9 essential ingredients to keep your nervous system going strong
Our nervous system is a bioengineering marvel that controls everything we do.
Every step and breath we take. Every heartbeat, every laugh, every response to every stimulus, every thought. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Never a day off. Or even a second off.
Without proper care, a workload like that can take its toll.
So, here are some ways to provide that care and prevent your nervous system from wearing out.
9 essential nervous system boosters
Proper care for any part of our body is built on diet, mindfulness, and physical activity. Most of our care recommendations can be achieved by smart eating—but even the healthiest of diets can benefit from additional nutrient support.
So, let’s look at 9 supplements and nutrients that will work the hardest for your nervous system—and that you might not be getting enough of from food alone. (As always, consult with your doctor before taking any supplement.)
This ingredient helps regulate the electrochemical impulses your nerve cells use to send signals throughout the cell.
Along with your naturally occurring sodium, potassium helps turn off these impulses when necessary, preventing uncontrolled nerve signaling that can lead to diseases like epilepsy.
We recommend 32.5 mg total per day, using an ultra potassium formulation.
Calcium is present in every cell in your body, not just your bones and teeth. Its roles are to help blood vessels expand and contract, to regulate nerve impulse transmission and hormone production.
Without it, your muscles would not be able to contract and relax. (Remember, your heart is a muscle—keeping it beating is just one of calcium’s jobs.)
To control anxiety, take 500 mg daily.
The B-Vitamins are anything but a B-team. They play an A-team role in maintaining nervous system functions. It’s a group of eight specific vitamins, known by a number, e.g., B-12, or by name: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and so on.
Together, in a B-complex formula, they help turn food into energy, help create new red blood cells, and help build your brain’s chemical messengers.
Individually, each B vitamin also serves its own purpose in the nervous system.
B-12, for example, is essential in protecting your nerve coverings and cleansing your body of homocysteine, a dangerous compound linked to stroke and cardiovascular disease.
While older people are at increased risk for B-12 deficiency (their reduced amount of stomach acid means reduced absorption of the vitamin), B-12 deficiency at any age may lead to nervous system disorders.
We recommend a high-quality B-complex multivitamin to cover all the bases. (Consult with your doctor about upping amounts of individual B vitamins.)
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) increases the production of the chemical serotonin, which can affect sleep, appetite, temperature, sexual behavior, and pain sensation.
It can be highly effective in cases where serotonin is believed to play an important role, including depression, insomnia, obesity, and many other conditions.
To help you sleep, take 100-200 mg. For daytime anxiety, take one or two 50 mg doses.
Magnesium is a superstar mineral. In one study, supplemental magnesium resulted in improvements in synaptic functioning and neuronal signaling.
This shows great promise that our cognitive function could be improved as we age, rather than deteriorating into Alzheimer’s and other killer conditions.
Take 500 mg of magnesium malate formulation, at night only.
6) Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
EFAs benefit every cell of the body, including, of course, nerve cells. They aid in the transmission of the nerve impulses that guide our daily actions.
Omega-3 EFAs like DHA and EPA are especially important when taken in the proper formulation of 2.5 parts DHA to 1 part EPA.
We recommend 2,000 mg daily.
GABA is called “the natural Valium” by some. It works by blocking certain brain signals associated with anxiety, lowering anxiety and thereby improving mood.
GABA is not found in fresh food, but occurs in some fermented foods, like Korea’s kim chi and Chinese Pu-Erh tea, which stimulate your body's natural GABA production.
Take 500–1,000 mg over the course of a day.
Lecithin is rich in choline, which is necessary for the proper transmission of nerve impulses from the brain through the central nervous system. Lecithin also protects and repairs nerves.
If EFAs like omega-3 fish oil are the “bricks” that make up a cell membrane, phosphates like choline are the mortar that holds them together. They rebuild every cell in the body.
We recommend 2 tablespoons of granulated lecithin mixed into drinks.
Known by tea lovers worldwide as an effective stress reliever and sleep aid, Chamomile has been shown to change alpha-wave activity in the brain—the activity associated with deep relaxation.
It’s widely used in Europe to soothe cranky babies, relieve menstrual cramps and stomach discomfort.
You can drink as much as you want.
Check your mood for warning signs
There are scores of other supplements that can reduce anxiety, help you sleep, relieve pain, lift your mood and provide many other health benefits.
With your doctor’s help, when you get a sense of what’s best for you, remember there are good-quality supplements that make good health easier than getting a bottle of each supplement.
But please be careful to measure your mood.
If you are frequently anxious or worried … if you have serious sleep issues, not just an occasional restless night—and supplements don’t help, you might be at risk for depression.
That’s a very, very serious matter that cannot be denied away and must not be brushed under a rug.
Take good care.
Disclaimer: Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Last Updated: September 16, 2020
Originally Published: May 10, 2015