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Neurotransmitters: Our Natural Secret Weapons to Boost Brain Function and Mood

As you might suspect from the name, neurotransmitters are the brain’s “chemical messengers” — transmitting important messages between nerve cells (called neurons).

Neurotransmitters come packaged in tiny bubbles called vesicles. And every millisecond, billions of your brain cells use vesicles to send signals to each other..[i]

Typically, each vesicle holds only a single type of neurotransmitter with specific functions.

For example, the neurotransmitter dopamine is associated with memory and cognitive skills.

The neurotransmitter serotonin helps regulate mood and sleep.

And the neurotransmitter, GABA, can boost mood or have a calming, relaxing effect on the nervous system.

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Can Omega-3 help protect your brain from age-related cognitive decline, anxiety, and depression?

Remember cod liver oil? Your grandma or even mother may have made you take that as a kid.

Of course, back in those days it was a ‘spoon and you choke it down’; no fancy gummies or flavors of questionable ingredients back then!

As unpleasant as that may have been, turns out granny was right…

Fish oil, which is chock full of omega-3, is absolutely necessary for optimal health and wellness.

Omega-3 is known as an “essential” fatty acid. The long list of potential health benefits your body receives from omega-3 includes your eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels; sperm cells, immune system, hormone balance, and brain health.

And, research indicates that consuming more omega-3s from fish may lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, dementia, and cognitive decline. We’ll look more closely at that in a moment. But first…

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Why People in India Get 4.4X Less Alzheimer’s

Recently, I was able to sit down for a fascinating talk with author, speaker, and “food revolutionary” Ocean Robbins along with leading medical experts.

On our plate (so to speak) was a great discussion of the anti-inflammatory spice turmeric.

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Neurogenesis Excerpt

An excerpt from interviews with several experts:

Dr. Michael Merzenich
Alzheimer’s is not a disease. It’s the end stage of a decade’s long negative progression that ultimately results in a catastrophe. You should be thinking about how to stop the decade’s long progression from ever happening, or at least delay it for probably indefinitely in most people. When you do that, the changes that you drive in the brain will lead to substantial increases in longevity.

Dr. Dale Bredesen
Doctors have been quite good about telling people that standard therapies are not terribly effective; that you’ll get a small improvement, and they will not affect the decline. But that tells people things are hopeless. Unfortunately then, people think there’s not a lot to be done, so they will wait as long
as possible instead of coming in as early as possible for prevention or reversal.

Dr. Daniel Amen
If you’re blessed to live until you’re 85 or older, you have a one in two chance of having lost your mind. We need to be serious about brain health, whether we’re young, in the middle, or old because it affects everyone.

Dr. Larry Mamaya
Brain scans help because how do you know how to treat an issue unless you look? The type of study we look at is called SPECT. It’s a functional brain imaging tool that’s based on brain blood flow. On a healthy scan, we should see a smooth top surface, smooth underside, smooth, symmetrical on the side views. No holes or dents anywhere, which actually indicates compromised blood flow and brain shrinkage. Those areas have certain functions, and those functions get compromised, depending on where you see the location of those compromised areas. The scan can also show areas of increased activity, and based on how the brain is functioning, that allows you to go in the right direction of treatment.

You can change your brain. You can do a very thorough, proper evaluation doing careful assessments of what might be the best treatment for someone, and people can get better.

Dr. Daniel Amen
Brain health is super simple. You have to care about it, avoid things that hurt it, and do things that help it. To keep your brain healthy or rescue it, you have to prevent or treat the 11 major risk factors, which we call Bright Minds.

The B stands for blood flow. Low blood flow is the number one brain predictor. Anything that damages your blood vessels damages your brain. If you have blood flow problems anywhere in the body, it means it’s everywhere.

R stands for Retirement and aging. When you stop learning, your brain starts dying, and the older you get, the more serious you need to be because age is stealing your reserves. New learning needs to be part of every day of your life.

I stands for Inflammation. When you have chronic inflammation in your body, it’s like you have a low level fire that’s destroying your organs. Inflammation is associated with both depression and dementia.

G is Genetics. People think there’s nothing they can do about it, but that’s the wrong way to think. If you have Alzheimer’s in your family, you need to be serious about brain health as soon as possible.

H is Head Trauma. Helmets don’t protect you against brain damage. They protect you against skull fractures, but your brain floats in water. So if you get a big hit, it vibrates, which tears blood vessels, damages neurons, and bruises the brain. So protect your brain, or you’ll be rehabilitating it.

