The body is known to react to many illnesses with a domino effect, where one small change can affect the workings of the entire body. In most instances, I see that first domino falling as a symptom of brain chemical imbalance. For example, a simple loss of production in the brain chemical dopamine can cause your feelings of hostility and anger to increase. As your stress levels go up, your cardiac status and blood pressure increases as well. Eventually, you are so wound up that you begin to burn off a second vital brain chemical, serotonin, which leads to insomnia. At the same time, when serotonin levels are low, your carbohydrate cravings go up: you eat more and gain weight. From this point, the spiral from obesity takes over, where your heart can become enlarged, your liver becomes fatty, which eventually may lead your body down a path to a stroke or a heart attack.
You can get a good sense of your current brain health by taking my Brain Quiz featured on my website, www.pathmed.com. Your brain chemistry is comprised of a unique combination of the brain chemicals acetylcholine, dopamine, GABA, and serotonin. The results of this quiz will show you which brain chemicals you are deficient in.
In brain based medicine, symptoms and illnesses can be categorized into 'families,' related to one of the four brain chemicals. Effective treatments can also be grouped into families that address these brain chemical imbalances. The key then to reversing aging, losing weight and gaining better health is to address your brain chemical deficiencies.
Total brain health begins with a proper diet, a lifestyle and exercise program, and necessary supplementation. Small deficiencies exhibit themselves as mild symptoms that can be treated first with diet, because each of these brain chemicals has a natural nutrient precursor. For example, the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine are the raw material for dopamine; the B vitamin choline is necessary for the production of acetylcholine; GABA comes from glutamine, another amino acid; and the amino acid tryptophan is metabolized into serotonin. In some instances the body will not absorb all of the available nutrition from food, or may not get enough of a particular precursor from it, and supplementation of nutrients may be necessary. More serious symptoms may require a combination of bio-identical hormones and traditional Western medications.
You can begin to restore your health right now. Review the results of your Brain Quiz, and adopt a diet rich in the precursors to your most deficient brain chemical. My new book, THE YOUNGER (THINNER) YOU DIET, explores each of these precursors in much more detail, and gives more detailed dietary suggestions for individual symptoms and conditions.
Dopamine is the source of the brain's power and energy. Without the right amount of dopamine, you might have the following symptoms and/or conditions: sugar and/or caffeine cravings, fatigue, pallor, diarrhea, lightheadedness, decreased libido, routine-task difficulty, decreased physical activity, low mood, obesity, addictions, sexual disorders, or Parkinson's disease.
A protein-rich diet is an excellent source for the amino acids the brain needs to create more dopamine. With more dopamine, you'll have more energy for all facets of your life, especially exercise. Foods that promote dopamine include:
• Black-eyed peas
• Pinto beans
• Pumpkin seeds
Acetylcholine is the source of brain's ability to process and recall information quickly. If you are low in acetylcholine, you may experience: fat cravings, dry mouth, dry cough, memory dysfunction, difficulty concentrating. Conditions related to loss of brain speed include: senility, Alzheimer's, dementia, and Multiple Sclerosis.
A choline-rich diet will help to produce the acetylcholine the brain needs to stay sharp. Some acetylcholine-rich foods include:
• Fava beans
• Grape juice
• Peanut butter
• Wheat germ
GABA ensures that brainwaves operate in harmony, in rhythm, which results in an even temperament and bodily calm. Symptoms related to loss of brain rhythm include: carbohydrate cravings, trembling, twitching, hyperventilation, flushing, tachycardia, palpitations, sweating, cold or clammy hands, paresthesia, chest pain or discomfort, restlessness, blurred vision, abnormal sense of smell, abnormal odors, lump in throat, butterflies in stomach, and unusual allergies. Conditions related to loss of brain rhythm include: anxiety, hypertension, cystitis, gastrointestinal disorders, tinnitus, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
A diet rich in whole grains and complex-carbohydrates provides an excellent source of glutamine, which the brain needs to keep itself calm. The following are GABA-rich foods:
• Brown rice
• Citrus fruit
• Herbal teas
• Organ meats
• Rice bran
• Wheat germ
• Whole grains
Serotonin allows the brain to restore itself. You know you have lots of serotonin when you are able to get a good night's sleep and wake up feeling rested and renewed. Symptoms related to loss serotonin include: salt cravings, backache, headache, shortness of breath, choking, hypervigilance, and sleep disorders. Conditions include: insomnia, sleep disturbance, anorexia, bulimia, premature ejaculation, and depression.
A tryptophan-rich diet will support your body's production of serotonin, which your brain needs to restore its balance. The following foods help the body produce more serotonin:
• Brown rice
• Cornish hen
• Cottage cheese
• Herbal teas
• Sunflower seeds
• Swiss cheese