Monthly Archives: September 2012

Exercise and Neural Repair


Exercise and Neural Repair

Much like a healthy diet, physical activity is thought to benefit neuronal function.
It does so by increasing a substance called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels and by reducing oxidative stress.

BDNF acts on neurons of both the central and peripheral nervous system, supporting the survival of existing neurons, encouraging growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses. In the brain specifically, it acts in the hippocampus, cortex, and basal forebrain—areas essential to learning, memory, and higher thinking. BDNF itself is important for long-term memory.

Although the vast majority of neurons in the mammalian brain are formed before birth, parts of the adult brain remain plastic and have the ability to grow new neurons from neural stem cells in a process known as neurogenesis. Neurotrophins are chemicals that help to stimulate and control neurogenesis, BDNF being one of the most active.

Through this, exercise has been found to play an important role in the regulation of neurite development (1) , maintenance of the synaptic structure (2), axonal elongation (3), and neurogenesis (4) in the adult brain.

Studies have indicated that physical activity displays long-lasting changes in morphology and function of the nervous system, suggesting that a lifestyle that implements regular exercise can lead to a brain more resistant to insults and damage.

The application and use of exercise following a brain injury seems promising in facilitating recovery though more studies are necessary as to determine when, and to what extent, it should be integrated into a client’s lifestyle. Exercise applied after experimental traumatic brain injury has been shown to have beneficial effects, but the effects seem to depend on the postinjury resting period and the severity of the injury.


  1. Zurmohle, U., Herms, J., Schlingensiepen, R., Brysch, W., Sclingensiepen, K.H., Changes in the expression of synapsin I and II messenger RNA during postnatal rat brain development, Experimental Brain Research, 108(3), 441-449, 1996.
  2. Vaynman, S., Ying, Z., Gomez-Pinilla, F., Exercises induces BDNF and synapsin I to specific hippocampal subfields, Journal of Neuroscience Research, 76(3), 356-362, 2004.
  3. Molteni, R., Wu, A., Vaynman, S., Ying, Z., Barnard, R.J., Gomez-Pinilla, F. Exercise reverses the harmful effects of consumption of a high-fat diet on synaptic and behavioral plasticity associated to the action of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, Neuroscience, 123(2), 429-440, 2004.
  4. Van Praag, H., Kempermann, G., gage, F.H., E running increases cell proliferation and neurogenesis in the adult mouse dentate gyrus, Nature Neuroscience, 2(3), 266-270, 1999.

Vitamins and Supplements for Brain and Mitochondrial Health


The following is a list of Vitamins that support mitochondrial function and brain function. mitochondria are within every cell of the body and act as the energy producers within the cell and help optimize neural function.


Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
Thiamin supports mitochondrial function within the brain by aiding the production of ATP. Thaimin is also an important co-factor, along with vitamin B12 in helping the brain cells make myelin to insulate the nerve. As thiamin is excreted by the kidneys and is generally not stored in the body it is important to have a steady supply in your diet.

Dietary Sources: Tuna, Sunflower Seeds, Black Beans, Peas, Pinto Beans, Lentils, Lima Beans, Sesame Seeds


Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
Riboflavin is part of the FADH complex of enzymes used by mitochondria to convert the energy stored in food to the energy stored in ATP to be used by the body. It is also a critical nutrient for the elimination of toxins.

Dietary Sources: almonds, fish, broccoli, asparagus. Most foods derived from plants or animals contain at least small quantities of riboflavin


Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)
Niacinamide is an important nutrient for brain health. It is a key nutrient for mitochondria. An ample supply of niacinamide makes the generation of ATP more efficient and reduces the level of free radicals.

Dietary Sources: wheat germ, mushrooms, organ meats, tuna, salmon


Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)
Vitamin B6 is involved in many aspects of neurological activity. It is very important in forming many neurotranmitters, including seritonin and GABA

Dietary Sources: garlic, tuna, cauliflower, mustard greens, bananas, celery, cabbage, crimini mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, kale, collard greens, brussel sprouts, cod, chard.


Cobolamin (Vitamin B12)
The body requires cobolamin in order to make hemoglobin and is also necessary, along with vitamin B6, for brain cells to effectively make the protective sheath around nerve cells, myelin.

Dietary Sources: Liver, venison, shrimp, scallops, salmon, beef, kelp, algae (spirulina), yeast, fermented plant foods (miso, tofu)


Vitamin E
Vitamin E, found in certain oils, nuts and spinach, functions as an antioxidant, reducing free radicals in the brain that would otherwise impede optimal function of neurons. Vitamin E has shown positive effects on memory performance in older people. An animal study demonstrated a correlation between the amount of vitamin E ingested and improved neurologic performance, survival, and brain mitochondrial function.

