APEX Brain Centers

Optimizing Brain Health with Metabolic and Nutritional Therapy: A Comprehensive Guide

Optimizing brain health requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the unique needs of each individual. At APEX Brain Centers, we recognize the importance of metabolic and nutritional therapies in promoting optimum cognitive and mental health. These therapies can significantly affect brain function at multiple levels, from molecular and cellular mechanisms to the complex neural networks that underlie cognition, learning, and behavior. By providing our clients with the tools and resources they need to make informed decisions about their brain health, and based on progressive laboratory analysis and 25 years of clinical experience, we aim to empower them to take control of their well-being.

Our unique approach at APEX emphasizes functional neurology, low-level laser therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and neurofeedback. We also utilize balance and vestibular therapies, eye movement rehabilitation, frequency-based modalities, metabolic and nutritional therapies, and home care programs to support recovery and promote optimum brain and body health.  Our experience has shown that other health services become significantly more impactful when combined with functional neurology assessments and interventions. We address the underlying learning and behavioral aspects of various disorders like OCD, anxiety, ADHD, and addiction and provide support for individuals with brain injuries and cognitive impairment.

This comprehensive guide will cover several key aspects of optimizing brain health using metabolic and nutritional therapy. We will explore the roles of various nutrients, the benefits of targeted supplementation, and the use of specialized diets to support mental health. 

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Prevalence and Impact of Brain Health Issues

At APEX Brain Centers, we’ve witnessed the prevalence and impact of various brain health issues, such as brain injury, anxiety, depression, cognitive impairment, and neurodegenerative diseases, on individuals and society as a whole. These conditions affect millions of people worldwide and contribute significantly to the global burden of neurological and mental health disorders.

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health issues, with a high prevalence in society. They can be debilitating for the affected individuals, causing emotional and physical distress, impairing daily functioning, and even leading to chronic health issues. Furthermore, cognitive impairment, which includes mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia, is steadily increasing due to the aging population. Dementia, in particular, is a significant concern associated with a progressive decline in memory and other cognitive abilities.

Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, pose significant challenges for individuals, families, and healthcare systems. These conditions often result in a gradual loss of independence and can create emotional, financial, and social burdens on family members and caregivers.

Our foundational neurological and metabolic rehabilitative therapies make most other treatments more effective, and mental health services become significantly more impactful when combined with our functional neurology assessments and interventions.

We concentrate on addressing the underlying root-cause issues with all we treat and strive to optimize brain health through a variety of leading-edge techniques, including targeted metabolic and nutritional therapies. 

Understanding Brain Health and Nutrition

A balanced diet should provide the essential nutrients to optimize cognitive function, reduce oxidative stress, and support the gut microbiome (which is critically important for a well-functioning brain).

Consuming adequate amounts of protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants is essential to maintain proper brain function. For example, vitamin D plays a role in preventing cognitive decline, while antioxidants help combat oxidative stress, which can contribute to age-related neurodegenerative conditions.

The gut microbiota, an essential component of the microbiota-gut-brain axis, plays a significant role in brain health. A balanced and diverse microbiome is critical for producing neurotransmitters and reducing inflammation that substantially affects mental health and behavior. 

The Connection Between Diet and Mental Health

Diet and nutrition play a significant role in cognitive and mental health. A well-balanced diet, rich in essential nutrients, can significantly impact an individual’s cognitive functioning and emotional well-being. Research has shown there is a connection between a healthy diet and a reduced risk of issues such as anxiety and depression.

Eating high-quality whole foods full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can help nourish the brain and protect it from oxidative stress, which can damage brain cells. In particular, Mediterranean dietary patterns, including high consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and healthy fats while limiting red meat intake, have been associated with better mental health outcomes. This is not to say red meat is bad, although most red meat consumed in the US have pro-inflammatory profiles due to poor diets and other circumstances revolving around factory farmed meats.

Furthermore, the nutrients in a healthy diet control neuroinflammation, contributing to the overall preservation of brain function and mental well-being. For instance, omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and flax seeds (and grass-fed beef) mediate neuroinflammation and promote brain health.

