Inflammation Could Be Affecting Your Focus

concentration

From achy joints and sore throats to puffy eyes and acne breakouts, inflammation is often the root cause of many health and beauty issues. This week, a new study revealed that it could also be the reason behind ‘brain fog’. Researchers at the University of Birmingham found that inflammation can essentially block the brain’s ability to reach and maintain a state of alertness. 

The study consisted of 20 young men, who were given a salmonella typhoid vaccine to cause temporary inflammation and then two hours later their concentration levels were measured as they looked at simple images on a computer screen.

The men were injected with water on a different day and put through the same cognitive tests. On both days, their blood was taken to assess inflammation levels too. While our ability to prioritise and select when to pay attention and when not to was not impacted by inflammation, the results found that staying alert was. “These results show quite clearly that there’s a very specific part of the brain network that’s affected by inflammation,” says Dr Ali Mazaheri, a senior author of the study. “This could explain ‘brain fog’.”

Co-author of the study, Professor Jane Raymond adds: “This research finding is a major step forward in understanding the links between physical, cognitive, and mental health and tells us that even the mildest of illnesses may reduce alertness.” With around 12 million people in the UK suffering from a chronic medical condition and a lot of them reporting feeling mentally sluggish, this study could offer a new potential line of treatment.

What about those who don’t necessarily suffer with a chronic medical condition, but do suffer with ‘brain fog’ from time to time? Well, taking steps to reduce any inflammation and support your cognitive functions could help.

How can you reduce inflammation?

Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for centuries and is regularly championed today for its anti-inflammatory powers. It is the curcumin in turmeric that is particularly good. While it helps to reduce inflammation throughout your body, research has pinpointed curcumin as a particularly good compound to supporting brain functions too.

“Curcumin’s potent anti-inflammatory properties are theorised to offer protection against cognitive decline which occurs with age,” explains Shabir Daya, co-founder of Victoria Health and registered pharmacist. “The incidences of cognitive decline are markedly lower in populations whose diet includes turmeric and although full blown clinical studies need to be carried out to confirm this, it does nevertheless appear that there is a link between the ingestion of turmeric and brain protection.”

Shabir recommends Curcumin Elite by Life Extension as it has been shown to be absorbed more efficiently than other curcumin supplements – you can read more about this here.

How can you boost your brain’s alertness?

Omega 3 fatty acids have been linked to healthy brain function, including concentration and memory for years. Shabir recommends that taking Lion Heart Pure Omega 3 Fish Oil from your 20s onwards to help support your cognitive functions (just one of the many benefits of omega 3!). If you’re vegan or vegetarian, try Echiomega as a great alternative. 

It goes without saying that getting a better night’s sleep will not only help your body reduce inflammation and relax, but it also ensures you’re more alert and focused during the day. It’s worth making sure your magnesium levels are topped up. Magnesium is a vital mineral for many functions across our body, yet a lot of us run of low levels without realising. Neuro-Mag by Life Extensions is worth the investment if you’re concerned about your levels.

If your sleep patterns are regular ad sufficient and you just need something to help power you through the afternoons, try Limitless Plus by VH. This is Shabir’s natural nootropic formulation and utilises a patented extract derived from a special non-GMO tomato plant called Noomato™, which helps not only speed up the time it takes you to mentally process information, but also aids your recall. The supplement contains another patented complex, Neumentix™ which helps reduce oxidative stress.

While more research needs to be done to fully understand the link between inflammation and our cognitive functions, trying to reduce any inflammation in your body is rarely a bad thing.

Can An App Really Improve Your Focus?

Focus App

Breaking news alerts, social media and messaging apps are usually the vices that subconsciously have us checking our phones two, three, four, sometimes five times an hour. Last year, we spent over three and a half hours on our phones on average every day. Most of us are reliant on them for getting us from A to B, dividing restaurant bills and keeping us in touch with the office. For some, the low battery warning or loss of signal can send anxiety levels spiralling. Read More…

Is Sophrology The New Mindfulness?

Sophrology

Mindfulness is a term that has been thrown around for the past few years. While some are well-equipped to meditate for ten minutes a day in a bid to be more present, others struggle to employ rigorous self control after a long day at the office and a yoga class feels more like 60 minutes of torture rather than much needed relaxation. For the latter there is a new approach making waves in the UK and it’s called Sophrology.

While Sophrology might be relatively new to the UK, it has been around for years and is popular across the continent. For some, the mix of visualisation, positive thinking and breathing techniques might still feel a bit too similar to mindfulness practices, but if you’re au fait with a yoga class but haven’t quite mastered the art of meditating this could be worth looking into.

What is Sophrology?

The word Sophrology means the science of consciousness in harmony. Essentially it’s still about connecting with yourself, but it takes a more practical approach with gentle stretches and movement (both sitting and standing), as well as breathing and visualisation techniques. If you nail the philosophy you should find managing your stress levels easier, see an improvement in your sleep patterns and generally feel more confident and self-assured.

How does it differ from traditional mindfulness?

While both methods encourage you to be more in-tune with yourself, Sophrology goes one step further to ensure that your body keeps up with your mind and is just as well maintained. It’s for this reason that people employ the Sophrology method before an important meeting or competition. In Switzerland, senior students are offered sessions in the lead up to their exams to keep anxiety, stress and nerves at bay.

What should you expect from a Sophrology session?

‘Sophrology can be practised in groups or in an individual session with a Sophrologist. After a brief discussion with the clients about what they want to achieve during the session, the Sophrologist will use his or her voice to guide them through a sequence of simple exercises including relaxation, breathing, visualisation and gentle movement,’ explains Dominique Antiglio, author and founder of BeSophro.

Where to start…

First and foremost, you have to work out which issue you want to tackle, be it overcoming nerves for an up-coming work event or generally just lowering your stress levels. There are Sophrology sessions available, but if you’d rather start at-home BeSophro offers online classes and if you can wait until September, Antiglio will be releasing her book to guide you through her 12-step method.

How To Improve Your Focus

sd-focus

If you had to guess, how long do you think you can focus on one task without getting distracted? With emails and Facebook notifications popping up on your screen, not to mention the temptation of checking What’s App messages or news alerts on your phone, it’s much harder than you think to stay focused.

Most of us check our phone at least 28 times a day and spend well over 60 minutes on it. Don’t believe me? Download Moment, a phone app that tracks your daily phone usage and highlights just how much you use it. Aside from avoiding your phone though, how else can we stay focused and boost our productivity levels? Read More…