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Foods That Help Nerve Function

By Tracey Roizman, D.C.

Your nervous system consists of 100 billion neurons and support structures traversing 600 miles at rates of speed up to 250 miles per hour. An efficiently functioning nervous system relies on proper nutrition for energy, growth and repair. Certain foods are particularly high in nutrients that your nerves use to stay health.

Healthy Diet

A healthy diet helps build better nerves and brain cells, promoting optimal brain and mental function, giving you a performance edge at work or school, and protecting your nervous system from the onslaught of free radicals and other harmful substances, says registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer, R.D., M.A., author of the book "The Food & Mood Cookbook: Recipes for Eating Well and Feeling Your Best." B complex vitamins, such a vitamins B-6, B-12 and folic acid keep your levels of the pro-inflammatory molecule homocysteine to a minimum, protecting blood vessels that supply your brain and nerves with oxygen and nutrients. To gain the advantages of a healthy diet, load up on vegetables, eat less meat, and pass up on fast foods and high-fat dairy products.

Low-Fat

Eat a low-fat diet to manage your cholesterol levels, which decrease oxygen supply to the brain, resulting in memory lapses and other nerve function deficits, according to Paul Bragg, N.D., Ph.D., author of the book "Build Powerful Nerve Force." Replace high-cholesterol foods with whole grains, soy, brown rice and lentils. Eat foods high in lecithin, such as brewer's yeast and wheat germ, to promote healthy cholesterol levels and formation of myelin, the insulating substance that helps conduct nerve impulses.

Fish

Fish is good brain and nerve food. A study published in the September 2010 issue of the journal "Folia Histochemica et Cytobiologica" found that fish oil increased the number of neurons in the brain that produce dopamine, a brain neurotransmitter that is necessary for proper nerve and muscle function. The essential fatty acid docosahexanoic acid, DHA, is the major polyunsaturated fatty acid in the brain and is present in high quantities in fish oil. In the study, fish oil also protected dopamine-producing nerves from damage.

Vitamin B-6

Eat foods high in vitamin B-6 to decrease nerve pain associated with inflammation, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Potatoes, bananas, garbanzo beans, chicken breast and oatmeal are healthy dietary sources of this vitamin. A review of published studies that appeared in the March 2004 issue of the journal "Nutrition Reviews" found that vitamin B-6 may have pain-relieving qualities or may directly improve nerve function. In spite of a lack of consensus, researchers recommended the use of B-6 in carpal tunnel syndrome for its potential benefits and low risk of adverse side effects.

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