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Maintaining Brain Wellness with Nutrition

mind.The brain is the master organ. It controls and orchestrates all body functions. This is a very complex task for the brain and this article will help you understand how the brain needs proper nutrition to be able to perform and keep us healthy. Science has gained insight into how the food we eat combined with specific supplemented nutrients can successfully address both the symptoms and root cause of disease. Many sufferers of neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, attention deficit, Parkinson’s, depression and Lou Gehrig’s disease, are benefiting from the use of vitamins, minerals and herbal supplementation.

The brain has six general functions:

  • It is the regulating center of the body- it receives information in the form of sensory impulses. It evaluates these impulses and activates or inhibits specific functions based on these impulses.
  • It is the center of consciousness- the awareness of time, place, person, and the activities of the body.
  • It is the receiver and interpreter of the senses.
  • It initiates voluntary action- every act is imitated, coordinated and processed by the brain.
  • It is the mediating organ for all emotions, urges, drives, and instincts.
  • It is the seat of intellectual activity-perception, recognition, judgment, reasoning, memory and learning.

There are many parts to the brain and each is involved in the processes mentioned above. Lets look at the basics. The average size of the brain is between 2 to 4 pounds. The basic cellular unit of the brain is called a neuron. The axion is the tendril that allows for the passing of a nerve signal from the neuron. This is done by the formation of neurotransmitters that allow neurons to pass the nerve signal from one to another, basically like a bucket brigade. Neurotransmitters are made in the brain from vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and amino acids (proteins).

Let look at these neurotransmitters and their function:

  • Acetylcholine-vital for regulating memory and cognition. Helps maintain coordinated muscle activity. Depressed levels are seen in Alzheimer’s patients.
  • Dopamine- influences thought process and motor activity. Encourages alertness and aggression. Low levels have been shown to cause tremors, impaired motor control, and poor balance.
  • Gaba and glutamate- two of the most abundant neurotransmitters. They play opposing roles. Glutamate stimulates an energizing role while gaba has a calming action. Excess glutamate over stimulates the brain and can cause damage. Depressed levels of gaba are associated with anxiety and seizures.
  • Norephinephrine- is a stimulating neurotransmitter. Causes rapid heart beat due to stress levels and emotional imbalances.
  • Nitric oxide- the newest transmitter holds promise for maintaining and mending brain-immune connections. It is involved with learning and memory.
  • Prostaglandins- are hormone like molecules that influence the activity of receptors and transmitters.
  • Serotonin-is involved in regulating sleep, appetite, sexual behavior, mood, cardiovascular and immune activity. Helps us to feel good and relaxed. Depressed levels are responsible for depression, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorders, eating disorders, and chronic pain.

Now that we have a better understanding of what neurotransmitters do in the brain lets look at some of the basic neuro-nutrients and how they play an important role in the functions of the brain.

  • Multi vitamins- is the foundation of any supplement regime. It is like an overall insurance that you will get the basic. Be sure to take a high quality one that will give more than the RDA’s in 2-3 tablets over the course of the day.
  • Antioxidants- a full spectrum formula that would include carotenoids, vitamin e, and c, lipoic acid, n-acetylcysteine and co q 10.
  • Calcium /magnesium- both play an important role in brain health. Magnesium helps with brain cell energy production. Help with the formation of serotonin. It stabilizes cell membranes and protects against over stimulation. Calcium potentates the ability of nerve and muscle cells to communicate better.
  • B vitamins- the entire group of b vitamins helps maintain healthy brain functions. They protect nerve tissue against oxidation, enhance memory, and insulate nerve cells. They are required for neurotransmitters production. Some of the best sources are whole grains, leafy vegetables and some animal products.
  • Copper, manganese, selenium and zinc- are four micronutrients necessary for proper brain function. Copper is directly affects the neurons synthesize of dopamine and norephinephrine. Zinc influences neurotransmitters production deficiencies have shown to affect appetite, and growth retardation. Manganese works with the above two as a cellular antioxidant. And finally selenium helps produce a compound called glutathione, which protects the brain by aiding detoxification.

The following three areas describe the foundations established for good brain health. Some of the latest brain research deals with the following:

  • The essential fatty acid for the brain.
  • The body’s detoxifying mechanisms.
  • And the dhea hormone.

Essential fatty acids are necessary components of the entire body. A large percentage of the brain is made up of fats. Fatty acids determine how neurotransmitters bind to receptor sites. They also regulate the flow of nutrients into and out of brain cells. The two categories of fatty acids are omega -3 and Omega-6’s. Omega 6’s are mainly from plant sources like corn, safflower, and sesame oils etc. They either have a pro-inflammatory or an anti-inflammatory action. Omega 3’s are found readily in cold-water fish and fluxed oil. They are anti-inflammatory and protect cell membranes.

  • DHA is a critical omega 3 fatty acid that helps promote communication between brain cells. It is the main structural fatty acid for the gray matter. It is very instrumental in the development of infants and young children and is thought to enhance intelligence.
  • Ps (phosphatidylserine) is also a naturally occurring fatty acid in the brain. Has been shown to improve memory and helps the brain to utilize glucose. Both substances modulate cell fluidity thus helping to aid communications between cells. The following nutrients help with the body with detoxification. They include glutathione, alpha lipoic acid, n-acetyl-cysteine, vitamin e, co q 10, and Sam (s-adenosyl methionine). Some herbals and foods that also support this action would be, green tea, red wine, berries, soy foods, grape seed extract, pine bark extract, bilberry, ginkgo, and milk thistle.

Lastly dhea serves many important functions in the brain. It is essential for the growth of neuron dendrites and helps to regulate the adrenal hormone cortisol. It is part of the brain immune connection.

As you can see we have just touched the tip of the iceberg when it come to understanding the brain. I hope this will spark our interest to learn more about how the brain-immune connection works and how the brain-gut connection influence how our bodies operate. To learn more about this topic I recommend the book The Brain Wellness Plan by Dr. Jay Lombard and Carl Germano.

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