because that’s actually more of a training. No one could remember names, sorry. Our brains aren’t wired to remember names. Our brains are wired to, hey, I just met you. Are you a threat? To me? That’s it. So when someone says her name and the first 10 seconds you are not taking that in.
Ari Whitten: I can attest to that. I, I’ve actually, I’ve been known to have a very good memory to remember all sorts of obscure scientific facts about all sorts of things. But I cannot for the life of me remember anyone’s name, who I meet. So I’m glad to hear that. It’s not just me whose brain is wired that way.
Julia Lundstrom: Everyone’s brain is wired that way. Everyone complains about not remembering. And there are techniques you can learn and you know, you just prepare yourself too. Okay, none of these people in this room are going to be a threat. So when I walk in, the one thing I’m going to be listening for is their name, but you have to prep yourself and you have to be ready to hear it. And then of course there’s visualization techniques and whatnot to remember to remember their names, but that’s a separate issue. But when it comes to really remember things like what happened yesterday, we don’t take the time to digest what happened today to remember it tomorrow. And that’s a really key component. I have, you know, get my nine pillars of brain health and I do a coaching program.
How to strengthen your brain health
Julia Lundstrom: And in there I really talk about using your brain and challenging your brain and not just crossword puzzles, things like that, they’re great. But you have to have something new and different. So, you know, if you’re, if you’ve been a dancer your whole life dancing more isn’t going to grow your brain cells back or challenge you. Maybe if you’ve never done a crossword and you start them and that will do it. Or learning an instrument, if you’re an expert at something, doing more of that isn’t going to help do something different. Learn a language, playing an instrument, learn how to paint or nit or different sports or whatever it’s going to be, or read more. I think I’m gonna. Turn off the TV that doesn’t use any of your brain. That is completely an observer in life and doesn’t grow your brain at all. Maybe if you’re watching the national history channel or something, but even then you’re probably not absorbing it.
Julia Lundstrom: Turn off the TV. Read a nonfiction book. Ten percent of the population reads nonfiction. That’s it, so be one of those people that read something about life and you’ll retain more, so use your brain more. Use it in different ways. That’s really important and you’ll actually grow different parts of your brain in that way. One of the really respected, he’s actually a psychologist, but Dr. Daniel Amen. Does a lot of brain scans on people and he’s been able to show if you have brain damage in one sector of the brain, if you work on what that sector focuses on, let’s say in the creativity sector, if you work on painting or learning how to paint, you can actually start to regrow the damaged part of your brain, which is amazing because I think so many of our problems, especially psychological issues come from damaged brains that people got when they were kids are growing up and we don’t even think about that.
Ari Whitten: Fascinating stuff. Any other factors you want to mention here? That you think are playing a role?
Julia Lundstrom: Well, there. So I usually talk about nine. So meditation is a huge one. Meditation has been shown to grow the prefrontal cortex. I know you’ve talked a lot about that. The social component, which is extraordinarily interesting when it comes to brain health. I know there’s that study floating around how the social component is actually more important to your health and longevity than any of the other 10 components combined. It’s like you watched the chart, it’s like socialist here and then wages here. There was recently a Harvard study that spanned over 80 years and the number one factor of people that live longer and healthier over that 80 years, it was just men of course, because in the early 19 hundreds they weren’t, you know, researching women. It was as if they were still married and they had good social networks and that is so key and no one really talks about that either when it comes to your brain health and how that stimulates you and makes you live longer, happier.
I mean, I could share a story real quick if you have time around what my dad just went through. So I complain a lot around modern medicine and I complain a lot around doctors, but you know, at some point modern medicine does help a lot. And right now it’s keeping my dad alive. But, I went out to visit him about two months ago now and he lives in Palm Desert and three days after I got there he ended up in the hospital for kidney failure and ended up having to go on dialysis, which they said is, you know, kind of the rest of your life, three days a week for three and a half, four hours at a time. So it’s really like going back to work at 85 years old to now he has to be at the center. And I asked the doctors, the nurses, pretty much anyone I could see what’s his post hospital, you know, what, what is his dialysis diet that he needs to eat? No one can tell me, no one can tell me, no one could tell me.
Finally, when I got to the dialysis center, the nurse gave me a book and a website and I did a little research on my own and it, there’s so much research around it. It’s no potassium, no phosphorous and no sodium. So I put my dad on this really restrictive diet, eliminating those foods from his diet. He’s supposed to have a little bit of each, but, and I’m actually just last week he went in on Monday for his dialysis treatment and the kidney doctor came in and said that his blood work looked so good that he shouldn’t come back in the rest of the week for his dialysis and that they’re going to take more blood in another couple weeks and determine if he ever needs to go back because he still has some kidney function and his kidneys were able to now process that. And it’s pretty unheard of for someone to get off dialysis.
