Structure and Function
The human nervous system is the most overworked system in
modern society. It carries more information bits per second
than your personal computer, (and it comes already programmed!).
Every part of the body has a nerve connectio
and not just one, but two. One set, the afferent nerves, carry
information to the spinal cord and brain. This is the activation
message. It tells you where you are in time and space,
and what is going on in the world around you.
The second set, the efferent nerves, carry the brain or spinal cord's response to that new information. These nerves signal your feet to run or your head to nod in response to incoming messages.
Within the the nervous system are two subdivisions:
central system, comprised of the brain and spinal cord, and
the peripheral, or outlying, nervous system nerves that supply
every part of the body. There are up to 100 billion (add 9
zeros behind that!) neurons or nerve cells within the brain
alone.(1) Messages, transfers of bioelectrical energy, travel at
different speeds along different sizes and types of nerves.
Heat, cold, pain, pressure, body position and body control
signals are all constantly being relayed, usually without our
real awareness. Some body functions are automatic, such as
heartbeat, breathing and digestion; other functions are voluntary,
such as walking or eating.
Nerve transmission depends on chemical and hormonal influences
under all circumstances. Chemicals move the message
across the microscopic gap from one neuron to the next.
Chemicals also mediate our stress response. Stress is a fact of
life. No human comes with pre-programmed immunity to
Research has proven that the combination of the little stressors in life have more impact on our health than major events such as death of a loved one, major illness or financial problems. Why? Because by inappropriately stimulating the nervous system, activating the fight or flight chemicals in the body, and then not using them up either running or slugging it out, has the same effect as leaving your car's parking lights on for 3 days. The drain on the battery isn't huge, but it's steady.
Eventually, if you don't intervene and either turn off the lights or start your engine to recharge, your battery will be dead. Likewise, if you don't intervene and learn stress reduction techniques and strengthen your body physically and nutritionally to maintain and heal, the results can include major illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, immune system disorders, depression and burnout.
Stress depletes the adrenal glands of vital chemicals needed to maintain nerve transmission. The end result is decreasing mental and neurologic functioning including depression. The effect is much like that of advanced aging: the brain produces decreasing amounts of neurohumoral transmitters, which renders thinking slower, memory impaired and cell degeneration increased.(2) The effects of stress-impairment are distributed throughout all systems of the body, causing insult and injury.
In the immune system alone, depleted adrenals cause diminished ability to respond to emergencies and to fight infections. Much like an overworked emergency crew exhausted from constant red alerts, the constantly drained immune system is unable to rebuild quickly enough, so when the next flu or cold virus comes around, there is little remaining to resist it.
But stress is not the sole culprit for poor nerve functioning.
Deficiencies in oxygen supply disables cells at best, killing
them at worst. Likewise, nutritional deficiencies show up
markedly. Lack of B vitamins causes neurologic symptoms
from burning sensations to the foot-flapping gait of the severe
The nervous system must have B-15 to receive and transmit messages.
B-1, thiamine, is needed for energy metabolism- especially in carbohydrate breakdown; it is a potent antioxidant, preventing the breakdown of tissue and production of free radicals that damage the body.
B3, niacin, is a memory enhancer.
B6, pyridoxine, is needed to produce neurotransmitters necessary for good mental function.
Riboflavin is used for vision, growth and effective utilization of proteins, fats and carbs.
B-12 is used in creating amino acids and fatty acids, without which you cannot live. It is used for all energy production, growth, cell reproduction, red blood cell production, DNA and RNA production and production and maintenance of that fatty sheath around the nerves. If that fatty sheath degenerates, so does your ability to function. (The symptoms of multiple sclerosis result from progressive degeneration of the myelin sheath in the brain and spinal cord.)
Pantothenic acid is an anti-stress vitamin, helping convert
glucose to energy.
Biotin is a component of several enzymes, and is used in fat and carb metabolism.(3)
Calcium and magnesium are also vitally important in nerve conduction. Deficiencies of either can cause disruption of normal nerve transmission, resulting in anything from premenstrual irritability, and depression,(4) to the irregular and potentially life-threatening
heart rhythms I frequently observed in patients with low blood levels of these vital nutrients.
