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This is Your Brain on Caffeine

Brain on CaffeineSusan Brown Health and Wellness Editor

Did you know that caffeine is considered a psychoactive substance? Consumed regularly by over 90 million adults, caffeine is thought to be America’s leading nonprescription drug. However, unlike drugs of abuse that lead to dopamine release, caffeine does not act on the dopaminergic structures in the brain related to reward, motivation and addiction. Caffeine is naturally occurring in tea, coffee, kola nuts, cocoa beans and more than 60 plant species. It is also added to soft drinks, energy drinks, pharmaceuticals and a number of OTC medicines, including analgesics, diet-aids and cold remedies. Data suggests that genetics may play a critical role in determining the amount of caffeine one is likely to consume, as well as any side effects of consumption. Some people are less sensitive to the stimulating effects, while others may see their blood pressure rise or their sleep negatively affected by caffeine consumption.

Following oral consumption, caffeine is absorbed into the bloodstream and body tissues. Its effects can last for several hours depending upon how quickly or slowly it is metabolized by the body. The liver is largely responsible for caffeine metabolism, and certain lifestyle factors appear to determine how quickly caffeine is utilized and eliminated. Smoking status, liver disease, alcohol consumption, diet and some medications may all influence caffeine’s effects. For example, smoking stimulates caffeine clearance, whereas alcohol intake prolongs caffeine’s effects and decreases clearance. As a central nervous system stimulant, caffeine can boost alertness, enhance cognitive performance, improve energy and aid athletic endurance.

U.S. dietary guidelines, as well as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), advise that daily consumption of up to 400 mg, equivalent to 4 – 5 cups of coffee, can actually be part of a healthy balanced diet and active lifestyle. For genetically predisposed caffeine-sensitive individuals, one cup can cause uncomfortable or jittery side effects. Ingesting greater than 400 mg daily or more than 200 mg in a single dose can result in insomnia, irritability, and nervousness, as well as tachycardia in those who already have a rapid heart rate.

Consumed very quickly in high doses, caffeine has the potential to be both toxic and dangerous to health. However, the negative effects of high-dose caffeine consumption appear primarily in a small group of caffeine-sensitive individuals. Moderate consumption does not ordinarily lead to health risks. In fact, recent studies show that coffee in moderation may actually boost longevity and potentially provide protection against cirrhosis, some cancers and type 2 diabetes, as well as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular diseases.

So how does caffeine affect the brain? Caffeine interacts primarily with the brain’s adenosine receptors. In so doing, it alters neural activities that influence mental performance, resulting in increased alertness and wakefulness. Adenosine is a naturally occurring compound commonly found in DNA or RNA. It is present in various forms in all bodily cells and is an essential component of energy production and utilization. Adenosine receptors are widely distributed in the central nervous system, where it acts to depress neuronal activity. When adenosine binds with receptors, it causes drowsiness, which in turn causes blood vessels in the brain to dilate, letting in more oxygen during sleep.

To a nerve cell, caffeine appears structurally similar to adenosine, which allows caffeine to bind with adenosine receptors essentially blocking adenosine activity. Contrarily to adenosine, caffeine speeds up nerve cells, constricts blood vessels and increases neuron firing. Constricting blood vessels in the brain can help to stop a vascular headache, which is why some headache remedies contain caffeine. Increased neuron firing causes the pituitary gland to sense an emergency of some kind, activating the flight or fight response and signaling the adrenals to produce adrenaline. So, after consuming a big cup of coffee, the pupils dilate, the heart beats a bit faster, blood pressure rises, the liver releases sugar for increased energy and muscles grow tense and ready for action. Who knew your morning cup of joe could actually elicit such far-reaching effects?

Largely as a consequence of blocking the uptake of adenosine, caffeine has profound effects on many other major neurotransmitters such as dopamine, acetylcholine, serotonin and, in high doses, norepinephrine. By helping to regulate neurotransmitter balance, caffeine may enhance mood and suppress appetite. Cognitively, caffeine appears to sharpen reasoning, concentration, decision-making and perception. Physically, it improves speed, endurance, energy output, and reaction time. Therapeutically, in moderate use, it appears to protect brain cells from certain kinds of long-term damage, while also aiding pain relief. While the effects of caffeine continue to be studied, you can continue to enjoy antioxidant-rich coffee in moderation and receive not only the short-term effects but the long-term health benefits as well.

