How to build a healthy brain.

Humans are amazing down to our genetic code, and there are no other creatures on the planet that can compare. Although we are a part of the primate family phylogenetically, clearly we are vastly different in many ways. One major difference is humans have the largest heads, yet the smallest birth canals. Besides a considerably more difficult birthing process, this is due to the fact that our brain nearly triples in size by age of 3 years old. We are only born with roughly 20-25% of our total brains. This means that early in life it is vastly important to help out babies develop physically and neurologically. 

The best way to build a healthy brain is to shower your child in stimuli whenever it is possible. This can include; light, sound, vibration, odors, tastes, temperature, gravity, and most importantly touch! Even though we are born with a good amount of our total brain cells our brains are rapidly developing, through branching between one another, as well as developing in maturation. Total brain growth is mainly connecting cells with branches either on the same, or opposite of the brain. 

The more a brain is stimulated the more it will increase in size, connectivity, and speed of overall processing. Success in engaging your child in proper neurological stimulation is based upon: how often they are exposed, how long they are exposed, and how intense the overall stimulus is. Overall the rule of thumb is to get your children moving at all chances possible, play music for your baby and don’t be afraid to speak with your child using a low tone of voice while still in mom’s tummy. Lastly, ensure your child is getting enough sleep to recover and grow. Early on in life baby will be sleeping most of his/her life, but even as your child gets older 8-10 hours of sleep is vital to ensure proper development. 

There was a study conducted on kittens many years ago looking at brain development changes. One of the groups of cats were never allowed to walk on their own. These cats were introduced to their environment by being carried around, and then returned to their cages. In the end the cats eyes never developed enough to see. It is estimated they were able to see some movement and most likely in black/white but overall considered blind. This goes to show how important it is for our children to be moving around and experiencing their environments through exploration. 

Our automatic reflexes that coordinate a majority of our lives during year 1-1.5 all live in our brainstem (area circled above). This area holds a lot of our body regulatory functions, and evolutionary simple aspects of life that are needed, but we do not directly coordinate. This can include options like: heart rate, breathing, digestion, etc. As we develop our brains grow and make new connections, getting more and more advanced during development. The dark line on top of the circles is outlining our motor cortex, which just like the name suggests helps control all body movements in part. This is an incredibly important area to develop early in life because our frontal lobes grow directly out of this strip (direction of arrow). Many scientists believe our frontal lobes are the main reason we have advanced so much as a species, and what makes humans special. Our frontal lobes control executive function, planning, impulse control, and really everything we are as a cumulative person. If early development does not progress properly to allow a child to learn to move their bodies efficiently, overall development may perish. Skipping steps or abnormal steps of development can make it difficult to grow a frontal lobe, and the rest of the brain. 

With a vast topic such as this, the direction can be taken on a variety of routes from: nutrition, sleep hygiene, body hygiene, socialization, toxin exposure, stress exposure, and so much more. All of these play an important roll in proper development, but I believe one of the most important overall is MOVEMENT. This means proper coordinated movement based on the child’s age. Beginning with early squirming, then batting at objects, then grasping at objects, into army crawl, regular crawl, propping themselves up, and then finally walking. Even after a child begins to walk there is nearly 20 years left of brain development so that importance does not end! Make your child go outside, make them get away from screens, take the steps, go for a hike, learn to ride a bike, teach them to cook, sign them up for sports, dance, theatre, etc. These will each aid in growing a brain that is well rounded and equivalent side to side. All of these steps are important, along with others, and will give your child the best odds to develop a happy & healthy life. 

If you have any questions or concerns reach out to me anytime or set up a free consult to talk in person! 

Dr. Jacob Boraas

Functional Healing Institute

10 Reasons Why you need Infrared Saunas in Your Life.

A new style of sauna is gaining more “steam”, and is an amazing addition to any health routine.   Infrared technology is the most current way to reap the many health benefits of using a sauna.  When you think of a sauna, the old-fashioned steam room probably comes to mind.  You’ve seen one in the corner of your local gym.  It may smell a little funky and be occupied by a few people in any state of undress wanting to strike up a random conversation.  You may or may not feel very comfortable in this environment.  In any case, it can be difficult to fully relax and enjoy your time spent there. We’re all too busy to be doing things we don’t fully enjoy. 

