TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Brain Health Basics
- As We Age, How Do We Know If We Have Normal Brain Health or Not?
- Memory Loss and Aging Without Attention to Brain Health
- Reversible Causes of Memory Loss that Presents as Diminished Brain Health
- So What IS a Good Brain Health Lifestyle?
- Latest Science: Foods & Vitamins That Increase Brain Health
- Are There Foods That Can Impair Overall Brain Health?
- The Many Ubiquitous and Harmful Neurotoxins
- EMF’s and Brain Health
- Exercise and Brain Health
- Loss of Restorative Sleep with Age and Memory Loss
- How Stress Can Cause Disease
- Immune Health and GI Tract Health’s Role in Brain Health
- Depression Can Influence Alzheimer’s Disease
- What is BDNF and Why You Should Care – Brain Health
- What About Hormones and Memory Vis-A-Vis, Brain Health?
- Brain Fitness Tips
- Brain Supplements AKA the “Cool Stuff” Regarding Brain Health
- Supplements that Increase BDNF
- Neuroprotective Supplements
- Supplements Which Boost Your Immune System
- Supplements Which Stimulate Neural Stem Cells and Connections
- Supplements Which Dissolve Amyloid Protein
- Supplements Which Speed Neural Transmission
- Supplements Which Improve Memory
- Supplements Which Increase Concentration
- Which Supplements Are Right For Me?
- Brain Health – One Last Word from Dr. Kim
Brain Health Basics
First let me review with you some brain facts that most people (good grief, most doctors) don’t know. Each decade after 30, we lose a minimum of 3 and up to 5 IQ points. But we CAN GET THEM BACK. Now you’re interested, aren’t you?
- Concentration skills (Attention)
- Memory “consolidation and storage” skills
- Neural transmission speed (how fast we think and retrieve information)
- Brain cells (which we now are discovering can be re-sprouted from brain stem cells—new data and how AMAZING, right?)
- And even 20+ years before developing Alzheimer’s we start accumulating the toxic substance called amyloid (but we are now finding that we also can prevent this!)
As we age how do we know we have normal brain health or not?
Seven “normal” memory problems:
Have you ever had an answer at the tip of your tongue, but for some reason you just cannot think of it? Example: Seeing your favorite actor in a movie, but forgetting their name. This is the most common occurrence of blocking, where you are unable to retrieve a memory temporarily. In some instances, you might end up “remembering” the wrong name. This competing memory is so intrusive that you can’t think of the memory you want. This can definitely make you feel like that your brain health is just not up to par. With age, it is said by scientists that this becomes worse- especially for problems remembering names as we age. Research has shown that individuals can retrieve around half of the blocked memories within one minute.
Absentmindedness is defined just as it sounds, when you don’t pay attention to something…. you can easily forget it. This can happen when you don’t focus on where you put your keys, then you forget where you put them in the first place. This can be defined as forgetting to do something at the time of “doing.” A great example is when you don’t record an appointment…you likely won’t “keep it!”
Transience can be defined as forgetting facts or even events over time, such as learning something and forgetting it soon after. Memory, however, works in different ways. If you are frequently using a memory of a certain thing it is less likely to be forgotten. Brain scientists regard transience as a benefit as it keeps the brain clear of unused memories, and therefore newer and more useful ones come in.
When you remember only parts of something, but miss some details such as the place or person, it is known as misattribution. Another type of misattribution can happen when you thought something you remembered was original. However, instead, the thought or idea came from something such as a book or a speech you heard or read about but then forgot. This can be an explanation for unintentional plagiarism. Age can definitely become a factor for misattribution if you don’t follow my anti-aging brain health advice. As you get older as you absorb fewer details when you obtain information as you have a harder time concentrating and processing at a faster rate. As you age, so do your memories and these memories are prone to misattribution. It is important to read up on the brain health topics in this article so this doesn’t happen to you!
Perception is clouded by our own beliefs, experiences, emotions, and even knowledge. Your biases can affect how you perceive things and experience things when they are encoded into your brain. These biases can factor in what you actually recall when you retrieve a memory. Although everyone has different biases, no research has concluded whether age is indeed a real, substantive factor.
Your memory can become vulnerable to suggestibility. The best example would be that you read about an event but it becomes incorporated into your memory as if you experienced it…. but you did not. Little research supports how this actually happens. However we know that mere suggestion tricks your memory into thinking these occurrences are real. (WOW, do lawyers have a field day with this, right?)
Memories can be traumatic, negative, or fearful, causing some people to want these memories to be forgotten. Instead, however, they are persistent. This can be a memory problem, as some of these memories can be accurate while others can be heavily distorted. This is similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.) In the case of PTSD, after a traumatic event, such as a death of a loved one, someone will keep experiencing the trauma by replaying it in their head.
Memory loss and aging without attention to brain health:
Memory Loss and Actual Dementia
The word “dementia” is an umbrella term used to describe a set of symptoms, including impairment in memory, reasoning, judgment, language and other thinking skills. Dementia begins gradually in most cases, worsens over time and significantly impairs a person’s abilities in work, social interactions and relationships. Often, memory loss is one of the first or more-recognizable signs of dementia. Other early signs may include:
- Asking the same questions repeatedly
- Mixing words up — saying “bed” instead of “table,” for example
- Forgetting common words when speaking
- Becoming less able to follow directions
- Getting lost while walking or driving around a familiar neighborhood
- Taking longer to complete familiar tasks, such as following a recipe
- Misplacing items in inappropriate places, such as putting a wallet in a kitchen drawer-and I will tell you this commonly listed one is something we all do. Again, remember the rule of “mindfulness.”
- If you are talking on the phone while you are putting away “things” don’t tell me it’s not a little bit common to, say, put the dog’s biscuits in your refrigerator! (Oops!)
