Nine Chemicals That Are Good For Your Brain (and One That’s Bad)
Your brain is incredible. Not only does it keep your lungs breathing and your heart beating…it helps you to recall everything from where you left your car keys to distant memories from childhood.
But with age, your brain can lose its sharpness.
It may be harder to remember names and numbers. You may spend more time looking for your glasses and your cell phone. You may walk into a room and forget why.
And then there’s brain fog…when your thoughts are fuzzy and feel like they’re moving through jello.
People used to think that these were the inevitable by-products of getting older. But research now shows that how well your brain works depends a lot on having the right chemicals present in the right amounts.
Keep these chemicals in balance and your thoughts won’t skip a beat as the years go by. Too little or too much, on the other hand, and your brain will be like a high-performance engine with a bad tank of gas.
Here are nine chemicals that keep your brain healthy…plus one that can be unhealthy.
The Good Chemicals
Glutamate and GABA
These two amino acids are important neurotransmitters that regulate brain activity.
Think of glutamate as the gas pedal for your brain and think of GABA as the brakes. Glutamate speeds up brain activity…GABA slows it down.
With too much glutamate in your brain, you could feel edgy, agitated, or wired. GABA, on the other hand, helps you to feel more relaxed and tranquil. The two need to be balanced relative to each other for healthy brain function.
Like other amino acids, your body produces glutamate and GABA by breaking down protein-rich foods in your diet.
Sometimes called the “happiness hormone”, serotonin helps you to feel calm and confident. But too much can cause irritability, restlessness, anxiety, impulsivity, and even high blood pressure.
The best part about serotonin? There are multiple ways to boost your levels:
- Food. Serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan, and tryptophan comes from high-protein foods. So be sure to eat enough protein.
- Exercise. Exercise triggers the release of tryptophan into your bloodstream. Aerobic exercise is particularly beneficial.
- Sunlight. Your body can produce serotonin in response to sun exposure. As little as 10-15 minutes per day can make a difference.
- Supplements. Tryptophan can be taken as a supplement if you don’t get enough from food sources. Other supplements that can help to increase serotonin include 5-HTP, SAMe, St. John’s wort, and probiotics.
When you experience pleasure, that’s dopamine at work while it interacts with the pleasure and reward center within your brain.
Dopamine is also the neurotransmitter that can lead to addictive behavior.
Oxytocin is often called the “cuddle hormone”. It’s produced in response to social bonding or intimacy. In fact, it was first recognized due to its importance during childbirth and breastfeeding.
Healthy levels of oxytocin can reduce anxiety and enhance feelings of wellbeing. Low oxytocin levels can result in feelings of depression.
These “feel good” neurotransmitters act on the same brain receptors as opiates.
Endorphins can be released in response to pain or stress, but they can also be released in response to positive things like exercise and good food. The sense of wellbeing you get after exercise or a good meal is thanks to endorphins.
Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) is derived from vitamin B3, and it’s essential for energy production and the repair of all types of cells in your body.
NAD+ is particularly important in brain cells, where it regulates a critical protein called PGC-1-alpha. This protein protects brain cells from the oxidative stress that can cause diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Testosterone and Estrogen
These so-called “sex hormones”, in addition to their many other jobs, play an important role in maintaining proper brain function.
In both men and women, estrogen supports cerebral blood flow. It also influences memory storage, fine motor skills, and spatial relations. Healthy levels of estrogen also protect against dementia and other age-related cognitive disorders.
Testosterone supports concentration and memory in both sexes and has been linked to improved cognitive function when present in healthy amounts.
Pregnenolone is an adrenal hormone that is the precursor for other hormones. And like other hormones, its levels decline with age.
Meanwhile, research indicates that pregnenolone may protect against cognitive decline.
And the Potentially Bad Chemical: Cortisol
Cortisol is a hormone that cuts both ways. You need small amounts of cortisol to feel good and get through the day. But too much cortisol is toxic to the human body.
How does a person wind up with too much cortisol? Your adrenal glands produce cortisol in response to stress. Among other things, this stress response increases blood pressure and boosts your blood glucose levels to provide energy.
For short-term stress, this is helpful. But when a person experiences long-term stress, the result is chronically elevated cortisol levels that can lead to memory loss and higher risk factors for developing dementia.
The Bottom Line
Each of these chemicals affects the health of your brain. If they aren’t present in the right amounts, cognitive function can suffer. And that can mean anything from short-term memory loss and brain fog to cognitive decline and dementia.
Renew Youth has the solutions you need to keep your brain functioning at its best.
To learn more, call us at 800-850-7511 or fill out our contact form to schedule your free consultation.