By Mike Rhees
As the most common mental disorder in the U.S. today, anxiety affects over 40 million adults. Nearly one in five adults suffer from a diagnosable mental illness.1 Furthermore, neurodegenerative diseases affect millions of people worldwide. For example, the Alzheimer’s Disease Association estimates that the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease is more than 6 million.2
As we examine the commonality of these mentioned mental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases, it’s absolutely critical to understand the importance of effective nutrition to help with neurotransmitter function and cellular inflammation of the brain.
It is known that neurotransmitter imbalances can cause depression, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, irritable bowel, hormone dysfunction, eating disorders, fibromyalgia, adrenal dysfunction, chronic pain, and migraine headaches.3
Neurotransmitters not only help manage automatic responses such as breathing and heart rate, but they also have psychological functions such as managing mood, fear, pleasure, and happiness.
Furthermore, other commonly noted symptoms from neurotransmitter imbalances and inflammation of the brain include apathy, discontentment, loneliness, loss of interest, mood swings, sadness, lack of concentration, appetite changes, fatigue, irritability, social isolation, and weight gain.4
With this being said, what then are simple strategies that can remedy the brain and overall neurocognitive function? Are there simple ways in which we can apply nutrition to aid with neurological health and wellness?
Here are five key strategies that reduce cellular inflammation of the brain and restore neurotransmitter balance:
Consume Omega 3 Fatty Acids
It has been shown according to the journal of Applied Nutrition Physiology and Metabolism that consuming Omega 3 fatty acids leads to higher levels of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, in the hippocampus portion of the brain. This translates to more memory function, more mental clarity, and more focus. DHA in particular is extremely efficient at reducing inflammation in the hippocampus portion of the brain.5
With this being said, when there is an Omega 3 deficiency, nerve cells become more resistant to neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. This means that nerve cells can become more resistant to change. This imbalance of these essential neurotransmitters can thereby impact mood, sleep, focus, and regeneration of brain cells.6
Turmeric and EGCG
Turmeric reduces the gene expression that’s associated with inflammation. Furthermore, turmeric reduces something known as Nuclear factor Kappa B, which regulates inflammation in the body and in the brain.7
EGCG is a natural anti-inflammatory with the capacity to cross the blood brain barrier.8
The blood brain barrier is a group of tightly bound junctions of protein. The blood brain barrier is what makes the brain tightly regulated with what signals can come in and what pathogens can come in. As these junctions get weaker, we potentially have more brain fog.9
Microbiome Diversity and Fiber
A study published in the Journal of Science and Translational Medicine concluded that the diversity of the microbiome plays an essential role in the strength of tight junctions of the blood brain barrier.10
This critical diversity of the microbiome is highly influenced by consuming a diversity of fiber. As fiber feeds our microbiome, that causes the proliferation and growth of other members of the microbiome. An additional benefit to consuming a diversity of fiber is that the digestion of fiber creates short chain fatty acids, including beta hydroxybutyrate. Short chain fatty acids contribute to neurotransmitter production and alleviate the symptoms of brain fog.11
Short chain fatty acids are a huge signal for the microglia of the brain. The microglia are cells that protect against pathogens and also against brain fog.12
By enhancing the health of our gut microbiome, we stimulate the vagus nerve, the longest and most complex cranial nerve that transmits information between the brain and the GI tract. By continually stimulating the vagus nerve, it leads to long-term improvements in mood, pain management, well-being and resilience.
Botanical Nutrition and Neuro-protective Nutritional Factors
L-Alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine is an acetylcholine precursor, which has been examined for its potential to provide benefits for Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients. It is also known to help with normal immediate recall and good mood.
Blue Skullcap helps to relax nervous tension, to recover from brain fatigue and to enhance mental stamina. Skullcap has been used for nervous disorders, including hysteria, nervous tension, epilepsy and chorea.13
Huperzine A1 has been referred to as the “smart nutrient” that helps with memory, motivation, intelligence, and attention.14
Acetyl L Carnitine supplementation significantly reduces symptoms compared with placebo, while offering a comparable effect with that of established antidepressant agents with fewer adverse effects.15
The amino acid Tyrosine is turned into the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. An analysis of several studies found that tyrosine might be effective in alleviating mild-to-moderate depression.16
B vitamins and Vitamin D3 are critical to the release of neurotransmitters and helping to overcome micronutrient deficiencies.17 Folate is necessary for the proper biosynthesis of the neurotransmitters serotonin, epinephrine, and dopamine. Neurotropic B vitamins, particularly vitamin B1, B6, and B12, are essential for maintaining healthy neurological function.18 Many neurological diseases are linked to deficiencies in one or more of these vitamins. Furthermore, these vitamins can improve certain neurological conditions even without a proven deficiency.
Although the number of mental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases continues to perpetuate, rest assured there are simple nutritional strategies that make a positive long-lasting impact. To benefit neurological wellness at a cellular level and assist neurotransmitter balance, the specific dietary supplement recommendations could not be more simple and effective. Systemic Formulas recommends Omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants from turmeric and EGCG, probiotics and fiber that enhance the microbiome, neuroprotective botanicals, B vitamins, and vitamin D3.
The following are the most effective go-to products to fulfill these nutritional needs:
- National Alliance on Medical Disorders, About Mental Illness, Anxiety Disorders
- Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Facts and Figures
- Healthline, Support for your mental health, Chemical Imbalance in the Brain: What you should know
- American Academy of Clinical Psychology, Mental Health Disorders
- National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, Nutrition, adult hippocampal neurogenesis and mental health
- US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, N-3 (Omega-3) Fatty Acids: Effects on Brain Dopamine Systems and Potential Role in the Etiology and Treatment of Neuropsychiatric Disorders
- US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, The effect of curcumin (turmeric) on Alzheimer’s disease: An overview
- MDPI, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Function of Green Tea Catechins in the Brain: Epigallocatechin Gallate and its Metabolites
- The Functional Neurology Center, Nutrients to help repair your blood-brain barrier
- Science, Microglia development follows a stepwise program to regulate brain homeostasis
- Neuroimmunology and Neuroinflammation, Microbiome meets microglia in neuroinflammation and neurological disorders
- Tyler J. Wenzel, Ellen J. Gates, Athena L. Ranger, Andis Klegeris, Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) alone or in combination regulate select immune functions of microglia-like cells, Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, Volume 105, 2020, 103493, ISSN 1044-7431, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mcn.2020.103493.
- Healthline, Skullcap: Benefits, Side Effects, and Dosage
- Mayo Clinic, Huperzine A: Can it treat Alzheimer’s?
- National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, Chronic Acetyl-L-Carnitine alters brain energy metabolism and increases noradrenaline and serotonin
- Science Direct, Journal of Affective Disorders, Tyrosine for Depression: a double-blind trial
- Psychology Today, Depression, Psychological Consequences of Vitamin D Deficiency
- Pharmacy Times, Supplements Can Help Maintain Ideal Levels of Neurochemicals
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.*