Diseases that cause progressive damage to the brain — and cause dementia:
- Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Lewy body dementia
- Vascular dementia (multi-infarct dementia)
Each of these conditions has a somewhat different disease process (pathology.) But they all can “present” (show up) with the same symptoms. Memory impairment isn’t always the first sign of disease, and the type of memory problems may vary. Often judgement and or mood is the first sign-something not typically thought of by most people. Some patient’s families describe the “impaired person” as “always in a crummy mood.”
Mild cognitive impairment – the typical first sign of impaired brain health
Mild cognitive impairment is a notable change in thinking skills that’s limited, for the most part, to a narrow set of problems, such as impairment only in memory. Changes in concentration, attention or mental quickness may also be observed. Mild cognitive impairment generally doesn’t prevent a person from carrying out everyday tasks and being socially engaged. “MCI” as previously noted can present itself with mood or judgement “issues.” Researchers and physicians are still learning much about mild cognitive impairment. For many people, the condition eventually progresses to Alzheimer’s disease or another disorder causing dementia. Other people experience little progression in memory loss, and they don’t develop the whole spectrum of symptoms associated with dementia. In other words DO NOT PANIC!
Reversible causes of memory loss that “presents” as diminished brain health
Possible causes of reversible memory loss include:
Medications! A single medication or a certain combination of medications may result in forgetfulness or confusion. Let’s have a frank discussion about pharmaceuticals shall we? Benadryl is often used as a sleep aid and THAT can cause some level of amnesia. It ALSO is linked to a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s with long term use. Withdrawal from alcohol or drugs called benzodiazepines, which are anti-anxiety or sleep drugs, can also do it, as can just plain medium or long term use of these drugs.
Note: if you are ON these drugs, I can wean you off and substitute an effective healthy alternative.)What? For starters, our members love chewable PharmaGaba. This is real “GABA”, the brain chemical that is artificially raised with drugs but naturally raised with this. Oral forms don’t pass the blood-brain barrier so you need chewables. You chew 2 at a time, put them under your tongue and against your inner cheek for absorption before swallowing. Repeat as needed but don’t make yourself sleepy unless you are using this for sleep initiation. It takes about 8-12 to get sleepy usually.
Reactions to all sorts of drugs can impair memory. If you THINK it, it’s PROBABLY true. Synthetic, NOT bio-identical estrogens, are well known to be strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease. A #1 offender in my book as a hormone expert is Premarin. Lastly, while evidence is still being covered up by drug companies, if you are on statin drugs, they DO impair memory and you need “cognitive support” to stay on them. WE WILL discuss vitamins and supplements for ideal brain health in another section. Brain health experts insist that you get OFF of the benzodiazepines mentioned above but I thought it was worth a second mention as they are strongly linked to Alzheimer’s. Yes, there are many more “bad drugs” but the evidence is either hidden, unpublished or “whatever” so legally I am not comfortable mentioning them all. But wow, there are more for sure! If you do not really, truly need a pharmaceutical do not take it-plain and simple.
2. Minor head trauma or injury
A head injury from a fall or accident — even an injury that doesn’t result in a loss of consciousness — may cause memory problems.
3. Depression or other mental health disorders
Stress, anxiety or depression can cause forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating and other problems that disrupt daily activities. Depression impairs memory and accelerates the aging process. The neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that go down when you are depressed are responsible for memory consolidation and storage. This is easily treated if it is not severe. And I’m talking about treatment with natural mood enhancement – NOT drugs. There IS just plain age related mood decline that is minimal for some and “not minimal” for others. Think of it this way-the happier you are the better it is for your brain health in general: makes sense, right?
Chronic alcoholism can seriously impair mental abilities. Alcohol can also cause memory loss by interacting with medications.
5. Vitamin B-12 deficiency
Vitamin B-12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. A vitamin B-12 deficiency — common in older adults — can cause memory problems. Vitamin B12 deficiency is a totally reversible cause of dementia and if you are a vegetarian you need supplemental B12. And by the way, if your own doctor laughs off your request for B12 and you just KNOW it’s a great way to rev yourself up when you feel you need to regain energy you are 100% correct! Give your doctor an education as to why. B12 increases intracellular (inside the cell) glutathione which is a very powerful antioxidant which revs up the mitochondria- the cells of energy production (ATP) within your organs.
An underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) slows the processing of nutrients to create energy for cells (metabolism.) Hypothyroidism can result in forgetfulness and other thinking problems. Let me interject here that doctors “miss things.” You need to make sure, if you are losing memory, that your doctor isn’t missing something treatable. Don’t be shocked: I see it ALL THE TIME! (Even my own 91 year old retired M.D. father had his easily diagnosed case of hypothyroidism just plain “missed!” Good thing he has me, right?) Low thyroid hormone levels can be confused with dementia and sometimes misdiagnosed due to improper testing. For some reason, “regular doctors” and even some Endocrinologists “get this wrong”. Free T3, Free T4, reverse T3 (to check for binding site plugging) and anti-thyroid antibodies called TPO antibodies should be checked. A4M guidelines call for a free T3 and free T4 to be in the upper 2/3 of the “lab test range” to be normal. There are many undiagnosed cases of low or hypothyroidism “out there.” It seems to be more common in women, also. If you feel chilly, have trouble losing weight, have noticed that the outer 1/3 of your eyebrows are thinning or missing you probably are hypothyroid. If you think you are, take your first A.M. temperature in the morning for a week. If it’s below 97.3 then chances are that, no matter WHAT your tests show, you ARE hypothyroid.
A tumor in the brain may cause memory problems or other dementia-like symptoms. Many tumors ARE treatable (especially pituitary tumors) so they are included in the “reversible” category. Brain disorders such as Parkinson’s can cause cognitive issues, and infectious diseases such as Lyme disease, AIDS or the rare mad cow disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob. All of these can be treated to some degree or another but the important thing is a proper diagnosis.
When to see your doctor
Questions may include:
- Are there any tasks that are hard to do or finish?
- Have you recently felt sad, depressed or anxious?
- What is your normal daily routine, any changes lately?