T is Toxins. They are everywhere. When I first started imaging people, I could clearly see alcohol is not a health food. It decreases overall blood flow in your brain. The scans taught us about all sorts of other toxins like heavy metal exposure. Lead and mercury are clearly neurotoxins. Mold is so damaging to brain function. You have to prevent, limit, or decrease exposure.

M is Mental health issues. Depression doubles the risk of Alzheimer’s in women, quadruples the risk in men. Post-traumatic stress disorder, being under chronic stress shrinks a part of your brain called the hippocampus. You don’t have to take medicine. Kill the ANTs—the automatic negative thoughts that steal your happiness—and exercise. Exercise is one of the best things that you can do for mental health.

The second I is Immunity and Infections. You want to boost your immunity, and your gut has a lot of your immune tissue so having a healthy gut is really important, along with vitamin D.

N stands for Neuro hormone deficiencies. Low thyroid and low testosterone go with low function of your brain. When testosterone is low, your libido’s low, and strength, motivation, mood, and memory are low. To optimize testosterone, kill the sugar and start lifting weights.

D is diabesity, which is a combination of having high blood sugar and/or you’re overweight or obese. As your weight goes up, the actual physical size and function of your brain goes down. Diet is so important.

S is sleep. Sleep apnea triples the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, so if you have sleep apnea, get it treated.

Dr. Ben Johnson
Alzheimer’s is preventable, and it is even reversible up through stage four, maybe stage five. We can hold the line probably at stage six. If you’re stage seven, there’s not much we can do.

Dr. Dale Bredesen
We want to do everything possible to make people better. It’s like a concert. What’s the one instrument that makes the orchestra? There isn’t just one instrument. You’ve got to put the whole thing together to make it work, and the results we’ve seen have been unprecedented. People improve in their MoCA scores, go back to work, increase their hippocampal volume, and spouses say, “I have my spouse back.” It’s absolutely striking.

It typically takes three to six months before you see really striking differences, but keep at it, and include
the diet, exercise, sleep, stress management, and the rest of the program, and don’t stop. If you’re not improving, then you’re missing something in your evaluation and/or treatment.

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Brain Healing Breakthrough Excerpt

“Mental health has two dimensions—absence of mental illness and presence of a well-adjusted personality that contributes effectively to the life of the community.” – Abraham Verghese

Every year about a quarter of the US adult population deals with diagnosable mental health problems.

Too often we are told that mental illness is simply a hormonal imbalance, and we are just genetically predisposed toward a particular mental health problem. However, science is discovering that, while genetics plays a role in all this, we are not doomed by our genetics. The environment we live in and the choices we make can alter our genetic expression.

Continually ruminating on past events is often a sign of depression. By living in the past, we often feel that we don’t connect with those in the present. We feel different or distant from all those around us.

Anxiety, however, is when we are focusing on the future and trying to determine the outcome. Because our minds have limited information, we tend to fill in the gaps. If we’ve had failures or bad experiences, like trauma or abuse in the past, our mind will fill in those gaps with ideas of failure or bad experiences, creating an overwhelming fight or flight reflex.

Both depression and anxiety lead to prolonged cortisol exposure, which can lead to chronic illness. A recent wave of research has unveiled that stress is also a player in the genesis of neurodegenerative disease. Research has also linked neuroinflammation as a major contributing factor.

Depression, anxiety, and neurodegeneration are common comorbid conditions. They are more than just what’s in your mind. It’s a whole body effect, and all of these are curable. They take lifestyle modifications and thinking modifications, but they are all reversible.

Many factors cause and contribute to these diseases, including environmental stressors, leaky gut or intestinal permeability, mental/mind/emotional stressors, and genetics.

While there are some factors that we cannot/could not control, the sooner we begin a lifestyle that reduces the factors that cause disease and increase the factors that cause health, the less likely we will develop neurodegenerative diseases.

Indeed, a world authority on brain health, Dr. Michael Merzenich, states that Alzheimer’s is not a disease – it’s the end stage of a decades-long negative progression (1).

Dr. Merzenich believes that Alzheimer’s can be prevented or at least delayed for probably indefinitely, and that when you do that, the changes that you drive in the brain will lead to substantial increases in longevity.

In the nun study (2), the nuns who were on plant-based, whole foods nutrition throughout their entire life had perfect brain function and never developed Alzheimer’s or dementia. But in the group of nuns who were eating meat, cheese, eggs and dairy products, the incidence of Alzheimer’s and dementia was statistically similar to the rest of the population. Both groups were away from stress, didn’t have to worry about a job, and lived under the same conditions. The only difference was their diet.

