The nervous system is a complex network of cells and tissues that coordinates and controls the body’s response to internal and external stimuli. It is responsible for receiving and processing information from the internal and external environment and controls the body’s responses to that information. The nervous system is critical to maintaining an individual’s health and well-being.
The nervous system is divided into two systems.
- The central nervous system (CNS), and 2.The peripheral nervous system (PNS).
The CNS includes the spinal cord and brain, and the PNS includes all the nerves that branch out from the CNS to the rest of the body. Both the CNS and PNS are essential for the proper functioning of the body. They work together to control and coordinate various bodily functions like movement, sensation, thought, and emotion.
Role of the nervous system
- One of the primary functions of the nervous system is to receive and process sensory information from the environment. This information can come from the five senses – sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. The nervous system processes this information and sends it to the brain for interpretation. The brain then responds by sending signals to various body parts, allowing it to react appropriately to the environment.
- Another essential function of the nervous system is to control movement. The brain sends signals to the muscles and joints, allowing them to move in a coordinated manner. It enables us to perform activities like walking, running, and playing sports.
- The nervous system also plays a crucial role in regulating bodily functions such as breathing, heart rate, digestion, and sleep. These functions are regulated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS), a PNS branch, and the ANS controls these functions automatically, without conscious effort.
- Maintaining a healthy nervous system is essential for overall health and well-being. A healthy nervous system ensures all bodily functions work correctly and efficiently and promotes mental health, emotional stability, and cognitive function.
There are several ways in which we can maintain a healthy nervous system. One of the most important is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It includes eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. A balanced & healthy diet should include many vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Sleeping is also essential for nervous system health, allowing the brain to recharge and recover.
Reducing stress is another critical factor in maintaining a healthy nervous system. Stress can harm the body, causing various physical and mental health problems and affecting the nervous system, causing imbalances in neurotransmitters and hormones. Practicing deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, is essential, and these practices can help promote relaxation and reduce stress levels.
Maintaining a healthy nervous system also requires avoiding harmful substances like drugs and alcohol. These substances can damage the nervous system, cause various health problems, and lead to addiction and other mental health issues.
In addition to lifestyle factors, there are several other ways to promote nervous system health.
How to Promote Nervous System Health
- Exercise is one of the most beneficial to promote nervous system health. Regular physical activity has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain and promote the growth of new nerve cells. It also helps to reduce inflammation, which can be detrimental to the nervous system. Exercise can take many forms, from walking and jogging to strength training and yoga.
- Eat a balanced & healthy diet: A healthy diet is essential for nervous system health. Foods high in antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, can help protect nerve cells from damage. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish and nuts are also important for brain health. Restriction of processed foods and excessive amounts of sugar and caffeine can also help to support nervous system health.
- Get enough sleep: Sleep is essential for health, including nervous system health. The brain combines memories and processes information, allowing the nervous system to function optimally during sleep. 7-8 hours of sleep per night and maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
- Manage stress: Chronic stress can harm the nervous system, leading to inflammation and cell damage. Reducing stress through meditation, yoga, or other relaxation techniques is important. Exercise can also be a wonderful stress reliever. It’s important to identify sources of stress in your life and take steps to reduce or eliminate them.
- Stay socially connected: Social connection, including nervous system health, is essential for well-being. Studies have shown that social isolation can lead to cognitive decline and other health problems. Staying attached to friends and family, participating in group activities, and volunteering can all help to promote social connection.
- Stay mentally stimulated: Mental stimulation is important for maintaining brain health and promoting nervous system health. Activities such as reading, puzzles, and games can help to keep the brain active and engaged. Learning new skills or taking on new challenges can also help to promote mental stimulation.
- Avoid toxins: Exposure to toxins can be detrimental to nervous system health. Toxins can come from various sources, including environmental pollutants, pesticides, and certain medications. It’s important to avoid exposure to these toxins whenever possible. Eating organic foods, avoiding smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption can help to reduce toxin exposure.
- Practice good posture: Good posture is important for maintaining spinal health and promoting nervous system health. Poor posture can lead to nerve compression and other problems. Maintaining good posture when sitting, standing, and engaging in physical activity is important.
- Get regular checkups: Regular checkups with a healthcare provider can help to identify potential health problems before they become serious. It’s important to discuss any concerns about nervous system health with your healthcare provider and to follow recommended screening guidelines.
