An interview with Dr. Sarah Mulukutla, Integrative Neurologist
Tell us about Mindful Neurology, and what you aim to achieve with this new clinic?
We have new and exciting research on how our lifestyle and daily habits affects our brain health, and Mindful Neurology aims to be on the forefront of a healthy lifestyle revolution. Chronic stress leads to retraction of brain cells and shrinking of brain tissue. People with migraine understand that diet and emotions can trigger a headache attack – but the way out of this pattern is not always clear. At Mindful Neurology, we create customized programs combining lifestyle transformation, education, and mind-body training. We treat neurologic symptoms, but we also address the foundations for brain health, providing a deep understanding how to care for ourselves across the lifespan.
How is this different from traditional neurology clinics?
Mindful Neurology questions the paradigm that disease is localized to a specific place in the body. We look at a range of factors that contribute to imbalance and predisposition to disease. We believe that the body has capacity to heal itself – by expressing healthier gene function as seen with epigenetics, and or via neural retraining, a process known as neuroplasticity. If we provide proper support with nutrition, community, connection and deep sleep, symptoms of malaise can dramatically improve. Anyone can try this program and see benefits, although it has been most rewarding to see improvement in people with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, chronic migraines and mild memory loss – conditions previously said to be irreversible.
One of the more unique aspects of Mindful Neurology is the use of breathing techniques, biofeedback, yoga and complementary therapies such as Vibroacoustic sound therapy to demonstrate how deep relaxation can have immediate impact on the physical body. The mind-body connection is an under-utilized tool! We have just launched our first week-long retreat to help people with neurological disease and their family members understand how profound this effect can be when practiced regularly.
Why isn’t everyone doing this?
This is an emerging field, and a number of scientists and professionals are recognizing the potential in preventive brain health and lifestyle transformation as a tool for treating neurological disease. Any transformation of neurological care requires more evidence and clinical studies. In addition, time is often limited in the clinics. It takes a bit of investigation to create a program that matches each client’s preferences, aspirations, and schedule! As such, there’s some work on the back end to create infrastructure that combines guidance from large population studies with individualized precision medicine. Mindful Neurology would like to contribute to much more robust non-pharmacological health interventions, and our NYC office at the welcoming Tournesol Wellness is the hub of this exciting work.
There will be a time when a routine prescription will be breathing techniques or a yoga workshop, or a customized nutritional plan, instead of a medication.
So is it that easy to adopt a brain-healthy lifestyle?
By understanding the foundations – sleep/relaxation, proper nutrition, cellular health, care for the physical body, meaningful life purpose and connection – we can make great strides in supporting our brain and the nervous system.
But changing our patterns is hard. It becomes a life-long journey to optimize health, and does take commitment over time. Mindful Neurology aims to support our clients in this journey – from diagnosis and health planning, to coaching services, nutrition consults, and the mind-body support to keep you inspired, motivated and engaged.
Here are some quick tips to improve brain health right away:
1) Eat at least one serving of green leafy vegetables daily. This vegetable class has been associated with preserved cognitive function over time. Greens contains high amounts of phyto-nutrients – plant compounds with health benefits – that support the metabolic activity of brain cells. When you’ve mastered this habit, start to incorporate vegetables of all colors, to gain unique benefits associated with the rainbow colors of plant phytonutrients.
2) Purchase an activity tracker: Technology has given us amazing tools to collect data about our lifestyle. These small devices monitor heart rate, track number of steps walked (or jogged) each day, and can even detect sleep cycles by monitoring pulse and body movement. Activity trackers allow you to set goals – walk at least 10,000 steps each day, or sleep at least 7.5hrs – and keep you accountable. The Oura ring is the smallest of the bunch, and automatically disables blue-tooth activity when the ring is not being synced, thereby minimizing exposure to electromagnetic frequencies.
3) Laugh every day. Laughter is a perfect example of natural medicine and has so many benefits! It improves breathing capacity and vascular blood flow, releases endorphins, and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (the branch of the nervous system that signals safety and restorative processes.) When we feel joy or mirth, we are more likely to think positively and creatively, and find solutions to stressful problems. So many of us, unfortunately, lack laughter in our lives. For a giggly evening, check out a local Laughter Yoga club. Over time, your body may crave this unique physiological state and lead you to incorporate other meaningful lifestyle changes. Stay tuned for healthy group classes coming to Mindful Neurology @ Tournesol soon!