Even Dr. Alois Alzheimer (after whom the disease is named), stated that the Alzheimer’s condition was found in people who ate a lot of animal products. They had high LDL cholesterol that clogged up the arteries to the brain. That reduces circulation to the brain through the small capillaries and then you can’t think clearly.

According to Dr. Ben Johnson, diet is the number one factor for good health. He believes that sugar and sugar spikes are huge causal factors for Alzheimer’s, as well as diabetes and cancer.

A diet rich with fresh vegetables (particularly dark leafy greens), fruit, whole grains, lentils and beans, nuts, herbs and spices, healthy fats, and low in red meat and processed foods is good for brain health.

We not only want to be eating the right things, but fasting is also an extremely healthy practice. A study (3) shows that cycles of prolonged fasting not only protect against immune system damage but also induce immune system regeneration, shifting stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal.

Brain inflammation is a serious problem that is impacting a large percentage of our society. Some of the best foods to help reduce inflammation include fermented foods and liquids, broccoli, hemp oil, foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, tart cherries, soaked walnuts, pineapple, spinach, and spices, such as ginger and turmeric (4). The closer you can stay to a whole-foods diet and avoid GMOs, the less inflammation you will experience.

Researchers found that regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning (5). Moderate-intensity exercises such as dancing, swimming, cycling, tennis or soccer will all promote brain health. Vigorous housework is also on the list!

We need lots of fluid for both inside and outside the cells. Tap water and water in plastic bottles, which is often mostly tap water, are not the best (6). Fresh water that’s cleansed with activated charcoal (7) and other substances is best.

You need to rest and have your down time. Sleep is a time for brain cleansing (8). Adults should be aiming to sleep for seven to nine hours a night (9).

It has been said that nine out of ten conditions actually start in the mind, in the heart. So just the thoughts that we think and the emotions that we feel will have a dramatic affect.

Essential oils have a direct ability to primarily affect the limbic system, which is your mood, emotions, and remembrance. Studies have shown that diffusing citrus oils on the nurse station have created positive work-life balance for nurses, and they reported being happier at work, less stressed, less anxiety, and overall their life became better.

There are so many natural ways to combat the devastating depression, anxiety and neurodegenerative diseases of dementia and Alzheimer’s that we can’t cover them all here.

References:

(1) https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/6k1k3a/i_am_neuroscientist_dr_michael_merzenich_a/

(2) Robert Goldman, Lisa Berger, Ronald Klatz. ‘Brain Fitness: Anti-Aging to Fight Alzheimer’s Disease, Supercharge Your Memory, Sharpen Your Intelligence, De-Stress Your Mind, Control Mood Swings, and Much More’, 1999 Doubleday, Random House Inc.

(3) https://news.usc.edu/63669/fasting-triggers-stem-cell-regeneration-of-damaged-old-immune-system/

(4) https://draxe.com/anti-inflammatory-foods/

(5) https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-can-boost-your-memory-and-thinking-skills

(6) https://bodyecology.com/articles/best_water_to_drink.php

(7) http://science.naturalnews.com/2008/1426452_Neither_hollow_fibre_membrane_filters_nor_activated_charcoal_filters_remove.html

(8) https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/brain-may-flush-out-toxins-during-sleep

(9) https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/feb/15/how-much-sleep-do-i-need-recommended-amounts-all-ages

(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21742047

(11) https://prd-medweb-cdn.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/evidencebasedpractice/files/Essential%20Oil%20use%20in%20Perianesthesia%20Nursing_Reynolds.pdf

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Save Your Brain Excerpt

One in three people are expected to die of dementia, killing more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. This report covers the principles for good mental health and how you can use them to preserve and regenerate brain function.

It isn’t simply ‘not having a mental illness’ that we are looking to accomplish. We want our minds to function at the best possible level and have a completeness and fulfillment, even well into old age.

Neurodegeneration is the progressive loss of structure or function of neurons (nerves), including death of neurons, which results in disease. Neurodegenerative diseases can occur at any age, and although they haven’t always been known as autoimmune diseases, they do show all the same features, and they are just as debilitating.

While genetics may make an individual more prone to neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases, it generally takes one or more of several factors to trigger the expression of the genomes that results in the disease. Without a triggering factor, the genomes can lie dormant and the inherited genetic potential for a disease may never develop. Here are the factors and what they include.

Environmental stressors may include heavy metal toxicity, mold, parasites, and Lyme disease and its coinfections. These can cause a weakened immune system, inflammation, and even nutrient deficiencies.

