The Amazing Human Brain
If you are ever feeling uninspired, take a moment to consider the amazing marvel between your ears – your brain!
Did you know that although your brain makes up only 2% of your total body weight, it consumes approximately 20% of your energy? Or, did you know that the brain is composed of 100 billion cells that make a million connections every second of our lives?
Do we really have to end up "over the hill"? Up until recently, we have understood that all the growth and development of the brain occurs early on in life. We were previously taught that the brain reaches its maximum weight around 20 to 25 years of age, and after that it's all downhill as the brain loses about 10% of its weight over a lifetime.
However, advances in neuroscience now reveal that early brain development sets the stage for ongoing development throughout adulthood, and into old age. We now know that the brain can continue to grow neural pathways and to forge new connections – all it takes is repetitive use of these neural pathways. In accordance with the health of the whole body, subtle changes occur in the chemistry and structure of the brain throughout midlife in most people.
It appears that neurons can readjust to various degrees of damage and degeneration, as long as the neuronal cell body remains intact, where nearby surviving neurons can compensate, in part, by growing new dendrites and synaptic connections. Neuroplasticity – Not a plastic brain, but an evolving one!
This capacity of the brain to reconfigure its wiring is called neuroplasticity, a process whereby neural pathways are laid down to develop our unique individuality. Neuroplasticity was previously thought to be relevant only in utero and in children and adolescents; however, it has now been demonstrated that our brain continues to grow well into adulthood. This discovery holds revolutionary hope for a wide range of applications, from protecting against degenerative age-related change, to greater levels of recovery in those who have suffered brain injury, to strengthening and optimising healthy brains well into the later stages of life. It also holds that we can literally "change our minds" by deliberate concentrated thought processes and deliberate practice of new skills to build and strengthen new neural pathways. Of course, this ability to change may be positive or negative, as we also have the power of choice.
Give the brain smart nutrition...
So how do we support and nourish this marvelous organ and encourage positive neuroplastic growth? We may have overlooked the health of the brain in the past whilst we managed the health of the body, but in reality we need to support the cellular health of every organ. It's true that if things go "wrong" with the brain, from injury or trauma through to depression or psychosis, it is very frightening.
We do need to rely on the skills of neurosurgeons and psychiatrists for specialist assessment, diagnosis and treatment for life-saving strategies, but don't underestimate the profound, supportive role that Natural Health Practitioners can offer in supporting those with brain dysfunction, stress and mood disorders, substance abuse or age-related neural degeneration.
We can offer unique, complementary nutritional, herbal, dietary and lifestyle support for patients and work in harmony with the multiple modalities that are often required for holistic management of brain dysfunction and stress and mood disorders.
Wellness for the brain CELL The maxim "prevention is better than cure", couldn't be more true when it comes to the brain. Targeting nutritional strategies at optimum brain health, and consequently mental function, is essential to enhance every