Myelin, a fatty substance, insulates your nerves and makes nerve impulse conduction faster and more efficient. Trauma and some health conditions can degrade or damage myelin. Certain foods contain building blocks that your body uses to manufacture high-quality myelin to promote optimal nerve function and faster healing of damaged nerves.
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Choline, a member of the B-complex family of water-soluble vitamins, is a component of myelin. Supplementing with choline or eating foods high in choline supports myelin production. Choline is an essential nutrient, meaning you must consume it as part of your diet. A study published in a 2011 issue of "Nutrition Research" found that choline supplementation promoted nerve regeneration of the sciatic nerve, the main nerve in your legs. Foods with high choline content include eggs, fatty cuts of meat, peanuts, sesame seeds, flaxseeds and oats.
Fish Oil Relief
Fish oil contains high quantities of the essential fatty acid,s eicosapentanoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexanoic acid, or DHA, which your body uses to produce myelin. Myelin cell membranes that contain these fatty acids tend to be more fluid, which improves the efficiency of nerve impulse conduction, according to Judy Graham, author of the book "Managing Multiple Sclerosis Naturally: A Self-Help Guide to Living with MS." Graham notes that the incidence of multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system destroys myelin, is lower in places where fish consumption is high.
Lecithin, also known as phophatidylcholine, is a fatty substance comprised of choline, fatty acids and other lipid molecules. Lecithin is important for nerve transmission and can function as a source of choline for myelin production. Dietary sources of lecithin include egg yolks, soy beans, wheat germ and liver. Brussels sprouts, shrimp, peanut butter and chocolate also contain significant levels of lecithin. If you follow a vegetarian diet that excludes dairy or eggs, you may be at risk of becoming deficient in lecithin and choline. Taking a vegetarian lecithin supplement may ensure adequate intake of these important nutrients.
Vitamin B-12 Victory
Vitamin B-12 is necessary for myelin synthesis. A study published in a 2009 issue of the "Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry" found that low B-12 levels were associated with increases in degeneration of white matter -- myelinated nerve fibers in the brain -- in over 1,000 elderly study participants. Vitamin B-12 is found in shellfish, eggs, meat, poultry and fortified foods. If you follow a strict vegan diet, it is likely that you need to use a B-12 supplement to obtain sufficient quantities of this essential nutrient. Consult with you health care provider to determine if you are deficient in this vitamin.
- "Neurological Research"; Cdp-choline and Its Endogenous Metabolites, Cytidine and Choline, Promote the Nerve Regeneration and Improve the Functional Recovery of Injured Rat Sciatic Nerves; E. Aslan, et al.; September 2011
- "Managing Multiple Sclerosis Naturally: A Self-Help Guide to Living with MS"; Judy Graham; 2011
- Linus Pauling Institute; Choline; Jane Higdon, Ph.D.; Jan. 2008
- "Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry"; Plasma Vitamin B12 Status and Cerebral White-matter Lesions; L. De Lau, et al.; February 2009
- MedlinePlus.com; Vitamin B-12 Source; Feb. 15, 2011