Infrared sauna penetrates and warms your body from the inside out, rather than steam sauna heating the air around you then placing all the stress directly on your skin.  Infrared is a more successful way of heating the entire body, and is a more gentle process. And one of the best parts is the benefits last long after you’ve stepped out of the sauna! 

Optimizes brain function – Heat stress is one way to increase Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor or BDNF. This special growth factor increases growth and production of neurons, your brain cells. The speed in which neurons grow and are created can change how quickly you may learn, adapt after injury, and more. 

Help in fighting infection – An infrared sauna increases your body temperature, acting as an artificial fever. Organisms like bacteria thrive in specific temperatures, increasing this temperature even just a few degrees can help fight off intruders. 

Time to unwind – 20-30 minutes of pure self-relaxation. Our sauna is in a quiet, dimly lit spa setting. It has Bluetooth technology if you wish to play your favorite podcast, soothing music, or even a guided meditation. Or just enjoy your time in silence, and shut out the world for a while. Our sauna bench is designed to hold two so bring a partner if you’re  interested, or use the space all to yourself!

Pain Relief  – Many of the aches and pain of older age can be caused by inflammation. One of the keystones proved in research, is reduction in overall body inflammation helping with sore muscles and joints. Reducing inflammation in the body can benefit any person by promoting overall health.

Skin purification and tightening – Our skin, or integumentary system is the largest body system that we possess. It is also one of the best ways our bodies can remove toxins and other chemicals. Clearing out pores by sweating allows your skin to refresh and clean out built up compounds. Sweating can also help your body shed off any dead or dry skin allowing the healthy skin underneath to emerge. Lastly make your skin look healthier and younger through increased collagen production, one of the primary building blocks in our skin, hair, and nails. All this leaving you looking younger and rejuvenated in the end.

Weight Loss – It has been shown that a 30 minute sauna session can burn between 300-800 calories! (depending on size and body composition). 

Body detoxification – Our environments are filled with chemicals; in the air we breath, food we eat, scents we smell, and more. This allows heavy metals, environmental toxins, chemicals, plastics, and other unfriendly compounds to collect in our bodies, and eventually become toxic to our body. Spending time in a sauna improves circulation, and also through sweating can allow your body to begin emitting some of these chemicals.

Decreased symptoms of depression –  A double blind study done at the Center for Healthy Minds at UW, Madison (GO Badgers!) showed raising the body temperature with infrared technology of depressed volunteers to the equivalent of a mild fever improved their symptoms of major depression for as long as six weeks after a single treatment.  Additional studies show that whole body heating activates areas of the brain responsible for releasing serotonin. 

 “We tap into this pathway because heat makes the brain feel happy.” 

Charles Raison- lead researcher at Center for Healthy Minds

Cardiovascular health support – Heat stress can act on the body like a moderate intensity style of workout like previously pointed out not only burning calories, but also promoting healthier overall heart and cardiovascular system. This acts much like exercise, increasing heart rate slowly and steadily for an extended period of time can help grow new capillary beds, as well as improve heart efficiency. 

Improve your sleep – According to the American sleep association sauna use can increase slow wave or deep sleep patterns in frequent users. During sleep we move throughout different wave patterns in the brain, the amount of time in deep sleep affects how restful we feel upon waking. 

While there are MANY benefits of using an infrared sauna, there are a few contraindications.  If you are pregnant, surgical implants, prone to bleeding (hemophilia), intolerant to heat, or have a fever already, you should not use an infrared sauna.  As with any medication or medical condition, it is best to ask your care provider prior to using.  Overall, it is very safe and effective.  Schedule your session online or call 563-200-1846.