It’s back-to-school season…for your brain! A growing body of neuroimmunology research is unlocking new insights on a very little understood component of your health: the brain-immunology axis.
Your immune system’s strength and health impact your memory, cognition and your risks of cognitive health problems like Alzheimer’s disease.
Meanwhile, your brain health and cognition influence your immune system’s integrity, with mental health concerns like stress, anxiety and depression heavily impacting your immune system.
“Stroke, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, brain tumors, Huntington’s disease: All can be understood as interactions between our brain and our immune system,” explains the Dana Foundation. “So, too, can the susceptibility to illness that often follows a long period of stress.”
The link between your brain health and your immune health is complex and still being researched, but includes the following fascinating examples:
- Receptors on your immune system’s T-cells bind with neurotransmitters, showing how the brain communicates directly with these immune cells
- Chemicals called cytokines from your immune system affect your brain’s functioning
- Your brain’s neurotrophins don’t just influence nerve growth, but also the growth and survival of cells in your immune system
- Hormones produced by a stressed brain weaken your immune response
“It’s certainly a two-way interaction,” says Esther Sternberg, Ph.D., director of the integrative neural-immune program at the National Institute of Mental Health, in an interview with the Dana Foundation. “The immune system signals the brain and the brain signals the immune system and the two, in concert, act as a rapid response system of the body to all sorts of external stimuli.”
And while more research continues to be needed, one thing is very clear: This back-to-school season, find ways to build your brain, strengthen your cognition, and take care of your mental health. Just like with actual school, it’s a great way to train both your brain and your immune system.
Back to School For Your Brain: How to Build Brain Health and Improve Mental Health
“First and foremost is moving our bodies,” says neuropsychologist and social media influencer Nawal Mustafa, M.A., in an episode of the Braincare podcast on Apple Podcasts.
The Anxiety & Depression Association of America suggests 30 minutes of exercise five days a week to reduce your risks of poor mental health, and to improve any mental health concerns you currently have, such as stress and anxiety.
“About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects,” explains the mental health association. Regular exercise also directly strengthens your immune system, too!
Easy ways to protect your brain health, mental health, and immune health include:
- Taking your dog for a walk
- Having a dance party in the backyard
- Doing housework and yardwork
- Going for a hike or a jog
- Incorporating chair yoga into your work lunch break
2. Do Brain Exercises
Your brain is like a muscle, and it needs to be exercised. This back-to-school season, give your brain some homework through games, activities, or routines that challenge your brain and your regular mental routine.
For example, you could:
- Try a new recipe in the kitchen
- Do a challenging crossword puzzle
- Pick up a mentally engaging hobby, such as knitting or painting
- Play a video game that requires fast response times
- Downloading a brain exercise app
While you’re supplementing your brain health with exercise, don’t forget to take your immunity supplements too! Thymic proteins are often the “missing link” for many people in overcoming disease which has withstood treatment with many other immune system supplements, antibiotics and antivirals, without the detrimental side effects. BioPro-Plus 500 is a unique combination of 5 thymic proteins which are bioidentical to the proteins that our bodies naturally create.
3. Push Your Mental Boundaries
It’s why you often can drive home from work and barely even remember the drive — your brain was on autopilot.
Push your boundaries to create a healthier brain and thus a healthier immunity. For example, you could:
- Read a book or watch a documentary that challenges your beliefs or ideas
- Get out of your comfort zone and do activities you’ve always believed to be out of reach (e.g., mountain climbing, surfing, giving a public talk, etc.)
- Change your daily habits, such as driving a different way to work
Whatever your approach this back-to-school season, continue to invest in your brain health. As researchers have discovered, a healthier brain means a healthier immune system. That should give us all something to think about! (Literally)
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