Nerve Cell Atrophy
Dendrites are branched extensions of a nerve cell (also known as a neuron) that transfers the signal from another neural cell to the axon which transfers the signal on to the dendrites of the next neve cell.
Drawing of a nerve cell.
Chronic stress increases production of glucocorticoids (primarily cortosol) which produces these reversible structural alterations in nerve cells These changes are characterized by decreased dendrite lengths and reduced number of branches.
Drawing of changes in a nerve cell due to stress (see figure 5)
Stress decreases brain-derived neurotrophic factor*.
Decreases in BDNF causes changes in genes in the synapses including the BDNF gene.
*Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, (BDNF), is a protein that is responsible for nerve growth and repair. BDNF acts on nerve cells helping to support the survival of existing neurons, and encourage the growth and development of new neurons and synapses.
Serotonin transport is influenced by BDNF levels.
Lower BDNF will lower dopamine production and is closely linked to depression as well as some links to anxiety. Low BDNF is common in major depressive disorder and especially treatment resistant depression.
Neuron atrophy reduces the size of the amygdala, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex in the brain.
Increased BDNF production reverses neuron atrophy and reduces anxiety and depression symptoms.
Why is this important?
Stress in life limits our production of BDNF and makes us more susceptible to DNA, nerve and synapse changes. This makes us more vulnerable to anxiety/depression. Once we are on an antidepressant the BDNF levels raise and provide some relief along with the drugs effects on serotonin and other neurotransmitters. If/when we decide to taper of the drugs we enter a deep state of stress. We not only lose much of our BDNF production dues to this stress but we also lose the BDNF production we were getting from the antidepressant. This all makes the withdrawal worse. Nearly all of the research on the compounds that raise BDNF say that the supplements are better at preventing loss of BDNF if taken before the stress begins. For those who are going to wean off of ANY medicine that has a withdrawal it would be wise to raise the BDNF levels prior to starting the withdrawal. The one exception is the withdrawal from addictive compounds which involve dopamine and BDNF imbalances .
Best ways to increase BDNF, repair DNA damage, avoid cellular damage from oxidation and reduce the effects of aging.
Increase BDNF and prevent loss of BDNF during stress
500 mg of ALA/DHA Omega 3 daily, 1000 mg of curcumin twice a day, L-Theanine at 400 mg per day, Astaxanthin at 12 to 18 mg/day.
Get plenty of sunlight
Cut refined sugar
Cut saturated fat
Cut high fructose corn syrup
7 hours or more sleep
Volumes of research showing that by increasing BDNF one can reduce the risk of developing Parkinson's, Alzheimer's Disease and dementia as well as bringing some relief from symptoms of these diseases. It can also help treat nerve damage and stroke symptoms if therapy is begun soon after the damage occurs. Omega 3 has also been shown to reduce plague buildup in the brain in persons with Alzheimer's Disease.
Reverse/minimize DNA damage from sun and radioactive imaging as well as extending life span
DNA damage is important. We have often discussed the gene mutations that are associated with anxiety/depression but you may not have been born with those mutations. They may have developed due to the aging process, sun exposure, radiation, etc. Being able to reverse some of that damage is a great asset.
600-1200 mg N-Acetyl Cysteine per day or 500 mg of Vitamin C per day. Shown to reverse significant damage done by aging and radioactive imaging/sun and slow the aging process.
Nicotinamide mononucleotide is an effective anti-aging intervention that could be translated to humans, recommended dose 100 to 200 mg/day.
Astaxanthin at 12 to 18 mg/day significantly reduces DNA damage from radiation/sun and is anti-aging.
Coenzyme q10, while not helping with DNA damage it does have anti-aging effects.
Quercetin has anti-aging effects and also improves BDNF levels but it does not show signs of repairing DNA.
L-Theanine slows the aging process and increases BDNF.
I have NOT included dozens of supplements and herbal compounds that show signs of these properties due to unknown or potential bad side effects, no human data and even limited animal data. I have stuck with those compounds that are well established as supplements and are considered relatively safe .
1) 600-1200 mg N-Acetyl Cysteine per day or 500 mg of Vitamin C per day. to reverse DNA damage, limit further damage to DNA, raise BDNF and anti-aging.
2) Astaxanthin, Quercetin and L-Theanine are good alternatives.