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Natural support for the nervous system


Natural support for the nervous system


The nervous system goes through it all. It takes care of digestion, breathing, emotions, body temperature, heart rate, and so much more. And, sometimes, it needs extra support. Below, we take a look at some of the best ways to look after your nervous system, naturally.
 

Best foods for the brain 


The brain is the commander in chief of the nervous system.  So, looking after your brain means looking after the rest of your nervous system.
 
Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats will help supply the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants needed to support cognition and emotional health.
 
Combining elements of the Mediterranean diet and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, the MIND diet is specifically designed for brain health – and it’s shown great promise (1). The MIND diet is mainly plant-based and limits the intake of saturated fat and animal-derived products. It focuses on green leafy vegetables, berries, whole grains, nuts, oily fish, beans, and olive oil, foods known to target brain health.
 
The SMILES trial revealed the extent to which a predominantly plant-based diet could impact psychological function (2). After 12 weeks of eating mainly plant foods, more than 30 per cent of the control group – who experienced low mood at the start – saw a positive change. The researchers believed this was down to the way plant foods support gut health, which, in turn, supports the brain via the gut-brain axis.
 

Best vitamins for the nervous system

 
Alongside adopting a balanced, whole-food, plant-forward diet, ensuring you get a plentiful intake of the following nutrients will help support your nervous system.
 

Omega-3

 
The long-chain omega 3 fatty acids, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) come top of the list for brain health.  In particular, DHA contributes to the maintenance of normal brain function.* Find it: Oily fish or plant-based microalgae.
 
* A beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 250mg of DHA
 

B vitamins

 
The family of B vitamins are involved in many different biochemical processes. In particular, vitamins B1, B3 (niacin), B6, B7 (biotin), and B12 contribute to the normal functioning of the nervous system. Find them: Green leafy vegetables.
 

Iodine

 
Iodine is an important trace mineral needed in small quantities to support health. Crucially, iodine supports normal nervous system function. Find it: Prunes.  
 

Magnesium

 
An essential mineral involved in over 300 biochemical processes; magnesium contributes to the normal functioning of the nervous system. Find it: Pumpkin seeds.
 

Vitamin C

 
Aside from immune health, vitamin C also plays an important role in supporting nervous system function. Find it: Goji berries.
 

Vitamin D3

 
Although vitamin D3 is known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, it operates more like a hormone in the body. Some experts believe low levels may affect the nervous system (2). Find it: Mushrooms.  
 

Adaptogenic herbs

 
Adaptogenic herbs, like ashwagandha, Siberian Ginseng, and Korean Ginseng, are often recommended by nutritionists as they can be a helpful part of a supplement regime. (3).
 

Palmitoylethanolamide 

 
PEA is an endocannabinoid-like compound found in almost every cell, tissue, and fluid in the body. Naturally produced when cells are damaged or threatened, PEA is a well-researched alternative to CBD. It’s a popular choice to support nervous system function and physical discomfort.
 

Theanine

 
The amino acid found in green and black teas, theanine, is a useful addition for those looking to support mental performance and nervous system function.
 

Turmeric

 
The active compound in turmeric, curcumin, has been celebrated for generations. Many people take it to support their overall health and wellbeing (4).
 

Choline

 
Choline is another important addition for brain health. Studies suggest those who consume higher amounts of choline have a lower risk of cognitive decline (5). Find it: Eggs.
 

Lifestyle changes

 
Beyond diet, making small, manageable lifestyle changes can also help heal the nervous system.
 

Manage stress

 
A little bit of stress is healthy. But chronic stress can disrupt the delicate balance of the autonomic nervous system: it revs up the sympathetic nervous system, which leaves the body in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’.
 
Finding activities that downregulate your sympathetic nervous system and activate your parasympathetic nervous system – responsible for your ‘rest and digest’ functions – will serve as a buffer against modern-day stressors.
 
Conscious belly breathing, meditation, and yoga stimulate the vagus nerve, which is one of the main nerves that run to the parasympathetic nervous system, making them great additions to your arsenal.
 
Regular exercise is another great antidote for stress – and it also supports the nervous system more generally. Find something you enjoy and stick to it.
 

Clock enough sleep

 
Sleep is vital for the nervous system. During rest, the brain recharges and reorganises itself; without enough, it can’t function properly. Research suggests that memory, problem-solving, and reasoning decline when people get fewer than seven hours of sleep per night (6). A single night’s sleep can improve cognitive performance. 
 
Getting into bed an hour earlier, following a relaxing wind-down routine, and avoiding caffeine after midday can help you clock those precious z’s. You can also learn more about improving your sleep quality here.  
 

Connect with others

 
Loneliness has been associated with poorer mental health outcomes and accelerated cognitive decline. A 2021 study reported that less socially active people are at a higher risk of losing more of the brain’s grey matter, the outer layer responsible for processing information (7).
 
Try to nurture and maintain meaningful interactions with people you care about. Even a simple smile at a stranger can help you feel connected.
 

Want to learn more?

 
If you want to find out more about supporting your nervous system, please explore the rest of our dedicated health blog. Alternatively, please get in touch with our team of expert Nutrition Advisors, who are on hand to provide free, confidential advice via email, phone, and Live Chat.

 

 

References:

  1. Diet Review: Mind diet (2023) The Nutrition Source. Available online: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/mind-diet/

  2. Wrzosek M, ?ukaszkiewicz J, Wrzosek M, Jakubczyk A, Matsumoto H, Pi?tkiewicz P, Radziwo?-Zaleska M, Wojnar M, Nowicka G. (2013) Vitamin D and the central nervous system. Pharmacol Rep. 65(2):271-8.

  3. Panossian A, Wikman G. (2010) Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 19;3(1):188-224.

  4. Kulkarni SK, Dhir A. (2010) An overview of curcumin in neurological disorders. Indian J Pharm Sci. 72(2):149-54.

  5. Liu L, Qiao S, Zhuang L, et al. (2021) Choline Intake Correlates with Cognitive Performance among Elder Adults in the United States. Behavioural Neurology.

  6. Conor J Wild, Emily S Nichols, Michael E Battista, Bobby Stojanoski, Adrian M Owen. (2018) Dissociable effects of self-reported daily sleep duration on high-level cognitive abilities, Sleep, Volume 41, Issue 12.

  7. Felix C, Rosano C, Zhu X, Flatt JD, Rosso AL. (2021) Greater Social Engagement and Greater Gray Matter Microstructural Integrity in Brain Regions Relevant to Dementia. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 14;76(6):1027-1035.

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Our Author - Olivia Salter

Olivia

Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.

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