While the theories behind the current brain retraining programs for chemical intolerance, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and related illnesses focus on “rewiring” around an acquired neurotoxic injury, we believe that dietary and lifestyle improvements used in conjunction with brain retraining are critical to support one’s health, and the right combination may even dramatically hasten one’s path to recovery. Below you’ll find foods, herbs, supplements, exercises and other resources to help nourish a neurotoxic brain on the plate, and beyond.
In addition to taking nutritional supplements that support healthy brain function, it is recommended that all neurotoxic patients make dietary changes to eliminate exposure to food antigens, whether or not you are experiencing digestive distress. Sometimes symptoms don’t seem connected to what we eat but research tells a different story. Case in point: Dr. Maios Hadjivassiliou of the United Kingdom, a recognized world authority on gluten sensitivity, has reported in The Lancet that “gluten sensitivity can be primarily and at times, exclusively a neurological disease.” Surprising, but true – people can actually manifest a hidden gluten sensitivity and have issues with brain function without any gastrointestinal problems whatsoever. Dr. Hadjivassiliou says that the antibodies produced by gluten sensitivity can be uniquely toxic to the brain, and so we recommend that all those with neurotoxin illnesses attempt some sort of food rotation and/or food restrictive diet such as the GAPS diet, an offshoot of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), to identify and remove problem foods from their diet. Some seemingly simple changes can result in a profound boost to your health within just weeks. Expect a transition period if making big dietary changes where you may feel worse before you feel better, while your body and metabolism adjust to the new plan.
Polyenylphosphatidylcholine – Acetylcholine is the primary chemical carrier of thought and memory in the brain. This excitatory neurotransmitter is essential for both the storage and recall of memory, and is partly responsible for concentration and focus. Its primary building block is choline, a fat-like substance in the B family of vitamins that’s required to metabolize fats and is found in lecithin as phosphatidylcholine. Foods high in lecithin include egg yolks, peanuts, wheat germ, soybeans, liver and other organ meats, fish, whole wheat products, and vegetables – especially broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage. Vitamin C and B5 are also needed for your brain to synthesize acetylcholine.
Tyrosine – Both norepinephrine and dopamine are manufactured from the amino acids tyrosine or phenylalanine in the presence of adequate oxygen, vitamins B3, B6, and C, folic acid, iron, and copper. Dopamine can act as both an excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitter depending on the receptor it binds to, is largely involved in the addiction “pleasure/reward” pathway, memory, and motor control, and is necessary for proper immune and autonomic nervous system function. Norepinephrine, in its role as a stress hormone, affects the amygdala and other areas of the brain where attention and responses are controlled. Norepinephrine also increases the brain’s oxygen supply and can suppress neuroinflammation. Both epinephrine and norepinephrine are the catecholamine neurotransmitters at the root of the fight-or-flight response. Food sources of tyrosine include almonds, avocados, bananas, dairy products, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. Because dopamine is easily oxidized, your diet should include a healthy amount of antioxidants in the form of fresh organic fruits and vegetables.
Tryptophan – According to Donna Gates of The Body Ecology Diet, serotonin plays a role in the regulation of your appetite, your body temperature, the tone of your blood vessels, your perception of pain, depression, migraines, and the health of the mucus membranes of your stomach and intestines. Low serotonin levels produce insomnia and depression, aggressive behavior, increased sensitivity to pain, obesity, and eating disorders. Serotonin can be boosted naturally by consuming foods that contain tryptophan, a precursor of serotonin that is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and convert to serotonin in the brain in the presence of adequate vitamins B1, B3, B6, and folic acid. The best sources of tryptophan include meat, brown rice, cottage cheese, peanuts, and sesame seeds. Hormonal processes require essential fatty acids, so make sure to get plenty of Omega-3s in your diet – good sources are listed below. Donna Gates shares more about how to boost your serotonin levels naturally: Part 1 | Part 2.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – The primary component of healthy brain cells, Omega-3 fatty acids are known as the “good fats,” and are essential for proper brain development and brain function. They have even been shown to help deter brain damage from concussions, induced strokes, and other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). In past studies, rats who received the highest dose of DHA supplementation prior to traumatic brain injury experienced the least amount of tissue damage, showed decreases in two major measures of brain cell death, and suffered less behavior impairment. In nature, the best sources of Omega-3 is fish oil (found in fish like salmon, sardines, and anchovies), flax oil, and the leafy vegetable purslane. Avocados, nuts, seeds, and other vegetable oils (like walnut, avocado, almond, olive) also contain healthy fats. When sourcing fish and fish oils, make sure you buy wild (not farmed) from reputable companies like Vital Choice that harvest sustainably in unpolluted waters and test their fish regularly for PCBs and heavy metals like mercury.
