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Nervous System

In order for the brain to accomplish all of its important tasks and functions with clarity and precision, it is extremely important for the neurons to be healthy and protected and to have a proper balance of neurotransmitters. Conventional treatments have included the use of specific drugs in the attempt to control depression, memory loss, anxiety, hyperactivity, mood swings and behavior. There are alternative ways that encourage a healthy brain.

Dietary modifications can help improve the level of neurotransmitters synthesized in the brain and consequently modify behavior. Certain nutritional supplements have been found to help normalize neurotransmitter production, reduce anxiety and hyperactivity and protect the brain from oxidative stress.

Key nutrients such as amino acids along with B vitamins, especially Vitamin B6, can affect the synthesis of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine, which can all have a profound effect on mood, sleep and motor activity.

The brain requires energy and oxygen. Glucose is the basic energy nutrient used by the cells of the brain. Neurons however, require lots of oxygen and B vitamins in order to process the glucose. The brain is 2% of the total body weight, but uses over 20% of the body’s oxygen! While there is rarely a shortage of glucose for the brain, it needs a constant supply of oxygen and B vitamins in order to process it.

The amino acids N,N-dimethylglycine (DMG) and trimethylglycine (TMG) can help provide more energy and oxygen utilization to the brain and support cognitive function.

NUTRIENTS FOR THE BRAIN

Neurotransmitters are produced by various nutrients found in our food. Proteins, for example, contain amino acids, such as phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan which help to form epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. Choline is a necessary building block for the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that affects the direct transmission of nerve signals between nerve cells. Along with the importance of balancing neurotransmitters is the need to support the structure of our neurons. Healthy neurons make for a healthy brain and nervous system.

Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid that is present in every cell membrane in the body, especially in brain tissue. It is actively involved in the repair and maintenance of each cell’s structure and its benefits include memory improvement, better learning capability, mood enhancement, and combating stress. L-carnitine helps promote brain health. It enhances learning, long-term memory, concentration and focus, helps fight low mood states and regulates sleep/wake cycle.

Zinc and magnesium are an integral part of the communication system between nerve cells and are important for proper brain function. The polyunsaturated fatty acids, EPA and DHA, also are very important to optimizing brain function. A strong nutritional foundation is important in maintaining optimal brain health.

BEHAVIOR AND MOOD

A number of behavior abnormalities such as hyperactivity, inability to focus, short attention span, anxiousness, mood swings and sleep irregularities have been linked to neurotransmitter malfunctions. The causes of these problems have been linked to gastrointestinal dysfunction, heavy metal toxicity, environmental pollutants, genetics and nutritional deficiencies.

Nutrients that have been found to be helpful in normalizing behavior and mood swings are Vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid, N,N-dimethylglycine, trimethylglycine, carnosine, taurine, magnesium and zinc. They work together to improve brain and nerve function.

SLEEP / ANXIETY / RELAXATION

Poor quality sleep contributes to stress, poor performance and fatigue and can lead to other health problems. Insomnia, a lack of sleep, may be caused by a variety of factors including food allergies, overuse of stimulants, neurotransmitter imbalances, and reactions to environmental stressors or anxiety.

Several nutritional supplements have been used successfully to increase the quantity and quality of sleep:

L-Theanine is a well researched amino acid found to be useful in reducing stress and anxiety resulting in increased relaxation and improved sleep. Along with promoting a calming effect on the brain and reducing irritability, L-theanine helps the body produce neurotransmitters (tryptophan, GABA and dopamine). It also helps reduce insomnia, muscle stiffness and depression.

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) increases the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, which helps produce better sleep patterns. Serotonin is critical for brain function, to balance alertness, and for the ability to fall asleep. Insufficient production can lead to anxiety, irritability, short attention span, and sleep disruption.

Melatonin, a natural hormone produced in the pituitary gland, helps maintain the body’s biological clock as it relates to our sleep wake cycle. Our level of melatonin normally increases during the night and if our sleep cycle is disrupted (by working or artificial light during night-time) it can produce fatigue and irritability. Melatonin has been shown to be beneficial for producing better quality sleep and to reduce jet lag.

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