Since nearly 30% of the brain is comprised of lecithin, and many nerves are surrounded by a fatty myelin shealth which is comprised largely of lecithin, less than optimal levels of this nutrient can markedly affect both mental ability and speed and accuracy of nerve transmission.(5)
Menu for Healthier Nerves
Methods for managing stress and reducing its effects include:
1. Exercise is vital to use up those extra stress-induced chemicals. While enhancing overall health, exercise gives you an acceptable outlet for emotions. It is a wonderful rejuvenator that increases the supply of oxygen to the brain, improves cell metabolism and energy production, and relieves depression via the release of endorphins and other neurotransmitters.(6)
2. Attitude changes can and must take place. As Deepok Chopra notes in his book Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, research into the connection of body-mind has proven wherever thought goes, a chemical goes. In short, this means how one responds to any given stimulus, including stressors, depends on one's interpretation and attitude. Chopra writes, External stressors are basically triggers. If you don't feel triggered, there is no stress. Changing your attitude toward triggers can literally save your life
3. Meditation and relaxation techniques help the mind focus on something besides the stressor(s); causes the body to respond differently. This becomes extremely important once you realize that perception of threat, (stress) stops the body's cells from their normal activity of self-renewal. The results of prolonged stress, therefore, resemble the process of aging. Meditation has been scientifically linked to the increased production of DHEA-F (or DHEA-M for men) a chemical/hormonal precursor of the stress chemicals. Depletion of DHEA is associated with signs of advancing age.(7)
4. Improved nutrition is a necessity, as stress changes the body's metabolism, increasing the body's need for certain nutrients. Carbohydrates, which give energy, are broken down faster. Carb metabolism needs B vitamins and thiamine to effectively produce energy. Vitamin C and other water soluble vitamins are needed in greater amounts. These are nutrients that must be replaced daily and are also major factors in immune system health.
5. Herbs such as valerian root, scullcap, lady's slipper and hops are helpful to the nerves, alleviating nervousness and spasms, providing a sedative effect and encouraging sleep.(9) Ginkgo biloba and Gotu kola have both demonstrated effects on the brain in scientific studies. Ginkgo has proven effective in multiple nerve problems both peripherally and within the brain. Gotu kola is considered an antispasmodic and nervine as well as a tonic.
6. Since lecithin is a major component of brain tissue and myelin sheath, adequate blood concentrations are a must. Although produced by every healthy liver, supplemented intake of lecithin assists with emulsification of fats, production of choline, a B-vitamin needed to make certain nerve transmitters, prevention of fat accumulation (atherosclerosis) in the blood vessels and improved absorption of vitamins A,D,E and K the fat-soluble vitamins.
7. Various B-vitamins are used to relieve migraines, for neuritis, neuralgia, as a memory enhancer, for the production and maintenance of the myelin sheath around nerves, for fatigue, and assorted mental and emotional disturbances including depression. You can tell from this description, the B-vitamins are absolute necessities for the proper functioning of mind and body via the nervous system. Unfortunately, today's dietary habits deplete the body supply.
Sugar, coffee, tea and cola all deplete B vitamins. Because so many of the B-vitamins work together, it is better to provide the smorgasboard approach by giving the body all the B's from which to choose, and letting the body use what it needs. This prevents possible overdosing of one particular vitamin. By the thoughtful use of a few simple techniques and supplements, you can improve the circumstances for having a happy nervous system, and thereby a happier, healthier you.
Ageless Body, Timeless Mind by Deepok Chopra, (New York: Harmony Books, 1993).
Botanical Influences on Illness by Melvyn R. Werbach, MD and Michael T. Murray, ND, (Tarzana, CA: Third Line Press, 1994).
Let's Get Well by Adelle Davis (New York: Signet, 1972).
Life Extenders and Memory Boosters, David Steinman, editor (Reno, NV: Health Quest Publications, 1993).
Mind Food & Smart Pills by Ross Perlton, R.Ph., Ph.D. with Taffy Clarke Perlton (New York: Doubleday, 1989).
Natural Healing with Herbs by Humbart Santillo, ND (Prescott, AZ: Hohm Press, 10th printing, 1993).
Vitamin B Complex Handout from Nature's Sunshine (6/94).
1 Ross Perlton, R.Ph., Ph.D. with Taffy Clarke Pelton, Mind Food & Smart Pills (New York: Doubleday, 1989), pps. 23- 38.
2 David Steinman, editor, Life Extenders and Memory Boosters (Reno, NV: Health Quest Publications, 1993), p. 211.
3 Handout Nature's Sunshine Vitamin B Complex 6/94.
4 Adelle Davis, Let's Get Well (New York: Signet, 1972), pps. 246-251.
5 Ross Pelton, R.Ph., Ph.D. with Taffy Clarke Pelton, Mind Food & Smart Pills, (New York: Doubleday, 1989), p. 25.
6 Ibid., pps. 246-256.
7 Deepok Chopra, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind (New York: Harmony Books, 1993), pps. 16-18,150-156, 162-167.
8 Adelle Davis, Let's Get Well (New York: Signet, 1972), pps. 246-251.
9 Humbart Santillo, ND, Natural Healing with Herbs (Prescott, AZ: Hohm Press, 10th printing, 1993), pps. 28, 130-131,138- 139 ,174-175,186-187.
This information is for educational purposes only. Consult with a qualified health practictioner for all serious or persistant illness.Copyright© 2000 by Robinson & Horne, L.C., P.O. Box 1028, Roosevelt, UT 84066. 1-800-416-2887. This material may be duplicated for educational purposes only (not for resale)
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