For the last several weeks, I’ve been discussing topics related to change and transformation. In order to maintain our body’s natural design and achieve optimal health, we need to set realistic goals and expectations and change our behavior.
If we’re going to make behavioral changes that enable us to change our bodies, we need to start by changing our brain chemistry.
Dr. Daniel Amen lays out “10 Principles to Change Your Brain and Your Body” in his book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Body. Included among these principles is the fact that the human brain is the most complex organ in the universe, and we need to respect it.
The human brain is a three-pound organ between our ears that’s more complicated and powerful than the most advanced computers. It has more than 100 billion nerve cells – about the same number of stars found in the Milky Way – and each of these nerve cells has thousands of connections with other nerve cells.
The structure of the human brain and how it works make it the greatest miracle on our planet. Human life doesn’t exist without a functioning brain. It’s the central command center that tells the body what to do.
Dr. Amen also points out that specific parts of the brain control specific types of behavior. As a result, problems in certain parts of the brain can cause behavioral problems, so understanding and maintaining our brain will help to keep it functioning properly.
The brain’s prefrontal cortex is found just behind the forehead and controls our will power. This part of the brain is capable of calming the urges and cravings that prevent us from achieving our goals and changing our bodies.
There are four chemicals in the brain that affect will power:
Dopamine is a stimulant that affects our motivation and drive.
Serotonin regulates mood and appetite, creating a calming, anti-worrying effect.
Gaba promotes relaxation and helps us sleep.
Endorphins provide us with a sense of pleasure and serve as natural pain-killers.
These four chemicals affect our behavior. When they’re balanced, we can be focused and goal-oriented and control our cravings. We can walk away from the French fries and cakes.
When these chemicals are imbalanced, certain areas of the brain become troubled and we get off track. It alters our brain chemistry in a way that can affect our decision-making ability, causing us to do serious damage to ourselves.
Suppose the prefrontal cortex has low activity resulting from head trauma, lack of sleep, drug or alcohol use, or high consumption of unnatural sugar. This can cause impulse control problems and loss of will power, making it much more difficult to walk away from the French fries and cake.
And this is why we can only change the body if we change the brain first.
The brain is capable of self-regulating, but it needs our help. Just like our cars need oil changes and tune ups, our brain needs maintenance.
How can we maintain the self-control features in the brain and keep our brain chemistry balanced?
Exercise physically and mentally to keep the brain engaged and sharp. Stay hydrated. Get plenty of sleep. Eat smaller meals more frequently with healthy sugars. Avoid stress, alcohol, drugs and those awful manmade sugars and processed foods that pollute our food supply and our bodies.
There are many things in our lives that can harm the brain and make it more difficult to change. The key is to maintain the brain and make its job easier.
Dr. James Proodian is an accomplished chiropractic physician and health educator who founded Proodian Healthcare Family of Companies to help people feel better, function better, and live longer. His expertise for the past two decades has been in physical rehabilitation, and he has successfully established himself as a spinal specialist. In his practice, he advocates the science of functional medicine, which takes an integrative approach to treating patients by addressing their physical, nutritional, and psychological needs. Alarmed by the escalation of complex, chronic illness in our country, Dr. Proodian has been speaking to companies and organizations through his “Wellness at Work” program since 1994, motivating thousands of people to make positive lifestyle choices and lead healthier, more productive lives. He can be heard weekly on his radio program, “Proodian Healthcare By Design,” on Tandem Radio.