What is the Neurological System?
The Neurological System is the body’s information processor. Without this highly advanced information and communication system, the body cannot function.
How Does the Neurological System Work?
The Neurological System is divided into two major parts: the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS).
Central Nervous System is the body’s information headquarters, ultimately regulating nearly all body functions. The CNS includes:
- The Brain – Processes incoming information from within the body, and outside the body by way of the sensory nerves of sight, touch, smell, sound, and taste. Commands are then sent back throughout the body. The brain also stores and processes language, communication, emotions, thoughts, dreams, and memories. In other words, the brain is where all thinking and decision-making takes place.
- The Spinal Cord – Is the main pathway for information connecting the brain and peripheral nervous system. It extends from the brain about 18 inches down the bony spinal column, which serves as its protection. The spinal cord is a tube made up of nerve fibers. Electrical impulses travel through the nerves and allow the brain to communicate with the rest of the body.
Peripheral Nervous System is responsible for the remainder of the body. It includes cranial nerves (nerves emerging from the brain), spinal nerves (nerves emerging from the spinal cord) and all the major sense organs. The PNS includes:
Somatic Nervous System (SNS) – Responsible for all muscular activities that we consider voluntary or that are within our conscious control.
Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) – Responsible for all activities that occur automatically and involuntarily, such as breathing, muscle contractions within the digestive system, and heartbeat. The components of the ANS work together to create a balanced response to outside stimuli1. The ANS includes:
- The Sympathetic System – Stimulates cell and organ function. The sympathetic system is activated by a perceived danger or threat: by very strong emotions such as fear, anger or excitement; by intense exercise; or when under large amounts of stress. Basically, anything the body perceives as an emergency will trigger a protective response. Once initiated, it speeds up heart rate, increases the activity of the sweat and adrenal glands, slows down the digestive system and sends blood to the skin and muscles; all of which prepare the body for a “fight or flight” response.
- The Parasympathetic System – Inhibits cell and organ function. The parasympathetic system slows down heart rate, resumes digestion, and increases relaxation throughout the body. This “rest and digest” response counteracts the “fight or flight” response and helps the body recuperate after a crisis is over. A person's normal resting heart rate is determined by the parasympathetic system. If blood pressure is too high or blood carbon dioxide levels are too low, this system slows the heart down and lowers its output.
What Factors Affect the Health of the Neurological System?
You may be wondering, “How can I support the healthy function of my neurological system?” Well, the fact of the matter is that whole health does not just "happen." There can be a genetic component that predisposes someone to certain health challenges, but research shows there are many other factors–often within our control.
The neurological system may be affected by:
- Diet – Vitamin, mineral, and amino acid levels affect the neurological system's ability to function effectively. Overall healthy nutrient levels help support mental clarity, concentration, balanced mood and a healthy response to stress.
- Immune System Challenges
- Because of their ability to affect pH and body chemistry, preliminary research seems to indicate that the balance of friendly bacteria in the intestines and elsewhere in and on the body can actually affect mood and mental clarity.
- Stress – Frequent exposure to stressors paired with an imbalanced response to stress can be hard on the neurological system, eventually affecting overall mood.
- Heavy Metals – Through environmental exposure, heavy metals such as aluminum, lead, and mercury can eventually wind up in the brain. The extent to which the body is able to detoxify itself of these elements can eventually affect mental clarity, concentration, memory, and behavior.
What Can You Do to Support the Health of the Neurological System?
Diet. There are many things you can do to support the healthy functioning of your neurological system. Listed below are key dietary recommendations:
- Omega-3 essential fatty acids – Studies have shown that countries (like Japan) that eat a diet rich in omega-3 seem to benefit from its mood-supporting properties. Obtain your omega-3 from different sources. While fish is an important source of omega-3, limit your intake since it may be contaminated with mercury. Also, choose wild fish rather than farm-raised fish. Wild fish obtain omega-3 naturally through their diet. Fish farms, on the other hand, feed their fish land-based foods that may contain little or no omega-3. As a result, farm-raised fish may have little or no omega-3.*
Other foods high in omega-3 to consider adding to your diet are:
Tryptophan – This essential amino acid can be obtained from the diet or through supplementing with tryptophan. 5-HTP, an advanced form of tryptophan, helps the body produce serotonin and melatonin, which play a role in supporting healthy mood regulation and quality sleep.*
Consider adding foods to your diet that contain tryptophan:
- Whole grain rice
- Sesame and sunflower seeds
Whole Foods – Fill your diet with nutrient-rich whole foods such as organic nuts and seeds, parsley, cilantro, oregano, bright berries, and dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, and spinach.
Saturated Fats – Although saturated fats have a bad reputation, they are actually essential for fat-soluble vitamin delivery to the body, and a host of other body processes. In fact, 60% of the brain is made up of saturated fat. A good source of saturated fat to add to your diet is organic extra virgin coconut oil.*
Foods to AVOID that can support the neurological system:
- Alcohol, which impairs brain function and motor skills
- Caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, and soft drinks that over stimulate the neurological system
- Energy drinks that contain extra caffeine and sugar that over stimulate the neurological system
- Refined sugars that may contribute to probiotic imbalance
- Artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame and Splenda® that can stress the neurological system
- Nitrites found in processed foods such as hot dogs, lunch meats, and bacon.
- Partially hydrogenated oils found in many processed baked goods and snack foods
- Deep-fried food, fast food, and junk food, which contain trans fats.
NOTE: A healthy neurological system depends on a healthy gastrointestinal/digestive system. Read about the gastrointestinal system to learn specific recommendations for a healthy digestive system.
Other Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Neurological System:
- Use light therapy to promote healthy circadian rhythms.
- Get an evaluation from a mercury free dentist who specializes in the safe removal of mercury amalgam fillings. Mercury can wind up in brain cells. Also, mercury in the body can stress immune cells.
- Talk to your health professional about chelation therapy for supporting the body's ability to detoxify itself of heavy metals. Chelation therapy has been scientifically proven to support the body's ability to naturally eliminate excess unhelpful metals.
- Eat organic foods and practice organic gardening to reduce pesticide exposure.
- Test your house to ensure that it’s free of lead-based paints, especially if you have young children. Make sure that the ceramic plates and cups you use for eating and drinking do not contain lead-based paints and glazes.
- Reduce your exposure to aluminum. The presence of aluminum along with mercury causes exponentially more stress within the body, and especially the brain.
- Some suggestions include:
- Drink filtered or purified water.
- Switch to stainless steel cookware instead of aluminum pots and pans.
- Switch to aluminum-free deodorant.
- Breastfeed your baby. Avoid soy formula as it may contain aluminum.
Exercise. Follow a vigorous physical exercise program that really makes you sweat. Sweat helps the body naturally detoxify itself. In addition to your physical workouts, incorporate some brain fitness into your daily routine by challenging your mind. Some examples include crossword puzzles, brainteasers, hobbies, reading, socializing with friends, and learning new subjects that interest you.
Spirituality. The neurological system can be affected by emotional trauma, grief, worry, fear, sadness, and other chronic negative outlooks on life. Keeping a positive spiritual attitude optimizes the health of the neurological system.
Jigsaw Health Products That May Help
Jigsaw Health offers premium products formulated specifically for promoting the health of the neurological system. You may want to consider some of the following products, which support the neurological system in their own specific ways.*
Other Body Systems related to the Neurological System
The neurological system is specifically associated with many body systems. Below is a list of related articles that you may find helpful: