Guest Blog by: Dr. Arland Hill (D.C.)
Most of us are familiar with the saying use it or lose it. Many times when individuals say this, they are likely referring to muscle tissue. However, this saying is equally valid regarding the health of the brain and nervous tissue. Since the brain has impact on every system in the body, keeping it healthy is of the utmost importance. Doing so takes 3 key ingredients; energy, fats, and stimulation.
While most probably don’t think about the energy demands of the nervous system, they are in fact quite high. The production of energy for a neuron, or nerve cell, goes beyond just good function. The ability to produce energy is the difference between life and death. As with all cells, an energy substrate must be available, preferably glucose. Uptake of glucose by neurons depends on healthy insulin receptors. Healthy insulin receptors that are sensitive optimize neuron function by efficiently controlling synapse density, promoting neuronal growth, or neuroplasticity, and refining the function of the involved neurocircuitry. In short, neurons function better and extend their network when insulin receptors are sensitive. But as attractive as this sounds, it fails to happen when nutrient deficiencies such as chromium and B3 exist. Chromium and niacin help make up the glucose tolerance factor which has significant bearing on the glucose-insulin interaction.
Once glucose is taken in by the neuron, it must enter the mitochondria to produce ATP, the energy molecule. However, to get ATP, several key nutrients must be available. These nutrients fuel each step of the energy cycle and include B1, B2, B3, B5, glutamine, and magnesium just to name a few. For the neuron, the importance of this cannot be understated.
When the neuron is able to receive adequate oxygen, it can combine the metabolites formed from the energy production cycle and generate ATP. In the absence of adequate nutrient stores, ATP is not produced efficiently leading to the demise of the neuron. This can be the early onset of neurodegeneration. Moreover, since neurons depend on stimulation from each other to maintain functional neurocircuitry, losing a neuron will in turn have effects on adjacent neurons. The potential “snowball-like” effect of neurodegeneration emphasizes the consequence of allowing seemingly harmless nutrient deficiencies to persist.
Lastly, a protective coating is needed. Think about this as insulation for the wiring of your neurocircuity. With it, neurological impulses are transmitted at a faster rate. Our insulation is fat. Micronutrient assessment provides a window into how we might be producing insulation around our neurological tissue. Not only does such testing show how fats are being utilized by living cells, it also illustrates the status of nutrients such as B12 that are equally needed for production of our insulation, otherwise known as myelin.
The health of the nervous system is a commonly overlooked. When it is functioning appropriately, it is given little attention. In contrast, by the time a neurological condition manifests, it is difficult to make up lost ground to neurodegeneration. However, altering its effects can take place, but only in the presence of adequate nutrient status. Given proper precursors and stimulation, the ability of the neuron to produce energy is regained, promoting an environment of neuroplasticity.
Arland Hill, DC, MPH, DACBN- Complete Care Chiropractic and Wellness