The Brain Balance and The Body Balance

The Brain Balance and The Body Balance

The mind and its emotions is a fascinating realm to work within. When we realize that the mind and body are one entity, it becomes very easy to nourish the mind through nutrition.
Certain neurotransmitter (NT) receptors are located on white blood cells. It makes sense that the mind nourished the immune system – is it true that happy or focused individuals become sick less often than people who are sad or lacking in goals? Sure; it makes intuitive sense.

The Brain Balance and The Body Balance

• This discovery leads to the wonderful world of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), a discipline which understands that our mind, and the emotions attached to it, influence our neurology, which in turn perfuses our body, shaping the immune system that it stimulates. There is now even a highly credible scientific journal called Psychoneuroimmunology; so no longer is the intimate mind-body link a figment of somebody’s imagination.

• The immune system seems to have been the first system studied about our emotions, but it, of course, influences every single part of our physiology, so what about psychoneuroendocrinology, psychoneurogastroenterology (aka the ‘gut-brain axis’), and psychoneuromusculoskeletal? All of these areas have been studied to a greater or lesser extent and our mind influences all of them. Having studied the subjects of exercise physiology and nutritional therapy for several years, scientists are now convinced more than ever that our mind is what's called, the ‘big lever’ of therapy.

The Brain Balance and The Body Balance

• Then there is Candice Pert; the discoverer of the opiate receptor as a postdoc student in the early 70s. Her landmark book, Molecules of Emotion, outlined how she had studied opiate receptors in the brain and then gradually discovered them all over the body, along with several other brain chemicals (or emotion molecules). As a previously hardened scientist, she became thoroughly engulfed in the spiritual end of mind-body medicine – what she liked to call ‘body-mind’; with the understanding that the two cannot be separated. This concept has since been popularized by the riveting film; What the Bleep Do We Know.

• Alex Concord is a medical immunologist with a passionate interest in psychology and PNI. Her thoughts have been heard by the Royal Society of Medicine, although it will take a while yet for the slowly moving medical paradigms to shift as much as she would like. Also in the UK is the Natura Foundation, headed by Leo Pruimboom and Tom Fox; their teachings are focused entirely on the interface between the PNI theories and how to empower the body with better health.

• So, enough of the preamble. The mind is pivotal when it comes to looking after the body. We also know through the whole philosophy of this magazine and relevant teachings that strong health builds powerful performance. So, how do we link them together? The assumption that the mind is the body and the body is the mind is helpful here. In fact; Candice Pert, in her newer book Everything You Need to Feel Go(o)d, informs us that our body is our unconscious mind. We knew that the unconscious mind was where we stored all our instincts, emotions and long-term memory, but how can we fit all this information into the tiny amygdala in the center of the brain? Modern science is starting to unearth the emotions and memories that are stored in every cell in our body – this means that the cells are governed centrally in the brain as previously thought AND they are self-governing.
A good example of this is the pacemaker cells in the heart, which will continue neutrally firing even if we are brain dead.
From all this information, anything that we do to nourish our bodies is at the same time nourishing our minds: directly and indirectly.
Likewise, we can focus our nutritional therapy on our neurotransmitters, which will improve the health of our minds and at the same time empower our bodies. This is the direction in which this article will go.

The Brain Balance

A book called The Edge Effect by Dr. Eric Bravermann has extensively studied four NTs that are present in our brain and our bodies. They are dopamine, GABA, acetylcholine (ACh) and serotonin. In his book, he resources an enormous amount of information about each NT – the book is not referenced, but it is based on 25 years of research and clinical practice. And just like any other information within the field of health, when you try it out, you rapidly find out what works. So, it may be most appropriate to take the big picture concepts from it rather than the bitty detail. The most fascinating part of his discussions is how he links dominant NT types in our body to our dominant personality traits. We all have all four NT’s swimming around our body, but one or two tend to be more dominant than the others: Dopamine has been linked to driving and determination (high in executives); acetylcholine to quick thinking and creativity (high in artists); GABA to structure and organization (high in accountants) and serotonin to enjoyment and short-term fulfillment (high in artisans).

• The table outlines dominant characteristics of individuals high in each NT, symptoms that might appear if an NT deficiency arises and the food and lifestyle choices that are best suited to that NT ‘type’. How the levels of NTs are measured in a lab setting is by quantitative electroencephalography (QEEG), also called brain mapping.

The Brain Balance and The Body Balance

• This is how Dr. Bravermann has assessed patients for years, which has led him to developing a ‘Nature’ questionnaire, which makes it easier for other practitioners to operate. The questionnaire can be accessed in his book, along with interpretative guides. Be careful not to ‘type’ an individual to one NT unless the score for that NT is exceedingly high – instead, start with the NT that seems to need more support and progress to the others as well.

Neurotransmitters In Sport

Let’s delve a little deeper into the specificity of this information for the sportsperson. Among the many fatigue theories that exist within the sports science literature, one of them pertains to us. Early work by Jakemanet al studied the effect of serotonin and endurance training. They found that in five endurance-trained athletes, a serotoninergic agonist had a significantly lower effect on serotonin levels than in five non-endurance-trained control subjects. They used these observations to suggest that endurance training had the effect of down-regulating central serotoninergic receptor function. This theory has been supported by other studies and it has been used as an explanation of the central fatigue mechanism – as opposed to fatigue that results from peripheral factors. Professor Tim Noakes has done the sporting scientific community a favor by putting forth his Central Governor Theory.

• Contrary to the many peripheral fatigue theories that went before it, he suggested that fatigue was mostly regulated in the brain (centrally). He used the serotonin theory plus other scientific observations to support his ideas.

• Unfortunately, in physiology, things are not simple or mechanistic and it is rarely the case when one element controls a whole system. The body is very sophisticated and tends to have multiple regulators for each system. Concerning the fatigue hypotheses, it appears that each of the peripheral and central theories is correct – in part. Weiretal has since provided more evidence for peripheral fatigue mechanisms and suggested that the mechanism of fatigue (peripheral versus central) very much depends on the specific exercise stressor.

• And the same is true for the serotonin hypothesis. Meeusen et al. have since written an excellent review, pointing out that several other well-conducted studies have failed to support the serotonin hypothesis. He mentions that brain function is dependent on the interplay between several systems, so more than one NT is likely to be responsible for central fatigue. Catecholamines (and their connection to dopamine) likely play an important role in the development of fatigue but within a complex interaction between central and peripheral factors. The other NTs are also linked in some way to fatigue and athletic performance.

• Coming back to the Braverman model, a hypothesis could be: since we are all extremely different, as evidenced by genetic testing and NT testing, certain NTs are linked more heavily to fatigue in certain athletes, but not in others. By becoming more individualistic with our assessments of athletes, we can be more specific with our working recommendations. If we can balance out our NT’s, it will result in an improved foundation of health and as noted at the start: strong health builds powerful performance.
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Jugat Singh Lakha `Z
"An Innocent, Stubborn Boy Who Doesn't Like this Selfish World and Wants to Create a Different World of His Dreams. Also An 'Independent Indian' and A 'Freelance Worker'."
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