Including the brain in overall health assessment has received a lot of attention lately. Research shows a holistic approach to health care should encompass the brain. Think about it. Would you rather be treated by several specialists who use multiple drugs, procedures, and visits over months or years— for symptoms such as irritable bowel and hyperventilation—or would you rather use Inositol and B vitamins to restore the brain chemical that is responsible for these symptoms?
Is this an oversimplification? Not according to Eric Braverman, M.D., author of The Edge Effect. “Big problems start as small ones. We all have times when we don’t feel quite right. But when a condition persists, your body is telling you something you shouldn’t ignore.”
Research on brain chemistry balance and its association with health began in the 19th century, when behavior and physiology were associated with the four brain lobes—frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital. Twentieth century science further coupled four brain waves to those four lobes. Pharmaceutical science then discovered four primary brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, and explored how they, too, correlated to the lobes. These lobes were shown to be the factories where four chemicals— dopamine, acetylcholine, GABA, and serotonin, respectively, are manufactured. Further, modern behavioral science identified four primary temperaments that correlate to each lobe; creating a clear connection between brain chemistry, behavioral temperament, and the state of our health.
All neurotransmitters are at work in every brain, but each of us has a dominant one that defines who we are. Know your temperament and you will know your dominant brain chemical:
* Rationalists/Strategic Thinkers:
Characterized by power and control, competence, capability, knowledge. CEOs, generals, doctors, scientists, and architects are dopamine-dominant.
Characterized by reflection, self-discovery, creativity, becoming. Counselors, mediators, ministers, public service professionals, writers, artists, and actors are acetylcholinedominant.
Characterized by tradition, conformity, belonging, loyalty, commitment. Administrators, security officers, nurses, technicians, air-traffic controllers, news reporters, EMTs, and homemakers are GABA-dominant.
Characterized by sensations, work-as-play, non-conformity, free thinking. Construction workers, stevedores, oil riggers, truck drivers, military personnel, hair stylists, bartenders, and pilots are serotonin-dominant.
Studies clearly connect “families” of illnesses to each of the four dominant brain chemicals. The symptoms first experienced are likely caused by a deficiency in your dominant neurotransmitter. If ignored, other neurotransmitters could start to burn out trying to compensate for the deficiency. A domino effect occurs, leading to more symptoms.
If you pay attention to symptoms as soon as they manifest, “families” of treatments can then be targeted to the neurotransmitter that is at the source of the complaint. These families include diet and vitamins and supplements. Food does contain a variety of nutrients affecting multiple brain chemicals; however, it can be complex. Factors such as the release of multiple neurotransmitters, inefficient digestion, and a hurried lifestyle can compromise treatment solely using food. Vitamins and supplements impact brain chemistry faster and more directly, and compensate for inefficient digestion and/or inconsistent eating habits.
What follows is a list of temperaments, symptoms, and illnesses associated with neurotransmitter deficiency, as well as recommended vitamins and supplements to help rebalance your brain chemistry.
DOPAMINE: THE ENERGY PRESCRIPTION
Like the gas in your automobile, 17% of the world’s population thrives on the dopamine energy that defines the Rationalist. When depleted, the priority is to refill the tank.
Physical: Sugar/caffeine cravings, lightheadedness, decreased strength, fatigue, pallor, diarrhea, routine-task difficulty
Psychological: Procrastination, carelessness, decreased libido, diminished self-image, hedonism, isolation
Memory Function: Inability to follow instructions and/or process information, forgetfulness, poor abstract thinking
Attention Issues: Diminished alertness, failure to complete tasks, poor concentration
Associated Conditions/Diseases: Obesity, addictions, chronic fatigue, Attention Deficit Disorder, sexual disorders, thyroid disorders, narcolepsy, Parkinson’s
Vitamins/Supplements: Chromium for blood sugar regulation; thiamin; rhodiola; L-Methionine; and dl-Phenylalanine and L-Tyrosine, which are dopamine precursors. The latter four are in Douglas Labs’ formula aptly named Brain Energy
When you regain your dopamine edge, you are on top of everything you do, you relish your sexual relations, your food tastes fantastic, and everything is a source of pleasure.
