The Nervous System

“The mind and the body are inextricably entwined, and rarely are their inseparability clearer than when we're under some kind of mental pressure. The moment we start trying to learn a new skill, make a decision or otherwise think on our feet, our nervous system reacts - with accelerated pulse rate, increased respiration, even sweating.”
-Jeffrey Kluger

I think we're all fascinated and a little mystified by how the brain works. One of the most mysterious of the physical sciences is neurological science.

-Alexis Denisof

Definition

The system of neurons, neurochemicals, and allied structures involved in receiving sensory stimuli, generating and coordinating responses, and controlling bodily activities: in vertebrates it includes the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and ganglia.


Organs involved

The autonomic nervous system consists of neurons connecting the central nervous system with internal organs. The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal column. The sympathetic nervous system mobilizes energy and resources during times of stress and arousal. The parasympathetic nervous system conserves energy and resources during relaxed states including sleep.


Parts of the Nervous System 

Nerve tissue, nervous tissue - Tissue composed of neurons

ganglion - on encapsulated neural structure consisting of a collection of cell bodies or neurons.

Nerve cell, neuron - A cell that is specialized to conduct nerve impulses.

Fascicles, fiber bundle, facile - A bundle of fibers, especially nerve fibers.

Central nervous system, CNS - The portion of the vertebrate nervous system consisting of the brain and spinal cord.

Neural network - Any network of neurons or nuclei that function together to perform some function in the body.

Peripheral Nervous System, PNS - The section of the nervous system lying outside the brain and spinal cord.

Autonomic Nervous System, ANS - The part of the nervous system of vertebrates that controls in voluntary actions of the smooth muscles and hearts and glands.

Sympathetic Nervous System, SNS - Originates in the thoracic region of the spinal cord; opposes physiological effects of the parasympathetic: reduces digestive secretions; speeds the heart; contracts blood vessels.

Parasympathetic Nervous System, PNS - Originates in the brain stem and lower part of the spinal column; Opposes physiological effects of the sympathetic nervous system; stimulates digestive secretions; slows the heart; constricted pupils; and dilates blood vessels.


COLOR ASSOCIATED WITH THE NERVOUS SYSTEM: PURPLE

The color of insight, also the color of the anthocynadins - that family of flavonoids found in purple, black, blue and red foods that is associated with re-geneing your brain.  New research published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that daily consumption of the equivalent of one cup of fresh blueberries, given as 24 g of freeze-dried powder, showed positive changes in cognitive function over a placebo.

Spices

Black pepper, cocoa, curry leaf, nutmeg, rosemary, saffron, sage, sundries tomato, turmeric, basil, and oregano (for migraines). 

Herbs/teas

Lavender, camomile, valerian, ashwaghandha, lemon balm, holy basil (Tulsi), lion’s mane mushroom, reishi, black tea, green tea, and white tea.

Essential oils

Most essential oils have both a stimulating and sedative effects on the Nervous System. Some essential oils have a balancing or regulating effect on the system. Stimulating essential oils are useful for depression and/or nervous fatigue. Sedative essential oils are useful for anxiety, hysteria, insomnia, and/or nervousness.

Peppermint, camomile eucalyptus, rose, juniper, patchouli, geranium, jasmine, clary sage, neroli, lavender, lemon, lemon grass, ylang ylang, neroli, vetiver, frankincense, bergamot, and many others.

How To Use

Treatment is by bath, massage, and aromatherapy.

For calming and sedative impartations: Chamomile, Clary Sage, Jasmine, Lavender, Petitgrain, Marjoram, Melissa, Neroli, Vetiver

To stimulate and awaken: Anise, Basil, Cajeput, Camphor, Cardamon, Cinnamon, Clove, Fennel, Peppermint, Pine, Rosemary, Thyme

For balancing: Bergamot, Cedarwood, Geranium, Sandalwood


Functional Foods

All purple foods rich in anthocynadins, such as purple sweet potatoes, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, lingon berries, cranberries, blackberries, plums, cherries, garbanzo beans, purple cabbage, fish and all foods high in DHA, the most important member of the of the omega-s fatty acid family for the brain, coconut oil, turmeric, fresh root or powder form as a spice, green tea, reishi mushroom, dark chocolate, sweet potatoes, yams, whey, Brazil nuts, all nuts, quinoa, spinach, brown rice, purple rice, garlic, sea vegetables, gluten free oatmeal, bee pollen, coffee (not for everyone).

Foods to Avoid

Sugar, gluten, trans fats and bad saturated fats, especially anything deep-fried.


Nutrients

A good multi-vitamin, fish oil, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K2, all the B vitamins and especially B-12, copper, zinc, selenium, chromium, manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamin D, amino acids such as GABA, tyrosine, tryptophan, serotonin, and arginine.

Specific Brain Nutrients

Alpha-lipoic-acid (ALA), acetyl-L-carnitine, and phosphatidylserine, l-theanine, GABA, SAMe.


Movement + Exercise

All exercise is excellent for the brain, but especially exercises like yoga, tai chi, Qi gong, singles, tennis, dance with choreography such as ballroom dancing, or salsa.

