Understanding and Strengthening Nervous System Health [Slideshow]

February 14 2013 | Brain Health | Nervous System

The health and function of the entire body is dependent on the health of the nervous system. A variety of factors, including diet, environmental toxins, stress and emotion can affect the nervous system. Watch this slideshow to understand how your nervous system works and how you can help it stay healthy.

See the slides below, or view the entire webinar with audio here: Nature's Sunshine Webinars


You are Electric

Everything in your body is connected:

  • Nerve cells
  • Electrical impulses
  • Chemical messengers

The nervous system “wires” us together!

Your Brain is Complex

Your brain:

  • Houses 98% of your body’s neurons
  • Makes up only 2% of your body weight
  • Consumes 25% of your oxygen
  • Consumes as much as 20% of your sugar

Let’s take better care of our brain and nervous system!

You are What You Eat

This phrase particularly applies to the brain. A “junk food” diet short-circuits your mental attitude and your emotional responses creating a “trashy” brain. With the poor diet of most Americans, nervous system disorders like stress, depression, anxiety and insomnia are on the rise 

Understanding the Nervous System

The nervous system consists of conscious and unconscious areas:

  • Brain
  • Spinal column
  • Peripheral Nerves

Conscious/Voluntary

  • Perceive through senses
  • Move skeletal muscles
  • Regulate conscious actions
Unconscious/Involuntary
  • Known as “Autonomic”
  • Keeps your heart beating
  • Digests your food
  • Regulates temperature
  • Makes sure you breathe
  • Takes care of everything you don’t have to think about!
  • Autonomic is divided into 2 parts

 

Autonomic Nervous Systeem


This is divided into the Sympathetic , which gets us charged or "wired up" and the Parasympathetic, which helps us wind down and relax. 

The Sympathetic Nervous System -- When we're excited, stressed or scared, the sympathetic nervous system:

  • Tenses our muscles
  • Makes our heart beat faster
  • Moves blood away from digestive organs
  • Shuts down elimination
The Parasympathetic Nervous System -- As we relax and unwind, the parasympathetic nervous system:

  • Moves blood to the digestive organs
  • relaxes muscles
  • Aids elimination
  • Initiates healing and self repair

Care For Your Brain and Nerves

The nervous system is probably the most nutritionally sensitive system in the body. Long before you feel physical conditions, you’ll notice mental and emotional conditions from poor nutrition, such as:

  • Fuzzy thinking (brain fog)
  • Absentmindedness
  • Mental confusion
  • Nervousness

These can lead to chronic insomnia, anxiety, depression and memory loss.

Other Facts about the brain:
  • The brain is 70% water,  so it is sensitive to dehydration
  • 50-60% of the “dry” weight of your brain is fat, 35% being omega 3
  • DHA is most abundant type of omega 3 in the brain
  • B-vitamins are essential to lower risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia

The Brain and Blood Sugar

Your brain consumes the most glucose of any organ. But, if you get too much sugar, you might experience:

  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness

If you don't get enough sugar, you may experience:

  • Hypoglycemia
  • Mental confusion
  • Shakiness
  • Fatigue

 

But just because your brain needs sugar, doesn't mean you should fill it with candy. Simple sugars contribute to brain fog. Complex sugars found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains stabalize blood sugar and nourish the brain. And try to include protein and good fats with your meals. 

Toxins and the Nervous System

Toxins pose a significant threat to the nervous system. Some of the toxins we're exposed to frequently include:

  • Drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Chemical solvents
  • Pesticides & herbicides
  • Excessive caffeine
  • Refined sugar
  • White flour
  • Hydrogenated oils

How Stress and Anxiety Affects the Brain

  • Stress response is healthy and normal - too much is hurtful
  • Sympathetic nerves are activated (wind-up)
  • Parasympathetic are inhibited (relax)
  • Blood shifted from digestive organs to muscles

Consequences of Long-term Stress

  • Most dangers aren’t physical, but feel like a threat to our survival
  • Continuous activation of the stress response can lead to “burn out”
  • Many people live with emotional and nervous exhaustion

5 Helpful Ways to Manage Our Stress

  1. Stop and Take a Deep breath -- Fastest way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This can restores calm and clear thinking. Breathing slow and deep counteracts the effects of stress
  2. Use Adaptogenic Herbs (Adaptamax) -- Adaptogens mediate the output of stress hormones, which gives you clearer thinking and helps you feel calmer and more relaxed.  
  3. B-Vitamins Help You Be Calm -- B-vitamins are vital for the nervous system. When depleted, refined carbohydrates increase anxiety and nervousness. Look to whole grains and take a good anti-stress vitamin and mineral supplement like Nutri-Calm.
  4. Get Physical and Active -- Stress hormones prime the body for action. Even taking a walk when stressed clears your head.
  5. Pamper Yourself -- Pleasurable experience does more good for the body than a stressful one does harm. Pleasure enhances health, energy, and emotional well being. Get a massage, engage in a hobby or activity. Take a relaxing bath, listen to beautiful music, and surround yourself with pleasant fragrances.  

