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Saving Our Minds

by Dr. Karen Clickner


In the last year I have found myself sitting in front of patients with not just physical conditions, but emotional conditions. In finding solutions for these people, I began to see the similarities with people I've treated who had chronic immune disorders, unresolved head trauma, ADD, Autism and a plethora of other conditions that affected the nervous system and specifically the brain where inflammation, infection, injury or irritation can affect our neural connections.

Clinical research shows that inflammation is the most destructive force in the brain and nervous system.

But what is even more important to realize is that the biggest reason we are losing these connections is because of our gradual loss of complex thought. How many phone numbers do you have memorized? How often do you calculate figures by hand? How often do you hand write something? When is the last time you read an actual book or newspaper? Schools are even dropping cursive writing from their curriculum. We are allowing ourselves to rely completely upon devices instead of committing things to memory, and we are teaching our children to do the same thing, even at a very early age. Most of our brain connections are developed during these essential first five years of life. These are laid out according to how our brain calculates and computes. The mistake we make is thinking that learning from a screen or simply being soothed by a screen is the same, if not better than learning in more traditional ways.

The truth is that the speed at which information is provided digitally means that we are not just calculating or reading, we are doing it with colors, backgrounds, moving images, flashing lights and other incredibly distracting elements. Then when we actually sit down in a class, at work or to do a complex task we have trouble focusing. All of us, but especially our children, are becoming less patient, less flexible in their thinking, less able to recall detailed information. All of this is creating brains that are fragile, unable to adapt and prone to injury, inflammation or infection.

As we get older the major factor in long-term brain health is the health of our neural connections. We have billions of these that developed early in our lives as we were learning at an incredible rate. But as adults we are tending to rely on repetition instead of variance. This limits the pathways we are using and as neural pathways go unused they atrophy. The key to long-term memory and brain health is constantly developing our capacity for complex thought. The more complex our day is between varying tasks and thought processes, the more flexible our "wiring" becomes. With more active neural pathways we have the ability to recover from accidents and trauma, survive serious illness and infections. But most importantly we are able to manage emotional and psychological challenges.

We need to exercise our brain in numerous ways each and every day. We can't just do the same work, watch the same television shows and rely on digital media to store our memory. We need to vary our routine, walk and drive new routes, try new places, games, hobbies and tasks. It is vitally important to not just sit and "think" but also to move, to apply coordination, to challenge our muscles in new and different ways.

Dr. Karen Clickner is a nationally registered Naturopathic Physician with 35 years of experience. She is the owner of Conscious Body Natural Medicine in Holden and Brookline. She has taught throughout the United States and Europe and her articles have been featured in various publications. She was “The Herbal Advisor” which aired on BBC Radio in London and Geneva, discussing herbal options for illness. She specializes in autoimmune conditions and complex illness. www.consciousbodynatmed.com


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