Feeding Your Brain

The average human brain weighs only about two and a half pounds, yet consumes as much as a fifth of all the body’s energy. This very important organ also has unique nutritional requirements – and if these are not met adequately, the results can include impaired mental function, irritability, frequent headaches and even diseases such as clinical depression. While following a healthy diet is not always the easiest option, it is one aspect of everyone’s health that’s possible to make a habit of paying attention to, and will, in the long run, save piles of money in the form of savings on medication and doctor’s fees. While most people have a fairly good idea of what to eat (and what to avoid) when it comes to maintaining their hearts and arteries, fewer realize that their nervous system also needs a few particular nutrients to keep operating at its best.



Potassium is chemically similar to sodium, found in table salt and processed food, and both play a role in the way nerve cells generate electrical pulses for communication. Most people in the First World consume excessive amounts of sodium but not enough potassium, and an imbalance in this ratio is a major cause of high blood pressure, reduced memory function and less blood flowing through the brain.


Good sources of potassium include bananas, plantains, and oranges – the bad news being that reaching the recommended daily intake means consuming as many as ten bananas. Supplements are another option and are sometimes prescribed for patients suffering from dementia.



Like potassium and sodium, calcium ions are essential to normal nerve function. A lack of this mineral will often cause a patient to exhibit anxiety or instability in their moods, but very high levels of calcium in the blood can also cause harm. Three cups of milk contain the recommended daily allowance for adults, although reasonable amounts are also found in various vegetables (particularly leafy greens such as spinach and kale), nuts and seeds. For vegans, tofu is an excellent plant-based source.


When it comes to minerals, how much a person ingests is not the only important factor: how much of what is eaten is actually absorbed and used by the body is more significant. In the case of calcium, vitamin D is expended in taking it in, so that a lack of sunlight can cause calcium deficiency even in someone who apparently consumes a lot of it. Other steps to take include spreading out the intake of calcium throughout the day, since too much hitting the digestive system at once means that less will be absorbed.


Vitamin B-12

As a person gets older, their brains show a reduction in the amount of a chemical called myelin in their brain cells, which is linked to accelerated brain aging and shrinkage. Consuming enough vitamin B-12 can slow down this process and even prevent conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease from taking root. Furthermore, B-12 plays an important role in cell metabolism throughout the body, including nerve cells.


Vitamin B-12 deficiency is a particular problem for vegetarians since the best sources of it are meats, shellfish, eggs, and dairy products. Even those who eat meat may be suffering from this condition without realizing it, since it is not easily diagnosable until its effects are permanent and debilitating. Apart from supplements in pill form, many breakfast cereals are fortified with B-12. It is an excellent idea to consult a doctor before starting on B-12 supplements, as they may induce harmful interactions with various medications.


Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Dieticians will generally encourage people to include less fat in their diet, but all fats are not equally bad, and some are truly essential. In particular, there are some chemicals our bodies need but cannot manufacture by itself, of which omega-3 is one.


As with potassium and sodium, it’s important not only to consume enough omega-3 fats, but also maintain a balance between it and its chemical cousin, omega-6. While both are found in animal sources – particularly “oily” fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines – their relative concentrations vary based on factors such as whether beef is grass-fed or grain-fed. A diet high in fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains is also capable of providing a person with sufficient omega-3


Although omega-3 is beneficial for the body in numerous ways, it is particularly important to mental function. A chronic lack of this vital chemical can lead to diseases such as bipolar disorder, depression, ADHD, schizophrenia and developmental impairments. For this reason, consuming sufficient quantities of this essential fatty acid is particularly important for breastfeeding mothers and growing children.


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Changing your eating habits (not to mention those of your family) can be a daunting task, so making small consistent efforts will likely yield better results than trying for an instant lifestyle makeover. It’s not necessary to start planning your meals with a spreadsheet – containing your calorie consumption to a reasonable level, adding more fruit and vegetables and varying your diet as much as possible are all good starting points for those concerned about their brain’s health, not only next month but well into old age.





You Matter

Feeling Unappreciated



Being diagnosed with cancer can come with a number of intense challenges and emotions to deal with. This period can be overwhelming for not only the patient but those around them as well. Having to try and cope with the emotions that can come with being diagnosed with cancer can often result in the patient forgetting that his cancer affects family and friends too. Loved ones are likely dealing with emotions and fear much the same as those of the patient.


How the diagnosis affects relationships depends on the relationship and each person’s individual coping style.


From Family, Friends, and Relationships on Cancer.net: Watch the Moving Forward video on Family and Friends,


It is important to consider how your diagnosis affects those around you. Often, family therapy and in some instances group therapy is a great way to aid families in dealing with cancer as a unit.