I just think that food and nutrition needs to be the very first thing. And I know I’ve already talked about that, but it’s just such a key, key component to everything we do. And I think that that needs to be looked at before we get on these medicines. Or at least at some point because we’re. So, you know, we’re such a pill-popping society and know I told you I lived in Sweden last four years. They don’t have pharmaceutical commercials and I come over here and I am blown away at how many pharmaceutical commercials there are now.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Yeah, it’s crazy.
Julia Lundstrom: And every one of those were made to affect some part of your brain and your body and that the trickle-down effect of that is crazy and we’re actually seeing our lifespans were going up, up, up, up, and now they’re starting to go down, down, down, down, and I think a lot of that, of course, is obesity. But it’s which is another thing we don’t see in Sweden, at all. But I think it’s also the pharmaceuticals, everyone’s pill poppers instead of just looking at their lifestyle and how much they move because exercise is another one and how much they’re getting out there. And especially in the older generation, they don’t get out there and socialize very much.
Ari Whitten: So a couple things. One comment that I want to make is that I’m really glad you mentioned community and the social aspect of things because I think there’s a tendency among health experts to fall into the trap of kind of seeing every person as just their own little encapsulated individual where their health is solely determined by the chemicals floating around in their bloodstream and the hormones and so on and to not look outside of that as far as seeing the person’s relationship to the world around them, to other people, to the environment more broadly. And I think that’s an important aspect of things. So just wanted to thank you for mentioning that. I think it’s critical. I personally think I’m after having gone through a phd program in clinical psychology and one of my big gripes with a lot of talk therapy focused methods was the exclusion.
And granted, you know, this is not meant to be super critical because they’re limited by what a psychologist can do with an individual. But so many of the psychology paradigms exclude that aspect of the, the interpersonal dynamics and whether a person has relationships, whether they’re part of a, a healthy family or community, and I personally think that is a huge aspect, a huge percentage of the overall burden of mental health problems is from that and also have brain health problems later in life. I mean I’m looking at loneliness and isolation and relationship to some of these brain diseases. And I know there’s, there’s quite a bit of research on that, but I’m sure you’ve, you’ve looked into.
Julia Lundstrom: Yeah. And actually that was kind of my point with my dad. I wouldn’t have been tangent around the nutrition because that’s such a big piece of it too. But I was staying there with my son and my husband for seven weeks, getting him through all this and actually living with him, which we don’t get a do as adults. Right. We don’t live with their parents anymore and it was. So my son is two years old now and to have that time with, you know, my dad being able to spend with us and his grandson. I had multiple doctors tell me that every time they see the family get involved and that family be part of it, people heal so much faster. You’re absolutely right. And I’m sure you’ve seen a lot in your practice on the social aspect and loneliness.
How toxins play a role in poor brain health
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So, one other thing I want to ask you is that you didn’t mention, have you seen much or are you convinced that a lot of the brain health problems that are becoming epidemics now are due to toxins? And I’ll mention that there’s a number of studies on this, I’m sure you’ve seen. But one I just saw the other day. I think that that just got published by Dr Datis Kharrazian and one of his colleagues was on the relationship of BPA exposure from plastics and brain inflammation and brain autoimmunity and they showed a link between BPA exposure to degenerative processes in the brain. So there and, and, and you know, of course not to mention heavy metals and mercury and things like that. But just wondering if you can, if you can speak to that a topic a bit and have you seen much research that leads you to, to think that toxins are playing a large role in all of this?
Julia Lundstrom: Well, I will be honest and saying just last year I started to get into that research so it’s still relatively new for me even if it’s not for other people, but I will say from what I’ve seen, there is a tremendous correlation between the toxins in our environment and that goes to everything. The house cleaner the other day was using chlorine on the oven. I was like, “oh, what are you doing? I don’t use chlorine anymore.” But a really, really big one is mold. And that is something that they’re really discovering now is a big problem when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. And so I encourage everyone to go get their home tested for mold because it’s kind of that silent killer that you don’t know about. And… Especially if you live in a very old building, you may not know it’s there and no one wants to deal with the ramifications of paying for, you know, cutting out walls or moving or whatever it’s going to take, but you really don’t want the ramifications of 20 years later of living in a mold infested house leading to Alzheimer’s and there are a ton of studies right now that show that that is one of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease.
So yes, toxins. What we breathe. I know a lot of the plastics that are in the ocean now that are getting, you know, the little micro, what are they called? The microplastics are getting into our water and our water supply. That’s a huge issue. I haven’t specifically seen that report you’re talking to, but I’m not surprised at all.
The real reason why we sleep less and how it affects brain health
Ari Whitten: Yeah, the, it’s brand new. I was like maybe two days ago published. Very, very interesting stuff. So, you know, what I’d love to do is dig into sleep and circadian rhythm a little bit deeper since that was the first one that you mentioned and I’m happy also that you brought a toxin clearance from the brain while we sleep and the importance of that. And I know that there have been some kind of big discoveries around that whole concept in the last year or two, uh, with the lymphatic system and, and all of that. But can you talk a bit more about why sleep is important? Brain health and, and, and this is maybe for some people like why should sleep be an issue? I mean humans still, we all still asleep and we’ve been sleeping for a long time. So, so what’s actually going on there? That is all of the sudden, why? Why is our sleep becoming bad and uh, or, or not effective in keeping our brains healthy? What, what’s actually causing them?
