By Dr. Bill Hemmer
Last week, I began my discussion about Stress. None of us will ever get away from it, but if you can handle it, it can make you stronger and more resilient for your future. The first piece of handling your stress is Healing your Brain. This week, I want to talk more about the second piece of the Healing the Brain puzzle, Calming your Nerves.
Most of us know we have two main nervous systems in our body. The first one is called your Central Nervous System. This one controls your arms, legs, thoughts, things we all do every day and we have conscious control over it. The other main nervous system is called your Autonomic Nervous System. This nervous system isn’t talked about very much, but it is extremely important to keep and stay healthy.
Your Autonomic Nervous System performs all your automatic functions. It controls your breathing rate, blood pressure, digestion, heart rate, metabolism, everything that you really don’t normally have conscious control over. Every part of your body is innervated by both your Central Nervous System and your Autonomic Nervous System.
Your Autonomic Nervous System has two side to it. One side tells you to fight or flight. If a bear is attacking you, your heart rate will speed up, your blood will go to your leg muscles so you can run! The other side of this nervous system tells your body to rest and digest. It slows your heart rate, increases digestion of your food, allows you to slow down and get ready for sleep.
These two sides of your Autonomic Nervous System are controlled by a part of your midbrain called the hypothalamus. I explain it like it’s the governor of your body. The more stress you are under, the higher the stimulation to the Fight or Flight side of your Autonomic Nervous System. The less stress you are under, the higher the stimulation is to your Rest and Digest side of your Autonomic Nervous System.
The best way to keep both sides of this nervous system in balance is to live a healthy lifestyle. Which means you need to exercise, eat real food, spend time with friends and family and get a good night’s sleep. Another way to balance this nervous system is to use a calming mineral like magnesium. There are also herbs like Ashwagandha, Bacopa and Rehmannia help with this balance.
The third piece of the Stress puzzle is to Build Cell Power. If you have powerful cells, your ability to fight off any type of stress is multiplied greatly. Powerful cells are made by increasing mitochondrial function. Mitochondria are the power plants of the cells. If your mitochondria aren’t producing energy, then cells die.
Every cell in your body contains hundreds if not thousands of these power plants. The more power a cell needs, the more mitochondria are needed inside that cell. It’s no accident that your brain cells and your heart cells have the most mitochondria within them of any cells you have.
There has been a great deal of research done on mitochondrial health over the last five years. The good news is there is something we can all do tomorrow to increase our mitochondria, no matter how old or young you are. More on that next week!