Your health comes first


Having been a caregiver for my mom and now my husband, I know what it feels like to feel unappreciated and taken for granted especially after giving up what you love in life to help care for a loved one.  Unless you have cancer you cannot possibly understand the fear, pain, and anger.”Joniwriter CSN.Cancer.Org

How family Counseling Can Help


Family Counseling can help in sorting out many of the different challenges that families can go through when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer. It is also a great way for families to learn coping tools together that will enable them to offer each other support during this period. Knowing how the next person feels is the first step to dealing with the emotions one is feeling. Counseling can help with:

  • Learning to cope with the emotional reactions to cancer
  • Help friends and family to sort through their own fears about the diagnosis
  • Give family units the tools to strengthen bonds during this challenging time
  • Help the family to prepare for what may lie ahead

“What struck her, as she struggled to cope in the weeks following, was how difficult it was for everyone around her to deal with her news. They all wanted to help, to say the right thing. Yet somehow, all too often, their best attempts at kindness proved more debilitating than comforting. The grim reality of cancer is that life, with all its myriad demands, continues: the dog still needs walking, the daily meals need preparing and dishing up. What can I do to help? you ask. Well, stand by, because the answer is: plenty.” What Can I Do To Help by Deborah Hutton

Tools for Families and Caregivers


Families and caregivers want to help and offer to support their loved ones during this challenging period. It is not uncommon that loved ones are so focused on caring for the patient that they overlook their own well-being. There are a number of tools, forums, and communities available for those dealing with a loved one, family member or friend with cancer. For example:

Caregiver Distress Checklist (Caregiver Self-Assessment Questionnaire)

There are a number of support options for family members and caregivers. These include:

  • Take care of yourself, maintain a good diet, get enough rest and maintain your own mental health
  • Educate yourself on how best to assist the patient. Knowing what to expect can help you deal with and offer support for symptoms and side effects
  • Consider joining support group or seeking out support from a therapist or other support resources
  • Online communities and forums are also a great way to speak to like-minded people about dealing with the challenges



Will Counseling Make A Difference?

The Benefits of Counseling

There are a number of things in life that can disrupt the state of your emotional wellbeing. These disruptions can give rise to feelings such as sadness, stress and anxiety. The state of your mental health influences your physical wellbeing. For example, stress and anxiety can cause insomnia. Not getting enough rest can then lead to other problems. One way or another, our emotions affect our physical wellbeing, sometimes in a small way, other times these emotions affect us more severely.


The same goes for your physical health which can also affect your mental health. It is not uncommon that people with serious chronic illnesses also have to deal with poor mental health, such as dealing with depression.


Simply put, your poor physical health can give rise to poor mental health, and poor mental health can also lead to poor physical health.



Types of Counseling Services Available

There are a number of counseling options available. This could include:


  • Individual counseling
  • Family counseling
  • Groups Counseling


With the help of your counselor, you can decide which of the service options would suit your needs. At times, some individuals might require a combination of these services. But Sarah Rumpf, MA, LPCC reminds people that “Counseling is an investment that requires commitment. You will be spending time, money, and emotional energy to process and/or solve problems.”


There are also a number of different therapists available and each offers you a different treatment plan. It is therefore important that you consider the options of therapy and find what best suits your needs before making a decision. These include:


  • Counselor
  • Therapist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychologist



Good Mental Health =Good Physical Health

Maintaining good mental health will have a positive effect on your physical wellbeing. Speak to your healthcare providers and learn all you can about your cancer and the treatment. Knowledge is power. Knowing what to expect and learning how to deal and manage the obstacles your illness might present will help you feel less out of control. Never give up. Keep trying. Remember to “take a mental health day, take time off from work and refuel & recharge, whatever that looks like for you personally.” As Audra J Lee LMFT advice.



The Importance of Counseling

Counseling is not a quick fix but rather about self-discovery. With counseling, you will learn to arm yourself with the tools and knowledge to effectively deal with the emotions and challenges that can come with cancer. With support and guidance, you will learn to develop the skills you will need to deal with the emotions you could be feeling during this time.


Being able to deal with your emotions will also result in better relationships with friends and family. Speaking to family and friends is often not easy to do when you are dealing with your own emotions, but with the assistance of counseling you will have better control over how you feel.


With counseling, you will also learn to cope with what is still to come. Doctor appointments, testing and treatment can be challenging times, and also extremely emotional times. Knowing how to deal with what you will be feeling helps you manage the things you can control. Chris Oneth LMFT says that “Connecting with a therapist can help you get through the “groundhog day” of never-ending cycles where you feel continually defeated.”


“Many doctors encourage their patients to seek out a therapist after a diagnosis of cancer. In counseling, many people are able to explore ways to cope with their diagnosis, manage any emotional concerns—such as depression, anxiety, anger, and confusion—that may result after receiving news of their illness, and discuss ways to address and cope with any life changes that may occur during the treatment process. For example, many of those diagnosed with cancer may fear becoming unable to work and losing their income and health insurance. Those with families may experience distress over sharing the news with a partner or spouse and any children they may have.” Goodtherapy.org