NUTRIENTS & YOUR BRAIN

January 30, 2013 by Mark Cuatt


FOOD, MOOD, AND BEHAVIOR

 

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is

Infinite”


The adage goes “ You Are What You Eat”, but have you ever really thought about that. Many times this is quoted without a full understanding of how true it is. This saying is truly the foundation of who you are. By now, you have a general understanding of the impact nutrition has on your body physically, so now I will open your understanding of how nutrition can impact your mind.

The human brain is a fascinating organ that is studied in depth by scientist and people in the medical field, but it still remains a mystery. It is the organ in the body that has the most demand for energy and nutrients. It consumes twenty – thirty percent of the Calories of your basal metabolic rate but cannot store energy so it must be supplied by glucose. It is also the “main frame” that controls your desire to eat, and also to stop eating, by regulating certain physiological metabolic factors and substances.

Besides the physical attributes, there are also debates regarding the notion if the brain and intelligence are the same. One side believes they are, while the other believes the brain is merely a physical organ and intelligence is something science may never understand. Sure intelligence can be measured, but by tests that have been developed by us. Therefore, philosophically speaking, what are we measuring?

Why can some people analyze in depth concepts to their finite details, while others cannot? How can some people visualize something in their mind and replicate it in writing, a painting, or a song, while others cannot?  Can some people truly hear an inner voice and be more attuned to a different plain of existence? Why can some people see a vision or set a goal and never lose sight of it, while others give up quickly? Why are you sometimes in a good mood, and sometimes you are not? Are you happy, sad or angry? Can you remember things easily, or do you forget often? This area of wonder is fascinating to me, but is it to you?

The brain can be looked at as three separate areas of function: reflexive, skilled, and emotional/instinct. Different sections of the brain deal more specifically with each of these functions.

Fundamental units of the brain are the billions of neurons (nerve cells), which conduct actions for your thoughts, movements, feelings, and all the physical process that takes place in your body. These actions are a combination of electrical impulses or chemical transmission by substances called neurotransmitters. It is these neurotransmitters that interest me from a nutritional point of view.

Neurotransmitters are found in the synaptic vesicles (sacs) on the axon terminal section of the neuron. There have been hundreds of neurotransmitters identified each having different functions and tailored to fit at a receptor site of specific cells that are to receive their information or designated excitatory or inhibitory actions.

Answers to the questions posed above can be directly linked into specific neurotransmitter and hormonal substances, or the imbalances of them. Imbalances can occur from several different factors such as genetics, disease or illnesses, stress, drugs, alcoholism, or smoking.  But most often overlooked is nutritionally.  Poor nutrition can have a direct impact on many of the neurotransmitters because they are formed from their respective precursors, which are often amino acids. If you are not eating correctly, you can cause a mild or severe imbalance.

Have you ever gone more than a few hours without eating, and notice some irritability, mood change or difficulty in concentrating? This is a temporary mild imbalance. If poor nutrition habits are prolonged, it can lead to other deeper, more severe imbalances. This is why the brain has several mechanisms to get you to eat. Although I am discussing it from a nutritional perspective, please keep in mind that there are several major disorders which etiology is unknown.  Don’t falsely think they’re all nutrition related or corrected through improving dietary intake.

I will be discussing these key neurotransmitters in future blogs