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Republished for GDG March 2009
By Roger Drummer
Let’s face’re stressed. Traffic, the job, the family and health issues all add up to stress. You’ve decided to work on your health and now you have the added stress of not knowing where to start. Mention it to your doctor and before you know it he’s handing you the white slip—your ticket to paradise—a note for your friendly neighborhood pharmacist.
Go that route and you won’t change a single thing except that you just won’t care. All the stress your body and brain are experiencing will go on doing damage until you have the big breakdown and the rollercoaster ride through pharmaceutical hell has just begun. But wait……there must be another way.
The first step for handling stress starts with your fork or whatever your favorite feeding utensil is. In other words, what you put in your mouth can determine how you react to stress and how much damage you might incur while experiencing it. Every cell in your bodyand your brain is dependent on nutrition to function. Feed them right and they function well. Feed them wrong and they suffer and so will you. The resulting cellular stress accelerates aging of the brain.
When the body becomes depleted by stress, and the brain’s chemistry becomes unbalanced, the result is low energy and premature aging of the brain. Just thinking about it is enough to cause you stress.
Let’s talk about stress. Most low energy is a result of long term stress that causes the body to burn up an inappropriate amount of energy similar to a car that is idling to fast.  During stress, the hypothalamus/pituitary (HP) releases a signal to the adrenals (A) to produce adrenaline and cortisol. This works great to get the body ready for action.
The problem starts with chronic stress over 30 days of duration when the feedback signal to turn off the stress response fails. Like a car idling at 50 miles per hour at a stop sign, we burn an inappropriate amount of energy sitting at our computer or sitting in traffic because we are locked into stress response. Being stressed and agitated, the adrenals agitated, the body constantly loses energy, The excess cortisol diminishes brain activity and can cause fat storage around the waist. Adaptogenic herbs strengthen HP and calm the nervous system, diminishing the loss of adrenal energy, and allowing for rebalancing of stress response. This allows for the return of natural biorhythms with energy.
Rhodiola and Reishi mushroom are two great examples of herbs that regulate the stress response and calm the nervous system. Because they influence the pituitary gland both can have a direct impact on brain activity. Rhodiola is an example of an herb that can influence neurotransmitter activity, in this case dopamine. Reishi works directly on the liver to clean it of drug residue and other toxic chemicals of the modern diet. Liver in Chinese medicine includes your nervous system so you get the added bonus of less agitation.
Eating a balanced diet of good protein foods, essentials fats and plenty of greens will insure that you’ll be able to make the neurotransmitters dopamine and acetycholine. Both dopamine and acetylcholine are essential to ensure proper brain voltage (power) and speed (electricity). Dopamine is involved with retaining memory, willpower and problem solving. Acetylcholine is about the speed with which we process information, alertness, attention span, mastering daily activities and immediate memory.
The nutrients phenylalanine, tyrosine and choline directly feed these two primary neurotransmitters and act as antioxidants in the brain. Nutrients that directly feed the brain are especially important as we age. Aging increases the enzymes that inhibit acetylcholine a double whammy! It becomes extremely important then to supplement our regular diet with nutrients to feed our brain. The nutrients are further assisted by the herbs which help control acetylcholinesterase, and increase their length of activity in the brain. Green tea and club moss are great examples of natural substances that enhance brain activity by inhibiting chemicals caused by aging and stress.
When the body and brain gets fed properly, great long term energy is the not far behind.  A variety of these foods wil get you off to a good start.
Dopamine, phenylalanine, tyrosine
  1. chicken, duck, turkey
  2. ricotta, cottage cheese, yogurt
  3. soybeans, walnuts, chocolate, wheat germ
Acetylcholine, choline
  1. almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia, peanut butter, pine nuts
  2. artichokes, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, wheat bran and germ
  3. beef, eggs (yolk), fish, shrimp, soybeans
A diet that includes these foods provides a base of nutrients for brain activity and the plant based ones have an extra bonus, the ability to deal with toxic free radical chemicals which harm the brain.
Free radicals weaken the cells ability to fulfill their purpose at peak performance. The creation of free radicals begins when odd or unmatched electrons in the outer ring of molecules causes a chain reaction by which they seek stability by sharing or “stealing” an electron from another source. This chain reaction will lead to the breakdown of a cells function.
You’re all aware of the term inflammation. It’s become the “hot” topic of conversation with all most every disease. Well, they are talking about the result of free radical activity and a lot of it is cause by the poor quality of food in the Standard American Diet.  There’s a good reason it’s referred to as “SAD”.
As we age, this process accelerates. This process is also encouraged by environmental factors such as pollution and radiation. So eat well my friends and you’ll not only feel better but limit the harmful effects of stress.