Ashwaghanda – An Ayurvedic adaptogenic herb that modulates the limbic system and adrenals. Recommended to help with anxiety, depression, panic disorder, as an antioxidant and free radical scavenger, for weakness and fatigue, and as a nervine tonic that calms and reduces stress. Herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner recommends Ashwaghanda to chronic lyme patients to help with sleep problems and brain fog. (Purchase from iHerb.com to get $5 off your first order – use code GEN582 at checkout.)
Raw Cacao – Cacao is one of the most chemically complex superfoods containing over 300 compounds. High in antioxidants, rich in minerals, and a natural source of magnesium, chromium, iron, calcium, potassium, sulphur, copper and zinc, cacao also contains many natural mood-boosting chemicals including phenylethylamine (PEA) (an adrenal-related chemical found in raw cacao that can also be created in the brain when we are in love), serotonin, tyramine, tryptophan, anandamide (known as the “bliss” neurotransmitter), and oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone.” (Purchase from iHerb.com to get $5 off your first order – use code GEN582 at checkout.)
Blood-brain barrier (b/b/b) nutrients: Thiamine HCL & bentfotiamine, phospatidylcholine, SAMe, TMG, NAC, P-5-P (B6), magnesium, 5-HTP.
Dr. Pall’s NO/ONOO- Cycle Products Value Pack Martin Pall, Ph.D.’s (School of Molecular Biosciences, Washington State University) specially formulated antioxidant products that work to down-regulate the NO/ONOO- cycle, the stressor-induced increase in the levels of nitric oxide and its oxidant product peroxynitrite, and the biochemical vicious cycle that keeps these levels chronically elevated, that he describes in his book Explaining ‘Unexplained Illnesses’: Disease Paradigm for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Fibromyalgia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Gulf War Syndrome. Many with these conditions have reported improvement after following the Ziem/Pall protocol, which includes both a nasal spray and a nebulized form of glutathione and B-12. One chemically sensitive man has experimented with using Dr. Pall’s supplements in conjunction with the Gupta Amygdala Retraining™ Program. …read more
Polyenylphosphatidylcholine (PPC) Polyenylphosphatidylcholine (PPC) is a phospholipid, and an essential nutrient found in specific foods and in every cell membrane in the body. The substance is particularly rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, with linoleic acid accounting for approximately 70%. PhosChol is 100 percent polyenylphosphatidylcholine (PPC), derived from soybeans by a proprietary process. Studies show PPC ingestion increases choline levels in the blood and the brain, and supports acetylcholine synthesis for proper neuronal and cell function. PPC also promotes the break down of collagen in the liver; excess collagen can interfere in the detoxification process. Daily supplementation of PPC may support and maintain healthy brain and liver function, and gastric mucosal protection. Matthew Hogg of ei-resource.org says that “Many of our website’s regular visitors have repeatedly talked about how effective polyenylphosphatidylcholine (PPC), a concentrated form of regular phosphatidylcholine (PC), has been in aiding their recovery from multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) and other forms of EI.” He adds that the polyenyl version is far more concentrated and is the form most often used in medical studies and in phospholipid exchange therapy. It’s also more expensive. …read more
Alpha-Glyceryl Phosphoryl Choline (alpha-GPC) and Phosphatidylserine (PS) Life Extension’s Cognitex Basics supplies clinically evaluated doses of alpha-glyceryl phosphoryl choline (alpha-GPC) and phosphatidylserine (PS), both of which are critical to proper neurotransmitter function and optimal cognitive health. Alpha-glyceryl phosphoryl choline is a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is naturally present in all the body’s cells and plays important roles in the brain. Proper acetylcholine function is essential to muscle control, sleep, and cognition. Alpha-GPC supplementation may result in enhanced phospholipid synthesis and improvement of signal transduction in the central nervous system, and has been shown to support memory and cognition. Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a crucial building block in the brain. Dietary sources of PS include bovine meat, but is most abundant in the brain and in organs such as liver and kidney. Early studies of phosphatidylserine distilled the chemical from bovine brain but due to concerns about Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, more recent studies and commercially available products are made from soybeans. The fatty acids attached to the serine in the soy product are not identical to those in the bovine product, however. Preliminary studies in rats indicate that the soy product is at least as effective as that of bovine origin. Matthew Hogg of ei-resource.org says in his review of phosphatidylserine that it immediately helped sleep problems he has had for years: “I recently came across a substantial amount of research suggesting PS could lower production of cortisol produced after exercise or due to mental stress. I suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome and my body clock is all over the place. I have been taking 300mg of phosphatidylserine every day around 8pm for a month now and found it to be a great help from day one…I feel my sleep quality has also improved as I am waking feeling more refreshed.” …find more brands on iHerb.com (Use code GEN582 at checkout for $5 off your first order.)