- What is the length you have had memory problems for?
- Have you recently experienced a traumatic event, such as an accident or loss of a loved one?
- What medications — including prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements — do you take regularly? What is the dosage of each?
- Have you recently introduced a new prescription or over the counter drug?
- Do you drink alcohol? How much do you drink daily?
- Have you recently been in an accident, fallen or injured your head?
- Were you recently sick? If so, what were your symptoms and treatment?
- How have you been coping with your memory problems? What seems to help?
So what IS a good brain health “lifestyle?”
What is listed below are “the basics” and then I’ll delve into the specifics in detail below.
The Best Foods You Can Eat for Brain Health:
You must eat an anti-inflammatory diet and we have the perfect one including lots of other cool information in module 1. Try Module 1 FREE
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- Step 1: Quick Summary
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- Step 4: Suggestions for you (PDFs)
- Step 5: Email or Talk to Dr. Kim with Questions
- Step 6: Visit store for what YOU need!
- Exercise: Exercise is absolutely crucial for brain health. Note that exercise not only carries oxygen to the brain, thus preserving brain cells, but it also enhances the effect of helpful brain chemicals. Why not become healthier WHILE improving brain function and overall brain health as well? You KNOW what you need to do!
- Sleep: There is an enormous and verified body of research which shows that sleep is needed for memory consolidation with the key components of this occurring during the deepest stages of sleep. No sleep=less brain health, plain and simple. More to come. Much more.
- Laughter: Are you seeking out “funny people” – you enjoy them and they make you laugh? Are you sending along funny internet jokes? Are you laughing at least five times per day? Laughter engages multiple regions across the whole brain, reinforcing circuitry and memory storage.
- Stress: This must be gotten under control. This is a HUGE for concentration but also huge for cognition as we age. There are stress managing methods that everyone needs to know! Knowing when to say no is crucial. Start by learning how to control your breathing!
- GI tract: There is now shown to be a close relationship between GI tract health and immune health and therefore brain health. We will really get into this one in a bit. Your GI tract is “the boss” of the show when it comes to brain health, mood, immune system health and even weight loss. Yes indeed, weight loss is not at it’s peak even if you are eating healthy foods that give you energy and foods that speed up metabolism too.
- Mood: Studies show definitively that people who are depressed are at a much greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Here is your free mood guide. Here is how to treat depression totally naturally – NO drugs!
- Brain “exercises”: Use it or lose it! The brain activity can be anything you choose, as long as it meets these requirements: It’s new/It’s challenging/It’s fun! This includes everything from learning a new sport, doing a new crossword puzzle, or learning to grow your own herb garden. Get creative! This all helps concentration quite a bit. We’ll talk more about this as it is the Wild West out there with Brain activities purported to enhance brain health!
- Relationships: Studies show that close, “safe” relationships are brain-engaging.
- Pets! Studies now confirm that pets (especially “interactive pets”) are GREAT for your overall health and that includes brain health.
1. Oxidative stress:
This should be looked at as a “reverse” phenomenon, since the fewer anti-oxidant rich fruits and veggies you consume, the worst off you are! Regarding oxidative stress:
- You will also be worse off if: you fly a lot, are in the sun a lot, live in “a city,” (and are therefore exposed to considerable pollution). Eating processed foods also adds to the problem as does smoking and being overweight or obese. To learn how to slow inside AND outside aging, oxidative stress must be managed.
- We do that very easily in module one of our program which you can get FREE! If you’d like to fix that problem NOW then just go here and get an AWS Red Superfood and an AWS green Superfood. And get a shaker cup at a health food store. Each day, fill the shaker cup with cold water, add one scoop of reds powder and greens powder, one TBSP of juice, shake, refrigerate so it’s nice and cold to use as a breakfast drink. I start my day off with this drink and my supplements.
- We are referring to chronic inflammation here, which is something we usually just “don’t feel” until an inflammatory disease “gets us”.
- It’s not hard to reduce your own body’s inflammation, you just need to first and foremost eat anti- inflammatory foods. I’ll give you some more tips in a bit on how to reduce inflammation which of course causes BRAIN INFLAMMATION as well.
Some of the causes of chronic inflammation are:
- Being overweight
- Eating processed foods, fast foods, and starchy foods
- Drinking straight fruit juice, and foods containing sugar. Are you eating “better” with age? (Meaning cutting out inflammatory foods and eating anti-inflammatory foods?)
- If not, the bottom line is that the worse you eat and (by definition) the more you then weigh, the more inflamed you will be. And the chicken-egg story here, is the more INFLAMED you are, the more WEIGHT you gain. And then the weight is harder it is to lose due to disturbances in hormones such as ghrelin and leptin. As a result, you keep putting on the pounds, which makes you MORE INFLAMED.
AND meanwhile your skin and BRAIN ages faster. (I wrote skin because your skin’s appearance is a reflection of your internal inflammation and is what people tend to notice on themselves versus noticing other things.) How to reverse/slow aging of the brain has a lot to do with diet and weight. And so does reversing skin aging and being able to look younger than ever.
Weight normalization (easy with my weight loss programs!) and anti-inflammatory supplements, most notably curcumin which is also great for your brain health-more to come! There are “neuro-toxins” we don’t think about things like alcohol-each drink is death to some brain cells-unfortunate but true. (But much evidence points to some neuro-protective effects of omega-3 fish oils prior to consumption of moderate amounts of alcohol along with other supplements you will read about at the end.) Each surgery we need to have general anesthesia for-same thing-bye bye brain cells! There are environmental toxins as well which should be “cleaned out” regularly which we do in our program. We’ll really get into that one, not to worry.
- This is when your blood sugar in the morning (fasting) is higher than about 85 and maybe as low as 80-the research keeps evolving on what the exact number is. This doesn’t mean diabetes. This just means what we call glycation which makes ALL cells, including BRAIN CELLS stiffer and less responsive.
