Myelin and the Central Nervous system

As a Herbalist, I always offer my clients dietary advice to help with their condition. I am very interested in cognitive decline and how it can be avoided. Here are some small changes you can make to help with this.

Firstly, let’s understand why we get cognitive decline. It’s all to do with the myelin sheath..

Myelin is the fatty protective coating that surrounds nerve fibres – a bit like the insulation on an electrical wire.

Nerve cells carry messages between the brain and spinal cord and the organs and limbs of the body. They control everything we do – from how we move to how we think and feel.

As well as protecting the fragile nerve fibres, myelin also allows messages to travel quickly along the nerves without being lost or interrupted.

For example, in the nerve cells that extend from the spinal cord to the muscles in your leg, the myelin coating allows messages to travel up to 268 miles per hour. In nerve cells without myelin, the speed the message travels can drop as low as 1 mile per hour.

Why do we need to repair myelin?
If myelin isn’t repaired properly, the nerve fibres become increasingly vulnerable to damage, and over time the fibres become more worn and can be lost. When this happens, messages can no longer get through and symptoms become permanent.

This gradual, steady accumulation of the lack of myelin around the nerve cells can eventually lead to further health complications such as Multiple Sclerosis. This is why we need to find ways to put myelin back on nerves, protecting them from damage and getting the messages flowing again.

How can we repair and replace myelin?

The human body has an amazing natural ability to repair myelin and get nerves working properly again.

Myelin is repaired or replaced by special cells in the brain called oligodendrocytes. These cells are made from a type of stem cell found in the brain, called oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs).

Nerve cells signal for help when their myelin is damaged.
When the signal reaches the OPCs, they travel to the site of damage and mature into oligodendrocytes. And then the damage can be repaired.

Early in the condition, this process works quite well. With the myelin replaced, the messages can travel down the nerve fibre again. Your MS symptoms may lessen or go away as the immune attack subsides.

But, with age and repeated attacks, this process stops working as effectively. It’s thought that OPCs stop responding to the nerve cell’s cry for help, and damaged oligodendrocytes can no longer effectively replace the lost myelin.

We need to find ways to kickstart this natural process again. This involves understanding everything about the process: from how nerve cells signal for help, to finding out what molecules help activate the myelin-making cells.

I can help you do all of the above with a formula of bespoke herbs.

Here are some of the best foods for myelin sheath regeneration and other myelin-related conditions.

1. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is a crucial part of your nervous system health because it helps maintain your nerves’ myelin sheath. In fact, it’s such an integral part of your nerve health that having a vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to symptoms similar to those of MS, such as weakness, numbness or impaired memory.

Foods high in vitamin B12 include:

Seafood like clams and crab
Nutritional yeast
Fortified soy products like tofu, soy milk and tempeh
Low- or nonfat dairy products like milk and yoghurt

2. Good Cholesterol
Cholesterol helps produce myelin and is an essential component of the myelin membrane, according to the July 2020 ​Biochimica et Biophysica Acta​ research​.​ Eating more cholesterol-rich foods was even linked to increased remyelination in people with MS, per a January 2017 study in ​Nature​.

Prioritise eating healthy sources of cholesterol, such as:
Nuts and seeds
Olive oil

At the same time, limit or avoid unhealthy cholesterol, which can put you at increased risk for conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.

This includes foods with trans and saturated fats, such as:
High-fat dairy products like goat cheese
Processed baked goods like cakes and cookies
Fried or fast food

3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that support healthy cell membranes (including nerve cells), help your immune system work well and provide energy, per the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS).

Research has linked the nutrient to a lower risk for demyelination, per an August 2018 review in ​Physiological Research​. However, it’s important to note that this is a link and not necessarily the cause of demyelination, which is why omega-3s have not been shown to reverse the course of myelin-related diseases like MS.

Here are good sources of omega-3s:
Nuts and seeds like walnuts, flax and chia seeds
Fish like herring, salmon and sardines
Canola oil
Beans like navy and kidney beans
Vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and squash
Fruits like avocado and blackberries

4. Choline and Lecithin
Choline is an essential nutrient that helps the body produce some of the substances that make up the myelin sheath, according to the ODS. Lecithin is another nutrient found in many of the same foods as choline that likewise supports the myelin sheath.

Per the ODS, foods rich in choline and lecithin include:
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts
Certain beans like kidney and soybeans
Nuts and seeds
Whole grains like brown rice and quinoa

5. L-Glycine
Glycine is an amino acid that makes up important proteins in your body like collagen and elastin, per March 2017 research in ​Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity​. It can help support the health of your body tissue, including connective tissue like the myelin sheath.

It’s also a key nutrient in central nervous system function because it helps regulate nerve impulses, according to that same study.

According to the study, foods high in glycine include:
Meat like turkey, chicken and pork
Legumes like beans, lentils and peas.

Make these small changes to prevent cognitive decline but please also get in touch if you would like to talk to me about this and herbs that can help.

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