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BRAIN FOOD
 

"My Soul is dark with stormy riot,
Directly traceable to diet."

Samuel Hoffenstein

Creative thought depends upon a well nourished brain. The brain is the master controller of the body as well as the mind. It is estimated that there are over 100 billion neurons available to facilitate thought.

Brain Food

 

Thus, the brain requires 20% of our oxygen and 50% of available glucose to do its job. If this supply of energy and oxygen is interrupted for 15 seconds unconsciousness occurs, if stopped for approximately five minutes, brain death occurs.

It makes common sense that a balanced nutritional diet is crucial for the brain to process thought. Our focus here is on those particular nutrients that can specifically enhance neuron firing and cross linking in the brain. There are certain substances that clinical research has found to minimize brain damage, repair damage already done, and alleviate the natural deterioration process or to enhance normal functioning to superior levels. First I'll give a little background on the nutrients in a good diet that aid this process, and then we'll discuss the substances that have been found to aid specific conditions.

 
 
Nutrients

To maintain optimum health we need a balanced supply of the four essential elements, hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen. These are the stuff of organic life. Fats consist of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Water combines hydrogen and oxygen. Proteins consist of nitrogen. Sugars utilize carbon and hydrogen.

All food and nutrition is utilized by the body to produce one essential element, ATP (Adenosine Tri Phosphate). This one substance releases stored energy to generate neurotransmitters, transport proteins to cells, and aid in conducting electrical impulses. Brain neurons are the one cell that does not reproduce, therefore, it is critical that they receive enough of the essential ATP molecules to maintain longevity and remain viable.

 

Amino acids are the basic chemical building blocks of life, required to build all the vital proteins, hormones and enzymes. Neurotransmitters are made up of amino acids, except for acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is made from pantothenic acid, choline and ATP. Sixty neurotransmitters have been discovered, 10 of which are considered major conductors. Seven of the most common are:

  • Acetylcholine is essential for movement and memory.
  • Serotonin is produced by the pineal gland and is responsible for the waking/sleeping cycle as well as a counterbalance for adrenaline and noradrenaline.
  • GABA is helpful in alleviating chronic anxiety as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It also aids in concentration.
  • Adrenaline and noradrenaline promote alertness, activity and mood elevation.
  • Glycine is an inhibitory transmitter, which with GABA can help to prevent the seizures of epilepsy.
  • Dopamine is essential for initiating and coordinating the libido responses.
  • Histamine aids the thalamus in sensory integration.

Proteins are made of amino acids, and are critical to proper brain functioning. Proteins contain nitrogen, which other foods lack. Twenty-two different amino acids are known. All but nine of these acids, however, can be made by the cells from fat or sugar combined with the nitrogen freed from the breakdown of used proteins. The nine which the body cannot make are called essential amino acids. This means it is essential that they be present in the diet if health is to be maintained. These nine are tryptophane, lysine, methionine, phenylanlanine, threonine, valine, leucine and isoleucine. Children also have difficulty making enough arginine, and histidine.

Amino acids are present in greatest abundance in egg yolk, fresh milk, liver, kidneys and cheese. Also, brewers' yeast, some nuts, soybeans, cottonseed and the germ of cereals contain complete proteins.

 
Nootropics

Nootropics, from the Greek word meaning "acting on the brain", are a category of synthetic and natural supplements known to enhance brain function. They have also been called smart drugs. Many were originally discovered as a treatment for dementia, or amnesia. It is now known that anyone can benefit from the effects of these substances if taken in proper dosages. Reported effects include, short and long term memory capacity, enhanced concentration, increased alertness, energy and work performance.

One important way some nootropics can enhance cognition is by cleansing the brain of lipofuscin--a fatty material that interferes with the brain's synapses. Lipofuscin prevents synapses from releasing neurotransmitters that enable the communication of information among nerve cells. Lipofuscin is a product of the buildup of free radicals.

There are many substances on the market that promise to enhance brain functioning. Many of these can be addictive or have toxic side effects. Of those I've studied there are four substances I feel to be of benefit. These four substances are known to alleviate the symptoms associated with various forms of dyslexia, amnesia, attention deficit disorder and certain emotional disorders. Though the FDA has not approved all of them for use in the U.S., they are approved in other countries. If you want to obtain any of these four substances do a keyword search on the Internet, and there are various mail order companies marketing them. I found one product particularly intriguing and you can visit their website for more information.