- We DO know for sure that when someone is diabetic, with blood sugars in the morning consistently high, that they have a much greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s-THAT is clear. We can easily treat this too and here is how.
Specific Brain Foods that Increase Brain Health
Blueberries are one of the most well-known super fruits. They have been found in recent animal studies to aid in protecting the brain from oxidative stress as well as in the reduction of the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. But that is not all. These studies also have shown that diets rich with these berries increase motor skills and learning capacity in aging rats. My recommendation is to add 1 cup of blueberries, whether fresh, freeze-dried, or frozen – it doesn’t matter, to your daily diet. Adding them in smoothies or on gluten-free oatmeal is the easiest way possible.
2. Other Berries, not just the mighty blueberry:
Research presented at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston found that blueberries, strawberries, and acai berries may help put the brakes on age-related cognitive decline. This is done by preserving the brain’s natural “housekeeper” (cleaning up of oxidative stress) mechanism, which does decrease with age. I would add raspberries and blackberries to this list also. Purple grapes help with circulation due to containing an ingredient known as the phytonutrient resveratrol, also found in red wine. With this, it can aid in preventing dementia and other circulatory problems by preventing blockages within blood vessels. More about resveratrol in a bit!
3. Red wine:
Studies have shown that people who consume moderate amounts of red wine and other types of alcohol may be at reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but it may be that there are other good lifestyle habits “going on.” Note that there is not enough resveratrol in what is considered “moderate consumption” to call it a real source of the phytonutrient.
Lentils are now getting the attention they deserve. These beans contain iron, which in return aids in learning and the creation of myelin in the cortex in order for quick information processing. Iron also helps create healthy red blood cells and the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Eggs have received either a good or a bad rap from its’ cholesterol, but it doesn’t matter when it comes to brain health- cholesterol is good for brain health. Cholesterol is good for your hormones, and supports the membranes of neurons. Eggs also contain omega 3 fatty acids known as DHA’s, which allows neurons to make new connections as we age. If you don’t eat eggs, that is okay too- DHA can be found in both blue-green algae and dark leafy greens as well as in good supplement which of course, we have.
6. Flax Seeds:
Flax seeds have a good amount of healthy brain fats from the omega 3 family known as ALA. ALA is used to form EPA and DHA. These are both used to build and protect neurons. You can easily incorporate ground flax seed into your diet by adding it on your yogurt, into your baking, and even in your cereal. (I’m assuming all grain products are gluten free and sprouted here.)
7. Oil-based salad dressings:
The data support eating foods that are high in vitamin E includes healthy vegetable oil-based salad dressings, seeds and nuts. A potent antioxidant, natural vitamin E may help protect neurons or nerve cells. In Alzheimer’s disease, neurons in certain parts of the brain start to die, which jump-starts the cascade of events leading to cognitive deterioration.
8. Sesame Seeds:
Sesame butter is a great healthy snack that helps with brain health as sesame seeds contain zinc which aids in memory, brain development, and immune health. Although it’s made from chickpeas, not seeds, while we’re on the topic of zinc, hummus is a great option to add to your diet as it is made with zinc-laden tahini which is made from sesame seeds.
9. Sunflower Seeds:
Sunflower seeds are also good sources of vitamin E. Sprinkle them on top of your salad to give your brain a boost. A variety of nuts and seeds are great sources of vitamin E. Natural forms of vitamin E-whether in foods or supplements are great for brain health. Just one ounce a day of nuts , such as brazil nuts or (best) walnuts or almonds are great for the noggin. Please look for raw and organic for optimal health.
The right fish is a great option if they are rich in heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA with “real” wild caught salmon and sardines “winning.” But as always, watch the mercury content and when in doubt-detox-more in a bit about that. Also don’t worry -I’ll sum up the vitamins and supplements to watch for in another section. In the brain, DHA seems to be very important for the protection and normal functioning of neurons=brain cells.
11. Dark green leafy vegetables:
Kale, collard greens, spinach, and broccoli are good sources of vitamin E and folate. For example, one cup of raw spinach has 15% of your daily intake of vitamin E, and 1/2 a cup of cooked spinach has 25% of your daily intake. Exactly how folate may protect the brain is unclear, but it may be by lowering levels of an amino acid known as homocysteine in the blood. High levels of homocysteine may trigger the death of nerve cells in the brain, but folic acid helps break down homocysteine levels. Spinach contains quite a good deal of folate.
12. Sweet Potatoes:
Sweet potatoes have a rich orange color from carotenoids, which act as super-antioxidants to protect brain cells from damage and help neurons connect. These are great for brain health.
This creamy treat is also a rich source of the antioxidant vitamin E. Again, foods rich in vitamin E—including avocado, which is also high in the antioxidant powerhouse vitamin C—are associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Beans are given a lot of negative media due to silly things like gas, but they stabilize glucose levels which is what the brain depends on for a steady stream of energy. Beans provide just that, so add lentils and black beans to your diet. ½ cup of these daily would be ideal, and don’t forget the hummus mentioned above as another great legume.
Pomegranates can be eaten as a whole fruit-the best way to get your pomegranate nutrients. If you drink the juice you need to really limit the amount to 3 ounces and dilute it 50/50 with water to avoid the sugar “rush.” This fruit is very high in antioxidants which benefits brain health as well as overall health. Also look for citrus fruits and colorful vegetables as they offer brain health benefits with antioxidant properties as well.
16. Freshly Brewed Tea:
Freshly brewed tea contains a healthy amount of caffeine that can boost brain health in areas such as increasing focus, memory, and mood. Along with this it contains antioxidants and catechins which increase blood flow. However, it must be freshly brewed tea which contains the top 3% of the tea leaves – not the grocery stores teabags.
17. Dark Chocolate:
Dark chocolate, and I am sure you will not look the other way on this one, has powerful antioxidants along with caffeine to increase focus, endorphins, and improves mood. Just one half ounce to an ounce a day will provide enough benefits. Please try to “wean down” on the sugar % you need to have for this to taste good to you. Most people start out with 70% and with a little time you can get down to what I eat-the 85%, and as always, make it organic.