Julia Lundstrom: Well, I think that’s kind of a two-parter. If I heard you correctly. One was kind of what’s going on in your brain and the other is what’s causing the problem. Why people aren’t sleeping. And I think the biggest issue I undertake the latter first is stress. I think stress is a giant issue, which is another of my brain pillars that people don’t really address when it comes to your brain health, but people aren’t sleeping because they’re stressed out and so we have different brain waves that you mentioned and we have our Beta, which is kind of what most people stay in. You have your high Beta, which you know it’s you’re super stressed out state and then Beta, which is what most people are running and all day, which is this really high frequency state and then below that you have alpha, which is your more relaxed state, your creative state where you’re going to come up with your best ideas and then you have your data which is your in-between sleep states right before you fall asleep and your gamma, which is your sleep state.
And then there’s sub gamma and whatnot. So as you get into deeper sleep, the problem we have is that with a stressed out environment, people are staying in this high Beta state and you’re. You need to vary your brainwave states like you do your heart. If you go work out, you don’t want to stay super high intensity the whole time, or if you do short term, you know you’re not going to get a super high intensity for eight hours a day. They’ll give yourself a heart attack. Well, that’s what most people are doing in their brains are staying in this super high brainwave intense state. They’re not varying their brainwave states. And so to go from a High Beta state or Beta state to gamma, when you lie down to sleep at night, almost impossible to do. And that’s why it’s taking hours because your brain is trying to process to go down to these other states.
And I think that’s why meditation is so key because it helps train your brain to go to the different brainwave states. So you teach yourself how to actually go into different states to help yourself fall asleep easier and to stay asleep all night. You know, there’s always those people that wake up at 1:00 AM and just can’t get back to sleep for hours. And we’ve all been there, I mean we, we’ve done it, you know, and for me it’s always when I’m stressed out, when there’s too much on my mind when there’s too much going on and I haven’t meditated, I’m out of practice, things like that. So I think that’s really key to train yourself how to get between those dates so you can fall asleep easier or allow time to process thoughts during the day. If you’re not going to meditate, at least give yourself 20 minutes that’s not right before bed to process your thoughts because when you lie down in bed, what’s happening, you’re just processing all your thoughts.
Well, if you can just give yourself that time, you know, outside of the sleep to just, I don’t know, lay down, close your eyes on the couch or whatever, you know, 6:00 at night and just process those thoughts so that they’re out of your head by the time you lay down and go to sleep. That helps. But people are stressed out so they’re not getting enough sleep and they’re not prioritizing it. I mean, I put my sleep before everything else and I’ll clear my schedule the next day if I’m going to go have a big night or there’s a wedding or something going on so that I can sleep and I’ll even line up care for my son so that I can sleep. So it’s really prioritizing it because people, like I said at the beginning, they just think, you know, no one, no one really sleeps. I know my cousin sleep maybe four or five hours a night and he just, now I will say there is a gene that five percent of people have where they don’t need more than four or five hours with the sleep. But if you really, my cousin think this thing that if you really believe it’s, you go get tested. Not doing this, you know, you’re a vocable damage to your brain over the long term. And we know it causes strokes and heart attacks and Alzheimer’s and dementia have decades worth of sleep deprivation.
Ari Whitten: So we’re stressed and as a result of that, sleeping less than we used to. And I know that there are some data around that that you know, that have tracked average amount of hours of sleep over the last 60 years or something like that and it’s gone down by about an hour and a half or two hours a night. And depending on what study you look at, they might differ by half an hour or 45 minutes or so. But um, the overall trend is clearly in the direction of less sleep. So what if somebody says, I’m getting, you know, I, I get seven and a half hours of sleep are or were for seven hours of sleep every night. Am I good? If, if somebody says to you, did they get in bed every night at 10:30 and they wake up at six, do you say, okay, you’re good to go, your sleep issue is solved? Or is there more to it than that?
Julia Lundstrom: There’s a lot more to it. And I think this goes to everything around the human body is that every single person is unique and we all have our own physiology and so it’s really important to find out how much sleep you need. I’m a nine-hour girl myself and so it’s really important for me to go to bed early and lately I’ve actually just been going to bed with my son at 7:30 and eight so that I can get up at 5:00 in the morning and go surf or whatever it is I’m going to do. But that hasn’t always been the case. I’ve usually been a night owl, so that’s changed for me, but it’s keeping a journal and now sleep changes do take time. So if you’re really sleep deprived and all of a sudden you start getting nine hours a night, you may not notice that it’s improving your health and improving your sleep for a couple of weeks.
