By Jacob Scharf
Guest Writer for Wake up World
On our troubled planet it is obvious to each of us there are many aspects of our daily lives that are not all they could or should be. Life can be difficult at times! These less than ideal conditions we live amongst create stress and depressive states of ‘being’ in our lives, the symptoms of which can manifest in various ways, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
While many writers focus their advice primarily on the physical aspects of our health, offering great insight on how to lift our general health out of the doldrums with diet and suggestions on supplementation of certain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals etc., there is not the same wealth of information offered as to how we might lift our mental and emotional health out of the doldrums, other than with various spiritual practices such as meditation and yoga. Great advice for sure, but there is a lot more you can do if you are troubled by the stresses of modern life.
This series of articles will focus on how you may find relief from issues like stress and sleep disorders, using targeted ‘brain nutrition’ rather than having to resort to prescribed pharmaceutical medications (antidepressants, sleeping pills etc.) which, in addition to their penchant for forming ‘chemical drug dependence’ in the patient, often come with a host of unwelcome side effects that ultimately do more harm than good.
Part 1 – Natural Ways to Enhance Neurotransmitters
Anxiety and Sleep Disorders.
Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that transmit signals across a synapse (a structure that permits transit of an electrical or chemical signal) from one neuron (brain cell) to another ‘target’ neuron.
It is possible to have a deficiency in the raw materials that your brain needs to make neurotransmitters, in much the same way as a person may have a deficiency in a vitamin the body needs to assist with general health. These deficiencies can lead to states where neurotransmitters begin to ‘misfire‘, which can result in the various chronic states of mental and emotional health.
Many people are unaware that there are supplements available that will improve their neurotransmitter deficiencies and help correct the imbalance in their brain. And it may surprise you to learn that the supplements I will be discussing for optimal neurotransmitter health are a combination of natural hormones and simple amino acids, with specific functions relating to our brain chemistry.
When we encounter people who are in states of mental anguish, whether it be insomnia, acute anxiety or chronic depression, there is a general consensus within the scientific community that these individuals are experiencing a miscommunication between certain hormones and neurotransmitters in their brain. Presenting our brain with the raw ‘brain food’ it needs can help to optimize our brain’s performance and improve our mood. While taking pharmaceutical drugs may be viewed a little like sending in an armoured tank to rearrange the brain-scape, supplementing your diet with the raw materials your brain needs to rearrange itself is a more natural, subtle, and effective way to improve your mental and emotional health.
An introduction to the various supplements
As a student of Integrative Neuroscience, I witnessed a veritable epidemic of stress disorders amongst my fellow students during my finals week. Many were suffering anxiety that leads to sleep disruption – without sleep there was more anxiety and so it goes on. Sleep deprivation is not helpful when you need to think clearly, so no doubt many of us would benefit from feeding our brains what it needs to get us through these anxious times, with minimal sleep disruption and a sense of calm control – and two of these foods are serotonin and melatonin.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps you relax, and the precursor for making serotonin in your body can be found in one of the 22 essential amino acids, called Tryptophan. In other words, tryptophan is the raw food for serotonin production. Food sources of tryptophan include poultry, meat, cheese, yogurt, fish and eggs. However supplementing may prove more beneficial in times of greatest need, and as we age. Tryptophan can be purchased as a stand-alone supplement. When taken correctly, tryptophan can greatly assist with states of stress and high-anxiety.
There are two basic kinds of tryptophan available. L-tryptophan which is the natural amino acid and 5-HTP (5-Hydroxy-tryptophan) which is the immediate bio-chemical precursor of serotonin. When taking the l-tryptophan a larger dose will be needed (around 2-4 grams daily in divided doses, or as a single dose at night for sleep) than if you decide upon the 5-HTP kind (around 300-400mg), because 5-HTP directly crosses the blood-brain barrier rather than having to first be converted in 5-HTP from the original L-tryptophan molecule.
Several double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials have demonstrated the effectiveness of 5-HTP in the treatment of depression. Either form will help with stress and sleep disorders. See more here: http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2013/may2013_Better-Brain-Chemistry-with-Tryptophan_01.htm
In addition to being a powerful antioxidant, melatonin is a hormone that acts in the pineal gland to regulate the wake/sleep cycles known as circadian rhythms. When our melatonin levels are optimal, it keeps these cycles in perfect balance. But when we experience chronic or acute stress, and as we age, our melatonin levels may suffer and insomnia can ensue. There are plant-based forms of melatonin, found in varying amounts in the herbs Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) and in foods such as rice, corn, tomato, grapes and other edible fruits. However, clinical amounts are better sought from supplementation if you are addressing chronic sleep disorders.
Although melatonin secretion decreases with age, thankfully a good night sleep can still be had without having to race to the doctor for sleeping pills, because melatonin supplements are widely available. 3mg can be enough for some people to get a good night sleep, while others may need a little more.
However, not all melatonin supplements are the same and studies have shown mixed results. But in recent times Dr. Walter Pierpaoli, an ardent researcher, has developed a pharmaceutical grade melatonin known as MZSâ„¢ which is a supplement with the added synergistic ingredients of zinc and selenium, specially designed to release melatonin in the same pattern as the pineal gland itself would do, to give you a natural night’s sleep.
And according to Dr. Pierpaoli, MZS melatonin can in fact help reverse some of the aging process by helping to rejuvenate the pineal gland. Significantly, a Chinese study showed that MZS melatonin can even reverse age-related macular degeneration (deteriorating eye-sight). The researchers stated:
“Within 6 months 90% of the trial participants had improved their AMD (age-related macular degeneration) condition. The improvements continued until the trial ended at 24 months.”
See more here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16399908.
Dr. Walter Pierpaoli Discusses Melatonin
Melatonin is pretty much a miracle molecule when it comes to the health of your brain. To find out more I suggest you watch this video presentation by Dr. Pierpaoli.
The Last Word
Ultimately, by presenting this series of articles, I’d like to start a paradigm shift in the way society views the different natural substances available that can improve your general state of mind, your emotions, and your day to day well-being.
About the author:
Jacob Scharf is currently a student at Binghamton University studying Integrative Neuroscience. Along his journey he has written about various different mental health illnesses; ultimately his goal is to give people the information that will allow them to maximize their potential in all facets of life. Whether it be mental or physical, Jacob believes in striving for an optimum level of performance. Jacob is also a certified Kettlebell Instructor.
You can reach Jacob by email at [email protected].