One of the most important organs, maybe even the most important organ in our bodies is our brain. The brain is a unique organ, both in its function and structure. Brain cells don’t divide or reproduce nearly as fast as the cells in our bodies do. In fact, some types of brain cells never reproduce after they’ve been created. As a result, we really need to take care of our brains.
How the Brain is Wired
When we practice how to do a new task, such as learning to play a new song on the piano, the brain has to coordinate many actions. These include stimulation of and feedback from muscles, eyes, ears, other sense organs and also access of memory.
When we get better at a skill, the brain has developed more efficient pathways to share signals and communicate within its different regions, reducing processing time, speeding up the sharing of information, and providing faster coordination among muscles and sensory input.
The way that the brain becomes more efficient is through a process called myelination.
What is Myelination?
In short, myelination improves the electrical conductivity of brain pathways by wrapping certain brain cells, the ones that conduct the electrical signals, with a fatty layer called myelin.
Myelin is 70-80% fat and promotes the efficient transfer of signals through the brain.
As children develop, their brains experience a tremendous amount of myelination. If you have kids, you know the huge improvements that occur over the first year of life. Grasping objects is at first clumsy and slow, but with practice and myelination, the motion becomes fluid and fast.
The same goes for crawling, walking – even talking.
How to Improve Myelination
It’s known that repetitive actions – like practicing – increases the myelination in the brain. But many disease and aging processes work to tear down the myelin that’s been built up over a lifetime.
Many diseases are associated with deterioration of the myelin sheath. Stroke, cancer, even depression and hyperactivity disorder are all related to a thinning of the myelin sheath surrounding brain cells.
But besides practicing and exercising your brain, how else can you maintain your myelin?
The answer: omega-3 fatty acids.
Benefits of Fish Oil
To maintain the health of your brain and specifically the myelin, you’ll need to take in sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
These fatty acids are the building blocks of myelin – and brain tissue. In fact, our brain itself is about 40% omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in many types of fish, with herring, salmon, and mackerel the most potent sources.
A recent study has found that women with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids experienced less deterioration of their brain as they got older.
Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to delay the aging process in the brain, and promote natural healing and recovery processes.
Researchers indicated that to achieve the levels necessary for maximum benefit, individuals would need to eat fish high in omega-3 fatty acids at least five times per week, or take supplements several times a week if their fish intake was lower.
Fish Oil Can Help the Brain Recover After Traumatic Injury
Several instances of fish oil aiding in the recovery of a damaged brain have been published in national news outlets.
Many physicians believe that ultra high doses of fish oil, over five times that recommended for healthy individuals, can help the brain repair itself in the event of a major traumatic brain injury.
The doctors say that the fish oil both prevents cell death and also aids in the reconnecting of the damaged brain cells – which are the pathways that conduct the electrical impulses.
Omega-3 fatty acids also promote the creation of proteins in the brain that help heal and reduce swelling in the case of a severe brain injury.
Use Fish Oil Supplements to Get Your Omega-3 Fatty Acids
If you just don’t feel like eating fish five times a week, you can make sure you’re getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet by taking a simple fish oil capsule.
One or two capsules twice a day are all that you’ll need to ensure your brain is supplied with a sufficient amount of omega-3 fatty acids.