So try to give yourself that space and time to sleep. And the other part is of course, are you actually getting into your REM sleep? Are you getting into the different phases of sleep? Because that’s really important as well. If you’re, let’s say you drink a lot, you may never be getting into a deep sleep, and so you may sleep 10 hours, but it’s not quality sleep and that’s what we’re looking for. And actually quality is almost better than quantity, noninterrupted sleep. It’s better to get five hours uninterrupted than eight hours where you’re being woken up every 30 minutes or 40 minutes. So those are really key components there. I mean that’s a big one, but it’s going to depend on the person. Ad they’re going to have to keep a journal and figure out what’s working for them. If they feel great after seven and a half hours, great, no problem.
If they feel great after nine hours, no problem. But I, it’s really going to be measuring how you feel in the morning and good sleep actually starts in the morning. It starts with your morning routines. It starts with what you do during the day. If you’re not getting movement throughout the day, you’re probably not going to sleep very well. If you’re not eating well, you’re not going to sleep very well. If you’re not meditating or having those different brainwave states throughout the day, you’re not going to sleep very well. So those are all really… It’s all tied together.
The connection between artificial light exposure and brain health
Ari Whitten: Have you found any research on artificial light exposure at night in relation to brain health?
Julia Lundstrom: That’s very, very key. I’m glad you brought that up, but I know you know this one. That’s our circadian rhythm is exactly what makes us sleep. Now there are chemical, of course, there’s a bunch of chemicals that are involved in that GABA one. There’s also another one that has to do with your memory.
Ari Whitten: Oh, the irony, the irony.
Julia Lundstrom: It’s not an easy one.
Ari Whitten: Say it again.
Julia Lundstrom: 4BEP2. So that’s a chemical that that’s actually, I talked about your, your memories consolidating. That’s the chemical that does it. That builds up during the day. Your GABA builds up during the day. Basically start with an empty tank in the morning and as you go throughout their day, it builds up and builds up. And that’s actually, it’s like a stop sign in between your brain cells and it, it just makes everything shut down and go to sleep. It makes the transmitters transmitting or not a transplant I guess I should say. So that’s, that’s an important one too. So the light is actually helping these chemicals build up and helping these chemicals do what they’re supposed to do at the end and a lot of sleep problems are caused because people don’t have enough GABA and their system.
And so people supplement with Gavin what not. But I, I’ve been thinking about that so much lately. So it’s funny that you bring it up, especially since I’ve just started going to bed at in the past month or two I guess now with my son, when the sun goes down I go to bed and I’m up with the sun and I tell you it’s made a complete change in my brainwave states and how I feel throughout the day and my energy levels and how happy I am. And I think there’s. I know there’s a lot of studies. I don’t have one off the top of my head. I went through a lot of, about two years ago, and there’s such a high correlation with the sunrise and sunset and the artificial light that we get at night and how that’s messing with when we’re supposed to go to sleep and…
The effect of staying up late at night has on your health
Ari Whitten: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. A couple things. One is also just Melatonin suppression at Melatonin is a key stabilizer of mitochondrial membranes including mitochondrial membranes in the brain and actually protects the cells from damage and if you’re chronically suppressing that with artificial light at night, you know, I would imagine that adds up and you know, probably contributes to a lot of neurodegenerative diseases, but I would imagine we probably need more research on that. The other thing is kind of a, you, as you were alluding to this, this change in your bedtime, I’m curious if you found any relationship of Chronotype to a brain health, like have you, is there research showing that night owls are uniquely prone to, to brain problems and going to bed earlier is linked with better brain health. Have you seen anything of that nature?
Julia Lundstrom: I haven’t seen a lot of research on night owl specifically, but there is a ton of research on night shift workers and yes, very degenerative over decades. A year or two, not a big deal, but if you’re a night shift worker and nurse, a physician that works nights over decades, extreme neurodegenerative diseases can happen. So lots and lots of research done on that. But as far as like night owls that stay up till one or 2:00 in the morning, I haven’t seen any. They, they’re, they’re probably out there. But usually they’re looking more at the complete shift tell our customers to, if they’ve been doing it for decades to find another job. And that’s a hard one to here. But it’s, you know,
Ari Whitten: That’s my least favorite questions as circadian rhythm and sleep or a big passion of mine. And it’s honestly the least favorite question that I ever get is somebody who is a night shift worker who has been it for years or decades and they depend on it for their living. You know, I’ve even had some people who work day shifts and night shifts and they couldn’t survive financially without doing that and I mean, it’s just, I just feel it just gives me the worst feeling to then tell them like, “hey, your night shift work is probably doing really serious damage to your health and can probably going to lead to disease in the long run”. And then to hear like they can’t in some cases they can’t change that situation.