ACETYLCHOLINE: THE MEMORY PRESCRIPTION
Acetylcholine is like your car’s accelerator. By providing the insulating layer around brain cells, it prevents short-circuits and ensures rapid transmission of nerve signals. Idealists are the 17% of the population defined by the neurotransmitter responsible for brain speed. There are an abundance of signals indicating acetylcholine loss well before senility sets in:
Physical: Fat cravings, dry mouth, slowed reflexes, sexual dysfunction, speech problems, vision problems, problems with urination, involuntary movements
Psychological: Confused thinking, indecision, personality changes, mood swings, rebelliousness
Memory Function: Memory lapses, loss of visual and verbal memory, memory disturbance
Attention Issues: Difficulty concentrating, diminished comprehension, impaired creativity, reading/ writing difficulties
Associated Conditions/Diseases: Dyslexia, learning disorders, arthritis, osteoporosis, glaucoma, diabetes, stroke, senility, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis
Vitamins/Supplements: Choline; Phosphotidyl serine; lipoic and conjugated linoleic acids; fish oil; N-acetyl L-Carnitine (NAC); Phosphotidyl choline, which imitates acetycholine; and memoryenhancers, Vinpocetine and huperzine-A. NAC, Phosphotidyl choline, and huperzine-A are included in Brain Memory’s synergistic blend of nutrients designed to help the mind stay sharp
When your thinking is crystal clear, without a loss regarding what to do and how to do it, and when others are motivated along with you, your acetylcholine edge is in full force.
GABA: The Calm Prescription
GABA functions like your car’s brakes, which ensure a steady ride and prevent crashes. Almost 50% of the population is defined by the neurotransmitter that calms by keeping all of our brainwaves in balance. When there’s a deficiency, brainwaves lose rhythm or balance with each other:
Physical: Carbohydrate craving, flushing, butterflies in stomach, lump in throat, ringing in ear, muscle tension, trembling, twitching, numbness or tingling in fingers, blurred vision, hyperventilation, abnormal sense of smell, unusual allergies, night sweats, tachycardia, chest pain or discomfort
Psychological: Restlessness, feelings of dread, emotional immaturity, short temper, phobias
Memory Function: Poor verbal memory
Attention Issues: Impulsivity, disorganization
Associated Conditions/Diseases: Tinnitus, anxiety, hypertension, chronic pain, cystitis, irritable bowel and other gastro-intestinal disorders, PMS, seizures, stroke, bi-polar disorder
Vitamins/Supplements: Inositol, which calms by raising GABA levels; thiamin; riboflavin; branched-chain amino acids; GABA; Glycine; Kava, an anti-anxiety herb; sedating Valerian root; and relaxing Passion flower. Brain Calm effectively blends Inositol, GABA, and Glycine into a single formula
When you are in your element, methodically accomplishing daily tasks, and helping others to do likewise, without being the center of attention, you are experiencing the GABA edge.
Serotonin: The Mood Prescription
Serotonin is like the alternator in your car, recharging your brain and body so it is able to handle a new workload every day. The remaining 17% of the population are Artisans.
A serotonin deficiency shows up as diminished brainwave symmetry; a disconnect between the right and left sides and a breakdown in the mind-body connection. A depleted battery in your body has distinct signals:
Physical: Salt cravings, backache, headache, cold or clammy hands, shortness of breath, drug reactions, premature ejaculation, yawning, sleep disturbances
Psychological: Impulsiveness, hyper vigilance, high pain/pleasure threshold, depersonalization, lack of common sense, rage
Memory Function: Visual memory deficiency
Attention Issues: Slow reactions, restlessness, lack of concentration
Associated Conditions/Diseases: PMS, phobias, insomnia, depression, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Vitamins/Supplements: For comprehensive mood stabilizing support, Brain Mood blends thiamin, Niacinamide, folic acid, vitamin B-12, Pantothenic acid, plus St. John’s Wort and 5-Hydroxy Tryptophan, both anti-depressants. Other supportive supplements include fish oil, melatonin for insomnia, SAMe, and vitamin B-6
Feelings of serenity throughout the day, even in work tasks that others would consider dangerous, represent the serotonin edge. Everything, from accomplishment on the job to connection to others to personal enjoyment, is within your grasp.
The Path to Total Health
“If you pay attention to early signs, you can use diet and supplements, along with lifestyle changes, exercise, and meditation, to hone your edge and stay sharp, on the job, at play, and in relationships,” says Dr. Braverman. “You can have a peaceful Zen mind, a powerful and healthy body, and a fulfilled soul.
Eric Braverman, M.D., is one of the foremost experts in Integrative Medicine. In addition to a private practice at The Place for Achieving Total Health (PATH), Dr. Braverman maintains Directorship of The PATH Foundation, a nonprofit research organization established to collect and analyze information concerning the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of all aspects of brain biochemical disorders, with specific focus on the impact of brain illness on overall health.
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