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The Link Between The Body & The Brain — an article on the Smart Living Network
May 16, 2009 at 5:06 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

The Link Between The Body & The Brain


The Link between the Body and the Brain

People have long thought about the body and the brain as two separate entities. This is not the case. The brain is very much dependent on the body and vice versa. The two interact continuously. Therefore, how you treat your body will also affect your brain.

Nutrition and the Brain

Nutrition is critical for body and mind health. What you eat feeds your entire body - and your brain. There are several ways in which you can change your diet to improve your brain's health. First of all, many studies have shown that a restricted calorie diet promotes good brain health. A low-calorie diet causes the body to produce more nerve growth factors, which are integral to the proper functioning of the brain. The key is to not restrict calories too much, and to make sure to still get all essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals by picking healthy foods and eating reasonable quantities. Other than water, the brain is primarily fat. Most of the fat in the brain is DHA, a form of omega-3 fatty acid. DHA also coats the neurons and is one of the key components in cell membranes. Adequate DHA levels have been shown to promote good mental health and a positive mood. DHA can be found in fatty fish such as salmon and walnuts. Supplements are also becoming increasingly popular and can be a good alternative if your diet alone isn't providing you with all the DHA you need. Antioxidants are very important to the brain. They bind to free radicals; reactive oxygen molecules produced as byproducts of many of the body's metabolic processes, and help remover them from the body. Free radicals can damage the cells of the body and are thought to be the main cause of age-related damage. Eating plenty of foods that are good sources of antioxidants, especially fruits and vegetables, can delay or even prevent cognitive decline. These foods should make up a good portion of your diet. Finally, drink plenty of water. Your brain is made up of roughly eighty percent water. When you're not getting enough water, your brain suffers. When your brain suffers, it begins producing stress hormones. Stress hormones affect your entire body, and having elevated levels of stress hormones for prolonged periods of time has been linked to many conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, etc.

Sleep and the Brain

Sleep is another key ingredient in keeping both body and brain healthy. During sleep, your body recharges and heals itself. Hormone levels are balanced, toxins are flushed out, and your body's many systems can take a break from the hard work of the day. Sleep is also when your brain consolidates memories and moves new impressions and knowledge into more long-term storage. Getting too little sleep can cause noticeable cognitive impairments. Not getting enough sleep also stresses the brain. Lack of sleep has been implicated in several psychological disorders. So make sure to get at least seven, preferably eight, hours of sleep every night to keep your body and mind in tip-top condition.

Psychological and Physical Health

Psychological and physical health is intimately linked. Long term damage, whether from chronic disease, pain, or inadequate sleep or nutrition, can cause changes in the brain. Many people suffering from chronic condition develop neuro chemical imbalances in their brains, and depression is a not uncommon result. By the same token, if the brain is unwell, it can have a profoundly negative impact on the body. When you're feeling stressed, and your brain begins sending out stressed signals, you're body will also take a toll in terms of decreased immune response, poor metabolism, and increased strain on the cardiovascular system as the heart pumps too fast for too long in response to circulating stress hormones. Stress hormones can also damage the brain, causing memory and emotional problems over time. On the other hand, when your brain is doing well, it can help your body too. In case of injury, the brain creates endorphins, the body's own opiates, to dull pain. The brain also releases gamma globulin which increases the body's immune response, and interferon to combat viruses. Interestingly, attitude plays an important part in this response. When you're positive and upbeat, your brain will produce more of these chemicals and help you effectively fight off disease and injury. Negative mood, however, has the exact opposite effect. There's something to that old adage about thinking positive after all. In the end, the body and brain function in a delicately choreographed dance of give and take. What you think will affect how you feel, and what you do with your body will affect your brain, so take care of yourself, body and mind, and reap good health and happiness as a reward.


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