And I’m like, I almost feel bad. Like I’m going to create a nocebo effect and actually make it even worse for them by telling them that there’s research showing that it leads to bad health outcomes. And so I kind of am a little bit tormented by that ethically as far as like, should I tell this person who’s stuck in this situation about this research or should I keep it from them? I never know what the right answer is in that situation. But, uh, I always, I always ended up being convinced that telling people about the research and at least giving them the opportunity to have that knowledge and decide what to do with it is probably the best situation.
Julia Lundstrom: Yeah. It’s a really tough one. It’s also a double edge sword because of my dad ran to the hospitals for two months ago, it was at night, and I’ll tell you a thing, those fit night shift physicians and the nurses, you’re grateful they’re there, you’re really grateful they’re there. Go look at them and just feel really bad about what they’re doing to themselves. So it is a double-edged sword on that.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, 100 percent. I’m certainly grateful they’re there too. Having said that, I also know quite a bit of quite a few nurses personally and have known many over the years and I just cannot tell you how many nurses that I’ve seen with chronic health problems as a result, in my opinion, almost certainly as a result of night shift work who have, when I told them to demand that they do not work night shifts anymore or find some way of not working night shifts their health problems all of a sudden magically improve and disappeared. So, ‘yeah, it’s this weird irony where so many people in the health profession are, are suffering in terms of their health because of their working situation.
How to clear toxins from your brain
So the other aspect of this question that I asked you is kind of the mechanisms of how sleep leads to a better brain health. And I know you, you kind of mentioned in passing the clearance of toxins, but can you dig in a bit more to the mechanisms?
Julia Lundstrom: Well, let’s see. I’ve already talked about the 4BPEtwo. So that one’s a really winning when it comes to the memory and the. And this is one that is where I usually focus on, um, so when you’re looking at the neurotransmitters in your knowns, in your brain, what’s happening during the is every single time that you think a thought or you speak or you move your, the chemicals in your brain are releasing a little bit of trash every single time. And that was built up during the day. So those are the toxins. And then at night that’s when you can, you know, we like to talk about the cleaning crews come in and they fix the potholes and they take the graffiti off the walls and they clean the trash from the streets. That’s what’s happening because if you don’t clean up that little bit of neuro trash, it’s going to build up.
And then it’s almost like a, you know, people talk about brain fog, but it is almost like you’re, it’s traveling through fog or mud. You know, your electric signals are traveling through mud during the day because you haven’t cleaned up that trash. And so that’s really the only time your brain can focus on doing that is when you’re asleep. Because of course, when you’re awake, there’s too much else going on, you’re moving and talking and breathing and looking and hearing and smelling and seeing. But that’s what’s so beautiful about sleep is all those get shut off actually getting paralyzed when we sleep as well. From the neck down and that’s another way that your brain is saying, okay, I need all these resources to help get rid of all this narrow trash that’s happened. And of course it’s all in all your brain and all of your cells in your body, in your brain.
So yeah, I mean if you think about, you know, cutting off an hour or two a night of sleep, how much of that neuro trash gets left in your brain? So how much now are you not going to be able to recall those memories fast. I mean, it’s not just about memory sticking and you remembering things, but it’s also about the speed of recall. You know, when you have those, those tip of the tongue moments and it’s right there. It’s right there. I know it’s there or it’s about retaining. When you’re learning how fast you learn to someone have to show you something two, three times or did you get it the first time. So it’s things like that. There’s different components of memory and different components of using your brain when it comes to your memory and each of those needs. The clean highways to get through such a critical component to clean out that neuro trash.
Ari Whitten: On that note, I’m wondering if you have seen any of the kind of. There’s, there’s a trend now for a lot of people, especially like biohacking types of people to talk about things like, “oh, here’s how to, you know, here’s my special bio hack to be able to function on just, you know, five hours of sleep instead of, you know, so you don’t waste an extra two or three hours of sleep because you’re not sleeping efficiently” and, and things like that. Well, what do you think of those kinds of claims?
Julia Lundstrom: Well, I think again, long term we don’t have any studies longterm because these are all kind of new, you know, trendy things too. I know that we all know the book where he talks about sleeping two hours at a time throughout the day and night and yeah, I mean the dream is that we all have more time, but I think long-term that is just going to cause so much damage to a person’s brain and it does, it takes a decade or two or three to see the damage, but I do believe that it’s, it’s a bad trend and I don’t think there’s any replacement for sleep. There’s just not. I would rather I used to get really bad and that I needed to nine hours of sleep, but my awakening hours after that, you know, the other, what is it, 16, 15 hours a day are so much higher quality and so much more productive and so much more fun and energetic. Then if I got six hours of sleep and that’s the way I look at it, like I can pack and much more in those fishing hours than I would in 18 hours because it’s just higher quality.
Julia Lundstrom: I think it’s a bad trend. Have you experimented with any of that yourself?
