Our primal mind has no defense against the stressful world it now faces, and we are paying a terrifying price for it. The toll this takes is insidious as well as profound, and it must be appreciated if steps are to be taken to mitigate its effects.
The hippocampus is the part of the brain most responsible for mitigating stress response. Unfortunately, we were never designed to be bombarded with stress 24/7; this delicate and sensitive part of the brain can become significantly damaged from excessive and chronic exposure to stress hormones and excitatory activity. Its cells wither, degenerate over time, and die off, creating impaired memory function and even psychological disturbances ranging from anxiety to paranoia and emotional instability.
Modern imaging studies increasingly show a common trend in the general population toward obvious signs of shrinkage and “Swiss cheese”-looking temporal lobe degeneration. This dangerous trend underscores the need for stress reduction as a mandatory practice for everyone. Neurofeedback can be an especially powerful mitigator of chronic stress and can also be used to teach the brain vastly improved self-regulation of its stress-related circuitry. Neurofeedback often dramatically improves self-regulation of stress-related circuitry. Other methods of biofeedback can also be extremely useful for stress reduction, especially heart-rate variability training (www.HeartMath.com) and capnotherapy, or “breath training” (www.betterphysiology.com).
Stress 24/7: When Too Much Is Really Too Much!
Another point worthy of ample consideration is the impact of chronic excitatory activity on our frontal lobes — our “executive brain.” This is the part of the brain that controls many aspects of short-term memory, inhibitory activity, consequential thinking, focus, planning, and affect regulation or emotion. This part of the brain is usually not fully developed until we are in our early twenties — as reflected in the sometimes erratic and irresponsible tendencies of juveniles. As mature adults, however, this part of our brain allows us to better consider our environment, effectively use our short-term memory, properly focus and process our thoughts, plan our actions thoughtfully, and control erratic impulses.
What we are really talking about when we talk about over-arousal, excess sympathetic nervous system activity, or excitatory activity is basically a fight-or-flight state. This part of our nervous systems was designed to kick in only under threatening extremes, such as, say, being chased by a saber-toothed tiger. Unfortunately, we live in a society today where many of us are being chased by saber-toothed tigers 24/7.
Many people have a nervous system that functions habitually in this way. These people often end up seeking neurofeedback (if they’re lucky), medications or other drugs, or alcohol to manage this constant hellish hijacking of their brain. Many constantly feel like prisoners of their own nervous systems.
How Society Has Been Affected: Social Degeneration and Chaos
What is the impact when everyone functions in this way, not only on us, individually, but on our society as a whole? The sociological implications are certainly chilling, to say the least.
In a fight-or-flight state, we become either purely instinctive animals or machine-like. Our judgment is affected. We lack any meaningful consideration of the future or past. We’re stuck in survival mode only. We react, as opposed to respond, to the world around us, and we become impulsive and unfocused, and we fail to adequately contemplate the consequences of our actions. It’s adolescence run amok. It’s a recipe for societal degeneration and chaos, and all this has become a mainstream hallmark of the society in which we live.
The ravages of exposure to insulin, leptin, excitotoxins, and chronic EMFs are deteriorating more than just our minds; they are deteriorating our entire society.
What We Can Eat To Help Ourselves: Summing It Up
Suffice it to say that consuming a diet closely paralleling that of our ancient human ancestors is the best general insurance we have to avoid dietary deficiency, mental illness, and cognitive decline. Although not necessarily sufficient all by itself to address all modern-day needs and conditions, it is nonetheless our best available foundational blueprint for the optimal functioning of our minds, emotions, immune systems, and overall physiology.
Optimizing nutrient ratios by the elimination of simple sugars and starches, moderating protein intake, and ensuring the adequate intake of healthy fat to satisfy the appetite can additionally serve to greatly enhance both quantity and quality of life.
From a physiological perspective, what we eat ultimately accounts for easily 70 percent of our health and longevity. The very foods we eat are responsible for controlling, modifying, and regulating our genetic expression. The foods and supplements we take into our bodies may be, in part, looked upon as ingested genetic instruction manuals. A whole field of study has sprung up around this concept, known as nutrigenomics (the study of how different foods and their constituents may interact with specific genes to increase or lessen the risk of common chronic diseases). Supplementation with commonly deficient nutrients, antioxidants, and antiglycating nutrients and engaging in regular exercise can further benefit the equation and slow mental, physical, and emotional decline. What we eat really does help determine — more than any other single factor — our genetic destiny.
It's Not About Quantity, It's About Quality
Attitude, beliefs, habitual emotions, and stress are less quantifiable but also enormously important. Still, the better we eat, the better the raw materials with which to manufacture hormones, neurotransmitters, and prostaglandins — “the molecules of emotion,” to borrow a phrase from Candace Pert, internationally recognized pharmacologist and author. Positive thinking is something that should flow naturally and not be an uphill battle perpetuated by lousy biochemistry emerging from a crappy diet.
Emotions are not, in essence, the result of what happens to you, but rather, how you respond to what happens to you. A balanced biochemistry allows us to respond, rather than react, to the world around us.
The quality this lends to our experience of life cannot be overestimated. It’s not really about living forever. It’s about being healthy enough to live fully, live healthfully, and live happily. Of course, the longer we are able to do this, the better.
Isn’t that really the point of it all — quality of life?
*title and subtitles by InnerSelf
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Healing Arts Press, an imprint of Inner Traditions Inc.
©2009, 2011 by Nora T. Gedgaudas. www.InnerTraditions.com
Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life
by Nora T. Gedgaudas.
About the Author
Nora Gedgaudas has a background in diet and nutrition spanning some 25 years and is a widely recognized, respected and sought-after expert in the field. Nora served as a trainer for the State of Washington Institute of Mental Health, illuminating nutrition's impact on mental health for State workers at all levels. She maintains a private practice in Portland, Oregon as both a CNT and a Board-certified Clinical Neurofeedback Specialist (CNS). Visit www.primalbody-primalmind.com for more info. or visit Nora's website at http://www.northwest-neurofeedback.com/