The Effect of Stress on the Brain

The Effect of Stress On Your Brain

Three of our Stark team members had the opportunity to sit down with Brant Cortright, Ph.D., to learn about how stress directly affects our brain’s health. Brant Cortright, Ph.D., has written two #1 international Amazon bestsellers titled Functional Psychology for Anxiety, Depression, and Cognitive Decline, as well as The Neurogenesis Diet and Lifestyle. He emphasized the importance of increasing the rate of neurogenesis in our brains, which is the process by which new neurons are formed in the brain. We should strive to have higher rates of neurogenesis as it is directly related to improved cognitive function and lowered stress.

We Can Lose Some of Our Brain From Stress

Did you know that we can lose up to one-quarter of our hippocampus due to high degrees of stress? The hippocampus is composed of a right side and a left side. One side deals with cognition and the processing of memories— while the other side goes into emotion regulation (including anxiety, stress, and depression). When someone’s rate of neurogenesis slows down, they won’t be able to form memories as quickly. Not only would they experience cognitive decline and memory problems, but they would also become more emotionally vulnerable. Stress slows down the neurogenetic process— causing memory problems, brain fog, and inflammation. Inflammation is troublesome because it’s behind every significant disease, including cognitive decline, depression, and most anxiety.

 

Some Stress Can Be Beneficial

While most stress is considered harmful to the brain’s performance— it’s important to note that we need good, moderate short-term stress to challenge ourselves. When the brain is challenged in this way, it responds creatively and brings forth new potentials and new capacities. There are healthy levels of stress that are manageable and push us to improve ourselves. We more fully become ourselves when we are optimally stressed!

Ways to Lower Your Stress Levels

“Probably, the single most nutrient for the brain is Omega-3 fatty acids. The brain is composed of about 60% fat, and of that, about a third to a half of it is DHA. DHA is one of the three Omega-3 fatty acids— it’s the fundamental building block of the brain,” says Brant Cortright, Ph.D. He suggests that most people intake between three to four grams of Omega-3s every day. Ideally, half of that intake is DHA, while the other half should be EPA. Experiments have shown that you can increase the rate of neurogenesis by 40% by adding Omega-3s to your diet! He recommends Omega-3 supplements from Nordic Naturals or Life Extension, as these products are molecularly distilled to ensure mercury isn’t present.

We also recommend actively trying to keep your stress levels low if you’re concerned about your brain (and you definitely should be). Sleeping the recommended seven to nine hours per night is a great way to reduce stress. Regularly exercising and eating a healthy diet are great ways to keep your stress low and your brain functioning optimally. If you can find healthy ways to cope with your stress, your brain will thank you for it!