Depression And the Nervous System

  • 18.8 million American adults suffer from depression
  • Anti-depressants are used to artificially increase serotonin
  • Complex sugars help increase serotonin naturally without the “letdown”

Age Related Memory Loss

  • Mostly associated with oxidative stress
  • The brain is sensitive to inflammation and free radicals
  • Feed the brain with antioxidant-rich foods
  • Thai-Go and Super Orac are other great ways to give the brain antioxidants
  • Brain Protex is another product designed for longevity and overall wellness that provides protection against free radical damage, and may help block the enzyme responsible for the breakdown of acetylcholine.

15 Vitamins and Herbs that Help Lower Stress and Improve Nervous System Function

February 11 2013 | Nervous System

 

Long-term stress comes at us from a variety of sources: family struggles, financial difficulties, job worries or pressures, relationships, worry about health, the economy, etc. Continuous or repeated activation of the stress response process takes a toll on the nervous system and can lead to burnout, i.e. emotional and nervous exhaustion.

We can’t very easily change the world around us. But we can take steps to give our bodies the protection and nourishment they need to help handle stressors before they create anxiety. 

Important VITAMINS for the Nervous System

B vitamins are food for the nervous system. In times of stress, the body rapidly uses up these nutrients. And, along with Vitamin C, they are water-soluble and must be replenished daily.

  • B1 (thiamine) optimizes cognitive activity and brain function.
  • Folic acid is considered brain food by some. It helps with depression and anxiety and helps prevent neural tube defects in unborn children.
  • B6 (pyridoxine) is needed for normal brain function.
  • B12 (cyanocobalamin) prevents nerve damage and helps maintain the fatty sheaths that cover and protect nerve endings. It is linked to the production of acetylcholine (a key neurotransmitter that aids memory and learning).
  • Biotin helps B-complex vitamins be utilized properly in the body.
  • Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) is necessary for the development of the central nervous system, for proper adrenal function, for the conversion of fat and sugar into energy, and for the maintenance of normal growth and tissue replacement. Pantothenic acid is needed to make steroid hormones and the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. The body needs extra amounts of this vitamin when under physical stress.
  • Choline is the precursor molecule for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involved in many functions including memory and muscle control. It helps nerve impulses travel from the brain through the nervous system. Choline aids brain function and memory.
  • Vitamin C aids in the production of anti-stress hormones.
  • Inositol has a calming effect.

Key HERBS for Stress and Anxiety

  • Passionflower provides natural support to the relaxation centers of the nervous system and has been used historically to help with restlessness. Calming and soothing, it doesn’t affect mood.
  • Fennel seeds have long been known to strengthen the digestive system, where emotional stress is most likely to center.
  • Feverfew, an aromatic herb, helps the body deal with muscular tension, which may lead to head and neck pain.
  • Hops (flower) is a tonic herb. It promotes sleep and helps the body deal with occasional restlessness.
  • Chamomile flowers are known for supporting nerve health and mental alertness. This soothing herb also aids digestion and supports circulation.
  • Schizandra fruit—allows the body to respond quickly to stress, thus increasing ourcapacity to work. Its bitter compounds also support circulation.

Try these stress-busters:

  1. Talk it out. Communicating about your worries with a trusted, emotionally stable confidant. Often a friend can help you see things from a different viewpoint and regain your perspective.
  2. Sleep. Operating in a sleep deficit can overburden your nervous system and make you more prone to meltdowns. Shoot for eight hours of sleep a night. Take naps when you’re tired or behind in your sleep. Try to catch up on shortages within the same week.
  3. Breathe Deeply. Sometimes a few deep breaths can help you remain calm in the face of mounting pressure and chaos. Deep breathing gets more oxygen to the body cells and may help you take a second to think before you act.
  4. Take a stroll. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which help improve mood. Get out and walk for 10-15 minutes. 
  5. Listen to uplifting music. The right music can change your mood and help you feel more energy and greater well-being. The wrong music can do the opposite. See what works for you.
  6. Get a massage or take a hot bath. Physical relaxation goes hand in hand with mental relaxation. Find ways to relax physically and your brain will usually follow suit.
  7. Go here for Nature's Sunshine supplements for stress management. 

     


7 Factors that Cause Cognitive Decline

February 6 2013 | Brain Health | Nervous System

 

Cognition is a group of mental processes that includes attention, memory, producing and understanding language, learning, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making. Nervous system decline can lead to cognitive impairments, ranging from mild memory loss to dementia.

