How to Start the Day off Right


Written by Dr. Jewel Alfoure, ND

The best days are those that we start with a clear mind, fully energized and with an overall sense of wellbeing. Some attribute all those positive markers to a healthy breakfast, but how can breakfast be utilized fast enough to enhance the first few hours of the day?

Though starting the day with the proper nutritional components is helpful, most typical breakfast foods take hours to break down and absorb. Unfortunately, that time lag means that they can only play a minimal role in enhancing the initial hours of the day. 

The body is more likely to utilize nutrients fast if they come into the body already broken down. Additionally, the higher the nutrient density, the faster the body has a chance to replenish. Some of the most important nutritional components to replenish upon waking up include:

  • Electrolytes - to enhance nerve/ muscle action

  • Water - to correct sleep-induced dehydration

  • B-vitamins - to replenish the adrenal glands

Other helpful components that can significantly enhance mornings include: 

  • Including compounds that have a direct effect on the central nervous system

    • Medicinal mushrooms

    • Adaptogenic herbs

    • Nervine herbs 

  • Providing enough steady fuel to promote satiety and thus, more steady blood sugar levels 

If Fast Absorption IS What You Seek, Go Small!

It is always best to start small to have fast, efficient, and non-taxing nutrient absorption. Green juices and smoothies make up for the most efficient nutrient absorption because they almost skip the digestion step entirely. 

The fact that the components are broken down so small and that the nutrient density of the meal is so high means that the body can easily absorb as many nutrients as possible in a short amount of time. Another unique feature of greens, and plant-based foods, besides their nutrient density, is their complete nutrient profile. Greens contain a wide variety of naturally balanced electrolytes, vitamins and phytonutrients. As a bonus, greens pack all their nutrients in a high-quality, balanced, naturally alkaline medium. 

Waking Up The Nervous System With Oxygen 

Mushrooms, like probiotics, are a rapidly growing area of natural medicine research. Many animal trials and cellular studies point towards the capacity of cordyceps to improve brain function and learning (1). Additionally, the prominent anti-inflammatory power of the mushroom and its ability to enhance neurotransmitter levels point towards its possible role in improving the capacity of the aged brain (2,3,4). While progress is still being made exploring those aspects of cordyceps, some clinical trials have confirmed other elements unique to cordyceps. For example, clinical trials demonstrate that cordyceps has the unique capacity of improving oxygenation status. An improvement in overall oxygenation status results in the enhancement of both the physical and the mental capacity of the elderly. Increasing oxygen capacity may mean better endurance and physical performance for younger individuals (5).  

Waking Up The Nervous System With Neurotransmitters 

One of the most studied mushrooms is the beautiful Lion's mane. Science demonstrates the mushroom's capacity to enhance the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (6). Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter of stimulation in the brain and is responsible for making short-term memories. Lion's mane has been demonstrated to have good potential as an enhancer of memory for those with neurodegenerative diseases. 

Unlike many mushrooms, Lion's mane is well known to be a high-quality culinary mushroom, which means that it can be made into a delicious component of our diet and can be extracted to work as a brain-enhancing natural ingredient (7). Studies demonstrate improvement in cognitive ability, better brain function and an overall improvement in mental capacity for both the aged brain and the brain affected by neurodegenerative disease (8)! 

Waking Up The Brain To More Energy 

Reishi is a mushroom used traditionally as a tonic for those suffering from fatigue (9). It improves cognitive function and enhances the proliferation of neural progenitor cells in Alzheimer's disease animal models. Additionally, the unique terpenoids in reishi are being studied as a possible pathway to reverse several neurodegenerative diseases (10). Though the benefits of reishi as an enhancer of cognitive health are still in their preliminary stages, reishi proves to be a valuable tool to reduce fatigue for those suffering chronic illnesses like cancer. A clinical trial demonstrates that reishi may be beneficial for enhancing the quality of life of those suffering from cancer by significantly reducing their overall fatigue (11). 

As an anxiolytic and promoter of restful, more rejuvenating sleep, reishi mushroom can be a healthy tonic with the capacity to enhance overall wellbeing. Studies also demonstrate that it has the capacity to increase overall energy levels and endurance (12). 

The Importance of Proteins

Proteins are the building blocks of almost every part of the body. Filling up on proteins means more building, better satiety, better endurance and faster recovery. The best proteins are complete proteins, meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids that the body cannot synthesize of its own.

Complete proteins do not need to come from an animal source. Complete proteins can be obtained by pairing two incomplete plant proteins to get all the essential amino acids. On the other hand, some rare plant proteins come with the complete list of essential amino acids checked. One such protein is Hemp protein. Hemp protein contains a profile that is very similar to that of meat, with the exception of having a balanced alkaline quality (13).  

