As important as providing your brain with what it needs, you also have to avoid giving it what it hates. And your brain absolutely despises inflammation. Inflammation appears to be the underlying condition associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease. All inflammation is ultimately caused by the increased production of “bad” eicosanoids. What’s more, many of the pro-inflammatory cytokines (proteins produced by immune cells) lead to the production of more “bad” eicosanoids and vice versa. So bad begets worse, and the inflammation cycle continues unabated.
The best way to stop this cycle is to consume high-dose fish oil to provide adequate levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Not only will you choke off the production of “bad” eicosanoids (by decreasing the production of arachrondric acid), but you’ll also decrease the production of inflammation-promoting cytokines. This is a real win-win situation for your brain.
Loss of Key Neurotransmitters
The second thing the brain hates is any loss of key neurotransmitters. Those are the chemicals that control the flow of information transfer from one nerve cell to the other as they cross the gap (synapse) between different nerve cells. Without adequate levels of neurotransmitters, information slows dramatically. Two of the most important neurotransmitters are serotonin and dopamine. Consider serotonin to be your stress adaptation hormone and dopamine to be your action hormone. When serotonin levels are low, depression becomes more likely, as does violent or impulsive behavior. When dopamine levels are low, there’s an increased likelihood of Parkinson’s disease (decreased motor skills) or attention deficient disorder (decreased ability to focus on immediate tasks).
A multi-billion dollar drug industry is based on providing a wide variety of pharmaceuticals that are intended to increase either serotonin or dopamine. Unfortunately, if a drug increases one of these neurotransmitters, it often depresses the other. There is, however, one natural “drug” that can increase both dopamine and serotonin simultaneously. That “drug” is high-dose fish oil. By taking high-dose fish oil, you can maintain adequate levels of both neurotransmitters.
Your brain also detests excess cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone that your body releases in response to long-term stress. The more stress (which includes chronic pain or inflammation) that you have in your life, the more cortisol is released to control it. Unfortunately, nothing kills brain cells (especially those in the hippocampus, where memories are stored) faster than excess cortisol levels. Excess cortisol also inhibits short-term memory, like remembering where you put your keys.
My dietary recommendations reduce excess cortisol production in two ways. First, EPA in fish oil decreases the production of arachidonic acid which, in turn, decreases the production of “bad” eicosanoids. As the levels of “bad” eicosanoids decrease, the need for the body to produce cortisol also decreases. Second, the same dietary program stabilizes insulin levels, which shuts down production of excess cortisol. Cortisol is sometimes released to stimulate the release of stored sugar into the blood when blood sugar levels dip too low. This occurs if you are not producing adequate levels of glucagon (the primary hormone to stimulate the release of stored carbohydrate), which can be suppressed by high levels of insulin. Although cortisol gives your brain what it needs (more blood sugar) for the moment, you then have the problem of excess cortisol levels flowing through the bloodstream, causing damage to the memory center in the hippocampus in the brain.
Below is a chart summarizing your brain’s desires and aversions and what impact insulin and fish oil have on these .
Brain Loves and Hates
|Impact of Insulin Control||Impact of Fish Oil Intake|
|Stable Blood Sugar||+|
|Less of Neurotransmitters||+||+|
As you can see, insulin control accounts for about 25 percent of your brain function, whereas eicosanoids control accounts for about 75 percent. Thus, you need a combination of dietary measures (balancing carbohydrates and protein) and high-dose fish oil supplementation to give your brain what it loves and to, simultaneously, avoid the items it hates. This is the foundation of my dietary program.
Dr. Barry Sears, leading authority on the dietary control of hormonal response, author of the New York Times #1 best seller, The Zone, is a former research scientist at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For more information about The Zone program call 1-800-404-8171 or visit www.drsearszonefast.com