Nervous System spacerCONDITIONS
Nervous System

What Does Nervous System Do?

Nerves carry messages back and forth between the brain and other parts of the body. All of our nerves together make up the nervous system.

Some nerves tell the brain what is happening in the body. For example, if we accidentally touch a hot stove, the nerves in our skin shoot a message of pain to our brain. Other nerves tell the body what to do. For example, nerves from the brain sends a message back telling the muscles in our hand to pull away from the hot stove.

The nervous system is divided into two broad categories. The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. All the other nerves in the body are part of the peripheral nervous system, which includes:

  • Sensory nerves, which receive feelings such as heat, pain or touch
  • Motor nerves that control how muscles move
  • Autonomic nerves that control such automatic functions as blood pressure, heart rate, digestion and bladder function

How Does Nervous System Work?

The basic functioning of the nervous system depends a lot on tiny cells called neurons. All neurons relay information to each other through a complex electrochemical process, making connections that affect the way we think, learn, move, and behave.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy, in its most common form, causes pain and numbness in our hands and feet. Neuropathy is common. It can occur at any age, but is more common among older adults and diabetics.

Signs and Symptoms
Specific symptoms vary, depending on which types of nerves are affected. Signs and symptoms may include:
  • Gradual onset of numbness and tingling in the feet or hands, which may spread upwards into the legs and arms
  • Burning pain
  • Sharp, jabbing or electric-like pain
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch, even light touch
  • Lack of coordination
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis if motor nerves are affected
  • Bowel or bladder problems if autonomic nerves are affected

Risk Factors
  • Diabetes, especially if the sugar levels are poorly controlled
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Vitamin deficiencies, particularly B vitamins
  • Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, in which the immune system attacks its own tissues
  • Kidney, liver or thyroid disorders

Some of the ways to manage peripheral neuropathy include taking care of our feet if we have diabetes, exercise regularly, quit smoking, eating healthy meals, massaging our hands and feet, and avoiding prolonged pressure on the nerves.

B Vitamins
If we are at high risk of neuropathy or have a chronic medical condition, healthy eating is especially important. Emphasize low-fat meats and dairy products and include lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the diet. Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.

Taking extra nutrients may help soothe the nerves and relieve pain by repairing and rebuilding the protective structures that usually protect the nerves.

In particular, the B vitamins, a large group of water-soluble vitamins, play an essential role in healthy nerve and brain function. They work together to maintain the function of the nervous system, support and maintain the metabolic rate, support the immune system, maintain healthy skin and muscles, and help to promote cell growth and division.

Lecithin is an ingredient of the membranes surrounding cells. Choline, the newest member of the B vitamin family, is present in our diet primarily as lecithin.

An essential nutrient, choline is a precursor for acetylcholine, a messenger molecule found in the nervous system. Acetylcholine, also called a neurotransmitter since it carries messages from and to nerves, is the body's primary chemical means of sending messages between nerves and muscles. Acetylcholine is frequently used by the nerves controlling breathing, heart rate, and skeletal muscle. It is also important in the portions of the brain responsible for memory and mood.

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