A Word on Sleep 

The body depends on the quality of sleep and the capacity to rejuvenate to initiate a healthy start to the day. Factors that impact sleep quality include:

  • Level of alertness upon going to bed 

    • Directly affecting the ability of the brain to detox during sleep 

  • State of the gastrointestinal system

    • Directly impacting the capacity of the liver to detox the body during sleep

  • Level of toxic metabolites in the muscles/ blood

Research demonstrates that brain cells literally decompress and move further apart during sleep, making it easier for the body to remove toxic metabolites. The buildup of toxic metabolites in the brain is a natural component of healthy metabolism, and sleep is a physiological state during which clean-up is facilitated (14).

The biggest issue with sleep is that for many, sleep is no longer restful or efficient! Efficient sleep follows the natural sleep cycles and is terminated at the end of a natural sleep cycle where the brain is in a state of light sleep as opposed to deep sleep. Therefore, entering the sleep cycle with a busy mind usually results in more shallow sleep and less chance for the body to rejuvenate fully. 

Another factor that significantly reduces sleep quality is sleeping on a full stomach. While it is understandable that some cannot eliminate eating after 6:00 PM, any food left in the stomach during sleep results in the body's attention, in the form of blood flow, being directed towards the stomach and the digestive process. In such case, blood flow is more likely to skip essential areas such as the nervous system. Thus, one is less likely to wake up fully rejuvenated. 

How Initiate a Healthy Start to Your Day?

 

References 

  1. Gong MF, Xu JP, Chu ZY, Luan J. Effect of Cordyceps sinensis sporocarp on learning-memory in mice. Zhong yao cai= Zhongyaocai= Journal of Chinese medicinal materials. 2011 Sep 1;34(9):1403-5.

  2. Dong Y, Yang J, Zhang Y, Zhao C, Wu Z, Tan N, Lu J, Bartlett M, Zhu JS. Cordyceps sinensis Cs‐5 improves memory and learning abilities in a dysmnesia model (684.1). The FASEB Journal. 2014 Apr;28:684-1.

  3. Guo H, Yang X, Jing R, Li Y, Tan F, Li M. Robust multi-class model constructed for rapid quality control of Cordyceps sinensis. Microchemical Journal. 2021 Dec 1;171:106825.

  4. Ji DB, Ye J, Li CL, Wang YH, Zhao J, Cai SQ. Antiaging effect of Cordyceps sinensis extract. Phytotherapy Research: An International Journal Devoted to Pharmacological and Toxicological Evaluation of Natural Product Derivatives. 2009 Jan;23(1):116-22.

  5. Yi, X., Xi-zhen, H. and Jia-shi, Z., 2004. Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial and assessment of fermentation product of Cordyceps sinensis (Cs-4) in enhancing aerobic capacity and respiratory function of the healthy elderly volunteers. Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, 10(3), pp.187-192.

  6. Spelman K, Sutherland E, Bagade A. Neurological activity of Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus). Journal of Restorative Medicine. 2017 Dec 1;6(1):19-26.

  7. Kawagishi H, Zhuang C, Shnidman E. The anti-dementia effect of Lion's Mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceum) and its clinical application. Townsend letter for doctors and Patients. 2004 Apr 1(249):54-7.

  8. Mori, K., Inatomi, S., Ouchi, K., Azumi, Y. and Tuchida, T., 2009. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: A double‐blind placebo‐controlled clinical trial. Phytotherapy Research: An International Journal Devoted to Pharmacological and Toxicological Evaluation of Natural Product Derivatives, 23(3), pp.367-372.

  9. Wei W, Zheng L, Yu M, Jiang N, Yang Z, Luo X. Anti-fatigue activity of extract form the submerged fermentation of Ganoderma Lucidum using Radix astragali as substrate. J. Anim. Plant Sci. 2010;6:677-84.

  10. Wang A, Xiao C, Zheng J, Ye C, Dai Z, Wu Q, Liu J, Strappe P, Zhou Z. Terpenoids of Ganoderma lucidum reverse cognitive impairment through attenuating neurodegeneration via suppression of PI3K/AKT/mTOR expression in vivo model. Journal of Functional Foods. 2020 Oct 1;73:104142.

  11. Wang J, Cao B, Zhao H, Feng J. Emerging roles of Ganoderma lucidum in anti-aging. Aging and disease. 2017 Dec;8(6):691.

  12. Chu QP, Wang LE, Cui XY, Fu HZ, Lin ZB, Lin SQ, Zhang YH. Extract of Ganoderma lucidum potentiates pentobarbital-induced sleep via a GABAergic mechanism. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior. 2007 Apr 1;86(4):693-8.

  13. Montserrat-de la Paz S, Rodríguez-Martín NM, Toscano R, Villanueva Á, Lemus-Conejo A, Pedroche J, Millán F, Millán-Linares MD. Characterization and evaluation of hemp protein hydrolysates on neuroprotection.

  14. Albrecht U, Ripperger JA. Circadian clocks and sleep: impact of rhythmic metabolism and waste clearance on the brain. Trends in neurosciences. 2018 Oct 1;41(10):677-88.