 
DMAE
Di-Methyl-Amino-Ethanol (DMAE) is known to increase learning, memory and intelligence. It also has the effect of increased alertness without the restless effects that caffeine produces. DMAE is naturally present in small amounts in the brain. DMAE affects the brain's levels of acetylcholine. It is thought that low doses of DMAE should be used at first, with a gradual build up to 500 mg. per day. If taken in doses higher than the body needs, DMAE can cause insomnia, headaches and muscle tension. Adverse side-effects are rare in proper dosages, but it has been noted that those who suffer from bipolar disorders or chronic depression should avoid this substance. DMAE can be found in fish, hence the reason fish has is referred to as "brain food."
 
Piracetam

Piracetam has been used for over fifteen years as an aid in the treatment of alcoholism, dementia and stroke. Developed by UCB laboratories in Belgium, it has been found to increase the flow of information across the corpus callosum, the set of fibers that connects the right and left hemispheres. It has been shown in clinical studies to improve the integration of information processing, attention span and concentration. Piracetam has also been used to treat conditions of hypoxia, or too little oxygen. It has been particularly effective in the treatment of dyslexia, stroke, senile dementia, and in rehabilitating a brain that has been damaged chemically. It acts to step up the production of ATP and improved cerebral microcirculation (blood flow). It also appears to enhance protein synthesis. The fact that is has been shown to increase the flow of information between hemispheres is particularly important, as this alone will improve cognition, memory and all learning skills.

It has been shown to have no known side effects or toxicity of it's own but should not be used with amphetamines or other psychotropic as it will increase their effects.

 
Hydergine

Hydergine (ergoloid mesylates) is made from an organic source, the ergot fungus of rye plants. It was discovered by Dr. Albert Hoffman at Sandoz laboratories. As with the other nootropics, it appears to increase mental cognition, prevent damage to brain cells, improve protein synthesis, reduce accumulation of lipofuscin, increase oxygenation and increase the production of neurotransmitters. It has also been found to be a powerful antioxidant. One of it's most powerful abilities is to prevent damage to the brain from hypoxia, or too little oxygen. Therefore it has been very useful for stroke victims.

One presumed effect of Hydergine is that it appears to mimic a substance known as nerve growth factor (NGF). Thus it enhances the growth and branching of dendrites. This can be critical for creative thinking and memory.

Hydergine is available by doctor's prescription, though it can also be obtained through mail order. Known side effects with improper dosage are nausea, dizziness and headaches, but it is otherwise considered non-toxic.

 
Ginkgo Biloba

This is considered to be the oldest tree on earth. The leaf extract from this tree has been used for centuries to increase blood circulation to the tiny blood vessels of the brain. This results in improved memory, cognition and alertness. It is widely prescribed by doctors in Europe and Asia. Additionally it is a known antioxidant and helps the brain to create ATP.

Effects are usually noticeable after two or three weeks of continue use. There are no reported side-effects in the medical literature but some have experience stomach troubles in high doses. You can obtain this from most health food suppliers.

This is just a small sketch of what it available for proper brain nutrition and improved creative thought. Hopefully, it will lead you to do your own research into what is available for enhanced brain functioning. Doing a keyword search on any of the amino acids or the four substances I've named, will bring you a wealth of detailed information and avenues to obtain these substances. I would strongly urge anyone so inclined to educate themselves thoroughly before taking anything you are unfamiliar with.

A well nourished brain is vital to creative thought. The body can produce most of what you need with a good balanced diet. Sufficient water, of course, is essential to the electrical firing of the brain and can not be overstated. Use your own intuition to know what to add to your regular diet as a supplement. Dosage is critical and would be different for each individual. More is not always better. Have respect for your brain and it will serve you well as the architect of your creative experiences.

© J.L. Read, 1997. All Rights Reserved.
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This site is dedicated in loving memory
to its creator, Janet L. Read
1949 — 2000

 

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