Key Nutrients for Brain Health

At APEX, we understand the importance of nutrition in maintaining optimal brain health and supporting the effectiveness of our therapies. Our metabolic and nutritional treatments focus on providing the essential nutrients needed for proper brain function. Here are some key nutrients that play crucial roles in maintaining a healthy brain:

  • Vitamin D: It is crucial for cognitive function and overall neurological health. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to various neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis 1.
  • Iron: This mineral supports the production of neurotransmitters and myelin, essential for maintaining cognitive function and ensuring efficient communication between brain cells 2.
  • Protein: Amino acids found in protein-rich foods are essential for synthesizing neurotransmitters and maintaining the structure and function of the brain cells 3.
  • Healthy fats include omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for healthy brain structure and function, as well as cognitive processes and memory 4.
  • Antioxidants: These compounds, including vitamin E, protect the brain from oxidative stress and damage, which can contribute to cognitive decline and the progression of neurodegenerative diseases 5.
  • Phosphatidylcholine: This molecule is essential for maintaining the structural integrity of cell membranes, especially in the brain, where it is a major component of neuronal cells 6.
  • B vitamins: B vitamins, including folate, play a critical role in brain function by supporting the synthesis of neurotransmitters and helping maintain healthy neural function 7.
  • Micronutrients: These essential nutrients, such as copper and zinc, play a vital role in numerous neurological functions, including supporting proper brain development and maintaining cognitive health as we age 8.
  • Magnesium: We saved the best for last! Magnesium is a critical nutrient for all cellular functions, ensuring homeostasis throughout the body and brain. It aids in neurotransmission and the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, as well as inflammation control; among many other benefits 9.

The Role of the Gut Microbiome in Brain Health

The gut microbiome is crucial to our overall health, including brain health. The significance of the gut microbiome’s impact through the microbiota-gut-brain axis cannot be emphasized enough. This axis is a communication pathway between the gut and brain, which includes neurons, neurotransmitters, hormones, and immune mediators.

Gut microbiota significantly influences our mental health and cognitive function. Studies show that changes in gut microbiota composition can affect neurotransmitter production and signaling pathways, ultimately impacting psychology and behavior. Moreover, nutrition plays an essential role in shaping gut microbiota, and a diet rich in healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables, and low sugar intake, can support a diverse and healthy gut environment.

Understanding the role of the gut microbiome in brain health through progressive laboratory analysis allows us to develop targeted, personalized therapies for a better quality of life. By addressing the needs of individuals with brain injuries and various disorders, we can help them achieve long-term cognitive and mental health improvements through our integrative and evidence-based approach.

Impact of Diets on Brain Health

Various diets have positively impacted cognitive function and overall brain health. This section will discuss the beneficial effects of some of these diets, including the ketogenic diet, Mediterranean diet, plant-based diet, Nordic diet, DASH diet, and MIND diet.

The ketogenic diet is known for its high-fat, low-carbohydrate composition, encouraging the body to utilize ketones for energy instead of glucose. This diet has shown promising results in improving cognitive function, particularly in individuals with neurological disorders such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. The ketogenic diet may support optimal brain function by promoting healthy fats and reducing inflammation levels.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, and healthy fats, such as olives and nuts. This diet has been extensively studied and is recognized for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It can help reduce age-related cognitive decline and lower the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases.

Similarly, the plant-based diet is associated with improved brain health because it emphasizes nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. The high content of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in plant-based diets can contribute to preserving cognitive function and maintaining metabolic balance. The challenge with plant-based diets is obtaining adequate amounts of protein and healthy fats.

The Nordic diet is another healthy eating pattern that consists of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, and healthy fats from sources like rapeseed oil. Like the Mediterranean and plant-based diets, it positively impacts brain health due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

The DASH diet, short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is primarily designed to lower blood pressure. However, it also offers brain health benefits, including nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and low-fat dairy. Reducing hypertension is crucial for maintaining optimal brain function and reducing the risk of cognitive decline.

