tummydoc's garden

Girl Brain Power, Berry Style! (or the tummydoc's garden week 3: the raspberry)

The Raspberry
The Raspberry

I always love to talk to my patients about their diet.  What is good, what is bad, and what is downright ugly. 

We all feel better when we eat certain foods.   Eat a large meal late at night and chances are you’ll sleep poorly.  Not only that, your digestive system will remind you with waves of upset and nausea that a pizza at midnight is not a good choice.  Eat an early dinner with fresh fruits, veggies and fish and, wow, you feel great!

While some of the problem has to do with conditions like acid reflux brought on by eating fatty meals late at night, the nutrients from the foods also play a role.

That brings us to our next tummydoc garden selection, the raspberry.  Medical studies are popping up that show how the antioxidants inherent to colorful berries can improve brain function.

Before we get into those, let’s talk about raspberries.  They are a delicious and wonderful perennial addition to your garden.  With a slightly acidic soil, they will thrive.  In fact, they are so vigorous, they may start taking over nearby space. 

Fiber Up

The fruit itself is made up of tiny lobules called aggregates.  This translates to raspberries having more surface area per weight than many other fruits.  From a nutrition perspective, this makes raspberries a great source of fiber. 

Vitamins & Minerals

Raspberries are also a good source of Vitamin C and manganese, which is important for your body’s normally functioning, especially bone health.

women's brain health
women's brain health

So why Raspberries?

Now, let’s talk about how eating raspberries on a regular basis may be good for the mind.  Researchers know that the normal wear and tear on the brain eventually takes its toll.  For some, it may just be that you aren’t as quick to recall a word.  For others, the consequences are more severe, like in Alzheimer’s disease. 

Antioxidants

It turns out that certain people are better able to protect against this normal brain stress.  For many, diet plays an essential role.  Diets rich in fruits and vegetables are also very rich in substances called antioxidants.  Much of the physical damage to cells that causes everything from the brain slowing down to wrinkles occurs through a process called oxidative stress.  As the names imply, antioxidants can help counteract this damage.

Polyphenols

It turns out the same substances that give berries their rich and vibrant colors are also antioxidants.  In general, these substances are called polyphenols.  Of the polyphenols, a subtype, called flavonoids, has gained positive press recently.  Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants also found in foods normally regarded as treats, such as chocolate.  In berries, certain flavonoids, called anthocyanidins, are particularly effective.  To read more on this, visit the free article at http://www.expert-reviews.com/doi/pdf/10.1586/ern.12.86.

Concord Grape Juice and for the Mind

In a recent review in the Journal of Nutrition, the authors identified berries, Concord grapes, and walnuts as particularly beneficial to keep the brain healthy.  One study demonstrated that older adults who drank Concord grape juice daily for 12 weeks had significant benefits for their brain health.  In another by the same group, adults who ate berries for 12 weeks improved their memory and behavior compared to those who did not.  To learn more about these studies, get a free copy of the article at http://jn.nutrition.org/content/139/9/1813S.long.

Girl Brain Power

Finally, a recent article in the Annals of Neurology showed that the brain benefits of eating berries on a regular basis was especially applicable to women.  In the study, 16,010 women over the age of 70 were were tested for brain function.  Women who ate more berries had brains which were functioning 2.5 years “younger” than those who did not enjoy these delicious fruits. 

As always, thanks for reading and I look forward to sharing more, both on this blog and on the tummydoc channel.  I don’t know about you, but I’m in the mood for a big bowl of berries. 

-Dustin G. James, MD

Board-Certified Gastroenterologist

the tummydoc

The material in this site is intended to be of general informational use and is not intended to constitute medical advice, medical diagnosis, or medical treatment.  You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or question.  As with all supplements and functional foods, be sure to discuss these products with your physician before using.

the tummydoc's garden week 1: chillin' with lavender!

Alte Schiefertafel aus der Schule

When choosing which plants to grow in your garden, don't leave out herbs.  Many are perennials which come back more robust each year.  They also give your food that special kick to take your cuisine up to the next level.  I especially love herbs, as many have healing properties.

Despite what wee may think, before the days of modern medicine, people were still smart.  They got sick and wanted to feel better. Chemical medications weren't an option, but Mother Nature was.  Many home remedies used today stemmed from these times.

As a physician, I feel the overwhelming pressure of the medical field  to approach "natural remedies" with great skepticism.  But, I feel that by not embracing the healing potential of many botanicals, I would be doing my patients a disservice.  Many botanicals don't have the side effects common t0 prescription drugs, and can produce results as good as or even better than one I would write on a prescription pad.  Fortunately, the field of medicine is changing and starting to embrace the natural world.  Clinical trials are proving what people knew all along...there is power in Mother Nature!

This brings us to one of my favorite herbs, the star of week 1 of the tummydoc's garden:  lavender.  Lavender is a fantastic perennial herb that not only smells fantastic, it looks great too when the distinctive purple flowers bloom.  It doesn't require much care, and that's always a bonus in today's chaotic age.  My friend,  fantastic Italian chef Fabrizio Schenardi, loves lavender.  He loves to add it to dishes with fish, and says it makes a mean cookie as well.

As for the medical benefits, there are many...

  • Sleep.  Lavender has long been used as a sleep aid.  You can put some drops of lavender oil on a towel near your bed or drink some lavender tea an hour before bedtime to help catch some Zzzz's.
  • Lessen Anxiety.  Our world is full of stress.  Many people rely on medications that are potentially sedating and addictive to cope.  Lavender is a great natural alternative.  Medical studies have proven that eating lavender can take the edge off of mild anxiety.  In fact, in one study, people were shown super stressful movie clips to induce anxiety.  Those who took lavender didn't stress out nearly as much.  This was a placebo controlled (sugar pill) study too, which means that no one, including the research subjects and investigators, knew who was getting which.
  • Assist Digestion.  Lavender has carminative properties, which means it can help relax the intestines and help combat gas and bloating.  By virtue of its relaxation properties, it also holds great promise for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), where stress and anxiety cause worse symptoms.  Hmm...what about lavender tummydrops
  • Wound healing.  Honey by itself can assist with wound healing.  When it's lavender honey, it's even better.

 

As always, thanks for reading and I look forward to sharing more, both on this blog and on the tummydoc channel.

-Dustin G. James, MD

Board-Certified Gastroenterologist

the tummydoc

The material in this site is intended to be of general informational use and is not intended to constitute medical advice, medical diagnosis, or medical treatment.  You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or question.  As with all supplements and functional foods, be sure to discuss these products with your physician before using.