Dr. Sarah Myhill MD
The Brain is the Driver of your Car
I do like to read books by clever people who turn difficult subjects into simple concepts with practical implications for management. Dr Eric Braverman has done just this with his book “The Edge Effect”. He is highly qualified, well read and refers to the same people and ideas as I do. He combines the best of recent modern thinking and research to come up with a model of the brain which dovetails with much of what I already know to be important in sustaining good health.
However, there are some very useful “bolt-on” extras! Just as DNA is made up of four sub-units which, combined, provide the entire genetic blueprint for all of life on Earth, Braverman describes the brain in terms of the actions of four neurotransmitters, describes the symptoms of imbalances of each hormone so they can be recognised, and states what can be done to correct these. Many of these interventions I already recommend, such as Stone Age Diet, Nutritional Supplements - what everybody should be taking all the time even if nothing is wrong, adequate sleep - Sleep is vital for good health - especially in CFS, Detoxification - an overview - and so on; but Braverman directs us to further fine tuning.
Identify Your Personality Type
This points to specific deficiencies which allows us to identify interventions to see if they have a beneficial effect. I have summarised Braverman’s findings, but you can read about them in much more detail in his book.
Dopamine predominant (frontal lobes) 17% of people
Thinking intuitives – rationalists, theory-oriented, precise, love power, high-energy extroverts, tend to addictions; achievers, thinkers, problem-solvers, pragmatic; but do not take criticism well; love activities requiring intellect, e.g. crosswords, chess; relish competition. Motto: “Never take anything personally”. Too much: overly intense, driven and impulsive; possibly violent; reckless driving, criminal behaviour. Dopamine is the “voltage” of the brain (ie height of electrical brain waves). If deficient: become the loners, the procrastinators; lose energy to socialise, lose feelings of emotion. Symptoms: inconsistent attention, loss of working memory (ability to absorb information and use it for on-going processing). Addiction to boost levels: cocaine, coffee, sugar. Occupations: doctors, scientists, researchers, inventors, engineers, generals, architects.
Acetylcholine predominant (parietal lobes) 17% of people
Intuitive feelers – idealists striving to be authentic, benevolent and empathetic; good at thinking-functions such as comprehension of language, intelligence and attention; love words, ideas and communication; highly creative and open to new ideas; quick thinkers, considerate of others, flexible, creative, impulsive - as long as there's the promise of excitement and something new; intuitive and innovative; love teaching others, sociable, charismatic, like meeting new people. Motto: “Always do your best”. Acetylcholine gives the brain speed (measured in alpha waves) of processing information and accessing stored information Too much speed: causes panic-disorders, anxiety, hysteria, sometimes manic episodes. Sufferer may give too much to others to the point of masochism. They may feel the world is taking advantage of them and become paranoid and then isolated. If deficient (too little speed): become the eccentrics and the perfectionists; steer away from human interaction; live in a dream world; workaholic - miss out on relaxation, enjoyment and warmth; may suffer from fatigue, learning disorders. Symptoms of deficiency: misplacing items, carelessness, loss of immediate memory (lasts up to 30 seconds) causing poor learning capacity and loss of basic alertness. Addiction to boost levels: nicotine, carbohydrate binges Occupations: teachers, community workers, artists, writers, musicians, councellors, mediators, think tank members, religious leaders, public servants, run self-employed businesses.
Dopamine and acetylcholine are the ON switches for the brain, GABA and serotonin are the OFF switches. It is no surprise that most of my CFS patients are dopamine or acetylcholine types! I often think one has to undergo a personality change to get out of CFS. The personality that gets you into it does not help you get out of it!
GABA predominant (temporal lobes) 50% of people
Characterised by stability, organisation and tradition; guardians, caring types, look to preserve traditional values; dependable, stable, calm, objective, level-headed, punctual, confident; tend to be homemakers, good team players, sensible, settled, make others feel comfortable; may use alcohol to calm their compulsiveness. Motto: “Always keep your word”. Produce calming rhythmic theta-waves which keep brain in check, able to pace activity Too much: expend too much energy on caring at the cost of getting hurt; rely heavily on friends and crave their judgement and approval. If deficient: become the unstable personalities and "Drama Queens"; excessive desire to meets the needs of others; moods often unbalanced and mercurial; inappropriately theatrical; loving and living for the big moment, attention-seeking, seeking reassurance of their worth; feel worthless and without hope; The problems of the world become their own; depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety. Symptoms of deficiency: lack of attention, impulsive actions; loss of verbal memory, eg inability to understand sounds, words, sentences and stories. Addiction to boost levels, e.g diazepam. Occupations: administrators, accountants, security officers, nurses, technicians, air traffic controllers, paramedics, planners, homemakers.