Here is a quick list of brain health foods for you to clip and save:
|Blueberries / berries||Red wine / grapes||Beans / legumes|
|Flax seeds||Oil-based salad dressings||Freshly brewed green tea|
|Pomegranate||Avocado||Dark green leafy vegetables|
|Sesame seeds||High Omega-3 Fish||Lentils|
|Sweet potatoes||Dark chocolate||Walnuts / almonds|
Foods & Vitamins That Increase Brain Health
The Up-To-The Minute Latest in Brain Health Nutrition: Seven Important Nutrients
1. Cocoa Flavanols
Cocoa flavanols have shown to increase overall heart health including circulation , as well as recent studies showing that it could improve memory as well. In fact, one study was able to notice the improved functioning of dentate gyrus in the brain that is associated with age-related memory (Brickman, 2014.) The best way to receive these benefits is by eating one ounce daily 85% dark chocolate-yum! You can still lose weight and be able to eat your dark chocolate on any one of my outstanding weight loss programs, too! I know I just told you about this but this is even more recent and compelling evidence!
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have been stated in current and past studies to benefit your heart, but they are now showing a definite benefit for cognitive health as well. In one study in mice, it showed that mice given omega 3’s rich in DHA had better object recognition, memory, and adverse response retention (Cutuli, 2014.) Foods that are richest in this include fish such as wild caught salmon, herring, and sardines. Flax seed oil and chia seeds are a lesser but definite alternative source. As stated before, high mercury levels are often found in fish which is labelled “wild caught” and it is just plain impossible to eat your way to enough Omega-3’s anyway. Beware of mercury in over-the-counter fish oils too! I will naturally recommend supplements that are pure and pharmaceutical grade-exactly what we have in our store.
3. Phosphatidylserine and Phosphatidic Acid
Two research studies have shown that these two ingredients could benefit cognitive functioning, memory, and mood levels for the elderly (Lonza, 2014.) There are other sources as well that show the benefits of Phosphatidylserine combined with other supplements such as alpha glyceral phosphoral choline, discussed in #5 below.
Walnuts add great benefits to your diet as it can delay or reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in mice (Muthaiyah, 2014.) A most recent study found that walnuts are the best type of nut to consume with raw almonds a close second.
Choline is found largely in eggs, but you would need to consume hundreds of eggs daily to get what’s needed to increase the needed brain chemical called acetyl choline. The supplement alpha glyceral phosphoral choline is the best way to get your choline and will be discussed in great length in the supplement section.
Blueberries, as mentioned above, are super fruits with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Add a cup of organic blueberries to your daily diet to increase neural signaling within the brain. This benefit is due to a high concentration of anthocyanins (a flavonoid.) All types of berries do offer various benefits for your brain so opt for organic and non GMO blueberries and other fruits every day to ensure that you keep your brain healthy. A great side effect is that it will make your skin look younger too!
Foods like avocados, soy beans, dark chocolate, and bananas are some of the foods that contain Magnesium, which is often recommended for serious concussions.
Vitamins for Brain Health
1. Vitamin E – Natural, NOT Synthetic
Vitamin E is a great vitamin….or should I say group of vitamins. It is an important anti-oxidant which works in conjunction with carotenoids and Vitamin C. It has been shown to reduce free radical damage within the brain and even delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Foods that contain vitamin E include sunflower oil, green leafy vegetables, almonds, hazelnuts and even whole grain flour. You may also choose to supplement, but look for ones that are mixed with tocopherols and make sure the Vitamin E is natural, not synthetic. Synthetic Vitamin E is not only not helpful, it might be heart-harmful.
Each B vitamin offers its own benefit to brain functioning and mental activity. Folic acid is found as vitamin B9 can improve brain development. A recent study on vitamin B showed that there is a relationship with low levels of folic acid(B9), vitamin B6 and B12 and Alzheimer’s disease. When homocysteine increases it is linked to low levels of folate as well, which can also result in stroke and heart disease. All of the B vitamins you need daily are found in our Better B complex.
Vitamin B12 is largely found within meats such as poultry and fish, which leaves vegetarians low in this vitamin. A decrease in vitamin B12 can also occur with age, and a deficiency can mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. When Vitamin B12 is insufficient in someone’s body it can cause a decrease in mood, memory loss, mental slowness, and even nerve damage. If you supplement, a chewable, tasty fast-acting-energy-giving great one is this.
Another important vitamin B for the brain is folate or folic acid as it can improve alertness, memory, and focus. This can be found in a variety of foods such as whole wheat cereals, lentils, fruits, and even beans. Try to take a minimum of a gram of folate every day. Since some people cannot absorb and utilize “regular folate” we only offer the most bio-available form called MTHF.
5-hydroxy-tryptophan is converted into serotonin and other precursors to dopamine because of Vitamin B6. These are important brain chemicals because they control your mood and much more. They are needed for proper sleep, immune health, brain health and so on. Look for foods that are rich in B6 such as cranberries, garlic tuna, kale, cauliflower, and bell peppers. The supplementation goal is to reach for around 2 to 10 milligrams every day. If you take our supplement called 5-HTP to increase your serotonin levels for either mood, stress, sleep, or even constipation it comes packaged with B6.
Magnesium has been shown to be a beneficial nutrient to the brain as it protects it from neurotoxins. The recommended amount to take is around 300 milligrams one to three times daily. You may also opt for foods that are rich in magnesium such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, and dark leafy greens.
Vitamin C offers many benefits as an antioxidant for general health and as you would predict it also can protect your brain from free radical damage,too. This vitamin can be found in foods like strawberries, oranges, broccoli, legumes, and potatoes. When supplementing, look for around 500 micrograms one to two times daily. Vitamin C may also prevent and delay Alzheimer’s disease.