Ari Whitten: No. I’m very into various strategies to improve sleep and circadian rhythm and to improve sleep efficiency, but I sleep how long my body tells me it wants to sleep and I’m also an extremely active person between lifting weights and sprinting and rock climbing and surfing and hiking and things like that. That, I mean if I wanted to cut two hours off my sleep and still wake up refreshed, you know, one strategy I could do is not be nearly as physically active then my body wouldn’t need nearly as much recovery time and sleep time. But I kinda like being really physically active. So, you know, sleeping more is what my body needs and I listen to my body and if I don’t and if I consistently cut it off artificially and say I only want to sleep this much, then what happens is first my energy levels tank, then my brain function tanks and I’m not as productive and efficient with my time during the day.
And then my immune system tanks and then I get sick. And then nothing is functioning well and then I can’t be active. And then all my body wants to do is lay down and rest. So, um, there’s, there’s a right balance and maybe this is different for each individual that everybody else, that everybody has their unique balance point. But for me, I need eight hours and oftentimes nine hours of sleep in order to remain highly energetic and stay physically active and performing well physically and mentally and to keep my immune system strong so that I don’t get sick because if I don’t, you know, being super, physically active, doing lots of hours of intense exercise combined with sleep deprivation is a recipe for getting sick really fast.
The best brain food and the best supplements for brain health and Alzheimer’s prevention
So let’s move on to nutrition. What, and I know you’ve, you’ve talked about DHA and B12 so far. I’m looking at my memory. Isn’t that impressive?
Julia Lundstrom: Very good. Most people don’t know what DHA is because when you talk about Omega threes, everybody looks at the EPA. It’s actually the DHA when it comes to your brain health and it’s, it’s such, it makes herself more fluid. It makes electricity move faster through your brain. Like that’s one of the… I could go on forever about DHA. So one of the ones I talk about both, so yes, but I’m proud of you referred DHA because it’s… Not a lot of people have looked at or talk about DHA.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. So what, what are, are there any other significant nutrients of note, and maybe I have two questions here. One is, are there any aspects of things that people are eating that are known to be harmful to the brain that people are maybe not aware of and should be aware of? And then maybe is there anything you can build on as far as B12in Dha at any other nutrients or foods that are particularly supportive of brain health?
Julia Lundstrom: Absolutely. I mean this is another one I could talk about all day or with nutrition and brain health. I know you could too, right. Um, so I’m going to start from a really high level and go back to individual physiology. So it’s really different for every single person on what your body needs. And the FDA has our recommended allowances, but most people don’t even know how they’re, what they’re consuming, if that even falls in those guidelines. So the first thing I always recommend for people to do is to test themselves and I use a great app called chronometer. It’s free, there’s a 100 of them out there, my plate, but it doesn’t go down, so chronometer goes down to the micronutrient level so you can measure your food for two weeks and see what you’re lacking. Now, of course it’s the FDA recommendations, but at least start there and then test what works for yourself.
Test, taking out dairy, test, taking in different foods. I want to be careful when I talk about that because that is a critical component for our brain health and we’ve had the past 30 years of “fat is bad. Don’t eat fat. It makes you fat”, which is a complete lie that we now know, right? Yes, that is high in calories. If you’re only eating fat and your plus, you’re eating a bunch of carbs, you’re going to get fat, but fat is hugely important for your brain health, your brain. Off the top of my head, I think it’s 80 percent of your brain is actually fat. So critically important for your brain health and the rest of your body. So that’s another huge nutrient, but most people don’t certainly don’t get enough fat.
Ari Whitten: Any particular type of fat, I mean DHA, it’s obviously an important fat that’s linked to brain health. Are there some distinctions that you want to make as far as fats that are either healthy or less healthy or healthy for brain health?
Julia Lundstrom: Right? I mean you’re it and that does kind of go back to the old studies around saturated fat versus unsaturated fat. Like Avocados are one of the best fats you can eat and fishy fats, your Omega three, Omega six, Omega nines, all very important fatty acids. So those. And again, I’ll just go back to, there are some things I just recommend everybody to supplement with. I mean, unless you’re eating filet of salmon and night, which they do in Sweden, which is probably why they are all so fit. But you know, Supplement with these. But fat is that as a critical component and so are so many of the other micronutrients. I know a lot of people have folate issues, which goes back to the um, but a lot of people don’t absorb folate, so that’s another, I’m gonna talk from kind of the big picture again, so when you’re measuring. So what I’ll do is I’ll take two weeks and chronometer and it’ll tell me down to the micronutrient level and for some reason I’ve always kind of lacking in the irons and the metals and so I know that that’s what I should supplement with, but then you also have to take it one step further and measure your blood tests and get everything measured and you usually want to do it a couple of different times because it’s a snapshot in time, right?
