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Vitamins & Minerals for the Nervous System

by
author image Sylvie Tremblay, MSc
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Based in Ontario, Canada, Tremblay is an experienced journalist and blogger specializing in nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, health and biotechnology, as well as real estate, agriculture and clean tech.
Vitamins & Minerals for the Nervous System
Bunch of bananas Photo Credit Kesu01/iStock/Getty Images

Overview

Your nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord and all the nerve endings throughout your body. This system works continuously to support essential functions for life, including your heartbeat, breathing, movement, memory and cognitive functioning. Proper functioning of your nervous system relies on a number of factors, including nutrients obtained from your diet. Consuming essential minerals and vitamins can help ensure the continued health of your nervous system.

Potassium

The mineral potassium aids in proper nervous system function by regulating nerve impulses. Specifically, potassium plays a role in action potentials, the electrochemical impulses your nerve cells use to transmit a signal throughout the cell. Over the course of an action potential, sodium and potassium flood into and out of the cells, providing a temporary electrical signal that elicits a response within a nerve cell. The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine explains that potassium signaling is important in turning off these nerve impulses when appropriate, preventing uncontrolled nerve signaling that can lead to diseases like epilepsy. Eating foods rich in potassium, like bananas, prune juice and oranges can help you consume an adequate level of potassium each day, supporting proper nervous system functioning.

Calcium

Like potassium, the mineral calcium plays a role in regulating action potentials in nerve cells within your brain and throughout your body. Calcium helps the cells initiate an action potential, and also helps them return to their normal state after the signal has been propagated. The University of California, San Diego, explains that calcium also plays a role in nervous system development, with levels of calcium providing a "map" to guide the migration of nerve cells. Consume foods rich in calcium like dairy products, beans and kale to ensure adequate calcium consumption and proper nervous system function.

Vitamin B-12

One essential vitamin that aids in nervous system functioning is vitamin B-12, or cobalamin. Belonging to the family of eight B-class vitamins, vitamin B-12 aids in your body's metabolism. It helps break complex carbohydrates into glucose, the sugar your brain uses as fuel to allow proper functioning. Vitamin B-12 also supports nervous system functioning by helping to maintain healthy myelin, a neve insulator that allows nerve transmission. The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University indicates that vitamin B-12 deficiency can cause a breakdown of myelin within the brain, which can in turn lead to diseases like Alzheimer's. Consume foods like shellfish, poultry, beef and eggs to ensure proper vitamin B-12 consumption and support nervous system functioning.

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