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Brain Boosters

by James R. Bowman, D.C., CHt.

Category: Ethics


Be smart about great health by giving your brain the nutrition it needs. A good program includes alpha lipoic acid, vitamin E, CoQ1O, and other key nutrients.

The brain is truly at the throne of a healthy well being. All of our thoughts, feelings, and emotions originate from this vital organ. It also plays a dynamic role in the health of all other bodily functions. Brain wellness is dependent on effective communication. As in all other relationships, communication is essential at the biological level. This communication network relies on a variety of substances including neurotransmitters, peptides, and substances known as immunotransmitters. A key principle in the concept of biological communication is the existence of receptors on each cell to receive a specific signal and produce a desired effect. When a neurotransmitter binds to a receptor, it sets into motion a complex chain of events that occur at a molecular level. These cellular effects give rise to key brain functions including mood, memory, and behavior.
In order for effective communication to take place, there must be a device in place to receive biological signals. In the central nervous system, this is accomplished by cell membrane receptors. Cell membrane receptors are composed of a variety of substances including proteins and lipids. The lipid composition of receptors is especially important because modification of the lipid content in older brains affects the way receptors function. The relationship of receptor function to lipid composition is known as fluidity. Stated simply, the more fluid a cell membrane has the more likely an intended biological effect will occur. Fluidity of cell membranes is directly affected by diet. When we ingest large quantities of saturated fats, our cell membrane receptors are less fluid and, therefore, less likely to receive specific messages to carry out biological communication. Conversely, diets that are high in unsaturated fats, specifically the omega-3 fatty acids, have the opposite effect. The link between dietary fat, fluidity, and neurological and psychiatric conditions is now being closely examined. Many researchers and clinicians believe that the increasing incidence of neurological and depressive illnesses may be linked to the changing composition of our diets. With a higher reliance on saturated fats, our receptors are less likely to respond effectively to neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.
FAT – The foundation for brain health understands the relationship between the fats you consume and their effects on the cell membrane receptors in your brain. Ensuring that you ingest large quantities of omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in cold water fish such as salmon, herring, and tuna, helps make membranes more fluid and, thus, more likely to respond to receptors.
ANTIOXIDANTS – The second key to brain health understands the relationship of brain cell membranes to antioxidants and oxidants. Lipids, which are found in the brain, are highly sensitive to the detrimental effects of free radicals. Many people are now aware of the importance of antioxidants in disease prevention, as well as the role that free radicals play in diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Less appreciated, however, is the importance of antioxidants to brain health.
Recently, neuroscientists have discovered evidence of the role antioxidant play in the central nervous system. A distinct feature of brain antioxidants is their ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. Many nutrients that are essential to the overall bodily health may be ineffective in the prevention of neurological illnesses if they are incapable of passing through this physiological barrier. Fortunately, there exists a class of antioxidants that are lipid-soluble and are able to reach their intended target from the circulatory system into the brain and perform their tasks adequately. These include alpha lipoic acid, polyphenols, tocotrienols, and CoQIO.
ALPHA LIPOIC ACID – This antioxidant plays an important role in brain wellness because of its ability to neutralize potential toxic substances including peroxy nitrates. Peroxy nitrates are among the most toxic substances to brain cells because of their ability to destroy the lipid membrane that surrounds neurons. Alpha lipoic acid has a particular affinity for disarming peroxy nitrates. Furthermore, the role of alpha lipoic acid in neutralizing key antioxidants is now being studied in neurological illnesses including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s diseases.
Alpha lipoic acid plays another important role in brain wellness. It recycles the intracellular antioxidant glutathione. As we age, our glutathione levels diminish, making us more vulnerable to neurological injury. Unfortunately the gastrointestinal tract poorly absorbs glutathione. Therefore, it probably is not effective as an orally administered antioxidant without the assistance of alpha lipoic acid. Alpha lipoic acid has the potential to raise glutathione levels within brain cells and protect against free radical injury.
POLYPHENOLS – These antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables. They give these life-supply foods their delightful colors and smells. Polyphenols are also potential antioxidants in the brain and are being studied in regard to preventing neurological illnesses.
TOCOTRIENOLS – These nutrients are from the vitamin E family. They are found predominately in barley and rice oils and are useful in preserving the fat component of our central nervous system.
CoQ10 – An important substance found in the mitochondria of every cell that acts as an enzyme in energy production and plays a role as an antioxidant. Intracellular mitochondria are the energy-producing units of a cell and are particularly vulnerable to free radical injury. CoQ10 produces a descent system inside the mitochondrial membrane and appears to be beneficial in protecting against age-related neurological injuries.
HORMONES – Every hormone in the body plays an essential role in the maintenance of brain health. Hormone function as neurotransmitters, relaying information to a particular population of brain cells. Hormones also act as nerve growth factors that ensure the stimulation, maturation, and connections between brain cells.
Estrogen, in particular, is an exceptional nerve growth factor. We now know that there is a relationship between low estrogen levels and Alzheimer’s disease. The incidence of Alzheimer’s is significantly higher in post-menopausal women, and this likely reflects diminished estrogen levels. Furthermore, estrogen plays an important role in the synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, a key brain chemical involved in memory. Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) will likely be regarded as an adjunctive treatment in Alzheimer’s patients.
GENISTEIN – For women, who are concerned about the risks of ERT, a potentially effective alternative is a compound known as genistein. Genistein is a phytoestrogen that is found predominately in soy products. Because it has a weaker estrogenic effect in the body, it plays a primary role as an estrogen alternative without the negative risks associated with hormone therapy.
THYROID – An important hormone for brain function. A state of hypothyroidism is associated with weakness, fatigue, depression, and diminished memory. Thyroid stimulates particular regions of the brain, as well as increasing enzymes that affect the metabolic rate of brain cells. Thyroid levels are tightly controlled by the pituitary gland, the brain’s own hormone manufacturing plant. Unless a person has a measurable thyroid dysfunction, it would be unwise to take exogenous thyroid. However, people who are experiencing symptoms of depression, fatigue, memory loss, or weakness should have their thyroid levels checked by a qualified physician.
DHEA – This hormone is essential for promoting brain function. Released by the adrenal glands, DHEA stimulates the synthesis of products that preserve brain health. In this way, it acts, like estrogen, as a nerve growth factor. As people age, their DHEA levels diminish, and there is strong evidence of a direct link between diminished DHEA levels in the elderly and increased vulnerability to neurological illnesses such as Alzheimer’s.


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