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Nutritional Supplements for a Healthy Brain

By on Dec 14, 2010

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nutritional supplements for a healthy brainMost people ignore their brain function when thinking of anti-ageing supplements. This is a major oversight as the brain controls everything from memory to the function of the nervous system. The brain requires regular nourishment in order to function optimally. There is a direct link between the health of the gastro-intestinal system and the health of the brain. Research has shown that the chemical neurotransmitter serotonin, which is found in the brain, is also present in the gastro-intestinal system. Serotonin in the gut is responsible for triggering digestion. The nerve cells in the gastro-intestinal system feed back to the brain. Therefore a good diet is very important in maintaining good brain health as well as preventing illnesses that affect the brain.

Recent studies have also discovered that restricting calorie intake can actually lead to living longer. Restricting calorie intake does not mean cutting out healthy foods, but eating in moderation and cutting out foods with high amounts of sugar, salt and saturated fats. These studies also highlight the possibility of improved brain function and a lower incidence of age related illnesses with a lower calorie diet.

A balanced diet that consists of fibre, protein, complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, and nutrients is essential maintaining the health of both the gastro-intestinal system and brain function. There are certain natural health supplements that can help with brain health, nerve function as well as provide nourishment to the brain cells.

The supplementation with essential fatty acids has been linked with improving conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The nutrient DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is known to be beneficial for the general health of the brain. DHA helps to promote brain and nerve function and is predominately found in Flax Seed Oil and Fish Oil supplements.  Studies have shown that supplementation with DHA can improve memory in Alzheimer’s patients and improve memory loss that is related to ageing.

Antioxidants are also very important in the health of the brain as they help to neutralise free radicals. Free radicals can be formed by factors such as exposure to radiation (including over exposure to the sun’s rays), cigarette smoke, air pollution, exercise, processed foods, household cleaners and stress. The body also produces free radicals through various metabolic processes such as the breakdown of stored fat for use as an energy source (in aerobic exercise). The cells in the brain can become damaged and age faster when exposed to free radicals. Antioxidants such as Vitamin E and Alpha-Lipoic Acid are fat soluble, so will help to neutralise free radicals that are in “fatty” cells, such as those in the brain tissue.  Vitamin E has shown promising results in trials conducted on patients with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Another antioxidant that is helpful at slowing the ageing process is Co-enzyme Q10. Studies have shown that Co-enzyme Q10 supplementation can help to preserve the health of brain cells and prolonged the life of cells. Co-enzyme Q10 also helps to maintain the antioxidant action of Vitamin E.

B vitamins are essential for the nourishment and general health of the brain and nerves. It is best to a take a Vitamin B Complex which combines the benefits of all the B vitamins. Gingko Biloba is a herbal remedy that improves the blood flow and also protects the cells from oxidation by free radicals.

Phosphatidylserine is important phospholipids that form the lining of brain cells. This phospholipid plays an important role in the storage, release and action of many important neurotransmitters and their associated receptors. Phosphatidylserine stimulates the release of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls mood, attention and movement.  Phosphatidylserine also facilitates the metabolism of glucose. This results in improved brain activity. This phospholipid increases the activity of acetylcholine, which results in improved memory. Many large studies have highlighted the benefits to general brain health, such as improved memory, concentration and attention, from supplementing with phosphatidyserine.

Glutamine is an amino acid that is often called, brain fuel, as it can readily pass the blood-brain barrier. It is converted to Glutamic acid in the brain, which is essential for the health of the brain. Glutamine also increases the amount of GABA, gamma-aminobutyric acid, which is required for brain function and mental alertness.

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