Nutritional Therapy for Brain Biochemistry
Some of you may like to go hiking or play tennis for enjoyment. I get my kicks by attending ‘geeky’ medical conferences to learn about nutrition biochemistry for the brain!
Did you know changes in brain chemicals occur with altered levels of nutrients and can contribute to depression, anxiety, and behavioural disorders, all the way to spectrums of autism? 60% of mental health patients have a methylation disorder (MTHFR).
Last week, Dr Walsh and his team from ‘Biobalance’ Medical Doctor Training spent 8 days on the Gold Coast. I was privileged to be among 80 GP’s and Psychiatrists learning from the USA’s leading researching professors and clinicians on nutrition and the chemicals influencing brain function.
Here are my top ten tips for you
- Brain factory
Remember your brain is a chemical factory. It makes a balanced amount of neurotransmitters including serotonin-noradrenalin GABA and dopamine. It does this so you can feel calm, content and well.
- Food for happiness
Raw materials for making these brain neurotransmitters are amino acids (from protein), vitamins and minerals. All from food.
- Are you up or down?
If you make too much of one brain chemical (neurotransmitter) it may fire your brain neurons too quickly or in a disordered way, creating a busy mind, anxiety or attention disorder. Or maybe you have too much of the other type of neurotransmitter, in excess it may slow and dull you, creating a lack of interest excitement or motivation…even depression.
- Where does it go wrong?
It starts with your genes. You might have a stronger ability to make one type of neurotransmitter than another creating an imbalance. Or you may have a condition that depletes some of the essential building blocks (ie pyrrole, methylation which we will come to).
You may also be exposed to oxidative stress, blocking these pathways and using up your precious ingredients.
So you may be either lacking the raw materials, destroying them, or have no blueprint to build these lovely happy calm chemicals.
- What is Epigenetics?
Epigenetics is the control of which genes are turned on or off at any time. Both the good and bad genes. The long-term outcome is either resulting disease, cell damage and ageing or it may be healing, growth, protection and repair. Another fine balancing act. Can we influence this process? Yes. Many factors are epigenetic here are a few:
A combination of:
1. the genetic hand you’ve been dealt
2. the emotional, physical, physiological stressors you’ve been exposed to trigger epigenetic effects which create high or low levels of chemicals involved in critical processes in the brain.
- What are Oxidative Stress and its link with Pyrrole disorder?
Oxidative stress is when a chemical load, a virus, an emotional stress, a physiological stress, or a physical stress sets off a cascade of reactions that depletes necessary protective substances.
Environmental working group released this article at www.bodyburden.org which showed:
287 chemicals detected in umbilical cord blood.
180 cause cancer.
217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system.
Pyrrole disorder is a genetic predisposition to producing kryptopyrrole rings with a trigger of oxidative stress that binds and removes zinc and vitamin B6 causing deficiency and signs such as poor stress tolerance, noise and light sensitivity, anxiety, no dream recall, low taste and smell, poor hair and nail quality, decreased immunity and many more.
Methyl makes neurotransmitters, it also turns genes on and off. The methyl groups attach to histones signalling on and off messages on the DNA they are epigenetic messengers.
8% of us make too much methyl- over methylators.
22% make too little methyl – under methylators.
The other 70% of us are A-OK.
SAMe and methionine are supplemental sources of methyl – but don’t take it if you are already over producing. This is one of the reasons some SSRI’s (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors – common antidepressant medication) make depressed patients feel much worse.
- That MTHFR Gene. Does gene testing help?
There are 15 different genes involved in methylation alone. MTHFR stands for (methyl tetrahydrofolate reductase) it is one of the main methylation genes that has recently become very popular to test for. There are three main variations of the MTHFR. Testing doesn’t help in predicting function or altering management.
Testing for genes is like seeing how much product a factory can make by looking at the size of its building. Seems relevant, but it still depends on many factors; the amount of available raw material, the systems in place, the quality of the workers, and the demand. A small factory can be more than adequate for a lifelong supply of product whereas a huge factory could be useless without the right controls and parameters.
SO.. The genes only tell us the potential, not the function.
- The happy balance
When one nutrient is depleted we need to replenish it.
When one is too high we need to avoid it.
They usually come in pairs/ opposing partners.
When one of these pairs is high the other is low.
You need to be specific with supplements.
Take zinc and copper for example. Low Zinc = high copper and visa versa.
In a nutshell, you are unique and every stressor has a compounding impact on your mental wellbeing and risk of disease. Nutrient balance, especially Zinc, Vitamin B6, Methyl donors and Copper, are critical for mental function. But remember that high or low levels of nutrients can both be damaging – so don’t take them all! There is no ‘one size fits all answer’ – woe is the multivitamin pill in anxiety and depression.
Is your brain biochemistry out of balance? Nutritional Therapy can help you.
- Eating a diet rich in protein and good quality fat provides the body with the necessary building blocks. You require amino acids for the manufacture of brain neurotransmitters and essential fatty acids for healthy cell membranes, which allow for healthy nerve function.
Nature is truly marvellous. Have you ever cracked open and looked inside a walnut? It looks just like your brain if you peeked inside your skull. A coincidence? Or divine intelligence? Either way, raw nuts – especially walnut and brazil, seeds such as sesame linseed and pumpkin seeds, and avocado are truly brain superfoods.
- Avoiding exogenous oxidative stressors. Living a ‘low tox life’ will protect you from further depletion. Alexx is the go-to-girl for all things low tox. www.alexxstuart.com or www.EWG.org
- If you have symptoms of anxiety and/or depression pathology testing can identify where focused high-dose nutritional therapy may be beneficial.
Pyrrole – Kryptopyrrole testing is a urine test which is only available at two specialised labs in Queensland. This test ranges in price from $80-$140 depending on transportation costs.
Zinc, Copper, Ceruloplasmin and Histamine are blood tests. They are private tests and are not available via medicare. A request form is required from your doctor or naturopath, and the cost varies depending on the lab.
For more information on Dr Walsh, his book and research can be found at Nutrient Power – Dr William Walsh
Be well with love,