We often ignore our nervous system when it comes to health. In true fact, our nervous system plays a very important role in ensuring a healthy state and can be a cause of many other health problems.
The nervous system is like a complex, specialised network of access roads throughout our body, with information constantly travelling along nerve cells from our brain to our muscles. It consists of two main parts, called the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS).
Central Nervous System
The CNS controls most of the body and mind. It consists of the brain and spinal cord. The brain is the center of our thoughts as it interprets information from our eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin, as well as information from internal organs. The spinal cord is a communication link between the body and the brain. If our spinal cord is injured, the exchange of information between the brain and the body will be disrupted. CNS controls all voluntary movement, such as walking and talking, and involuntary movement such as breathing and blinking. It is also important for our mental health as it is the core of our thoughts, perceptions and emotions.
Peripheral Nervous System
The PNS consists of all the nerves that branch out from the CNS and extend to the sensory organs, muscles and glands. Basically, it connects CNS to the rest of the body. The primary function of the PNS is to convey the signals from the brain to the rest of the body and the external environment. PNS consists of somatic nervous system, which guides all voluntary movements, and autonomic nervous system which are responsible for all activities that you do without thinking about them.
Unlike the CNS which is protected by the skull and the backbone, the nerves, and cells of the PNS are not enclosed by bones. This makes the PNS more susceptible to damage by trauma and injuries.
Function of Nervous System
The function of the nervous system is to send signals from one cell to or from one part of the body to another. It affects every aspect of our health, such as:
- Our everyday movement and activities, e.g. balance and coordination
- Our ability to think and reason. Our nervous system allows us to have thoughts, memory, learning and feelings
- Our senses, how our brain interpret what we hear, see, smell, touch and feel
- Response to stressful situation, such as blood flow and blood pressure
- Control of our body internal environment, such as heartbeat and breathing pattern
- Sleep schedule, healing and aging
Nerve Damages and Injuries
Many disorders and condition will affect our nerves. Numbness and tingling sensation are usually the early signs indicating unhealthy nerve. Some may even experience weakness or a reduced ability to move part or all of one side of the body. Some other indications are tremors, tics, or other unusual movements, such as losing coordination while walking or mouth smacking. Some of the most common causes of nerve injuries include:
- Diseases. Many diseases and infections can cause problems to our nerve cells, such as diabetes. Diabetes can lead to diabetic neuropathy, causing numbness and tingling sensation on the hands and feet.
- Stroke. Stroke happens when the blood flow to the brain is affected either by a blocked or ruptured blood vessel. Without enough blood supply, part of the brain dies and therefore it has trouble sending messages via nerve cells.
- Accidents or injuries. Car crashes and falls are common injuries affecting the nerves.
- Exposure to toxins. Chemotherapy medicines, illegal drugs, excessive alcohol and poisonous substances can cause peripheral neuropathy or nerve damage.
- Mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.
How to keep our Nervous System Healthy
There are things that we can do to keep our nervous system healthy and this is how:
- Feed your nerves. Giving the nerves with the supplies they need to transmit messages, such as B Vitamins. Vitamin B1, B6 and B12 (Methycobalamin) help the nerves to send signals from brain to the body. Red meat, animal liver, sardines and dark green vegetables are a few examples that contain rich sources of Vitamin B.
- Protect your nerves. Our nerves are surrounded by a protective layer called the myelin sheath. Methylcobalamin helps in the production of myelin and helps to restore injured nerves.
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet. Consume foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish. Healthy fats help to protect our nerve cells.
- Exercise regularly. Stretching before and after exercise increase your flexibility and prevent cramps and injuries. Exercise will also help with blood circulation and improve the blood flow throughout our body.
- Adapt a good posture. Maintaining a good posture in daily activities will reduce pressure on our nerves, and in turn reduce the risk of nerve injuries.
- Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol. Too much alcohol will damage the peripheral nerves and affect the level of vitamins needed for a healthy nervous system, such as Vitamin B6 and B12. Vitamin supplements such as Vitamin B12 supplements can help to treat Vitamin B12 deficiency resulting from excessive alcohol use.
- Seek medical advice. Seek medical advice if you notice yourself or the people around us experiencing problems with coordination, loss of speech or a sudden change in behavior or memory. These indicate our nerves might not be working properly. Seek advice to reduce the risk of further nerve injuries.
Our nervous system is the command centre of our entire body. It needs care to keep working correctly. Therefore, it is crucial to keep our nervous system healthy as it will affect our ability to function and work properly.
- MediLexicon International. (n.d.). Supplements and vitamins for neuropathy: 8 options. Medical News Today. Retrieved February 8, 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326917
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Alcoholic neuropathy: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. Retrieved February 8, 2022, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000714.htm