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Healthy Food for the Nervous System

The human nervous system represents a vast network of receptors that continually sense and respond to both internal and external stimuli. Nutritional deficiencies in these nutrients negatively affect your nervous system -- they can cause nerve damage and lead to a range of symptoms. Foods especially rich in brain-friendly nutrients help your nervous system function at an optimal level.

Vitamin B-1 or thiamine plays an essential role in the maintenance of nerve health. Chronic lack of vitamin B-1 in the diet can lead to nerve dysfunction, causing symptoms that include pins and needles in the toes, burning foot syndrome – a painful condition wherein the feet burn constantly, especially at night – and muscle wasting. Foods high in vitamin B-1 include Brewer’s yeast, beef liver, eggs, seafood, sunflower seeds and beans.

The nervous system requires vitamin B-6 to produce serotonin and dopamine, two important neurotransmitters involved in nerve cell communication. Healthy dopamine levels play a role in the reward system in your brain -- the region that affects how your body reacts to food, as well as other compounds -- while serotonin promotes mental health. Good dietary sources of vitamin B6 include potatoes, bananas, fortified cereals and chick peas.

A vitamin B-12 deficiency harms the nervous system and can cause symptoms such as numbness and tingling in the feet and hands. Clams serve as an an excellent source of vitamin B-12, along with fish, meat, eggs and dairy products. Foods derived from plants do not contain vitamin B-12. However, vegetarians can acquire it from fortified cereals and nutritional yeast, or supplements taken under a doctor's supervision.

Like vitamin B=6, copper helps you produce neurotransmitters, making it essential for brain function. If you become severely deficient in copper certain serious neurological conditions may occur, including copper deficiency myelopathy, a progressive loss of nerve function caused by degeneration of the spinal cord. Oysters and shellfish are the best sources of copper. Other good sources include prunes, dark leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach, and nuts.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.