Here is a quick list of brain health vitamins for you to clip and save:
|Natural Vitamin E||Vitamin C|
|Magnesium||Folic acid (B9)|
|Vitamin B6||Vitamin B12|
Are There Foods That Can Impair Overall Brain Health?
YES! Here are the foods that can negatively impact your brain health.
Trans fat can increase bad cholesterol levels, inflammation in the body and brain. It increases plaque formation in the brain and even cause the brain to shrink. Get this OUT of your diet!
Pre-Cooked and Processed Foods
The more pre-cooked and processed foods you consume, the more you crave them. Why? Because you increase the addictive neurotransmitter called dopamine. These types of foods contain artificial flavoring, dyes, additives, and preservatives. These ingredients can not only affect our behavior but also cognitive functioning. This can take a large toll on overall brain health.
Do you always crave sugary foods? Do you feel that your memory is going as well? Consuming large amounts of sugar over the years can cause neurological problems including memory loss. Too much sugar is yet another cause of total body and brain inflammation.
Soy used to be the go-to for many vegetarians, seeing it as a healthy option. However, in large amounts this substance can cause memory loss especially for the elderly due to hormonal disruptions.
Gluten & Casein – The Controversial Two
Avoid gluten and casein (primarily wheat and pasteurized dairy, but not dairy fat, such as butter.) Research shows that your blood-brain barrier, the barrier that keeps things out of your brain where they don’t belong, is negatively affected by gluten. Gluten also makes your gut more permeable, which allows proteins to get into your bloodstream, where they don’t belong. That then sensitizes your immune system and promotes inflammation and autoimmunity, both of which play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s. Note you can have “the right” whey protein powder to boost your immune system and just enjoy-this part of milk!
Food Additives That Can Harm Your Brain:
When you consume diet soda, you may be thinking that you are helping your diet by decreasing calories and therefore losing weight. I am hoping you have kept up with the news to know this is 100% WRONG. In fact, amazingly enough, diet soda drinkers tend to gain weight. And boy, is it toxic! It contains many chemicals and most often, an artificial sweetener known as aspartame. Aspartame contains three chemicals that can harm your brain: aspartic acid, methanol, and phenylalanine. All three of these chemicals lead up to a brain-frying chemical concoction. Aspartic acid elevates levels of aspartate and glutamate which are amino acids. Aspartate and glutamate are “excitotoxins,” meaning that in high amounts they “excite” or stimulate brain cells to death. Phenylalanine is an amino acid normally found in the brain. Ingesting aspartame can lead to excess levels of phenylalanine in the brain which disturbs the normal balance of an important brain chemical, serotonin. Methanol is wood alcohol, the kind of alcohol that is extremely poisonous. Formerly known as Nutrasweet, but now called AminoSweet, this is one of the easiest brain-damaging chemicals to avoid since it is clearly labeled. Aspartame is commonly found in diet sodas, but you may not realize that it is also found in foods that say sugar free, and artificial sweeteners like Equal and NutraSweet. A newer type of aspartame was approved recently by FDA called Advantame, listed as a “high-Intensity” sweetener to avoid the word “artificial.” It contains not only aspartame but also the artificial flavor vanillin. It is 20,000 times sweeter than sugar. In comparison, aspartame is “only” 200-700 times sweeter than sugar . May I please say YUK?
Splenda is sucralose, so it’s makers say “since it’s made from sugar” it’s just like a form of real sugar. Really? I think not. Sucralose is no better than aspartame. It can cause neurological side effects that include headaches and migraines, and even increase weight gain. Sucralose prevents nutrient absorption and reduces the amount of good bacteria in your intestines. This leads to an overabundance of bad bacteria which has numerous negative effects on your brain including damage to the hippocampus, the part of the brain where memories are stored. It’s 3-in-one punch to your immune health, GI tract health and brain health. What can you do to avoid all of this? Stay away from diet foods, or anything that contains artificial sweeteners. I am assuming you know that saccharin (the pink packet) is carcinogenic so it’s not even being discussed here. But there is one safe sweetener that is actually natural and made from a plant. Pure Stevia is a great sweetener to add into your diet if you want to still keep things sweet. It has been on the market for 30 years without a complaint, it is plant based and has zero calories. I even allow this on my anti aging diet plan!
Popcorn is a well-loved snack and healthy as well, but that comes with stipulations. Popcorn is healthy if you air pop it or make it on the stove. Store bought microwave popcorn, however, is not healthy at all. It contains an artificial butter flavor called diacetyl. This chemical can cross the blood-brain barrier, leading to amyloid clumping which is associated with Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately this is the yummy smell in movie theatres where we find this toxin on “movie popcorn” too.
4. Monosodium Glutamate
It breaks down in the body into glutamate, a known excitotoxin — a substance that literally stimulates brain cells to death! An alarming fact about MSG is that it is in just about everything, yet it is not required to be on labels. This makes it very difficult to avoid. It is required to be listed on a label only if it’s 100% pure MSG. Spices, flavorings, and natural flavorings can all contain up to 99% MSG with no mention on the label! Generally the saltier the food, the more MSG it will have, with worst offenders including canned soups, snacks, and ramen noodles. The best way to avoid this is to find good companies that will label NO MSG on their packaging. Another major source of MSG is fast food restaurants. www.MSGTruth.org has a list of the worst offenders with KFC restaurants at the top of the list. Even their salads and green beans contain MSG! But if you cannot find any on your foods, you must realize where MSG is commonly and always found. These Ingredients always contain MSG:
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- Hydrolyzed plant protein
- Hydrolyzed protein
- Plant protein extract
- Calcium caseinate
- Sodium caseinate
- Yeast extract
- Textured protein
- Autolyzed yeast
These ingredients may contain MSG:
- Malt extract
- Malt flavoring
- Natural flavoring
- Beef flavoring
- Chicken flavoring
Aluminum is hard to avoid as it is a metal found within the earth’s crust, commonly used in household, food and even personal products. Some research has shown that this may be linked to Alzheimer’s, as it can end up in our food when we cook and therefore end up in our bodies- where it doesn’t belong. To avoid the absorption of aluminum in your body, you can find alternatives to products such as deodorants that are aluminum free. Along with this, search for stainless steel products instead of aluminum pots and pans. Although research is taking time to 100% confirm these accusations, aluminum is still a known neurotoxin. Avoid exposure by using healthy alternatives. There are plenty of reasons to “detox” and food is just one of them. While we are discussing what can harm the brain let’s discuss “everything” you need to know.
