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Brain health: How does that work?

November 12, 2013
By CATHY THOMAS BROWNFIELD - Family Recovery Center Publicist , Salem News

If you are what you eat (nutrition), what you read (literature) and the company you keep (society), where do you stand right now? In a few weeks everyone will be talking about New Year's resolutions. Let's toss around a few ideas.

How does nutrition affect the brain? Certain foods fuel the brain so it can function efficiently, like a well-cared for machine. You may have made a lifestyle change to lose weight and keep it off, but you need to bear a few things in mind. Your brain needs glucose (sugar) which is found in carbohydrates and foods that will convert to glucose, like vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes. The liver needs starches to make the glucose.

The right proteins and fats are needed to make new brain proteins and fats. Too much or too little affects the way your brain works. (For more about nutrition and the effects on the nervous system, visit Some of your health issues may be related to a vitamin deficiency of which you are not aware. Explore this suggestion with your primary health care provider. If you don't eat right, your brain will be affected. It won't work properly.

While good nutrition is expensive, what is your good health and well being worth to you? The brain is important to your well being. It regulates body temperature, blood pressure, breathing and heart rate. Through your senses (sight, sound, touch, taste and smell) your brain interprets your world. Without your brain, physical mobility is impaired (sitting, standing, talking, walking). You brain enables you to think, dream, experience emotions, and reason. It is part of your central nervous system. (

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) provides information about the science of addiction, explaining how the three-pound human brain is the most complex organ in your body.

"Drugs can alter important brain areas that are necessary for life-sustaining functions and can drive the compulsive drug abuse that marks addiction," NIDA advises. "Drugs [tap into] the brain's communication system and [interfere] with the way nerve cells normally send, receive and process information. Some drugs, such as marijuana and heroin, can activate neurons because their chemical structure mimics that of a natural neurotransmitter. This similarity in structure 'fools' receptors and allows the drugs to lock onto and activate the nerve cells. Although these drugs mimic brain chemicals, they don't activate nerve cells in the same way as a natural neurotransmitter, and they lad to abnormal messages being transmitted through the network."

Other drugs, such as amphetamine or cocaine, NIDA says, can cause the nerve cells to release abnormally large amounts of natural neurotransmitters or prevent the normal recycling of these brain chemicals, disrupting the brain's communication to the rest of your body.

What is a neurotransmitter? It is a chemical substance that is released at the end of nerve fiber when a nerve impulse occurs. Basically, it's the way that messages from the brain tell your hand to pick up a pencil, your feet to take steps, your lungs to breathe.

It is reported that recovering addicts can't socialize with other addicts. So, your companions can have a great influence over your well being, explaining that old adage about the company you keep.

Be conscious of the importance of your own well being. If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to take care of the people and responsibilities for which you are obligated.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related mental health issues. For more information, contact FRC at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, FRC is funded, in part by the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.



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