It’s incredible to think about how well connected the brain is to the rest of the body. How and what we think all directly impacts our health. For example, high levels of stress that escalate and grow to chronic levels affects brain function and connectivity in such a way that there is a physiological domino effect that can lead to disease. Anything from obesity to chronic inflammation, digestive problems and many other illnesses can occur due to the level of interconnectivity between the brain and every part of the body.
We can’t talk about a healthy brain without talking about the important cerebral biochemicals. Anything from neurotransmitters to a variety of brain molecules and hormones all play a significant role on mental and brain health. For the sake of knowledge, below is a list of some of the biochemicals that play large roles in optimal brain health. You may be familiar with some of them already while others you may have never heard of before. Regardless of whether you know about them or not, I always feel it’s important to simply understand and learn new things about how our body works
- Neurotransmitters – dopamine, serotonin, endorphin, oxytocin, Gaba, and 45 other identified neurotransmitters
- Molecules – BDNF, IGF-1, VEGF, Glutamate, FGF2, Telomerase, telomeres
- Hormones – cortisol, adrenaline, norepinephrine, HGH, testosterone, progesterone, estrogen, in addition to others
Positive feelings such as being energetic, intelligence, compassion, happiness or feeling adequate enough to resolve stressful episodes are always generated due to a healthy balance of these biochemicals produced by the brain. They are absolutely indispensable for health.
When stressful moments are not resolved, biochemical changes occur that creates a variation in the production of these biochemicals. In these situations brain cells activate inflammatory responses with the purpose of initiating healing and repair. Once a stressful moment is resolved and reconciled, an anti-inflammatory mechanism is activated and our physiology and biochemical production goes back to normal.
Unresolved issues however create serious problems. That’s because the inflammatory reaction that stress initially generates is activated by over 500 genes. The persistent inflammatory reaction creates internal chaos that is extended to the whole body, making regulating inflammation and other body functions difficult. As a consequence we aren’t able to have any sort of equilibrium in our minds or body. This in and of itself can lead to unwise or brash decision making. Beyond wise judgment however, cellular biology in our body is also impacted as telomerase production is affected and cellular aging accelerates – making us look and feel older than we actually are.
Between neurotransmitters and hormones being produced in imbalanced proportions and a prolonged inflammatory response, the body’s microenvironment is severely impacted. Different kinds of toxins are produced and even at a genetic level things are disrupted as genome configuration changes. All of these factors affect gene expression, creating additional toxicities that damage the cells. Any remaining healthy cells respond by activating an inflammatory response, creating a cascade of inflammation that disrupts neurotransmitter production and worsens the already disproportionate production of biochemical.
All of these things lead to sickness that impedes the ability for the brain and body to function at an optimal level. All of the different regions of the brain – the neocortex, limbic and encephalic regions – need to be in constant communication with each other for the well being of our physical and mental health. These interconnections are what allow us to learn, have memories, be in good physical health, have energy and maintain homeostasis.
Most of us don’t understand all of the consequences chronic stress can bring – all due to inflammatory responses that disable the brain’s ability to function optimally. During this process special cells in the brains that contain information and create networks for memories and learning, known as neurons, weaken as well. Memory, recollection and learning are only as good as the neurons’ ability to create connections at synapse point between one another.
Unfortunately all of the biochemical changes that occur while under chronic stress affects the neurons’ ability to create these connections, weakening brain activities that are vital to sustain happiness. The lack of neural activity causes special neuron connection points known as dendrites to shrink and die. Naturally, the brain does all it can to make sure the rest of the body is healthy and maintain balance. One it does this is by rerouting information through other routes or neuronal circuitries. Depending on the amount of damage we sustain due to stress that can be a large task considering there are more than 100 billion neurons that the brain vigilantly watches over – each one with tens of thousands of differing inputs. The large the amount of stressful episodes that haven’t been properly reconciled, the harder it is to maintain equilibrium within the neural network.
As we reconcile stressful episode, the problem ends up being a part of the past; and we end up with positive results such as maturity and wisdom, not to mention a healthy brain and body. An inability to reconcile stress leads to inflammation, toxicity, damage and premature aging. Additionally, a very specific portion of our brain becomes overactive – the amygdala. Because the amygdala is responsible for generating strong emotions such as fear, anger and anxiety, an overactive amygdala leads us to live a life filled with emotional instability and an inability to appreciate life and things through logically. As a result we’re never able to see through a truthful lens. Instead we end up worrying about the future and carrying every single stressful episode – no matter how large or small – as emotional baggage. I’ve seen it many times – people living in a way where all their baggage hinders their view of seeing things as they really are. They have problems creating true connections with their spouse, children, friends, co workers or acquaintances. That’s in large part because the blocked view leads to frequent misunderstandings, resentment, anger, frustration and unhappiness.
It is so intriguing to see how the brain and body react – all from our thoughts. That’s in large part because every thought we have gets processed and analyzed by the brain. If we repeat these thoughts enough times they become habits. No matter what we may tell ourselves, all bad habits always lead to chronic stress, depression and anxiety. While some may argue that what one considers bad is relative, keep in mind that the brain is already prewired with information regarding what is moral or immoral. This information is reinforced in most instances in our youth as we’re taught by parents, family, teachers and other good examples in our lives.
These bad habits affect the connectivity between all regions of the brain – again due to the stress and inflammatory reactions they create. The synaptic activity between neurons begins to change; the capillaries that feed the brain blood also shrink, restricting blood flow. As capillaries get affected the entire brain takes a toll. Less blood means the brain is receiving less oxygen, creating diminished production in all of the important biochemicals that help the brain and body function correctly.
In the end all of these changes diminish motor skills, reduce feelings of self motivation and weaken the ability to feel self control and restrain. When you combine this with the fact that the modern diet leaves many of us malnourished from the nutrients our body needs, damage quickly ensues, and as we’ve reviewed every part of our body – including the mind – are impacted. We feel unhappy and tired, our memory weakens and we get stuck thinking about illogical ideas, blaming others instead of looking for solutions to resolve stressful obstacles.
Fortunately for us the brain has been designed to heal. It can rebuild and adjust neural circuitry so that we can think clearly. Good nutrition, exercise and sleeping a full 8 hours each night provide the right environment for the brain to reverse damage. We also provide protocols and tools to help the body keep the neural connections from declining. The combination of these lifestyle changes reduces stress, removes toxicities and regulates inflammatory reactions. From a mental perspective learning improves as the production of important cerebral biochemicals (neurotransmitters and hormones) are restored to healthy levels. Connection with family and friends improves and we feel better energized and filled with the stamina required to deal with unexpected events that can leave us feeling uneasy.
The entire body is benefited when we deal with the root causes of physical and emotional decline. Most of all, we feel stronger and better balanced to take on challenges because of the wisdom and happiness that accompany physical and mental well being.