The Patient’s Detoxx Book™ by John S Foster, M.D., Patricia C Kane, Ph.D., and Neal Speight, M.D. is an intelligent approach to managing environmental toxicity through nutrition. It was developed to help patients safely and efficiently remove the toxic residue that is present in their body from living in today’s world, especially those with chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), fibromyalgia (FMS), digestive disease, autism spectrum disorders (ASD), mold illness, depression and related conditions. The Detoxx System is based largely on the work of Ritchie C. Shoemaker, M.D., a specialist in chronic biotoxin illnesses, and the concept that an initial neurotoxin exposure leads to a breakdown in the integrity of the cell membrane due to disturbances in phospholipid and fatty acid metabolism. This version of the book was written specifically for patients and contains The Detoxx™ Diet, Detoxx™ Recipes, and patient prep instructions for “at home” detoxification. …read more
The Detoxx Book™: Detoxification of Biotoxins in Chronic Neurotoxic Syndromes by John S Foster, M.D., Patricia C Kane, Ph.D., and Neal Speight, M.D. is a doctors guide to intelligent management of environmental toxicity through nutrition. It was developed to help patients safely and efficiently remove the toxic residue that is present in their body from living in today’s world, especially those with chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), fibromyalgia (FMS), digestive disease, autism spectrum disorders (ASD), mold illness, depression and related conditions. The Detoxx System is based largely on the work of Ritchie C. Shoemaker, M.D., a specialist in chronic biotoxin illnesses, and the concept that an initial neurotoxin exposure leads to a breakdown in the integrity of the cell membrane due to disturbances in phospholipid and fatty acid metabolism. Written with the health care practitioner in mind, this version of the book is quite technical, and includes case studies and many research articles. The average individual would most likely find it overwhelming. …read more
Lumosity Brain Retraining Games Lumosity is a leader in brain retraining, with over 10 million users. Their program has been clinically proven to support brain health. Their users report profound results: faster name recall, greater attention to detail, better concentration, and quicker problem-solving skills. When you enroll in their customized brain fitness plan, you’ll receive cognitive exercises tailored to your goals and an estimate of your improvement potential. There have been no reports yet of those with acquired toxic brain injuries using these types of brain exercise programs to recover specifically from chemical sensitivity, chronic fatigue syndrome, or chronic pain, but if you are struggling in any of the targeted areas – name recall, concentration, memory, problem-solving, etc. – this type of program may help improve those symptoms. Sign up for a free trial of their online brain games today!
Fit Brains Vivity Labs, Inc. is a multi-platform lifestyle gaming company with a strong foundation in neuroscience. At the core, they combine casual games and lifestyle tools to improve a person’s quality of life through three key pillars: Activity, Awareness and Motivation. Fit Brains is their first product, and is an online brain fitness platform that combines a large portfolio of casual brain games, personalized tracking & recommendations, a motivational rewards system, and a variety of social features.
NON-TOXIC LIFESTYLE IMPROVEMENTS
Planet Thrive’s Recovery Basics PlanetThrive.com’s best tips for living a non-toxic lifestyle, including how to find clean air, drink pure water, and source healthy food: recovery basics | pure air & water | nourishing food | non-toxic lifestyle | restful sleep | exercise | detoxification | emotional health | spirituality | energetic health | sexuality | brain/limbic system | dental health | organ health
Questions on any of the items? Search for keywords or ask the advice of over 1,000 others with acquired toxic brain injuries from environmental toxins in PT’s FREE discussion forum.
