Caring for Your Nervous System the Right Way – Diet, Exercise, Meditation and More!
So much of our everyday life revolves around stimuli and responses. Unpaid bills, looming deadlines, mysterious pathogens floating in the air - just to name a few of our enemies. It doesn’t end there, these tensions and everyday baggage seep into our every waking moment and even sleep. Sometimes a visit to the doctor becomes imperative, whose diagnosis might point out that our Nervous system is frail, and perhaps even failing.
Why is the Nervous system weakening? Isn’t there a holistic way to strengthen our Nervous system?
Before we begin
Let’s get familiar with the basic layout of our Nervous system:
- The Brain: The mastermind of the physical system, information storage, and processing are the brain’s primary responsibilities.
- Peripheral Nervous System: The PNS connects your brain to the rest of the body, ensuring a seamless flow of information. It consists of:
- The Somatic Nervous System: The SNS is in charge of voluntary movement.
- The Autonomic Nervous System: The ANS is in charge of involuntary movement.
A number of issues we recognize, such as sleepless nights and steeping anxiety, are mostly due to problems in the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). PNS takes care of our Fight or Flight instincts in situations of danger and stress. The problem occurs when the PNS goes into overdrive, making us feel like we are in danger right here, right now!
Caring for the Nervous System
The best solution is to have an organic, natural approach to strengthen the nervous system from the inside. With adequate care and control, our nervous system bounces back to its complete functionality. A two-pronged approach is considered the best care:
- Dietary practices
- Physical activity
1. Dietary practices for a Healthy Nervous system
To start off, a balanced, nutrient-rich diet should help you with the following:
- Regenerating your nerves
- Calming your stress
- Improving your functionality
Ideally, a complete diet has significant portions of the required nutrients. However, our lifestyle has made it mandatory for us to tweak our nutrient intake.
Think of it as a typical exam preparation. Even if you prepare for every subject, you tend to focus on your weaker points to strengthen your overall grade.
Foods that Improve Message Transmission
Every nerve in your body transmits messages through electrical impulses. To keep the flow of information smooth, focus on these amino-acid, vitamin, and mineral-rich foods:
- Tryptophan: This neurotransmitter amino acid is commonly found in dark chocolate. Make sure you buy quality dark chocolate, free from preservatives and chemicals. Better yet, make your own using this recipe!
- Calcium: Be it bone health, stronger teeth, blood quality, or information flow, it is one of the most essential minerals. Calcium is easily available in leafy greens, eggs, milk, cheese, and other milk products. If you’re lactose-intolerant, here are 10 alternatives for you.
- Potassium: Equally responsible for controlling your nerve impulses, this mineral can be found abundantly in bananas, oranges, prunes, and pomegranates.
- Vitamin B1, B2 and B6: These vitamins are integral in ensuring the right message is delivered at the right time inside your body. Since the human body does not store these vitamins for long time periods, they need to be replenished quite frequently. Leafy greens, whole foods such as brown rice, milk and milk products, eggs, organ-based meat, and salmon are excellent sources for these vitamins. Why not get experimental and create a salad from these ingredients? An ideal salad-based meal will have leafy greens like spinach and kale, a portion of brown rice for carbohydrates, eggs (per your protein intake), and a meaty side dish.
Foods that protect your nervous system
When it comes to maintenance, foods that regenerate your nerves are just as important. While many of the food suggestions below might seem obvious in our day-to-day life, the real trick is in implementing them in our daily meals. Such conscious living takes time and practice, but in the end, the rewards are worth the efforts!
- Vitamin K: With proven efficiency in delaying the dreaded Alzheimers, this vitamin has glucosinolate compounds which prevent the breakdown of Acetylcholine. Patients of Alzheimers typically have poor levels of acetylcholine. Foods rich in Vitamin K include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale. Avocados are also an excellent choice for Vitamin K and Folates. Take a look at this for a recipe that combines them all: Avocado, Kale and Banana smoothie recipe.
Vitamin B12: Essential for nerve health, this vitamin is also vital for brain functions, producing DNA and red blood cells as well. Since the human body cannot generate this, it is important to source foods that are rich in B12. Fortified cereals, sardines, tuna, clams, trout, and eggs are great sources of Vitamin B12. For vegans, Vitamin B12 options can be sourced through fortified foods, or a daily B12 supplement providing at least 10 micrograms of the nutrient.
- Minerals: Magnesium, Copper, Iron and Zinc is your new mantra! These minerals are so crucial for maintaining your nervous system and also, preventing degenerative diseases. Just have one ounce (28 grams) of pumpkin seeds to see a miraculous improvement in your everyday life. Learn some interesting ways to use pumpkin seeds in everyday recipes.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: These fatty acids contribute to cognitive growth and functioning, and also help in healing the nervous system. As a result, you’re increasing your memory and intelligence while also counterbalancing the effects of poor food practices! Consuming a diet rich in eggs, fish (in particular, salmon), almonds, and other nuts helps you gain a generous dosage of Omega.
- Antioxidants in beets, olive oil, blueberries, garlic, and green tea keep the brain young, sharp, and highly functional.
- Coconut oil is an age-old mantra widely used for its healthy fats. This miraculous oil has been proven to be effective in repairing neural pathways, and improving information retention and memory.
Foods that care for our nervous system are highly recommended. You may have observed that many of these are quite commonly used in our day-to-day intake. It is recommended to increase the portion of nutrient-dense options listed above. You can gradually weed out preservative and additive-filled food options. Eating freshly-cooked food might just give you a fresh breath of life!
2. Physical Activities for a Healthy Nervous System
Strengthening your nervous system involves learning to relax, being mindful of movements, toughening your backbone and posterior muscles, and learning to improve flexibility and elasticity of the Spine.
- Learn to take deep breaths that expand your chest and lift your belly up. Deliberately breathing to your full lung capacity helps in filtering out intrusive thoughts and regulates your thought process.
- Lie down on your back, with your palms facing the ceiling. Keep your eyes closed and focus on the center of your forehead, at the point where your eyebrows might meet. Breathe softly and deliberately, until you feel one with your body. This breathing exercise helps calm your nervous system and lower your cortisol levels.
- Pilates help in keeping your spine supple and strong. These exercises primarily engage your spine, while improving blood circulation all across your posterior. Try Pilates for the Spine.
- Yoga describes 7 chakras across the spinal cord. These chakras, when balanced, pave way for a well-rounded life filled with peace. Learn more about the 7 chakras.
Strengthening the backbone
The backbone is the sheath of the spinal cord. The stronger it is, the happier the nervous system. Some exercises that can help create a back you are proud of:
- Deadlifts: This compound exercise must be attempted only with the guidance of a trained instructor. Popular for its versatility, this exercise activates the entire posterior chain of the human body.
- Cat and Cow stretch: Learn how to do a Cat and Cow pose
- Learn how to strengthen the lower back.
Nervous breakdowns are real, and the incidences of them in the general public are too high to deny its prevalence. The next time you find yourself short of breath, trembling and filled to the brim with emotional wattage, take a few deep breaths. Remember to eat right, and eat well. Remember to exercise, and breathe. Never forget, tomorrow is another day, and it shall be yours!