If I go get my blood tested tomorrow, it’s just going to be dependent upon what I’ve eaten in the last few days. So you want to do it over time to see what is lacking as well. And then supplement with either food or food and diet or supplements. Say Supplement. I don’t always mean a pill and I take more of that food in. So that’s really key because what’s happening I think is with our process food, like you’re talking about what not to eat sugar, of course everyone’s beating up on sugar. We’re not going to say it with your brain health has been high correlations of the amount of sugar people eat and dementia and stroke. Stroke is a huge one when it comes to sugar intake. Salt is another one. The average American eats over 3,500 milligrams of salt daily and you’re only supposed to have 1500 by the FDA standards, which I think is even still probably high.
And that’s going to get, do things like give you kidney problems later in life. But salts is another one where it’s not very good to have that excess salt your brain. So your general heart health and food health diets, you know, I’d, I’d always recommend the Mediterranean Diet seems to be the best balance when you get good fats like olive oils and olives and certain cheeses and fish, a lot of fish and lean meats and things like that. I’m trying to think here. So yeah, I mean I always kind of take it from that level because it is so independent and per person that it’s hard for me to say, you know, well, you should be going out and eating this percentage of your diet and fat and carbs and protein when that might not be what’s right for you.
Ari Whitten: And you know, as I’m hearing you talk kind of in and say, you know, a lot of people could use more fat and less sugar. I think maybe one distinction is important. Are you saying that people should go out and eat as much fatty red meat as possible and avoid things like blueberries which are rich in sugar? Or are you trying to get at something else?
Julia Lundstrom: Thank you for making that distinction is I know that you know that one, no, natural sugars are fine. Um, it’s the added sugars in 1975, a high fructose corn syrup was introduced in this country and the epidemic of obesity with the introduction of high fructose corn syrup is just a one to one correlation. Absolutely everything. Your bread, your ketchup, say any, I mean salad dressings, anything you think is the only thing that’s not in your natural foods, fruits and vegetables, it’s even in your chickens like they pumped chicken now is sugar water to make them look bigger, so you want to really be careful with this and like when I went shopping for my dad to look for low sodium, all those meats that you get that are already know, pre-packaged those and even that, your Deli meats, tons of sodium. I had asked for specific low sodium meets, but yes, natural fruits I think are good for you. Blueberries specifically you, you nailed it on the hat is one of the brain-boosting foods, tons of antioxidants and blueberries, which is great. You’ve got to get rid of those free radicals flying around your brain.
You know, flax seeds are really good for your brain. Chia seeds, avocado, asparagus a lot of a lot of your foods that are good for your heart and your health are also good for your brain, but natural fruit, natural sugars are okay.
Ari Whitten: Are there any brain super foods or herbs or you know, various kinds of, of plant foods, botanicals, things like that that you think are really special in terms of their effects on the brain?
Julia Lundstrom: Absolutely, and we actually, we have a monthly newsletter we just said “are your superfoods so super.?” And the point of that was that yes, your superfoods, your blueberries, I just mentioned a lot of, um, spinach, Avocados, Chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts. Very, very good for your brain. Of course, fish that I’ve talked to about your fatty fish, salmon’s, a lot of anchovies and sardines, but what you have to be careful of when you’re looking at that, and that’s why I talked about are they so super if you want to prepare and a lot of spices like turmeric and things like that, but you want to prepare them yourself. Anytime you buy the pre-processed precut carrots or your preprocessed, even turmeric preprocess turmeric, either taking out so many of the nutrients and vitamins that it’s just better to just buy the root and shave it yourself to make your superfoods even more super. You really should be taking the whole food and making yourself and of course it’s more time consuming, but it’s much more time consuming to be sick and have a disease.
The worst advice on brain health
Ari Whitten: Absolutely. So Couple other questions I have for you. Is the worst advice that you see throwing around out there as far as brain health?
Julia Lundstrom: Well, I think we’ve touched a little bit on it… maybe a lot on it, but I think it really comes down to this pill popping society and people go in and they see a doctor and he gives them a diagnosis and it gives them a pill and they go home and take the pill and then they may be on it for a week or a month or forever and no one’s asking ”what does this do?” And then they prescribed another pill for some other problem and how do those work together in the brain and what the chemical reaction that’s happening around when those two come together. And so I think that this is. This is a really, really big problem we’re seeing. I think the average American, It can vary from year to year. I think five years ago it was on three and now it’s like eight medications and of course the commercials you see and it’s just that and then you have multiple doctors.
One doctor isn’t talking to the other and it’s like going back to my dad, he was on a multivitamin that his primary care wanted him to be on for the beach while and everything else in it, but I loved it. The potassium level was 33 percent of his intake for the day or wait for him. That’s his 100 percent of his intake for the day and one multivitamin. Why is he taking this? And no one caught that? I’m the one who caught that. So you have to take charge of your own health and you have to know what’s in these prescriptions. Most people don’t know. They don’t know what it does to them. They don’t research them, they don’t look. I mean the information is online and it talks about what side effects it has and, and you’ll see so many times that the side effects of so many of these prescriptions are fogginess and hard to sleep.