Yoga Poses 

  1. Downward Facing Dog
  2. Supporting Childs Pose

    Releasing all muscular tension is one of the best ways to calm your nervous system, which is one of the reasons supporting child's pose is so healing. Place a bolster on the floor (if you don't have a bolster, a few folded up blankets will work). Bring your knees wide and toes to touch really. Release all of your weight onto the bolster and close your eyes. Extend your arms forward and rest them next to the bolster. You may even consider turning down the lights to further reduce sensory stimulation. A wide-kneed Child's Pose, which relaxes the pelvic floor, is a great way to activate the rest-and-digest branch of your nervous system.

  3. Reclining Bound Angle

    This pose is a beneficial restorative yoga pose that relaxes the central nervous system and reduces stress, tension and mild depression. Lie on your back. Bend your knees; bring your heels as close to your buttocks as possible. Lift your pelvis to slide your tailbone down, lengthening your spine. Exhale and allow your needs to fall away from each other toward the ground. If the stretch in your groin is too intense, support your knees on yoga blocks or folded blankets. Broaden your chest and relax your shoulders. Rest your arms by your side, palms facing up. Close your eyes. Stay in this pose for up to one minute.

  4. Corpse Pose

    Corpse pose is an intensely relaxing yoga pose for your nervous system. You can use this pose any time of day to invoke feelings of deep relaxation and calm. Lie on your back on the padded surface, such as a yoga mat, with your legs stretched out straight, feet hip width apart. Lift your tailbone to lifting your spine. Allow your feet to roll away from each other. Bring in your shoulders and chest. Relax your arms by your side at 45° angle from your body, palms facing up. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Stay in this pose for up to 10 minutes.


Day One Focus

Stress

Stress affects your brain and your second brain, which is your gut. We must make every effort to detoxify from stress, the “big hairy monster toxin”. Breathing techniques, meditation, prayer, forest bathing and being out in nature, sunshine, gardening, essential oils, baths with Epsom’s salts and essential oils, far infrared systems, massage, music, caring for animals, exercise, painting or doing any type of creative work, journaling, and I’m sure we could add a lot more to the list. These have been researched for their efficacy using brain imaging to capture the changes in the brain and reduction of stress hormones when subjects were engaged in the above mentioned activities.

Day Two Focus

Role of dietary fat and brain function (Alzheimer’s and dementia) coconut oil

High-fat fish such as salmon are called brain food for a reason. Fats don't just add cushion and warmth; they are necessary for energy production, and even for your sanity. About two-thirds of our brains are composed of fat, and the protective sheath around communicating neurons is 70 percent fat. So in a sense we need fat to think and to maintain healthy brain function, which in turn help us to feel balanced; in particular, the class of essential fatty acids called the omega-3s and omega-6s play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development

Day Three Focus

Neuroplasticity - How To Reverse The Aging Brain

Here again we see the miracle of exercise in several different modalities. Physical exercise as in walking, running, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and so on is one form that has been proven to be very beneficial. Brain exercises, such as taking fifteen minutes to write as neatly as you can, or drawing, is another form of exercising that is beneficial for the brain. That really keeps your brain young. John R. Ratey, author of an excellent book, SPARK - The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain said it best.

“If we’re going to have new cells, We'll need fertilizer for them, and from the get-go, neurogenesis researchers have been onto BDNF. Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor - a protein that regulates the growth, survival and differentiation of neurons that affects synaptic plasticity. We've come to know that BDNF is also a necessary ingredient for making new cells.”

BDNF gathers in reserve pools near the synapsis and is unleashed when we get our blood pumping. In the process, a number of hormones from the body are called into action to help. During exercise, these factors push through the blood brain barrier, a web of capillaries with tightly packed cells that screen out bulky intruders such as bacteria. Scientists have just recently learned that once inside the brain, these factors work with BDNF to crank up the molecular machinery of learning.

Action Step: One of the best ways of keeping your nervous system fine-tuned is to spend a minimum of 15 minutes per day writing on paper as neatly as you can.

Writing with pen on paper is far more effective at exercising your nervous system than writing with a keyboard on a computer, as typing on a keyboard doesn't require as much fine motor control as writing on paper.

An alternative to writing on paper is to draw on paper, as drawing with precision also requires intensive use of all of the major components of your conscious motor and sensory apparatuses.


Affirmations for a healthy nervous system 

Day One

Every breath I inhale calms me and every breath I exhale takes away tension.

Day Two

 I’m embracing healthy fats and eschewing bad fats that no longer serve the new me.

Day Three

I love to move my body and in so doing I am growing younger in my brain!


Meditiations

 Day One

In this meditation, I want you to think about one word, that when you think about this one word, it brings you peace and tranquility. Sit comfortably, eyes closed, and think about this one word, saying it over and over again in your mind with a smile on your face. Do this for a few minutes.

Day Two

In this meditation I want you to envision and imagine as you engage in the exercise you enjoy, that your brain is literally creating new neurons, and that your neurons are soft, pliable and youthful. Imagine your brain firing with excitement and electrical energy pulsating as you are engaged in your favorite exercise.

Day Three

Meditate on your body as a whole. There is incredible interconnection of your muscles, organs, the vagus nerve, your spinal column, various parts of your brain, your gut and how it signals to your brain and your brain, how it signals to your gut. Speak healing, balance and vitality into this meditation.