References:
Coffee and hormones: Here’s how coffee really affects your health. https://www.precisionnutrition.com/coffee-and-hormones
Neurological Effects of Caffeine. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1182710-overview
Caffeine overdose is extremely rare – but here’s how it can happen. https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/5/17/15649722/caffeine-overdose-health-risks-coffee-energy-drinks
How Caffeine Works. Caffeine and Adenosine. https://science.howstuffworks.com/caffeine4.htm
13 Health Benefits of Coffee, Based on Science. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-13-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coffee
9 Reasons Why (the Right Amount of) Coffee is Good for You. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy-woman/nutrition-fitness/9-reasons-why-the-right-amount-of-coffee-is-good-for-you

Professional Supplement Center New Formulations

PSC_RideWaveSusan Brown Health and Wellness EditorProfessional Supplement Center® has added six new formulations to our growing line of professional grade nutritional supplements. These high quality products are designed to support optimal health maintenance, as well as address a variety of specific wellness needs. Scientifically researched and manufactured to the highest cGMP standards, all products are formulated with superior quality raw materials assayed for identity and purity. Professional Supplement Center adheres to truth in labeling to ensure products contain only the listed components. Products are guaranteed to contain the purest and most potent ingredients without preservatives, impurities, or artificial ingredients.

To see the complete line of Professional Supplement Center brand products, please visit professionalsupplementcenter.com

Adrenal Pro EnergyAdrenal Pro Energy:  ON SALE! This comprehensive adaptogenic and B vitamin formula provides support for adrenal hormone production and a healthy adaptogenic response. High quality ingredients include a standardized extract blend of cordyceps, rhodiola and ginseng, along with bioavailable PABA and vitamins B5 and B6 for energy production, a healthy immune response, antioxidant activity and cellular protection. Free of wheat, gluten, yeast, soy, animal and dairy products, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, and artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives. Non-GMO formulation.

Allergy Immune...Allergy Immune Balance: ON SALE! This formula provides specific nutrients for multifaceted support for hypersensitive individuals. Ingredients include bioflavonoids, micronutrients, proteolytic enzymes and botanicals in highly absorbable forms. These nutrients support the nasal and sinus passages, provide antioxidant protection and regulate an overactive or distressed histamine response to environmental allergens. Free of wheat, gluten, yeast, soy, animal and dairy products, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, and artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives. Non-GMO formulation.

Cortisol ResetCortisol Reset: ON SALE! This multifunctional herbal formula features a unique blend of clinically tested patented ingredients that aid the body in resisting and recovering from the effects of everyday stress. Ingredients include high levels of bioactive constituents of ashwagandha, a stress-fighting, cognition-enhancing adaptogenic herb; a pure form of L-theanine, an amino acid associated with a relaxed but alert mental state; and other traditional botanicals known to support relaxation and reduce the perception of stress. Free of wheat, gluten, soy, dairy, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts and artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives. Non-GMO formulation.

Mood StabilizerMood Stabilizer: ON SALE! Mood Stabilizer provides key nutrients including vitamins, minerals and amino acids that enhance the synthesis of certain inhibitory neurotransmitters in support of relaxation, healthy mood and healthy nervous system function. Ingredients include vitamin C, GABA, magnesium glycinate chelate, selenium, L-theanine, L-taurine and 5-HTP.  Free of wheat, gluten, soy, dairy and animal products, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives. Non-GMO formulation.

Magnesium BalanceMagnesium Balance: ON SALE! This proprietary blend of patented magnesium is formulated for superior absorption in support of bone, cellular, joint, nerve and tissue health. As magnesium participates in more than 300 enzymatic reactions, far-reaching health benefits of adequate magnesium intake include support for energy production as well as cardiovascular and muscle health and function. Free of wheat, gluten, corn, yeast, soy, animal and dairy products, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, and artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives. Non-GMO formulation.

Spectrum EnzymesSpectrum Enzymes: ON SALE! This broad spectrum comprehensive formula provides key digestive enzymes that function in a wide pH range to support and facilitate healthy digestion and effective absorption of nutrients. Spectrum Enzymes provides principal and complementary enzymes in support of fat, protein, carbohydrate, fiber and lactose digestion. Free of wheat, gluten, yeast, soy, animal and dairy products, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives. Non-GMO, vegan formulation.

 

 

This Is Your Brain on Stress

BrainStressJacquie Eubanks RN BSN

 

 

 

When eight of ten Americans report feeling frequently stressed, one might wonder what’s causing so many to feel so stressed out. Per the American Psychological Association, there’s a significant percentage of Americans worried about the future of the country, followed by a high percentage who are worried about finances, work or family responsibilities. Almost half of Americans worry about healthcare, while a third find the economy, unemployment, high taxes and low wages worrisome. Three of four Americans report experiencing high levels of stress during the previous month, almost half have trouble sleeping, and one third feel chronically anxious, irritable or fatigued.

The National Institute of Mental Health simply defines stress as “the brain’s response to any demand.” Stress can be classified as acute (good), tolerable or chronic (toxic). Good stress can occur as the result of a single, short-term event, such as recovery from an illness or injury, or when we rise to a challenge, often with positive outcomes. Tolerable stress refers to a situation where one faces a difficult situation, but is able to cope with support of family, friends or others. Toxic or recurring stress can be the result of adverse life events not within our control, such as managing a chronic illness or dealing with an exceptionally demanding workload. When stress is both intense and sustained over a period to time, it becomes particularly problematic, as long-term stress can cause significant harm to normal and proper body and brain functioning.