And all the other problems that people are having, it’s just exasperating those problems which are going to create more problems in the future. So really dangerous that your doctors don’t ask about your sleep, they don’t ask about your diet, they don’t ask you about your social life and instead they just go straight to their pad. And I know that doctors get a lot of slack, but I tell you that they’d still do. Every doctor I see, that’s the first thing they do. So it’s beating up bottom and I’m grateful. So grateful they’re there. But at the same time, our, our, our medicinal world needs to change.
Julia’s top 3 tips to improving your brain health
Ari Whitten: To wrap up, what are your three top tips that you want to leave people with to improve their brain health that will get them to start seeing results, to start to see results maybe in the next 30, 60 days? Something like that.
Julia Lundstrom: I would say kind of just to summarize everything we’ve talked about and try something new. Challenge Yourself, um, read a nonfiction book. I think that’s just such a big one because most people get stuck in a Rut. You know, our learning curve when we’re born through age 30 is just straight up and down and then we start to get a little comfortable in our careers, our lives and have kids and then we get older and then our learning curves actually go down and we stop learning. We stop using our brain and the piece of me really thinks that the reason that we have brain shrinkage and we have memory problems is we just stopped using it. I see how much kids learn every day and my son learns every day and I try to do the same. I’m an adamant reader. I’m out there learning new stuff all the time. I just haven’t played volleyball in 30 years. I bought a volleyball yesterday that’s been sitting around to use the other parts of my brain and body, so really get out there, try something new. Whether it’s the standards of learning an instrument or learning a new language or just be creative with it and don’t just sit behind the computer. I think that’s a really big one. Turn off the TV, turn off the computer, go back to the fifties, forties. When they didn’t have it, what did people do for fun? Go do that.
Julia Lundstrom: Go do something fun and laughs. Oh my goodness. Laugh. Even if it’s watching a funny movie, I don’t care who it is so important for our brain and our body and our. Our whole big. There was one study done in diabetics patients where one group, they both eat the same meals. One Wing Watch, a sad movie and the other went and watched it. The other group went and watched a comedy and the group that watched the comedy not need their insulin shot after watching the movie. Whereas the Sadd group, so talk about what last year does to you, right? It just laugh right now. Even just smile. Fake it. If you go out there and laugh and be social with your friends and try something new and then actually use your memory. And I’m not talking about challenging yourself. Learning something new. I’m talking about learning or trying to memorize things and there are lots of memory tricks out there.
Julia Lundstrom: Go learn some of them. Um, you know, numbers once. There’s a great book called Moonwalking with Einstein. If you want to learn how to really learn how to memorize things and use your memory. This is the book and it follows this guy Josh, for how he went from just a regular guy to in one year the memory champion, I think the United States just fantastic book, but there are all these tools and techniques. Start memorizing your shopping list. Stop depending so much on technology. Start using your memory to remember your dates and schedules and you know, so look at your schedule first thing in the morning and then don’t look at your calendar the rest of the day. So you have to remember, try remembering people’s names. Use Your memory before you lose it. Those would be my three things.
Ari Whitten: Beautiful. I love it. So this has been an absolute pleasure. I’ve loved the content and I’m really excited to share this with my audience. Where can people go to learn more about your work, a signup for your email list. Also, do you have any programs that people can sign up for?
Julia Lundstrom: Absolutely. So our website is simplesmartscience.com. Tons and tons of articles on there. Um, it, like I said, our latest one is on are your superfoods, so super talks about the whole food versus the process. So you can go to our website. Simple smart science.com on there is a registration for my webinar that I host a multiple times a week where you go on and you just register and I talk about more things you can do in the next 30 days to improve your memory all from the comfort of your own home so you can pick a date and time that works for you there. Um, and yeah, like I said, there’s just tons of information there. So.
Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Well thank you so much Julian. It’s been an absolute pleasure and I look forward to talking again soon.
Julia Lundstrom: Absolutely, Ari. You definitely challenged me in some of those questions and I love that.
Ari Whitten: That’s my goal. Thanks so much Julia.
Julia Lundstrom: Alright, take care.
Ari Whitten: Bye.
Julia Lundstrom: Bye.
The Top Supplements for Brain Health, Brain Foods, and The 3 Keys to Alzheimer’s Prevention and Optimal Brain Health with Julia Lundstrom– Show Notes
The main causes of poor brain health (3:54)
How to strengthen your brain health (11:31)
Why social connection is important for brain health and healing (17:54)
How toxins play a role in poor brain health (20:27)
The real reason why we sleep less and how it affects brain health (23:07)
The connection between artificial light exposure and brain health (31:27)
The effect of staying up late at night has on your health (33:44)
How to clear toxins from your brain (37:57)
The best brain food and the best supplements for brain health and alzheimer’s prevention (44:44)
The worst advice on brain health (54:34)
Julia’s top 3 tips to improving your brain health (57:15)
To learn more about Julia’s work, go check out her website.