Folic Acid
Folate is essential for normal brain function. It helps prevent hyperhomocysteinemia, which is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other dementia.

Dietary Sources: green leafy vegetables, asparagus, citrus fruit juices, legumes, fortified cereals



Co-enzyme Q
Co-enzyme Q is an important ingredient in the mitochondrialprocess to generate ATP and it is a potent intracellular antioxidant.

Dietary Sources: wheat germ, dark green leafy vegetables like kale & spinach, organ meats


Alpha-Lipoic Acid
Several studies suggest that the use of alpha-lipoic acid may help reduce pain, burning, itching, tingling, and numbness in people who have nerve damage caused by diabetes.

Dietary Sources: Spinach, broccoli, beef, yeast (esp. brewer’s yeast), kidney and heart organ meats

L-Carnitine is structurally related to the B vitamins and assists mitochondria in using fatty acids as an energy source. It also helps improve muscle strength in neuromuscular disorder affected individuals and has been associated with decreased oxidative stress and decreased aging in animal studies. L-Carnitine and Alpha Lipoic Acid have been shown to be a potent combination, providing protection to mitochondria and reducing aging in animals.

Dietary Sources: dairy products, red meat (raw or very rare is best for absorption)



Creatine Monohydrate
Creatine functions to increase the availablility of ATP. It acts by donating a phosphate ion during ATP production to incraese the availability of ATP. Several studies have shown that taking additional creatine has been neuroprotective to a variety of insults and has helped maintain and improve muscle strength in people with Parkinson’s and the frail elderly.

Dietary Sources: fish, red meat, wild game

Nutrition for Neurotransmitters


Here are a list of nutrients that support neurotransmitter production. Neurotransmitters are the communication signals of the nervous system and by increasing and maintain healthy production of neurotransmitters the brain can function properly and more effectively. 

GABA Enhancement/Glutamate Lowering

blocks excessive stimulation from glutamate. It will decrease excito-toxicity when there is too much glutamate in the brain (often seen in those with MS, chronic pain, anxiety, seizures, and/or mood disorders). It has also been shown to be neuroprotective in animal models of brain injury.

Dietary Sources: pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, spinach, swiss chard, black beans, pinto beans, milk of magnesia, epson salt baths

Organic Sulfur:
Necessary component to generate GABA

Dietary Sources: garlic, leeks, onion, chives, cabbage, kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, kohlrabi

Taurine has been shown to help prevent epileptic seizures and be useful in the prevention of cardiac arrhythmias, atherosclerosis, and congestive heart failure. It has been suggested that 1-2 grams a day in divided doses may help GABA production in a strategy to protect the brain or assist in the treatment of mood disorders.

Dietary Sources: Fish and shellfish

Very important to the generation of GABA. It is manufactured inside the cell, from it’s precursor amino acids: glycine, glutamate and cysteine.

Dietary Sources: Must be manufactured from it’s precursors, particularly cysteine.

Glutathione Enhancement

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC):
Considered the most cost-effective strategies to increase intracelluar glutathione and is a key component in the generation of GABA.

Dietary Sources: poultry, yogurt, egg yolks, red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, brussel sprouts, other cruciferous vegetables, oats, wheat germ, asparagus, avocado

Milk Thistle:
A powerful antioxidant that supports the brain, liver and kidneys in animal studies by preventing the depletion of glutathione. Silymarin is the active compound in milk thistle and is considered helpful in the detoxification process of the liver as well as protecting the liver from toxins.

Dietary Sources: milk thistle seeds

A powerful anti-oxidant , anti-inflammatory, and antiamyloid substance. Turmeric is believed to inhibit lipid peoxidation, activate glutathione S-transferase, or induce heme oxygenase. Studies have demonstrated that turmeric could cross the blood-brain barrier, targeting senile plaques and disrupting existing plaques. 

Dietary Sources: curry, used as a spice

Selenium is a co-factor for the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, which helps generate glutathione in the mitochondria and has been shown to be neuroprotective.
Dietary Sources:  fish, mushrooms, tofu, free-range chicken, turkey, venison

Norepinephrine Lowering Substances

Shown to be neuroprotective as well as improving cognition and concentration and reducing anxiety and depression
Dietary Sources:   green tea – particularly matcha tea

Serotonin Enhancement

Aerobic exercise:
physical activity boosts the brain serotonin levels. 30 minutes of activity will elevate one’s serotonin.

Vitamin D:
Many adolescents, adults, and elderly individuals are vitamin D deficient. In addition to being important in brain development, vitamin D provides important support to immune function, lowers the risk of autoimmune disorders, lowers the risk of cancer, and is important in maintaining normal mood