The All-Important Hypothalamus
The hypothalamus is the part of our brain that tells our nervous system if we should feel calm or fearful. This is commonly known as the fight or flight response. The hypothalmus is often injured in children on the autism spectrum. The hypothalamus has no protective blood-brain barrier, making it easy for toxins to enter this area and cause damage. A few known environmental toxins are mercury and aluminum (found in vaccines) and bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in plastics such as drinking bottles, baby bottles, toys, dental sealants and the linings of food cans.
The hypothalamus holds within it the areas responsible for aggression, territorial defense, and sexual pursuit. It also controls sleep and appetite cycles along with the limbic system (another part of the brain). Estrogen receptors in the hypothalamus effect food intake, energy, and the distribution of body fat.
It goes without saying that you should do your best to avoid toxins around your children and during pregnancy.
Two Neurochemicals You Should Know
The hypothalamus is part of both the endocrine system and the nervous system and is responsible for messages between the two. The hypothalamus releases many neurochemicals including:
- Dopamine: a neurotransmitter affecting reward-based motivation, decision-making, ADHD, Parkinson’s disease, restless leg syndrome, lack of focus and motor control. It also affects a part of the brain called the pre-frontal cortex. The pre-frontal cortex controls executive functioning such as the ability to see consequences for our actions and organizational planning. We will discuss this further in a future blog. It is a big issue for people on the autism spectrum.
- Oxytocin: released via the pituitary as a part of hypothalamic functioning. Oxytocin is the hormone involved with the ability to bond with others, especially the mother after birth.
How Can We Help the Hypothalamus?
What can we do to assist the hypothalamus?
Zinc, vitamin D, proper iodine levels and exercise are crucial to the proper functioning of the hypothalamus.
The amino acid L-tyrosine has also been known to be very helpful in building dopamine.
There is an excellent product called Stress Reducer Elixir from the company Get Healthy Again that may increase oxytocin and serotonin levels naturally . This comes as tasteless sublingual drops. Ask your trusted health care practitioner about this possibility for your child.
Here is to calmer, happier days, and nights!
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