I think one of the most attractive and interesting body parts might our brains, not just in terms of intelligence but the physical brain itself. How can something so wrinkly and grey be so amazing? While many of us tend to focus on other parts of the body when it comes to caring for our health, our brain is at the center of everything.
Complexity: Your brain is a compact little package of complexity with amazing pathways throughout that control everything about your entire body, including your physical being, your emotions, intelligence and psychological function.
Size: The average brain weighs about three pounds and in a healthy human adult makes up about 2% of total body weight. If you have a cat, your little kitty’s brain weighs a lot less—a mere 0.067 pounds!
Neurons and Nerves: Your brain has about 10 BILLION neurons (a specialized nerve cell) transmitting signals that allow your body and brain to function. An octopus has 50 billion neurons and two-thirds of them are located not in the octopus’s brain but in its arms. In pregnant women, 250,000 neurons are created per MINUTE during the course of a normal pregnancy. Neurons help to transmit signals throughout the body along 12 cranial nerves and 31 pairs of spinal nerves. Spinal nerves branch out from the spinal cord which averages almost 18 inches in length in men and just under 17 inches in women.
Gray Matter: The brain is often portrayed as pink, white or gray when it’s draw in a picture or cartoon, but verbally we call the tissues of the brain gray matter. The pink hue comes from blood traveling around the brain through tiny blood vessels called capillaries. Beneath the pinkish exterior are gray and white tissues. The gray tissue is mostly made up of neurons and cells called glial cells that provide neurons with energy and nutrients. The denser white material is fatty tissue called myelin and protects the neurons and important structures of the brain.
Wrinkles: While you may not be too happy to see wrinkles on your face, you want lots of them in your brain! Your brain is incredibly complex and needs to house a lot of tissues and functions in a relatively small space. Compact layering does the trick. The wrinkles and folds in the brain allow for a large surface area in a small space. If all that surface area were to be smoothed out, our brain size would be huge and it would be awfully difficult to keep our brains balanced on our necks!
Your brain continues to change your entire life. How it changes and how you feel and function as a person is based on genetics as well as lifestyle, diet and stimuli. For example, meditation has been proven to change and improve the physical structure of your brain. By changing the physical structure of your brain, you can also change emotional and psychological responses to stress. Researchers at Harvard have recently proven that meditation has numerous benefits to the body and brain, and additional research shows that meditation may also help to improve symptoms in patients with chronic illness, among other things. Read “Your Brain on Meditation” to get the details!
It’s true! You are what you eat, and your brain is part of you. We all know that what we put into our mouths impacts the rest of the body, and the brain is no exception. While proper nutrition under the guidance of a doctor or healthcare professional may help patients improve heart health, muscle function, and so on, your diet may also be a factor in whether or not you are pre-dispositioned to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in your later years.
Before embarking on any special diet or making changes to your eating habits, it is important to have a thorough health evaluation, preferably from the perspective of functional medicine which is concerned with your overall health and integrating mind-body health and wellness with lifestyle as a whole-person approach rather than breaking your concerns and symptoms down into different systems and symptoms. You are a whole person and your heart, lungs, kidneys, and everything else are integrated and function together.
Your brain is amazing. Take steps today to keep it functioning but be sure that any changes you undertake, whether they involve meditation, nutrition, or otherwise, are supervised by a doctor. Dr. Andrea Rosario specializes in the areas of functional medicine and functional neurology, and I view you as a whole being rather than as a collection of body systems and symptoms. It is my goal to provide guidance, particularly to those with chronic conditions such as thyroid disease, cognitive function issues, inflammatory illnesses, and more.
Functional Longevity Institute