Serotonin predominant (occipital lobes) 17% of people
Sensitive preceptors. Artisans who act on impulse and seek adventure. They prize fun. Motto: “Live through experience”. Know how to enjoy life! Able to rest, regenerate and find serenity. Live for the moment, thrive on change, try new foods, pick up new hobbies, like a challenge just for the fun of overcoming it! Receptive to stimuli, in touch with mind and body, co-ordinated, resourceful. Not put off by a struggle. Love parties and celebrations, mountain-climbing, hunting, skiing, scuba diving, anything as long as there is excitement with it! Optimistic, cheerful, easy-going, want to join in and be part of the fun. Love children! Intensely loyal. Serotonin vital at night for brain to recharge and rebalance. Associated with delta waves in the brain. Too much: nervous, hesitant, vulnerable to criticism, desperate desire for interpersonal relationships. If deficient: become the self-absorbed personalities and the rule-breakers. Lose sensitivity to others, flout conventional values as beneath them, make their own rules so others are damaged. Boundary between truth and lies becomes blurred. Symptoms: inability to grasp concepts quickly. Loss of visual memory - e.g. inability to remember faces, colours, pictures, symbols. Insomnia, PMT Addiction to boost levels: alcohol, sugar bingeing Occupations: mechanics, construction workers, drivers, military personnel, hairdressers, bar tenders, pilots, computer programmers, professional athletes, movie stars, photographers, surgeons, chiropractors, detectives, investigators, crisis intervention specialists.
HOWEVER THE MOST IMPORTANT SYMPTOM OF A PROBLEM IN ANY OF THESE DEPARTMENTS IS POOR MEMORY. The difference in mental processing between a resourceful mind and senility is one tenth of a second. We normally generate a reaction within three-tenths of a second. If this becomes four-tenths of a second, we can no longer process logical thought. When the brain slows down - and without care this starts on average at 40 - we start to lose our edge. You just become less sharp. It’s the old story: as you age, you can stay just as fit and well, but you have to work harder at it! Brain-function is the most sensitive indicator of body biochemistry - which means, once the brain is working well, there is not much wrong with the biochemistry!
Most people have a combination of the above problems. In CFS there is probably a general deficiency of all the above neurotransmitters! Much can be corrected with the standard work-ups, but the following “bolt-on extras” are often very useful! If you wish to define your type more closely, there is a detailed DIY series of questions which you can read in the book “The Edge Effect”, together with frequently asked questions. The aim is to identify, then balance up the imbalances. I can’t repeat this here without breaching copyright! However, you can experiment with the following interventions (or get the book!) and that will give further clues and answers to your personal brain chemistry.
The Powerful Dopamine Nature
Dopamine deficiency can be helped by: DHEA, cortisol (see ADRENAL DYSFUNCTION), Human Growth Hormone, Thyroid hormones. Diet: eat foods containing phenylalanine, which is converted into tyrosine - the raw material needed to synthesise dopamine. This means a high protein diet. Interestingly, aspartame is high in phenylalanine which is perhaps why diet coke is so addictive! (Aspartame is also metabolised to formaldehyde, a neurotoxin). Foods rich in tyrosine include all meats (especially wild game meats), dark chocolate, eggs, walnuts. Extra supplements: tyrosine 1-2 grams daily, phosphatidyl serine 50-200mgs. Herbals: rhodiola 50-200mgs, ginkgo biloba 50-100mgs.
The Creative Acetlycholine Nature
Acetlycholine deficiency can be helped by: DHEA, cortisol, Human Growth Hormone. Diet: high fat (but good fats!), fatty meats, eggs, liver, nuts, quality cold-pressed oils, avocado. Extra supplements: choline 100-500mgs, phosphatidyl serine 500-2,000mgs, acetyl L carnitine 250-1,000mgs, DHA 200-1,000mgs, pantothenic acid 25-100mgs, vitamin B12 100-500mcgms. Herbals: ginkgo biloba 50-100mgs, Korean ginseng 100-500mgs.
The Stable GABA Nature
GABA deficiency can be helped by: Opiates! (consider Low dose naltrexone) DHEA. Diet: complex carbohydrates to supply the raw material to make GABA - namely, glutamine - such as nuts, vegetables, pulses, fruits. Especially avoid refined foods. Extra supplements: inositol 500-2,000mgs, glutamic acid 250-1,000mgs, melatonin 1-6mgs, B vitamins. Herbals: valerian 100-500mgs, passionflower 200-1,000mgs.
The Playful Serotonin Nature
Serotonin deficiency can be helped by:
- Human Growth Hormone
- Diet: tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin and comes from protein, especially game meats; also avocado, dark chocolate.
- Extra supplements: 5HTP 100-500mgs, melatonin 1-6mgs, magnesium 400-1,000mgs, tryptophan 500-2,000mgs, B6 100-500mgs, fish oils, zinc 15mgs nocte.
- Herbals: St John’s Wort 300-900mgs, passion flower 200-1,000mgs.
REMEMBER! WE ARE ALL A MIX OF ALL THE ABOVE AND IT IS ATTENTION TO ALL AREAS WHICH GIVES THE RESULTS
Children are born with undisguised personalities. As we age, our personality matures and the above traits should become less obvious. The aim is to balance up all of the above to find a state in which we are most productive and content.
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