“Age is something that doesn’t matter unless you’re a cheese.” Billie Burke
Your brain and lifelong personal development need a rich environment filled with smells and textures, sights and sounds, as well as new ideas and the best possible biochemical medium to thrive. Each time you experience anything, learn anything, or encounter anything, your brain forges new connections. To hold onto new facts, experiences and memories, neurons must grow new dendrites. These dendrites reach out towards other neurons, creating links that have never existed before. This is why it is so important, as you grow older, not to become complacent with your life, get into a rut, or allow it to narrow by doing the same things all the time in the same way. Forget the pharmaceuticals and all their nasty side effects. State-of-the-art natural substances work better. They intensify your experience of excitement, deep relaxation, sensuality, and memory, as well as enhance your creativity and your capacity for joy.
GREAT BRAIN SUPPORT
There are more than fifty neurotransmitters that affect the brain. Many are found only within the brain and the gut. There is no need to concern yourself with all of them, but it’s useful to be aware of some of the most important. Dazzling advances in brain enhancement have come out of the knowledge we now have about how to support these neurotransmitters naturally, using freeform amino acids, herbs and nutritional supplements. These can not only enhance brain functions but health all round. For instance choline, some of the B complex vitamins, and minerals such as potassium are necessary in truly adequate quantities (not the easiest thing to get as you grow older) for nerves to fire properly. There is also a rapidly developing awareness that we can use natural compounds, such as acetyl L-carnitine, GABA and phosphatidylserine to help counter depression, insomnia and other neurologically-related conditions. Let’s look at two important neurotransmitters and one essential phospholipid found in every cell, the roles they play in keeping your brain young, your emotions balanced, and your body vital, and how you can support them naturally.
WHAT THEY DO
Serotonin—alters mood, controls appetite and the emotional perception of pain, brings calm and improves memory. Antidepressant drugs known as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)—like Prozac/Fluoxetine and Zoloft/Sertraline—elevate serotonin by blocking the chemical’s recycling and inactivation. But beware! These pharmaceuticals have potentially dangerous side-effects. What you need to know is that cells in your brain and gut can synthesize serotonin naturally when you provide them with abundant access to the amino acid L-tryptophan, and to 5-hydroxytryptophan. (5-HTP)
Phosphatidylserine—enhances learning, improves memory, and protects from high levels of stress hormones.
GABA—an inhibitory neurotransmitter brings calm and relaxation as well as a sense of remarkable wellbeing.
SEROTONIN FOR MEMORY
Serotonin is one of two neurotransmitters that look after learning and memory. It has many other health-enhancing properties as well. This is an inhibitory neurotransmitter—fundamentally calming to the brain and to the rest of the body. Serotonin plays a vital role in regulating appetite and sleep, both of which go awry when insufficient serotonin is available. Low serotonin can produce depression, insomnia and appetite disorders, including food cravings that are never sated. When you have adequate serotonin, you feel satisfied as well as relaxed and comfortable in your own skin. Serotonin also improves memory. In animal studies, when serotonin levels are increased, the ability to store memories and to learn is enhanced. Drinking alcohol decreases your brain’s ability to concentrate and to remember. Studies show that when people have been given natural substances which produce greater concentrations of serotonin at the synapse, alcohol-related memory deficit does not occur.
How serotonin levels affect mood and behavior:
- Good concentration
- Easy going attitude
- Responsive behavior
- No carb cravings
- Good sleep patterns
- Dream recall
- Rational thinking
- Loving responses
- Good natured personality
- Poor attention span
- Reactive behavior
- Cravings (carbs and sweets)
- Poor dream recall
- Impulsive behavior
- Anger and frustration
- Bad temper
Your body makes serotonin by converting the amino acid tryptophan into another metabolite, 5-hydroxy tryptophan (5-HTP), and then changing 5-HTP into serotonin itself. Some of your serotonin then gets converted into melatonin—the hormone used to regulate your body clock. Serotonin is also found in your digestive system and in blood platelets where it helps control blood clotting. Much migraine has been linked to a serotonin deficiency. Many popular migraine drugs are serotonin agonists. This means they heighten serotonin levels in the brain. Increasing serotonin is a goal of many of the anti-depressant drugs such as Prozac, too. They try to correct or mitigate imbalances in the amines—also known as monoamines—which include serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline. Many antidepressant drugs act by increasing specific amino amines in the brain. While they may be successful in temporarily alleviating depression, all of these drugs cause serious side-effects including insomnia, anxiety, allergic reactions and nervousness. There are better, easier, and more natural ways of increasing serotonin. They include taking supplements of L-tryptophan or 5-HTP on an empty stomach or using an extract of St. John’s Wort or both.
Caution: Do not use 5-HTP or St. John’s Wort if you are currently on tranquilizers. Ask for help to gradually get off the drugs before using them.