Physical exercise – using a rebounder, walking, stretching, yoga – for just 15 or 20 minutes each day will naturally stimulate serotonin, dopamine and other important feel-good hormones. Swimming is especially good for those interested in the Buteyko Breathing Method, as breathing is more restricted because your face is underwater much of the time, which increases CO2 levels and dilates your airways.
Physical touch – Oxytocin is a hormone that is released when we feel love, trust and comfort. Eating in general will cause the release of oxytocin, however, fatty foods release much more oxytocin than other foods (which can explain, in part, why we feel good after eating “comfort” food). Chocolate has shown to increase the release of the hormone, as well as capsaicin, found in peppers. Oxytocin is often difficult to get from dietary sources so if you don’t have any raw cacao lying around, spending time with your significant other, family members, friends and pets can also increase this important brain chemical. What is particularly interesting about oxytocin is its ability to reduce fear and anxiety and increase our bodies ability to heal – injured animals who had high levels of oxytocin in their systems healed at twice the normal rate of others of their species. It also suppresses the amygdala and appears to be an integral part of the visualization aspect of the brain retraining programs, where we attempt to viscerally “feel” a past memory or future vision with all of our senses. Oxytocin is a perfectly sustainable chemical, too – it creates its own loop that feeds back on itself, where “love” increases the production of oxytocin and the release of oxytocin increases love. It has been proven that physical contact – either platonic, like massage, or sexual – can release large amounts of oxytocin in the blood. The more you are truly present to the moment, higher levels of oxytocin will be released. Supposedly, merely touching objects or materials that make you feel good can release oxytocin, such as running your fingers along a velvety fabric. Oxytocin, expectedly, is also highly linked to sexuality, and if you are genuinely interested in, or in love with, your partner, the more oxytocin is released during sex.
MORE PIECES OF THE PUZZLE
Chemical sensitivity, addiction, brain chemistry, and nutrition
Claudia Miller, M.D. has postulated a Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT) theory that connects the mechanism of chemical sensitivity with that of drug, alcohol, food, and other addictions. For this reason, we are always looking at the field of addiction treatment for any information that can be applied to recovery from chemical sensitivity. Below are links to research, physicians and treatment centers that seem to be incorporating the best insights from the fields of nutrition, brain chemistry, neural plasticity, and environmental toxicity – including chemical injury, mold illness and lyme disease – into their treatment approach.
Daniel Amen, M.D. – Change Your Brain, Change Your Life Dr. Amen is known for using SPECT scan imagery to document brain activity before and after treatment for addiction, depression, chemical injury, and other conditions with nutritional supplements and brain exercises.
Website | Recommended Book | Videos
Florida Wellness and Detox with Rick Sponaugle, M.D.
Dr. Sponaugle explains drug craving as a biochemical craving, that patients crave the biochemical effect of any drug that better balances their brain chemistry. Brain chemistry can be off due to inherited issues, environmental factors, and other reasons. When he diagnoses the multiple causes of the patient’s biochemical craving, treats those issues and balances their brain chemistry, his patients no longer have craving for their drug of choice. Dr. Sponaugle says that detox alone is worthless and that successful addiction treatment requires intensive work and adjustment of multiple brain chemistry issues, both those inherited and those created by the drugs and alcohol. To achieve his center’s 12 percent relapse rates, he must correct multiple hormonal and nutritional deficiencies and many times, diagnose subclinical infections such as lyme disease. One-third of his patients are non-addiction patients and come to his center for his brain wellness program.
Website | Video Testimonials
“Brain Chemistry and Addiction” Webinar Every Tuesday night from 7:00 to 8:00 EST pm Dr. Sponaugle will share breakthrough information about brain chemistry, the many causes of addiction, and a very special “Case Study of the Week”. From 8:00 to 9:00 EST the doctor will answer individual questions about YOUR medical issues. LIMITED to the first 200 families who call in! Call Dr. Jemma at (727) 946-4037 for information on how to join the FREE webinar.
Health Recovery Center with Joan Mathews-Larson, Ph.D.
Joan Mathews-Larson holds a doctorate in nutrition and is the founder and executive director of a new psycho-biological model for treating addictions and emotional disorders at Health Recovery Center in Minneapolis. The unique focus of the Health Recovery Center combines therapy with intervention at a biochemical level to repair biochemical damage that often manifests as impaired mental functioning and behavior problems. Her work has received national recognition because of the high recovery rates the HRC’s model produces. Dr. Mathews-Larson reports that 70% of the Health Recovery Center’s patients are chemically sensitive (see video, below).
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