Toxins, Stress & Trauma: The Nervous System Trifecta
What do sexual dysfunction, mental disorders and decreased immunity all have in common? The root causes of all could be traced back to the nervous system. The nervous system is the master control center of the entire body, affecting every cell in the body. So, what is the nervous system exactly? In short, it consists of the brain, spinal cord and all of the nerves that control every voluntary and involuntary action in the body. From the cardiovascular and circulatory systems, to the musculoskeletal and immune systems, the nervous system plays an integral role in the function and maintenance of the body.
The cells of our nervous systems use up to 25% of the total calories we consume! When you consider the brain alone has over 100 billion neurons, nervous system cells, that number isn’t surprising. Damage to the nervous system can occur from a variety of causing including exposure to toxins, physical trauma and even mental conditions can trigger dysfunction. However a healthy lifestyle can help prevent and reduce risk of developing issues in the nervous system.
Toxins are a major cause of dysfunction within the nervous system, whether environmental such as the air we breathe or from the foods we consume. Substances like heavy metals and even chemicals in food such as MSG (monosodium glutamate) and aspartame directly damage the central nervous system. Luckily, nutrients such as B vitamins, potassium, calcium and unprocessed healthy fats (high in omega-3 & omega-6) can help build up and optimize performance of your nervous system. Some foods you can work into your diet to improve overall nervous system function and brain performance include: green leafy vegetables, wild caught salmon and other fish, nuts, avocado and olive oil. Avoiding highly processed foods with added sweeteners and artificial flavors can help lessen the chance of overexposure to these kinds of damaging chemicals. Excess alcohol consumption and smoking can also introduce harmful toxins to the body that cause damage to cells, impairing function of the nervous system and possibly leading to more severe issues such as seizures and cancer.
Mental conditions such as depression, anxiety and even general stress can cause impairment of nervous system function or even development of more serious disease. Incorporating healthy habits of mental self care is key to preventing these sort of psychologically triggered nervous system impairments. Activities like meditation, exercise and maintaining a healthy diet can all help to regulate your mental state and reduce the risk of stress related illness. Altered mental states cause the production of chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline, associated with stress. Excess levels of these chemicals cause the brain to lose proper control over the regulation of mood, creating a negative cycle that only builds upon itself if not addressed.
Regular physical activity that boost the heart rate and incorporate healthy movements of the spine can also be key in sustaining optimal nervous system function. Aerobic exercises that get the blood flowing are great for improving brain function and repairing damaged cells, due to the increase of circulation. Yoga is another great exercise that focuses on breathing techniques that can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing the levels of stress hormones in the body. Improving flexibility and motion of the joints also benefits the nervous system by increasing levels of proprioception leading to improved balance and coordination. Additionally, exercise produces hormones of pleasure in the brain, which lead to improved mood and mental health.
Taking a holistic approach to everyday life, focusing on the limitation of physical, toxic and mental stressors can help minimize nervous system interference in turn improving the overall performance of every system in the body.