Lastly, the MIND diet, which combines elements from both the Mediterranean and DASH diets, is known for its brain health benefits. It emphasizes the consumption of foods that promote cognitive performance, such as green leafy vegetables, berries, fish, and nuts.

Please consult a provider well-versed in functional medicine to determine which dietary approach is best for you and your metabolic needs. This includes aspects of fasting and intermittent fasting – to be discussed in future articles. 

Application of Nutritional Therapy for Brain Health

Nutrition plays a vital role in maintaining and enhancing brain health. By incorporating a balanced diet, cognitive health may improve, and the risk of cognitive impairment may be reduced. We at APEX Brain Centers know a healthy diet is critical for supporting overall brain function and vitality.

Our experts design plans to support brain function by emphasizing healthy fats essential for building and maintaining neural connections. We also pay close attention to specific nutrients that contribute to neurotransmitter production and promote optimal cognitive function.

For those requiring additional support, we may recommend supplements tailored to their needs. For example, certain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients can help enhance cognitive functions and support overall brain health. Supplements should, however, be used as an adjunct to a well-balanced diet, not as a replacement.

Proper nutrition is essential to brain health, and we must not overlook its role in maintaining an optimally functioning mind. By combining a balanced diet, supplements, and other therapeutic measures, we can work together to improve brain health and enhance overall mental wellness.

Impact of Lifestyle Factors on Brain Health

At APEX Brain Centers, we understand the importance of addressing lifestyle factors in maintaining and improving brain health. Physical activity, weight management, and managing medical conditions such as Type 2 diabetes mellitus and thyroid disorders are all essential components of our approach to optimizing brain function.

Regular physical activity positively affects brain health, as it helps enhance cognitive function, improve mood, and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disorders. In addition, engaging in regular exercise can help prevent overweight and obesity, which are known to have detrimental effects on brain health.

Being overweight or obese is associated with a higher risk of developing conditions that impact brain health, such as Type 2 diabetes mellitus. Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise is essential for overall well-being and brain health.

Type 2 diabetes mellitus can impact brain health by affecting blood flow and increasing inflammation, which can lead to cognitive impairment and an increased risk of dementia. Managing blood sugar levels and adopting a healthy lifestyle, primarily through diet and exercise, can improve cognitive function.

We can address several modifiable lifestyle factors to optimize brain health. Our approach includes the following:

  • Encouraging regular physical activity to improve cognitive function and mood.
  • Helping clients adopt a balanced diet rich in healthy fats, antioxidants, and essential nutrients supports cognitive health and prevents obesity.
  • Implementing metabolic and nutritional therapies tailored to a person’s individual needs.
  • Providing proven therapies to improve cognitive function in individuals with brain injuries, including functional neurology, low-level laser therapy, fat-loss laser therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, neurofeedback, balance and vestibular therapies, eye movement rehabilitation, frequency-based modalities, and home care programs.

By addressing these modifiable lifestyle factors, our comprehensive approach aims to improve the brain health of our clients, support their recovery, and promote optimum mental well-being.

Addressing Neurological Disorders with Nutrition

Nutrition is significant in maintaining optimum brain health and addressing various neurological disorders, such as dementia, neurodegeneration, and epilepsy. Research has shown that dietary interventions, including nutritional supplements and dietary restrictions, can help to tackle neurological disorders. It’s essential to adapt these scientific findings to the unique genetic, biochemical, psycho-physiological, and environmental features of the individuals we work with to provide them with a personalized approach.

Diet plays a crucial role in maintaining energy homeostasis and preventing neurological disorders. Consuming healthy fats, such as those found in avocados and olive oil, is one pillar of our strategy for supporting brain health. These fats are linked to better cognitive function, reduced inflammation, and protection from neurodegenerative diseases. One crucial aspect of metabolic and nutritional therapy is providing the brain with the essential nutrients and neuro-nutrients it needs to function optimally, which may help combat and prevent various neurological disorders.

