Nutrients for Anxiety, Depression and Insomnia

The human brain weighs only three pounds, yet uses 20% of the body’s glucose, or energy supply.  The central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) is the center for all physiological mechanisms: digestion, hormone production, immune modulation, learning, memory, mood, sleep and more.  Our brains need a constant supply of energy, oxygen, and stimulation to function well.

The nervous system (brain and nerves) is thrown off by trauma, stress, injury, surgery, drugs, and abuse, to name a few.  Electro-magnetic fields (EMFs) or radio frequency fields such as from cell phones/ towers, wifi, smart meters, or airport body scans can also negatively affect the brain and nervous system.

A nervous system deficiency can produce mental or emotional symptoms such as insomnia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), mania, bipolar disorder, excessive worry, fear, grief, depression or anger.  However, physical symptoms of imbalance include numbness, tingling, twitches, jerks, spasms, cramps, neuropathy, chest tightness, shortness of breath, sweats, and an inability of the body to heal, especially from pain conditions.

Key brain neurotransmitters include dopamine, serotonin, GABA, norepinephrine and acetylcholine.  Some are excitatory (energizing), some are inhibitory (calming), but the proper balance is crucial for optimal mood function.

Plasticity, the ability of the brain to adapt or change, is also crucial for optimal brain and mood health.  You can increase plasticity by learning new ideas, e.g. language, thinking critically, or utilizing therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, light or laser therapy.

I have found after 15 years of clinical practice in natural medicine that certain nutritional supplements are crucial for optimal brain health.  Vitamins such as folic acid, B6, B12, choline & inositol; minerals such as magnesium, potassium (electrolytes); specific amino acids (e.g. L-Glutamine, 5 HTP, L-Phenylalanine or GABA); ribonucleic acid (RNA), protomorphogens (PMGs) and omega 3 oils are especially helpful in improving brain health.  These nutrients can be crucial in reducing anxiety or depression, brain fog, negative thoughts as well as improving memory, clarity, happiness and balancing hormones.

Stress can increase the adrenal hormone cortisol, which can slow brain function.  Indeed the primary adrenal hormones epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine are also brain neurotransmitters of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight).  Thus there is an intimate connection between adrenals, stress and mood.

Lifestyle modifications such as yoga & meditation are supportive.  One can adopt mindful strategies such as developing the inner observer and retraining the mind to reduce negative or fearful thoughts.  These can be replaced with positive, loving or grateful thoughts.

Our brain, like our bodies, is capable of healthy cell reproduction, so it is important to supply it with proper nutrients (protein and healthy fats), as well as regular exercise to enhance endorphins, and rest for replenishment.  The brain neurons (nerve cells) heal, though nerves take a long time to renew.  It can happen in 3-5 months, but may require 6-12 or even 18 months to fully recover, such as after surgery.  Proper amino acids and above nutrients can speed this healing process.