The Many Ubiquitous and Harmful Neurotoxins
An example of some foreign substances that can cause negative effects on your body and your brain include mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, pesticides, insecticides, dioxins, furans, phthalates, VOCs, and PCBs.
Of all of the toxins that can be listed, mercury has shown to be the worse as it can kill brain cells, and cause a variety of illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, autism, and much more.
There are a variety of other toxins but I don’t want to make your eyes cross! Here is a list of neurotoxins you need to know : Fluoride, chlorpyrifos, DDT/DDE, manganese, arsenic, lead, mercury, ethanol, toluene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), tetrachloro-ethylene (PERC), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs.)
To get an example of where these can be hidden: Toluene is used to not only improve ratings in octane, but also used to make nylon and plastic soda bottles, manganese is found in soda cans as well and stainless steel to keep metal from corroding, and mercury was once used in various products but it has ended up in fish. It may also be in your dental amalgams-unbelievably enough it is not banned.
Is there any way to avoid all of these? All…no, there really isn’t. So what to do? You need to detoxify your body from these and other toxins. And we have a foolproof, easy to use method I’ll tell you about after I finish my little rant about fluoride.
And I am making a special point of discussing this one because everyone seems to think it is perfectly safe!
Despite what supporters and dentists have shown, fluoride is not a needed ingredient and the FDA doesn’t even approve this as cavity preventing. Yet, it is in our water, toothpaste, and the dose cannot be controlled. This potent substance is in our water, yet we have no idea what the level may be.
Research is lacking on all of the dangers of fluoride, but more and more people are speaking up about getting this out of our drinking water. We DO know this: It is likely neurotoxic=bad for our brains. There is more but the government has not studied this as they should.
In 2012 more than 67 percent of Americans received fluoridated water. Of those 67%, more than 11 million people were getting fluoride at or above the “optimal” level of 0.7-1.2 milligrams per liter (mg/L), according to the CDC.
Then, in April this year (2015), the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that this “optimal” level of fluoride, recommended since 1962, had in fact been set too high, resulting in 40 percent of American teens’ teeth showing signs of overexposure-a condition known as dental fluorosis.
So, for the first time in nearly 55 years, the US government lowered its recommended level of fluoride in drinking water to a maximum of 0.7 mg/L. The question is, will this new level protect everyone from overexposure?
Really, the question is why isn’t there more “noise” about the maximum of .7mg/L still being too high? There is no medical need for fluoride so any is too high!
Reducing your risk of exposure involves filtering everything, including your shower faucets such investing in a charcoal filter to the pipeline of your home.
The best thing to avoid fluoride is to filter, check the labels on everything you buy, and detox. The world is coming together to push fluoride out of water systems, however this may take a large amount of time.
Is there any way to avoid all of these toxins? Well we can do simple things like filtering all water and avoiding “the obvious” but it would be a full time job to avoid “everything.” So what to do? You need to detoxify your body from these and other toxins. And we have a foolproof, easy to use method that will take you 90 seconds, 2x per day…then, no worries!
How to Detoxify Your Body From All of This
These sprays offer a combo attack on the fluoride in your body naturally and effectively. But that is not all, it works to get rid of all heavy metals or toxins that are ingested or absorbed. This detox is affordable, effective, and is backed by scientific evidence.
There is a lot more I haven’t told you that you should know. And guess what? When you see all that these simple sprays can do (including eliminating nuclear waste!!!) you will feel relieved that you can insulate yourself from the “insults of the world.”
EMF’s and Brain Health
I am sure you have heard of how our environment can affect us, but in the twenty first century this now includes EMF’s. Modern appliances and electronics emit a radio frequency or radio wave that can possibly increase the risk of cancer, most notably brain tumors. As humans, we have been exposed to lower levels of electromagnetic energy for a century: things like radio waves and ultraviolet rays.
Even if we decrease our use of electronic products and get rid of the microwave and television, we will still be exposed to EMF’s as they are all around us. And, unfortunately, there is plenty of evidence showing how EMF’s effect cellular metabolism that can negatively affect your brain. Electromagnetic fields enhance free radical production, which is the underlying cause of many brain health problems, from brain fog to memory loss to dementia. But remember we can always amp up our anti-oxidant protection!
In a landmark study conducted at the University of Southern California School of Medicine, researchers found a substantial increase in Alzheimer’s disease among people whose occupations exposed them to higher than normal levels of electromagnetic radiation, including electricians, machine operators, sewing machine operators, and welders.
Some scientists speculate that EMF’s could enhance the formation of beta amyloid, a protein that invades the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and enhances free radical production. So why not take very simple precautions?
Cell phones are a well known source of EMF’s. Americans spend hours on their cell phones each day. The real research should be done on what this could be doing to our human brain. Animal studies do indeed show an increase of cancerous mutations. Short term exposure has been studied in humans with no documented increase in cancer risk, but long term studies need to be conducted.
To reduce exposure, opt for keeping the phone away from your head. Use the speaker option, and other options such as an earbud that keep you away from the phone when talking. Note that Bluetooth isn’t protective unless you do not have the device in your ear. Bluetooth in the car is great.
What About Other Sources of EMFs?
There are definitely other sources of EMF’s, but your bedroom should be as free as possible of them. If you have these devices in your bedroom or bathroom, keep them away from your head, or take precautions. If you love your electric blanket use it to warm up your bed and then warm you, not your head for 5 minutes. Other devices that emit EMF’s which might be in your bedroom include your television-keep that “thing” more than 6 ft away when you are watching. In a perfect world, you’d read my sleep expertise articles which include the best natural sleep aids, environment and more and take it OUT of your bedroom but that’s for another day!