- Supplements: B vitamins are important for nerve function, and vitamin B deficiencies can lead to nerve damage and neurological problems. Supplements containing B vitamins, particularly B6, B12, and folic acid, can help to support the nervous system.Omega-3 fatty acids available in fatty fish are important for brain health, and Omega-3 supplements have been shown to improve mood, reduce inflammation, and support nervous system health. Magnesium is an important mineral for nervous system function, and deficiencies in this mineral can lead to nerve damage and neurological problems. Supplements containing magnesium can help to support nervous system health.
The nervous system regulates bodily functions and enables movement, sensation, and communication. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can positively impact the health of the nervous system, including regular exercise, adequate sleep, and a balanced diet. Certain habits, such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, can negatively affect the nervous system and increase the risk of developing neurological disorders. It’s important to monitor any changes in cognitive or motor functions and seek medical attention if necessary. By promoting nervous system health, individuals can improve their overall well-being and potentially reduce the risk of developing neurological diseases.
Here we discuss this with Louise Tjernqvist, a nutritional therapist, to get her thoughts on this topic.
NourishDoc: Hello, everyone, and happy Monday. Hope everyone had a great weekend. Well, we will be talking about our nervous system today with Louise. Louise is joining me live from Norway and is a functional medicine nutritional therapist focusing on our nervous system. Welcome; thank you so much for joining.
Therapist Louise: Thank you. Thank you so much, Amita, for having me.
Bridge Between Our physiology & Psychological Health
NourishDoc: What about the nervous system that we need to understand?
Therapist Louise: Well, first of all, the nervous system, in the way I look at is this magical bridge between our physiology and psychological health. So, in my work and practice, you either focus on emotional, psychological, or biochemistry and functional medicine.
But there needs to be a link like there are two different worlds. For me, the nervous system is bridging these two together. The Nervous system is everything that is within us and also outside of us. It has to do with our past and present; it’s our physical and psychological health. So, it’s very included in our feeling as a holistic being.
NourishDoc: Absolutely. Let’s expand more. You talked about the past, present, and future; there’s no control, but we carry much baggage, right? From our past, all of us, and now, how do you weave your expertise into ensuring that we somehow heal ourselves from the baggage we are carrying? While we’re moving forward, are we leading a better or happier life? I should say that.
Nervous System And Emotions Link
Therapist Louise: Happier life. Well, many of our experiences as infants or children, and throughout our lives, things can happen to us like it’s life. It’s stressors that can be traumatic with the big T or traumatic with a small T or just accumulated stress over time, which gets stored in our nervous system, tissue, and muscles.
It’s almost like an emotion if it’s not getting the desired expression. It gets locked in our nervous system and blocks different parts of our homeostasis or different fluidity in our body. So, for example, if we’re young children and we’re exposed to certain events or certain stressors, or we don’t feel safe in our surroundings, in our environment, this is something that will regulate our nervous system.
So, we naturally would go into fight, fight, or even freeze, and the freeze mechanism can be for pure survival reasons. But it also means that our nervous system feels like it freezes. It goes toward hibernation like the bears do in the winter. We don’t feel much we get cold.
We don’t have that flow and creativity. We might not reach out to other people. We withdraw a little bit. So many things can be explained by looking at our nervous system health. Both with our baggage, and it explains how we are in the present moment today.
Heart Rate Variability
NourishDoc: We were talking about the measurements, right? You talked about heart rate variability or other measurements and have been an Olympic athlete. So talk to us about testing and measurements and all the cool stuff.
Therapist Louise: All the cool stuff. I love the biomarker of heart rate variability; it’s a tool or a market that’s been used for the last 50 years to look at different vitality markers. It’s been linked to diabetes markers and these sudden infant deaths; that’s how they started using HRV 50 years ago. But the HRV is a heart rate variability.
It’s a variation between the RR intervals and an EKG. It’s actually with a simple language. It’s the variability between heartbeats. So we want a flexible nervous system. We want regulation in our nervous system. So if we got stored stress, for example, it no longer gets as fluid. You get stuck, and so what the HRV measures are the regularity in the nervous system.
I tell this when I work with athletes; for example, you want to be good in the pool, really good in the all-sympathetic, all go, go, go, go, go. But when you get off the court, you’re out of the pool, you need to be able to relax, and some people, me included, used to live up in fight and flight all the time. I had a really hard time calming down outside of the arena. So, HRV is a marker there to see how well your nervous system is, how well regulated you are.
Biohacking And Other Markers
NourishDoc: Okay, how can we use it daily like normal people like us? How do we make sure that we use like we use these markers?
Therapist Louise: Right. So there are many biohacking tools out there. You have aura rings, and You have work markers. You have the first beat. These are things that I tested my clients every day, every week, and every month. They can access these gadgets and your 24-hour heart rate variability to see how is your heart rate variability during the day and how is your heart rate variability during the night.
