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Isolation and the Brain: biohacking your way back to a better mood

In News

If you are finding yourself experiencing a lower mood these days, having a harder time staying focused, not retaining information or feeling emotionally out of sorts- there’s a biological explanation. Humans, by nature, are social creatures. We need connection to not only thrive, but also on a basic survival level. Understanding the shift in biology that underlies these emotional changes allows us to use biohacking strategies to mitigate the effects in the short term and prevent long-term consequences of social isolation. When experiencing chronic stress or feelings of isolation and loneliness, physiological changes happen in the brain that alter the way we think and feel. Turning to dietary choices, and targeted nutrients such as Acetyl L-Carnitine, along with exposure to nature can support our brains, mood and feelings of well-being.

Physiological Response to Loneliness

Social isolation, albeit in extreme cases, interferes with cognitive function. The effects of social isolation, as the research is finding is cumulative- meaning they amplify and compound on each other over time. Social isolation is associated with an increased risk for depressive symptoms, anxiety and early cognitive decline. It has been shown to increase oxidative stress in the body and in animal studies, deplete glutamate levels as well as affect the brain.

Social Isolation and the Brain

Stress and isolation primarily affect two centers in the brain; the hippocampus and the amygdala. The hippocampus is the seat of memory and learning, and it plays a large role in the ability to focus. The amygdala is a primary center for emotional regulation. When stress is high and we are not feeling connected to others, the volume of both these structures decreases. Yup, they literally get smaller. Function is also compromised, and science shows a reduction in both number and quality of brain cells, in the hippocampus and amygdala.

There’s some good news here though. First, if you have been off lately, there is a biological reason. Second, the brain is plastic- meaning it is forever changing and adapting. There are several strategies that can be implemented to increase what we call “neuroplasticity”- the ability of the brain to re-wire, re-organize and perform, well, better.

Acetyl L-Carnitine, increasing antioxidants and being exposed to the sun can all be used to biohack these centers of the brain.

Lypo-Spheric® Acetyl L-Carnitine

The use of Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR) to improve brain physiology is well documented. The mechanisms of action are plenty but the most noteworthy is that ALCAR, unlike L-Carnitine supplements, crosses the blood brain barrier and has a direct effect on neuronal tissue.

Acetyl L-Carnitine has been shown to have an effect on the hippocampus. In animal models, ALCAR was able to increase the number of neurons in the hippocampus. It has also been shown to modulate glutamate levels, reduce mental fatigue, increase learning capacity and prevent the death of healthy brain cells from threats.

An animal study looked at the role ALCAR plays in protecting the amygdala in times of stress. Typically, stress causes the neurons in the amygdala to shrink. This change in the structure of the brain can contribute to low mood and depressive symptoms. The results? The animals treated with ALCAR showed more resilience to stressors and less change in the structure resulting in a decline of symptoms.

Increase Antioxidants

Antioxidants are needed to neutralize free radicals. When there are more free radicals than antioxidants, they start causing damage to healthy tissues. Stress and social isolation have been shown to increase the free radical load in the body, increasing the need for antioxidants to avoid damage.

Eating a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, herbal teas and spices helps to keep the ratio between antioxidants and free radicals in harmony. ALCAR exhibits antioxidant activity, and due to its ability to enter the brain, research shows it can help protect delicate neural tissue from free radicals.

In fact, all of our Lypo-Spheric® products act as potent antioxidants!

Get Sunlight Exposure in the Morning

Sunlight regulates our sleep/wake cycle. Known as the circadian rhythm, the sleep/wake cycle has profound implications on the brain, mood, memory, learning and focus.

During sleep, the brain cleans up connections, makes long-term memories and is associated with healthy neurotransmitter levels. Sleep deprivation has negative effects on the hippocampus, and can impair neuronal connections in this region.

A lack of good quality sleep disrupts the connection between the amygdala and the rest of the brain. When this happens, decreased mood is common and a heightened response to negative emotion with an increased emphasis can occur.

Stepping outside upon waking exposes our eyes to natural light (even on a cloudy day) which has been shown to increase deep sleep that night. We suggest getting natural light exposure for 5-10 minutes each morning before looking at your phone or a screen.

ALCAR also helps induce night-time fatigue, by increasing acetylcholine production- another brain benefit!

Lypo-Spheric® Acetyl L-Carnitine has 1000mg of bioavailable ALCAR, delivered to the body. It is delivered in phospholipids, which also have brain benefits. 

Make sure you're following us on Instagram @livlongcanada if you want more health tips, like the ones in this article! 

Author: Lisa Kowalyk, CNP, B.Kin 

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