GABA HELPS YOU STAY COOL
Glutamine, gamma-Aminobutyric acid and glutamate amino acids, together are known as the GABA system. Discovered in 1950, they are the “calmers”—the most important inhibitory neurotransmitters in the brain. They work to balance and control levels of the stimulatory neurotransmitters, such as noradrenaline. Adequate GABA is important if you are to experience reduced anxiety, deep relaxation and to sleep well. All sorts of tranquilizing drugs like Valium or Ativan, other barbiturates, and benzodiazepines, which have sedative effects, try to manipulate levels of the GABA. Nutritional supplements of L-glutamine improve levels of the GABA system naturally, and in the process can help eliminate food cravings and alcohol cravings. L-glutamine has also shown good results in the treatment of Alzheimer’s patients.
Mainstream media and scientists tell us that taking GABA itself is not a good way of increasing GABA, since, they say, GABA cannot not cross the blood-brain barrier. However, critics of Big Pharma’s propaganda counter this claim insisting that supplements of GABA, taken together with either L-theanine or the amino acid glycine, activate GABA receptors and provide a wonderful sense of peace and wellbeing. I have certainly found this to be true in my own life. It is usually taken in doses of 550mg of GABA on an empty stomach with 200mg L-theanine once or twice a day. It’s also helpfut taken just before bed to support good sleep.
STRESS FREE PHOSPHATIDYLSERINE
Not a neurotransmitter but a special form of phospholipid which supports many neurotransmitters improving cognitive function, clearing depression, and enhancing memory and mood, phosphatidylserine (PS) blunts cortisol and helps us deal with stress. PS works best when combined with the omega-3 fat DHA. It can work wonders wherever there is a deficiency of the omega-3 fats or the methyl donors (vitamin B12, folic acid and SAMe) which prevent the brain from making adequate quantities of phosphatidylserine by itself. Supplements of this important phospholipid have been used effectively to clear depression and improve mental functions in the elderly, thanks to phosphatidylserine’s ability to orchestrate so many important tasks. These include stimulating the release of many brain neurotransmitters, regulating the availability of glucose and activating the transport of nutrients into the cells. For your brain to learn efficiently, it needs adequate levels of phosphatidylserine. Levels tend to decline with age.
As with any nutritional program designed to enhance brain function, it is never enough only to tackle the issues at a biochemical level alone. There are other actions you can take to transform brain functions while dramatically improving your health and slowing aging. Here are a few of the best.
9 STEPS TO BRAIN POWER
- 1. Forget high-carb-low-fat diets forever. Make sure you have plenty of good quality protein from fish, organic chicken, organic meat and eggs, as well as lots of phytonutrients from low glycemic, low density carbohydrate vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, bok choy, fresh herbs and low-sugar fruits like berries and melons.
- 2. Get moving: Physical exercise increases the circulation to your brain. Mental exercise helps create new synapse connections, protects you from the loss of brain cells and can even help you grow new ones.
- 3. Manage stress: The number one enemy to brain health is stress, because of the effect of cortisol and other stress related compounds which actively destroy brain cells. Take up meditation. Give yourself plenty of time for relaxation, no matter how much responsibility you have for looking after others. Above all, decide to live your life in line with what you really want yourself, rather than living by someone else’s rules.
- 4. Steer clear of poisons: Eat only organic foods. Avoid GMO foods, herbicides, pesticides, drugs and other compounds that poison your body and stress your liver. Clear your home and workspace of all chemical cleaners, air-fresheners and other products. Use aluminum free baking soda. It’s safe and works great for all cleaning jobs. There are strong links between a buildup of these elements in the brain and the development of diseases as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
- 5. Get a hair analysis every five years: A simple hair analysis carried out in a medical laboratory can check for levels of heavy metals such as cadmium, aluminum and lead which build up to damage brain tissue. If you find that they are present, put yourself through a controlled detoxification program.
- 6. Keep alcohol to a minimum: In any amount, alcohol can damage brain tissue. If you are going to drink at all, make it infrequent and drink only the very best. Forget the plonk. Top quality wine is better than beer or distilled alcohol such as whiskey.
- 7. Look after your liver: Support the health of your liver with periodic detoxification supported by liver-protective plants such as milk thistle and phosphatidylcholine. Damage to the liver causes damage to the brain.
- 8. Prescription drugs, over the counter drugs and illegal drugs have side-effects that negatively undermine the health of the liver and the brain when taken over the long term. Stay away from them. Don’t take drugs of any kind unless they are absolutely necessary for life.
I’ll share with you products which I have used myself with excellent results:
NOW Mood Support is a nutritional supplement that contains both nutrients and herbal extracts that aid in the support of a healthy nervous system and a positive, balanced mood state.
Buy Mood Support
L-Tryptophan is an essential amino acid; therefore, it is not synthesized by the body and must be obtained from the diet. L-Tryptophan is critical for the production of serotonin and melatonin, which can help to support positive mood, healthy sleep patterns, and proper immune system function. Every lot of NOW L-Tryptophan is tested to be free of Peak E and microbial combination.
200 mg of Zen contains a combination of L-theanine and GABA. L-theanine is found in green tea (Camellia sinensis).
Phosphatidylserine (PS), a phospholipid and DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, are major components of cell membranes, particularly the membranes of nerve cells. They facilitate the electric signals that are the basis of neuron communication, supporting memory, mood, concentration, stress control and other cognitive functions. This DHA conjugate form of PS is believed to increase the delivery of this vital compound to the brain, supporting advanced brain protection and enhanced cell function.