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Entries in Brain (2)


Dance of the Brain

The least understood yet containing the most complex choreography of the entire body is the brain. Yet this system does not contain one thing that the rest of the body has, pain receptors. When our peripheral body gets hurt, injured, infected or inflamed, we feel pain. But what happens when the brain is inflamed? How does it let us know? You do not get a headache. Headaches are usually due to inflammation in the vasculature in the head, but not inflammation in the brain. The brain does not feel physical pain. The way the brain gets our attention when enough inflammation has caused a disruption in it's seamless dance is manifested as anxiety, depression, foggy brain, memory loss, ADHD to name a few.


This is not to say that inflammation is the only cause of the maladies above. However, I've seen improvement in many of the conditions above when we give the brain nutrients needed to decrease oxidative damage to the neurological system. Did you know that certain nutrients such as folate, taurine, B12, tryptophan, DHA, N-acetyl Cystein, Magnesium are part of the members of the cast necessary to get the show produced?

For example tryptophan, an amino acid, (many amino acids chained together make up proteins) is needed to produce serotonin, the molecule supposedly deficient in depression. Certain patients are so nutritionally deficient in their diets that they do not have the cast members to run the happiness show in their brains. This often happens in those whos diets consists mostly of carbohydrates and sugars. I've seen many patients moods improve when they  increase their protein intake.

My friend's daughter has been having some behavioral issues that were worse when she ate foods she was sensitive to. Her mother, who was a physician, could tell every time her daughter "cheated" on her diet at a friend’s house, because she behaved differently when she ate certain foods. Probably the foods she ate which she was sensitive to caused enough inflammation to affect her brain. Her mother, who was a motivated doctor decided to supplement her with 5-methyl-tetro-hydro-folate, a more bioavailable form of folic acid and anti-oxidant. Given the extra anti-oxidant support, her daughter no longer reacted with detectable behavioral changes even if she "cheated" a bit on her food sensitivities. Therefore, correcting certain nutrient deficiencies can often increase functionality of the brain even in the presence of triggers.

Since the brain is so complex, we may want to dissect the problem to get more specifics, like running a football game on slow replay. The body is more complicated than what we see with our eyes at times, so a serotonin deficiency is not always the cause to depression. When we run a neurotransmitter test, we may find that low dopamine, or excessive glutamate, cortisol, epinephrine may also play a role in depression. Consequently how we address the problem differs from person to person and is more specific than giving an SSRI for every depressed patient.

Last but not least and closest to my heart is the mind body connection. The mind and body are constantly interfaced by signals connecting the two, sharing incoming and outgoing signals, that then affects what happens on stage. We can imagine the tangible as the stage, such as how our mood or body feels. The backstage is the brain. What happens backstage can affect the performances on stage, but also what happens on stage can affect the dynamics backstage later, that can then again affect what happens on stage during the next act.

I've personally witnessed blowing the cranial bones out of alignment so profoundly from emotions, that the chiropractor asked, "are you sure you did not hit your head?". It sounds so absurd that emotional states can change structure. But then in turn, structure that is not aligned makes it much more difficult for the body or brain to maintain balanced functions. So is it the chicken or the egg?

I've been offering craniosacral therapy to patients, and many have found profound physical benefits as well as leaps in personal growth. I look at craniosacral therapy as a bridge between mental knowledge, such as what can be found with psychotherapy, and physical health, such as what can be adjusted with nutritional supplements. Craniosacral therapy integrates the two, making both therapies more synergistic. It also balances the nervous system connected to survival and instincts that may make it more easy for us to do what we know is a beneficial choice, through breaking unnecessary survival instincts from the past that are no longer needed in the present. I am excited to embark on this journey with you, so you can dance more freely in your body and mind.


How does dietary fat consumption affect the brain?

Did you know that the make up of your cell membrane depends on what you eat? In that sense, you are what you eat. The way your brain talks to your body is via cell-to-cell communication along nerves or neuronal tissue. If you eat a lot of trans fats such as those found in vegetable shortening, fried foods, and arachadonic acid found in red meat, these fats send an inflammatory signal to the nervous system.

Inflammation in the nervous system causes in increase in glutamate, which is an excitatory chemical in the brain. This can lead to symptoms of anxiety, hyperactivity, addictive tendencies and in-attention. Increase in inflammation and glutamate in the brain long term from chronic excessive brain firing causes neuron damage. This contributes to degenerative diseases like dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease develop due to the oxidative damage this excessive inflammation produces. Also, consumption of inflammatory fats make cell membranes hard and rigid, blocking cell-to-cell communication.

If you eat lots of omega-3 fats found in fish, flax and walnuts your cell membranes are nice and malleable improving the structure and function of receptors on the cell. This allows for brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and acetylcholine to communicate better with the cell helping positive mood, attention and memory. Another large component of cell membranes are phospholipids such as phosphatidyl choline and serine, which are found in high concentrations in the brain. They help balance stress hormone levels, decrease anxiety, improve memory, improve mood, and decrease aggression. Phospholipids can be found in lecithin, soy lecithin, egg yolks, sardines and nuts.  

Many studies show a correlation between depression and deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids. According to the journal of Nutrition and Healthy Aging, DHA, which is an omega-3 fatty acid is “one of the major building structures of membrane phospholipids of the brain and absolutely necessary for neuronal function”. The British Journal of Psychiatry, Did a study on prisoners. One group had their regular prison diet, and the other group was supplemented with Omega-3 fats. The prisoners who were given omega-3 fats had a 35% reduction in violent crime in prison. I’ve seen in my practice patients having great symptom improvement from depressive mood, anxiety and improvement in focus on a therapeutic dose of EPA and DHA.

Often times we think of supplements that are neurotransmitter specific first when seeing brain issues, but it is important to remember that basic nutritional sufficiency can make a very large difference in neurology. Be careful of low fat fad diets, as these diets often compromise brain function and lead to teenage learning problems and depression. Your brain needs fat to function, so eat the good fats.