Optimal brain function is important. Important for physical and cognitive health. And for progress in training and competition. Optimal brain function depends on optimal blood flow to the brain. Blood flow is called perfusion. Hypoperfusion is therefore a lack of bloodflow. And quantity next to quality of bloodflow is an excellent indicator of brain function.
Sleepiness after a carbohydrate-containing meal that elevates the blood sugar has been well documented and the effect of high blood sugar on Serotonin the neurotransmitter of wellbeing has also been proven in research (1,2). Elevated serotonin due to elevation of blood sugar is clearly one factor that impairs brian function and makes us tired after a meal. And everybody has been there. Its that bowl of pasta or some bread or some dessert. And one feels like taking a nap after a meal. The neurochemical response and elevated serotonin levels are a primary reason for this response. At the latest YPSI Functional Nutrition Seminar Dr. Tom O’Bryan pointed out another very interesting factor that leads to a similar effect, to impaired brain function and being tired after meals or even all the times. And its called food-induced hypoperfusion of the brain.
Hypoperfusion, a lack of bloodflow has been linked to inflammation of the brain and cognitive dysfunction (3). One link that has been shown to decrease bloodflow to the brain is gluten, a protein found in grain. And there is research that has shown that 73% of a celiacs suffer from hypoperfusion (4) and other research with ADHD kids that are diagnosed celiacs has shown an improvement in all 12 markers of ADHD in every single kid that went on a gluten-free diet for 6 months (5). Food intolerances, specifically gluten can trigger inflammation of the brain and hypoperfusion. However, in a study of diagnosed celiacs with one year of following a wheat-free diet, all but one person had their bloodflow return to and symptoms of brain dysfunction went away.
With an important take-home message: Lowering carbohydrate intake and stabilizing the blood sugar is an important way for many to improve their brain function. Further factors such food-induced hypoperfusion of the brain due to common food intolerances such as gluten can also have a severe effect with the same outcome. Next to in-depth lab testing for antibodies, a full elimination of a suspected food for weeks or in severe cases months can give good insight into wether food-induced hypoperfusion of the brain is a contributing factor for a client or yourself.
Picture: The picture shows Peter Sobotta strangling Branislav Radosavljevica at 35 Seconds of the first round to a win via rear naked choke, a common technique used in grappling sports. The goal of this choke is not primarily to cause pain to the opponent by putting pressure on the front of neck, rather applying pressure to both sides of neck, compressing the carotid arteries which leads to a lack of bloodflow to the brain and therefore the opponent going unconscious. This is actually one of the least violent finishing techniques in all of combat sports, fully relying on acute and severe hypoperfusion. (© Tim Leidecker)