Dietary food choices can cause inflammation, a weakened immune system, food sensitivities, allergies, microbiome imbalances, hormone imbalances, and nutrient deficiencies from lack of nutrients and/or inability to absorb nutrients.

Mental/mind/emotional stressors include Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s), physical and emotional traumas such as abuse, brain injury or infection, life-threatening experiences, and multiple life stressors such as death, divorce, serious disease, accident, etc.

Leaky gut or intestinal permeability is where the junctions in the gut are open bigger than they should be, letting things into areas where they shouldn’t be. And when things get in that shouldn’t be there, like big, undenatured proteins or any type of food or pathogen, the body starts attacking it. Then autoimmunity and neurodegeneration starts getting triggered because the body can’t tell the difference between the large foreign particles and the normal particles of the body. Then the body attacks its own particles, such as in specific organs like the thyroid, adrenals, joints, nerves, and brain.

While there are some factors that we cannot/could not control, the sooner we begin a lifestyle that reduces the factors that cause disease and increase the factors that cause health, the less likely we will develop neurodegenerative diseases. Similarly, the earlier we begin to practice a healthy lifestyle, the more likely we’ll be able to turn around any diseases we may already have, or at least prevent or slow their advancement, including neurodegenerative disease.

A Mediterranean diet has been scientifically shown to improve brain health. Not only is it a possible natural treatment for Parkinson’s, dementia and Alzheimer’s, but it is also shown to improve mood, preserve memory and lower brain shrinkage.

This diet is rich with fresh vegetables (particularly leafy greens such as spinach and kale), fruit, whole grains, legumes (such as lentils and chickpeas), nuts, herbs and spices (like oregano, rosemary and parsley), healthy fats such as olives and olive oil, and is low in red meat and processed foods.

It is good for brain health because many of the included foods are anti-inflammatory, and it’s full of protective vitamins and antioxidants like B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and polyphenols. Certain B vitamins help regulate the production of neurotransmitters, the chemical substances that transfer messages from one cell to another in the brain.

Fasting is another critical element of diet. Fasting allows the body to purge itself of some of those old cells, and then the immune system creates new, vibrant stem cells that haven’t identified anything, and now they’re looking for that new cancer cell or that new fungus or virus, and they can react to it.

On a daily basis, we should be fasting for 16 to 18 hours without food, and on a monthly basis, a 3-day water-only fast, preferably 72 hours, but no less than 48 hours.

Too much inflammation in the body can damage neurological tissue and cause problems. Food can be a big contributor to inflammation. Inflammatory foods include dairy, sugar, refined grains, grain-fed meat, and bad fats, such as corn, unfermented soy, and non-organic canola oil, hydrogenated oils, all oils that have been used for frying, and fried foods.

Exercise is another critical element for the brain and for the body. Researchers suggest that any aerobic exercise (the type that gets your heart pumping) should do the trick. Standard recommendations advise half an hour of moderate physical activity most days of the week.

Hydration is critical. It washes out toxins and waste products, and contributes to cellular function. The best water is fresh water that’s cleansed with activated charcoal and other substances, preferably right in your own home and stored in glass.

Getting enough sleep at night is absolutely critical for your cognition. When you sleep, your brain drains fluids carrying waste products. Melatonin protects the nerves and the neurons from falling apart. Your body produces melatonin while you’re sleeping, so if you’re not sleeping, you’re not producing melatonin.

Our emotions play an important role in our physical and mental health. Mindfulness. Meditation. Practicing loving kindness in our relationships with others. All of these things will help us manage stress.

There are so many natural ways to combat the devastating neurodegenerative diseases of dementia and Alzheimer’s that we can’t cover them all here.

Ocean Robbins

Ocean Robbins Key Takeaways Pt 2 (Depression & Anxiety Secrets)

Highlights from Jonathan Otto’s interview with Ocean Robbins, for the Depression & Anxiety Series. Ocean discusses lifestyle and diet practices for enhancing mental health. He expounds on how a plant based diet can help depression and anxiety, and how GMOs and pesticides are dangerous for consumption.

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Dr. Michael Merzenich Key Takeaways (Depression & Anxiety Secrets)

Highlights from Jonathan Otto’s interview with Dr. Michael Merzenich, for the Depression & Anxiety Series. Dubbed the ‘Father of Neuroplasticity’, Michael Merzenich discusses brain health, and how the brain can be changed. Alzheimer’s and dementia can be reversed. Watch to find out how.

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