Per the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the brain is the central organ of stress and adaptation to stress, as it perceives and determines what is threatening, as well as the behavioral and physiological responses to the stressor. Stress can cause an imbalance of neural circuitry affecting cognition, decision making, anxiety and mood. While it’s well known that chronic stress is detrimental to overall wellness, it now appears that long-term stress and stress related illnesses, such as post traumatic stress disorder, can actually change the physiology of the brain. This can negatively affect brain size, connectivity and mood, and quite possibly memory and cognition down the road. Simply put, persistent stress may actually rewire the brain, strengthening the part of the brain focused on survival and weakening the part of the brain tasked with more complex thought.

Often called the “stress” hormone because of its connection to the stress response, cortisol is actually a steroid hormone critical to protecting overall health and wellbeing. It plays a key role in the sleep/wake cycle, the maintenance of blood sugar levels, energy metabolism, sodium and water balance and blood pressure regulation, as well as the immune system’s inflammatory response. One of the primary functions of our many biological systems is the maintenance of  optimal balance or homeostasis. Cortisol aids the body in regaining homeostasis after a stressful event. As cortisol regulates a wide range of bodily processes, almost every cell contains cortisol receptors, including the hippocampus, the region of the brain where memories are processed and stored.

Normal cortisol levels have no adverse effects on the hippocampus, heavily associated with memory, emotion and learning. When chronically high cortisol levels overwhelm the hippocampus, atrophy and significant memory loss may result. Brain patterns may predict how the body physically reacts to stressful situations. Constant stress and the accumulation of stressful life events may make one more vulnerable to brain shrinkage when faced with future intense traumatic stressors, especially when the next demanding situation requires determination or emotional control. Studies have found that chronic stress has a negative impact on spatial memory, as well as memory retrieval. Additionally, an exaggerated stress response could mean a faster heartbeat and higher blood pressure, which can result in negative health consequences in the long run.

While not all stress is unhealthy or avoidable, taking steps to reduce persistent stress may protect brain health as one ages, as well as increase one’s ability to cope when the next stressful event occurs. Working to redirect behavior in more positive directions can help to promote wellness and enjoyment of life. Maximizing the time spent in a resting state can help address long-term elevation of stress-related biological factors. Finding ways to relax, prioritizing sleep, a healthy diet and moderate exercise, as well as social interaction can effectively reduce stress and help one feel more balanced and in control, as well as significantly promote overall health and happiness.

Professional Supplement Center offers these and other high quality formulations to help promote homeostasis and overall wellness:

Cortisol Manager™Cortisol Manager™ by Integrative Therapeutics®: This safe, non-habit forming product provides standardized proprietary blends to help stabilize cortisol levels, thereby supporting a more balanced cortisol response to stress, as well as natural restorative sleep. Gluten, wheat, dairy, yeast, artificial flavor and artificial preservative free, vegan formulation.

 

HPA AdaptHPA Adapt™ by Integrative Therapeutics®: This non-stimulant formula combines five powerful adaptogenic herbs shown to support a healthy stress response, while reducing stress-related fatigue and mental tension. Gluten, wheat, soy and dairy free, vegetarian formulation.

 

Cortisol CalmCortisol Calm by Pure Encapsulations®: This hypoallergenic formula is designed to help maintain healthy cortisol levels, while supporting relaxation, restful sleep and positive mood during stressful times. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formulation.

 

Advanced Cortisol...Advanced Cortisol Balance by Life Extension: This unique formulation features patented ingredients to support healthy cortisol levels, thereby promoting a healthy stress response, healthy mood and a sense of vigor. Non-GMO formulation.

 

Diurnal Cortisol...Diurnal Cortisol Test by Professional Supplement Center Test Kits: This four panel adrenal function hormone test kit provides a full diurnal cortisol profile at four points during the day. This test is recommended for stress, chronic fatigue and/or symptoms of adrenal imbalance. Saliva collection instructions, prepaid shipping and all materials for the test included, as well as a 15- minute in person or phone consultation with one of Professional Supplement Center’s health professionals to discuss test results.

References:
By the numbers: Our stressed-out nation. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/12/numbers.aspx
The Mind and Mental Health: How Stress Affects the Brain. http://www.tuw.edu/content/health/how-stress-affects-the-brain/
Chronic Stress Can Damage Brain Structure and Connectivity. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201402/chronic-stress-can-damage-brain-structure-and-connectivity
Inflammation: The Common Pathway of Stress-Related Diseases. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5476783/
Effects of Chronic Stress on Memory Decline in Cognitively Normal and Mildly Impaired Older Adults. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2864084/
Neurobiological and Systemic Effects of Chronic Stress. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5573220/
Protect Your Brain from Stress. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/protect-your-brain-from-stress