I have been talking for a while about the importance of brain/body cross-talk, especially to achieve extreme wellness in mid- to later life. Now we discover that the brain contains an amazing “thing.” If a portion of the brain is taken out and put in a petri dish, this “thing” stays alive! What is it, how is it important, and how do we keep it humming?

The brain contains a region called the hypothalamus, which is the Greek word for “chamber.” In this brain chamber sit numerous nuclei, important clusters of neurons that act like control centers. These link cross-talk between the brain and nervous system; in other words, these cells direct conversations between the endocrine and hormonal systems (with the pituitary, another part of the brain, tagging along as an interpreter).

Thus, the health of the hypothalamus may need to be tweaked in some hormone replacement regimes, or even if someone doesn’t go on hormones, but wants to keep their own hormonal signaling system optimally functioning.

Functionally-oriented practitioners have appreciated this for about a decade now. Dr. Jonathan Wright formulated an anti-aging formula that is widely effective, which combines hypothalamus and pituitary tissue (based on clinical and scientific research that shows that giving like organ tissue boosts like gland functioning), along with other substances.

Why is the hypothalamus so vital to extreme wellness? Research shows that health is based on being in healthy sync with a daily beat of life, called the “rhythm of life,” driven by cycles of day and night. Most organisms carry within each cell a biological clock that approximates a 24-hour “beat”—the dance of life. The epicenter of the rhythm comes directly from a region inside the hypothalamus called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. When scientists have removed this nucleus from the hypothalamus and put it in a dish in the laboratory, this small piece of “brain clock” continued to tick. Science 2012

Proper ticking of the hypothalamus is part of healthy hormone talk, so sometimes, for a period of time, a healthy functional protocol will include hypothalamus nutraceutical boosting. This may especially hold true for people who for long periods of time have been out of sync with day and night. Instead of waking up with energy in the morning, and then being able to wind down and sleep all through the night, these folks feel exhausted on rising and start waking up later in the day. They often have trouble staying asleep at night.

Research also suggests that this brain clock is partly driven by healthy metabolism, which means flow of chemical energy inside cells. From the work of the cardiologist Stephen Sinatra MD (we lectured together one session at the American College of Alternative Medicine), we have learned specific nutrients that reboot these energy pathways. They are the same nutrients found to “turn on” cardiocytes, heart cells, so effectively, that Dr. Sinatra has helped some patients avoid heart transplant surgery and helped them regain normal cardiac function.

Healthy digestion also promotes healthy chemical flow in and out of cells, as nutrients that get deep into cells are the co-factors that promote much of this healthy chemical energy flow. Science is clearly showing that optimal cellular chemical energy flow is essential to critical brain/hormone cross-talk. The language of the brain is electrical. This leans on nutrients. This leans on digestion. And it influences overall endocrine (hormone) health.

So you see that sex hormone physiology, and perhaps hormone replacement, must also consider evaluating and possibly boosting brain/hormone cross-talk, and perhaps even digestion. It’s all connected.