“Fatigue makes cowards of us all” chanted the legendary football coach Vince Lombardi. That may well be true, but central nervous system (CNS) fatigue is any person’s worst enemy. Optimal function of the nervous system is vital as it enables the recruitment of muscle fibers required for activities of daily living as well as exercise to ensure muscle growth and recovery. Therefore, people with CNS fatigue must avoid overworking or overtraining at all costs in order to ensure peak health and/or performance.
Central fatigue may occur if alterations within the brain decrease the ability to voluntarily send a signal to the muscle. Strategies designed to offset fatigue and enhance health/performance most often have involved alterations in diet and nutrition. The brain has been left to fend for itself. Feelings of fatigue are a common feature in situations such as impaired cognitive function, sleep deprivation, premenstrual syndrome, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome, all of which do not apparently involve muscle defects. Because the mechanisms of fatigue in these situations are not well understood, it is often thought that nothing can be done to alleviate their effects. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although it has long been known that nutritional status can alter brain neurochemistry, researchers have only recently begun to focus more heavily on possible mechanisms of fatigue involving the brain.
Evidence is accumulating in support of a role for neurotransmitters (chemicals used by your nerve cells to communicate with one another) in brain-related fatigue. Neurotransmitters, and their balance with each other, play a role in how you react to daily events. When you experience depression, the level of serotonin, norepinephrine or others may be out of sync. Due to its well-known effects on arousal, lethargy, sleepiness and mood, serotonin may have the biggest role as a mediator of central fatigue. The serotonergic system is associated with numerous brain functions that can positively or negatively affect sleep and performance. In fact, poor sleep quality can often be attributed to deficient brain serotonin. Serotonin, however does not operate in a brain vacuum. Other vital neurotransmitters exist in a dynamic balance that appears to be the key toward optimizing performance. Simply put, a balanced brain is a more alert and vital brain.
Additional neurotransmitters involved include dopamine, epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine, GABA, and glutamate. Evidence has shown an inverse relationship between serotonin and dopamine in certain brain areas. A low ratio of brain serotonin to dopamine favors improved performance (ie, increased arousal, motivation, and optimal neuromuscular coordination), whereas a high ratio of serotonin to dopamine favors decreased performance (ie, decreased motivation, lethargy, tiredness, and loss of motor coordination). This latter scenario would constitute central fatigue.
The causes of fatigue include factors that reside in the brain as well as dietary and nutritional factors that can be easily assessed and corrected. Dietary modifications and targeted amino acid therapy attenuate these abnormalities and lead to improve performance, reduction in perceived exertion and mental fatigue, and improvement of cognitive performance. According to researchers in the U.K., eating a small amount of dark chocolate each day can help combat symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome by enhancing the action of serotonin. Keyword: small. 🙂
While the amino acid L-tryptophan increases serotonin levels, L-tyrosine is the major precursor of dopamine. Investigations have shown that L-tyrosine administration increases dopamine synthesis and brain concentrations, whereas other studies have shown that tyrosine administration improves mood and sense of well-being in human subjects that are under stress. The evidence on L-tyrosine’s ability to increase dopamine concentrations and improve mood and well-being in humans is substantial.
Because we know nutritional manipulations can alter brain neurochemistry and improve health, two main areas of clinical focus involve evaluation of amino acids in blood and neurotransmitters in urine.Via cutting edge, science-based laboratory testing with the right clinician, it has now become possible to develop a highly personalized diet and nutritional program designed specifically to balance these all important neurotransmitters. The exciting reality that relationships exist among nutrition, brain neurochemistry, and health is upon us and will likely develop into a new frontier in nutrition research for years to come.
- Feelings of fatigue are a common feature in situations such as impaired cognitive function, sleep deprivation, premenstrual syndrome, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome.
- The causes of fatigue include factors that reside in the brain as well as dietary and nutritional factors that can be easily assessed and corrected.
- Due to its well-known effects on arousal, lethargy, sleepiness and mood, serotonin may have the biggest role as a mediator of central fatigue.
- Because we know nutritional manipulations can alter brain neurochemistry and improve health, two main areas of clinical focus involve evaluation of amino acids in blood and neurotransmitters in urine.
- Simply put, a balanced brain is a more alert and vital brain.
Would you like to test, and not guess, for the cause of your fatigue? We can help.
Subscribe to our blog for more articles to come!