We can correlate how well you can manage stress and how well you can recover during your sleep. So I use that as a lifestyle marker to help people to optimize their daily living. So it’s a lifestyle marker, but when you see an extremely low heart rate variability, much baggage might be lurking. You might be doing all of these healthy lifestyle things, eating great, and taking care of your self-care routines, but you have a lot of stored baggage, and your HRV will still be quite low.
Simple Gadgets For Measuring Sleep Quality
NourishDoc: Okay. So these are like simple gadgets you give to your clients to help them right measure their heart rate variability, as you just said, during the day and in the evening so that in at night how much they can recover and then again you do that right? So is it some gadget, like a small gadget that is like small beads or something? Is that what you’re talking about? Is this a particular thing that you use?
Therapist Louise: Exactly. I’m not wearing mine at the moment, typically. But there are the rings. They’re really beautiful aura rings, and then you have these like they’re called the whoop, that’s also, they measure HRV, but they also measure your sleep. So, you can watch the recovery of your Rem, light, and deep sleep.
One of the first big gadgets is something that you put on your body. You wear it throughout the night for extended days, and we collect the data. Then I sit down with the clients, and I look at and see, okay, much are you recovering during your sleep? How much is quality sleep time if you were in bed for seven hours? And what does your day look like? Are you fighting and flight all crazy stress throughout the day, and how does that affect your sleep?
So we look at its nice to have these, I always say like cold, hard numbers, because it gets a little bit of reality. Many of my clients have this huge capacity like huge capacity. But the boundaries are not always there. They have big hearts, but they forget themselves. They do everything for everybody else, and they have this capacity. They go, go, go, go, go until something hits them, and then we need to work on recovery and nutrition and lifestyle to get them back on board again.
Measurements For Nervous System
NourishDoc: Got it. It’s fascinating. All of us should do what you’re trying to explain. Try it on me and see if it’s measuring my entire nervous system movement. Then you are going to use diet and lifestyle. Talk to us a little bit. This is not a medical session or advice but to give us an overview of the path moving forward after you understand the heart rate variability and how the nervous system behaves for a particular client.
Therapist Louise: All right. Somebody comes with me, and we see a low heart rate variability. We want to with functional medicine; we always want to try to dive into the root cause, right? So, we need to do this extended intake form where we need to do a timeline in terms of stress and baggage, right? We need to see what has been stored up in their nervous system, and many clients don’t even know, this is fortunately, in this society, this is normal that these many traumas happen.
So, we don’t call it minor stressors, but it’s a whole different ballgame for the body. Then we want to make sure that we look at sleep patterns and recovery opportunities; we look at their diet. What are they eating? Are they eating something before the night that doesn’t rhyme with their body that spikes their heart rate, which means they can’t fall asleep?
So, much data is coming out of the HRV measurements. As I’m a part math professional, I can dive even deeper and into the heart way and look at the actual measurement and look at the patterns of the HRV and kind of see how their mental status is leaning toward if there’s a little bit more towards depression or anxiety, I’m not a medical doctor. However, we can see trends, so to speak, with these measurements. So I have clients that come for optimization. Then I have clients that need extended support to get back on the nervous system regulation path.
NourishDoc: The kind of work you’re doing, it’s so fascinating; it’s sad in the news what all of us saw today was met Miss US 2019; she committed suicide, and you would think that someone who’s accomplished so much would be so happy but why are such successful people or why people take their own lives, and so the help has to happen many years ahead of time with before they reach this level right? I mean, what I wanted to say is that the kind of work you are doing, I think, can help so many millions and millions of people worldwide.
Therapist Louise: Well, thank you, and I’m honored and blessed, and I have a great network of colleagues with this in-depth expertise of certain things. I’m not a trauma therapist; I always say I’m trauma-informed and pretty good at embodiment.
So, I help people understand what nervous system health is all about. But then, I have colleagues more specified in deepening certain modalities. So, we need to work as a team; we pack animals. That’s how we help each other evolve, get past trauma and stressors, and optimize our lives.
NourishDoc: Thank you so much. No, I agree. Thank you so much, Louise, for your time and valuable information that could be useful for millions of people. Please keep supporting us. We bring 10 minutes of balance tips every single day.
We are launching free all these interviews are going to be free on our website. So, stay tuned, and we’re also launching very affordable workshops. Anything else you’d like to say to me before we wrap up today?
Therapist Louise: No, I’m just honored to be here, and thank you so much for your time and the great work you do to reach out to more people. Thank you.
NourishDoc: Thank you, and have a great weekend, everyone. Have a great week.