YOUR BRAIN: These Super Chemicals Keep You "Charged"
In today's Longevity Insider HQ, our Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. Anil Bajnath, wraps up his three-part series on neurotransmitters. - Alex Reid, President, Longevity Insider HQ
In the last part of our three-part brain chemicals series...
Let's take a look at two special neurotransmitters that can influence the way you do life.
Super Chemical #1: Glutamate
Glutamate is the most abundant neurotransmitter in the body, present in nearly every excitatory brain function. Its job is to get neurons excited and ready to work. It’s also a metabolic precursor to GABA. Glutamate plays a vital role in synaptic plasticity—the strengthening or weakening of the signals between neurons over time. This is how your memories are formed, not by the creation of new neurons, but by strengthening the connections between them.
You may have an excess of glutamate in the brain if you experience:
- Inability to focus
- Hyperalgesia (amplified pain)
You may have heard of monosodium glutamate, or MSG, a chemical compound often put in commercially prepared food to make it taste better. MSG acts on glutamate receptors and because the neurotransmitter is required in almost all metabolic activities, this wreaks havoc on the entire body.
“Insulin resistance and reduced glucose tolerance in rodents due to MSG consumption raise concerns about the development of obesity in MSG consuming humans. The same study revealed that MSG intake causes a disrupted energy balance by increasing the palatability of food and disturbing the leptin-mediated hypothalamus signaling cascade, potentially leading to obesity.”
Source: Niaz, K., Zaplatic, E., & Spoor, J. (2018). Extensive use of monosodium glutamate: A threat to public health?. EXCLI journal, 17, 273–278. https://doi.org/10.17179/excli2018-1092
If you’re looking to improve brain and metabolic health, glutamine is a good place to start. Dietary sources include beef, chicken, fish, dairy, eggs, beans, beets, celery, kale, Brussel sprouts, papaya, wheat, and fermented foods like miso and kimchi.
Super Chemical #2: Endorphins
Endorphins are discussed in fitness circles as the chemicals responsible for that “runner’s high” people experience after vigorous physical activity. Their main job is to minimize pain and discomfort and understanding how they work led to the development of opioid drugs like codeine, morphine, fentanyl, and oxycodone.
Using positron emission tomography (PET) scans, researchers were able to view athlete’s brains both before and after exercise. They found an increase in the release of endorphins after exercise. This led to a wealth of research on how exercise affects our mood, ability to focus, and even clinical depression.
“30 community-dwelling moderately depressed men and women were randomly assigned to an exercise intervention group, a social support group, or a wait-list control group.17 The exercise intervention consisted of walking 20 to 40 minutes 3 times per week for 6 weeks. The authors reported that the exercise program alleviated overall symptoms of depression and was more effective than the other 2 groups in reducing somatic symptoms of depression.”
Source: Craft, L. L., & Perna, F. M. (2004). The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry, 6(3), 104–111. https://doi.org/10.4088/pcc.v06n0301
You may have low endorphin levels if you experience:
- Chronic headaches
- Low energy
- Chronic pain thought the body
If you’re looking to improve your mood, decrease pain, and maintain brain health, exercise is a great way to boost endorphins. You can also meditate or practice yoga, eat some dark chocolate, or do an activity that makes you laugh. Feeling good is usually an indicator that you’re doing the right things.
At the Institute for Human Optimization, we utilize a unique approach to brain health optimization by taking into account your unique genomic blueprint. We are accurately able to identify patterns of genes involved in neurotransmitter synthesis and metabolism along with risk factors for premature cognitive decline. We then correlate this data with personalized brain health assessments to determine any underlying brain-based imbalances and give you relevant lifestyle recommendations.
To your longevity,
Anil Bajnath MD
CEO and Founder, Institute for Human Optimization
Chief Medical Advisor, Longevity Insider HQ
* This content is provided by the Institute for Human Optimization (www.ifho.org).