The organs with the most ‘energy-hungry’ cells will be the first to feel the brunt of an energy crisis. Thus our brain is the first to feel the effects of low energy. Our brain only makes up 2% of our body weight but uses 20% of our energy.
No wonder when we are fatigued the things we notice are brain fog, poor memory, impaired word recall and decreased executive function.
We know that stress is a leading ‘energy-zapper’ and it leads to systemic inflammation throughout the body. Chronic, untreated stress leads to chronic inflammation which leads to brain fatigue.
The hallmark feature of those who experience long-term fatigue is neuro-inflammation and this alters the brain landscape.
Brain imaging studies show marked atrophy in various brain regions of people who are fatigued, which basically means that the brain changes in fatigued states.
Stress also causes different parts of the brain to either shrink or grow as it responds and adapts to stress.
Let’s look at some of the main players
This is the brain region most recognised for its role in memory, learning and adding emotional context to events. It is used in decision making and is continually forging new neural connections to create and save memories. It is highly vulnerable to damage due to it being a very plastic brain region (neuroplasticity).
The pre-frontal cortex is responsible for rational thinking, stable emotions and executive function. It rationalises things to reduce fear.
You might identify with a time when you were highly stressed and found you just couldn’t think straight. This is the overwhelming effect of stress on your pre-frontal cortex and thought processes.
The Amydala is our emotional memory responsible for fear and worry.
The simple act of just thinking about an old event or situation sparks fear. This is the irrational processing of the amygdala at play.
It won’t surprise you then that the bigger the Amydala, the bigger the emotional response.
What’s really interesting is that studies show that stress and anxiety causes atrophy (shrinking) of the hippocampus and pre-frontal cortex. This atrophy leads to reduced function of these parts of the brain. Essentially the function which would normally tell us that ‘everything will be alright’ to an ensuing dysfunction of a state of further worry, anxiety and sadness.
Studies have also shown that chronically fatigued people have enlarged regions of the brain, namely the Amydala which is responsible for fear and worry. Thus the longer we remain in a fatigued state the higher the risk of us worrying even more, becoming more fearful and experiencing more irrational emotional responses.
It’s a bit of a catch-22 really. If we do not prioritise our energy and our stress management then the old adage that “anxiety breeds anxiety” may ring true as our Hippocampus and Pre-frontal Cortex is shrinking whilst our Amydala is growing.
However reducing stress and creating more energy is easier said than done in our busy, time-poor lifestyles. Often working with a Naturopath or depending on your state of readiness, a Wellness Coach can help you move to a life of optimum health and wellness. But in the mean-time here are our top nutrients for Stress and Energy
Nutrients for Stress & Energy
The B-group vitamins are critical for energy production and reduce hypertrophy (shrinking) of the brain. B12 is also implicated in neuroplasticity.
Magnesium is essential for a healthy brain as it maintains mitochondrial structure and function
Co Enzyme Q10
Our mitochondria are often referred to as the “powerhouse” of the cell and are responsible for creating our energy.
Mitochondrial dysfunction is central to fatigue and emerging leaders in Complementary medicine believe that mitochondrial therapy is the future of Holistic medicine.
Co-Enzyme Q10 or Ubiquinol which is the preferred form, is essential for energy production
Acetyl L Carnitine
Acetyl L Carnitine is neuroprotective as it improves fatigue and cognitive function.
Adaptogens help protect the body in the face of stress.
Our favourites are Rhodiola which has shown to reduce fatigue; the ginsengs (i.e. Panax and Siberian) which protect the brain and mitochondria and Withania which is anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective as it protects the brain from oxidative stress.
Get the Best Advice from Qualified Practitioners
If you need some Professional help optimising your brain health, energy and stress response this Winter season, now is the time to book a professional consultation with the Mammoth Health Naturopaths. By working on your individual health needs, symptoms and health history as well as your health aim and goals, our Naturopathic team experience great success in addressing underlying causes and achieving optimal health and vitality for our patients.
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