Recent studies have pointed to various factors that may contribute to the gradual decline of mental acuity as we age. The good news is that these factors are at least somewhat preventable when we apply knowledge, good nutrition and healthy habits. Some of those factors that can lead to cognitive decline include: 

Go here to learn more about nervous system health and here to see some herbs for the nervous system.

Factors the Lead to Cognitive Decline


1. Inflammation. Inflammation is a protective process that the body uses to fight off pathogens and to respond to injuries. However the inflammation process can become a chronic condition in which the inflammation process occurs regardless of infection or injury. Chronic inflammation is associated with many health issues from allergies to arthritis. New research also suggests that chronic inflammation can lead to cognitive decline, most likely due to the way inflammation disrupts the integrity of the blood-brain barrier.

2. High blood pressure. Your brain relies on a constant, nourishing blood supply. High blood pressure can narrow and block the arteries supplying blood to the brain, which can lead to cognitive problems. Evidence suggests that high blood pressure occurring as early as middle age can increase the risk of dementia later.

3. Insulin levels. Both high blood glucose levels and high insulin levels have been linked to cognitive dementia.

4. Obesity. Particularly in middle age, obesity is strongly correlated with later dementia. Research conducted by the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif. found that individuals who were obese (as measured by the body mass index) in their 30s and 40s were 74 percent more likely than those of a healthy weight to develop dementia.

5. Arterial inelasticity can lead to vascular dementia, a term for cognitive impairments associated with impaired blood flow in the brain. Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia, behind Alzheimer’s.

6. Metabolic syndrome is a name given to a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and accelerated decline in brain health. The symptoms of metabolic syndrome are strongly correlated with obesity, including accumulation of fat concentrated around the waist, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar levels.

7. Anxiety and depression are linked with increased risk of cognitive impairments, possibly as a result of the high levels of cortisol released through chronic psychological distress.

You can develop strategies now to preserve brain function. The maxim, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is good advice.

Good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are beneficial to brain health and should be part of a daily health routine. A healthy nervous system is also dependent on keeping blood pressure and body weight in check, avoiding diabetes and its precursor, metabolic syndrome, as well as treating depression and anxiety disorders.

 


How the Nervous System Works and Affects Everything in the Body

February 4 2013 | Brain Health | Nervous System

The human nervous system is an amazing network of organs, nerve cells (neurons) and and neurotransmitters, connecting the brain and spinal cord to the entire body.

It runs on electricity, sending and receiving signals at lightning speed to keep every part of the body functioning effectively.

The nervous truly helps regulate everything happening in your body, whether it’s occurring consciously or unconsciously. It is divided into two branches: 

  • Conscious/voluntary — controls perception, analysis, memory, movement
  • Unconscious/involuntary (also called Autonomic) — takes care of all of the things you don’t think about, such as your heartbeat, digestion, regulating body temperature, breathing, etc.

Your Autonomic branch is further divided into two smaller branches:

  •  Sympathetic 
  • Parasympathetic

The Sympathetic nervous system gets you prepared for activity. It increases mental activity, heart rate and blood pressure, dilates the bronchials, slows or halts digestion, stimulates the release of stress hormones, makes goose bumps on the skin and more. When we’re excited, stressed or scared, the sympathetic nervous system gears us up for action (fight or flight) but shuts down digestion and elimination.

The Parasympathetic nervous system helps you wind down, relax and digest your food. It relaxes mental activity, lowers heart rate and blood pressure, increases the flow of blood to the extremities, constricts bronchials and stimulates digestion. As we relax and unwind, the parasympathetic nervous system moves blood to the digestive organs, relaxes muscles and allows elimination.

Nervous System Sending Messages

A stimulated nerve cell fires an electrical impulse that moves across the cell. At the end of the cell, this electricity triggers the nerve to squirt neurotransmitters (specialized chemicals) into the gap between this cell and the next one. These chemicals fill the space and either stimulate the next cell or prevent it from firing another electrical impulse, depending on what is needed.

Neurotransmitters control or regulate all kinds of things, including depression, addictions, mood, appetite, sleep, certain diseases of the brain and nervous system, and ADHD. Key neurotransmitters include:

  • Serotonin helps control mood, hunger, sleep, pain response and more.
  • Acetylcholine aids in memory and muscle movement. When the brain is short on acetylcholine, memory suffers.
  • Dopamine is responsible for sexual arousal and muscle coordination. Parkinson’s disease sufferers lack this neurotransmitter.
  • GABA helps prevent anxiety and increases mental clarity.
  • Epinephrine is released during times of stress. It can raise blood pressure and heart rate. It also opens the bronchioles to help restore normal breathing.
  • Norepinephrine helps maintain constant blood pressure when levels get too low.

As you can see, the vast network of the human nervous system affects or controls EVERYTHING in the body. It pays to take great care of your nervous system with a healthful diet, the right supplements and plenty of rest.

Go here to learn more about nervous system health and here to see some herbs for the nervous system.   

 


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