We focus on the foundational neurological and metabolic rehabilitative therapies that make other treatments more effective. Our experience over the past two decades has shown that other health services become significantly more impactful when combined with functional neurology assessments and interventions.

At APEX Brain Centers, we recognize nutrition’s valuable role in promoting brain health and addressing neurological disorders. We strive to provide personalized dietary strategies designed to support each individual’s unique needs, with a comprehensive approach incorporating evidence-based interventions and leading-edge research to optimize recovery and promote overall well-being.

Future Directions in Nutritional Psychiatry

As we at APEX Brain Centers continue to explore the relationship between nutrition and mental health, nutritional psychiatry holds promising potential for developing new therapeutic approaches. It is becoming increasingly clear that diet and nutrition are vital for maintaining physical health and play a crucial role in mood and mental well-being 1.

Incorporating early-life nutrition into our practice has shown to have a significant impact on cognitive development and the prevention of mental health disorders later in life. Focusing on nutrition’s importance from a young age can help build a foundation for lifelong mental health. Mental health services become significantly more impactful when combined with functional neurology assessments and interventions, underpinning the importance of a comprehensive approach.

One of the critical areas we continue to explore is the role of the gut-brain axis in mental health. Research has shown that gut microbiota can influence brain function and behavior and that dietary interventions may modulate the gut microbiome’s composition and functioning, thereby improving mental health outcomes2. Utilizing leading-edge research in this area, we aim to identify specific dietary interventions that may help alleviate symptoms of common mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and cognitive impairment.

To further advance the field of nutritional psychiatry, it is essential to gain a deeper understanding of the metabolic and cellular processes that underpin the relationship between diet, gut microbiota, and mental health. We actively seek to incorporate new research findings into our practice, aiming to provide the most effective, evidence-based metabolic and nutritional therapies for our patients3.

The future of nutritional psychiatry holds exciting possibilities for improving mental health outcomes through targeted dietary interventions. At APEX Brain Centers, we remain committed to staying at the forefront of studies in this emerging field, continuously integrating new research and insights into our comprehensive approach to brain health and recovery.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8113719/ 
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16492147/ 
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26289574/ 
  4. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0103630
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32969294/
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0024320512000086
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18621060/
  8. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/139/4/624/4751353
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9820677/

Dr. Michael S. Trayford is a Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist and Neurofeedback Specialist with over 20 years of experience in the practice of advanced functional neurology. He is one of the most highly sought-after brain rehabilitation specialists because of the life-changing outcomes his patients consistently experience. After over a decade in private practice and working alongside other pioneers in the field, Dr. Trayford developed his multimodal intensive brain training and rehabilitation program built around the science of Neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to learn and grow dependent upon the stimulation it receives from its environment. He later founded APEX Brain Centers to combine his ground-breaking rehabilitation approach with a unique patient and caretaker-centered care model. Under Dr. Trayford’s leadership, APEX Brain Centers has successfully treated thousands of patients and earned the reputation of a world-renowned brain training and rehabilitation practice. Since its inception, Dr. Trayford has been a leader of the Brain Training revolution treating patients worldwide. In addition, he is a published journal contributor and international lecturer. His experience with various patients of all ages and neurological conditions has given him a unique perspective on brain health and human performance. He is also well-versed in collaborating with other health care professionals, making him an invaluable asset to any care team. Dr. Trayford was awarded the Functional Neurologist of the Year distinction by the International Association of Functional Neurology and Rehabilitation, where he is a proud member and conference lecturer. Currently, he serves on the Advisory Council for the Dementia Society of America and the Board of Directors for the International Society for Neuroregulation and Research. He is also a servant leader who has dedicated his adult life to serving multiple communities through Rotary International and other notable causes. When he’s not treating patients, Dr. Trayford usually reads or researches anything related to the brain, human performance, and leadership. He also loves spending time outdoors with his wife Denise, their two daughters, and dogs in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina. https://www.linkedin.com/in/drmichaeltrayford/

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