Whether in your office or bedroom, use a safe computer that has lower levels of EMF’s and keep the screen around 3 feet away.
In your bathroom, you have possibly a blow-dryer-hair-dryer. Try to air dry your hair until it is more than halfway dry and then blow dry it as this reduces EMF exposure and actually helps your hair!
Taking these precautions will allow you to control that amount of EMF exposure you get at home. Work is another story- we suggest that you enlist the aid of your employer if possible.
And now back to “normal, common sense things.”
What Next – Of Course, Exercise!
What About Loss of Restorative Sleep with Age and Other Sleep Problems – Does That Matter?
YES! It sure does!
Sleep is needed for memory consolidation with the key components of this occurring during the deepest stages of sleep. If you need help falling asleep, or you wake up in the middle of the night, thus upsetting REM sleep (where all the good stuff happens) or you are awakening unrefreshed you have a “sleep issue”. Your brain will not age optimally until this is fixed. This is another long and complicated topic which I just can’t cover adequately for you in this one article. But just be very aware that if you have “sleep issues” you need to address them! You need a good sleep environment and perhaps some natural sleep aids. If needed, the best sleep aid or aids for you is somewhere on the page just referenced.
Disrupted Sleep Might Lead to Memory Loss
Research has shown that individuals who have disrupted sleep patterns have increased amount of amyloid plaques, which is linked Alzheimer’s disease. It is also associated with poor memory performance before and after sleep. Although it is not 100% proven that helping a sleeping problem will reduce the risk of Alzheimers, sleep is still important for optimal brain health and I strongly believe that data will bear out the importance of sleep-good, restorative sleep.
However if you identify where the problem is, there are articles here and a free ebook in the can’t sleep category which will be helpful to you. Next is the importance of controlling your stress for the health of your brain.
How Stress Can Cause Disease
Stress hormones are released when you experience acute stress, which in return can increase your heart rate, your blood flow, oxygen intake, and put big demands on your whole body. It eventually suppresses your immune system. This can now allow room for inflammation and entrance to the body by “foreign invaders.”
When stress becomes chronic, however, your immune system becomes less sensitive to cortisol, and since inflammation is partly regulated by this hormone, this decreased sensitivity heightens the inflammatory response and allows inflammation to get out of control.
This is in large part how stress “predisposes” you to getting sick in the first place. And, in the event you do get sick, emotional stressors can make your symptoms worse, especially if the stress is severe or longstanding.
Have you ever gotten sick during a stressful event in your life, such as moving, getting divorced or even a new job? Stress can be a factor that can lead to getting sick, and if it is really chronic, the immune suppression makes you more vulnerable to all sorts of nasty diseases such as such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Stress May Be Related to the Clinical Onset of Alzheimer’s Disease
Current research has shown that there may be a link between stress and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease as it can actually bring on the symptoms of dementia.
Researchers from Argentina recently presented evidence suggesting that stress may be a trigger for the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The research was presented at the annual World Congress of Neurology in Vienna. According to lead author, Dr. Edgardo Reich:
“Stress, according to our findings, is probably a trigger for initial symptoms of dementia.”
The study found that 72 percent of Alzheimer’s patients had experienced severe emotional stress during the two years preceding their diagnosis. In the control group, only 26 percent had undergone major stress or grief. Most of the stresses encountered by the Alzheimer’s group involved:
- Bereavement; death of a spouse, partner, or child
- Violent experiences, such as assault or robbery
- Car accidents
- Financial problems, including “pension shock”
- Diagnosis of a family member’s severe illness
Immune Health and GI Tract Health’s Role in Brain Health
Your immune health as well as your GI tract health (which is highly associated with immune health – so much so that I’ll address that separately in a moment) should be properly tuned for optimal brain health. Most adults don’t think they need anything other than a little yogurt for a source of probiotics, if anything at all for optimal GI tract health. First of all, probiotics don’t work without prebiotics and second of all, yogurt has nada in terms of what anyone needs, even if they eat it all day.
The GI Tract Role in Brain Health
So, we have talked about optimizing your GI tract for several things in this website and hinted at it in this article. As a quick review, we know when we give you bloating answers, or we fix your constipation, heal “leaky gut” and all digestive disorders that we boost the immune system, our brain health improves, we improve mood and we speed up weight loss too!
The mechanisms for doing this are all discussed in the links within this article. DO understand that if even if you have ZERO symptoms of “anything” in your GI tract that you need your GI flora called your microbiome optimized. And you need a “new microbiome” for all of the things mentioned above. But the topic right now is what exactly is the GI tract role in brain health? First we start with your immune system.
Your Immune Function and Your Brain
Research proves: GI tract microbes (bacteria) specialize in fermenting soluble fiber. This is the fiber found in, say, apples for instance. This plays an important role in preventing leaky gut — a condition in which toxins are allowed to migrate from your gut into your blood stream. Note-I will briefly review the basics in this article but you can find articles specific to any GI tract condition you have in this website. Also note that I am “in the camp” that is convinced gluten is harmful to your immune system and your brain. I have plenty of good company if you have ever heard of Dr. David Perlmutter who I’ll reference again below.
The inflammatory response that “hits and injures your brain” actually starts in your GI tract and then travels to your brain. Brain inflammation occurs if you do not have an optimized GI tract microbiome.
How to Reduce Inflammation in Your Body, GI Tract, and Brain
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
- Eat enough fiber (30 gms per day)/or take one of our pharmaceutical grade supplements.
- Eat raw foods as much as possible.
- Eat fermented foods to “help” your GI tract microbiome. This is one instance I would recommend kefir but recall it is NOT adequate for probiotics. Fermented veggies are good if not “processed” and “preserved”. Always check your labels!
- Avoid: Sugar, processed foods, fast foods and I think you know “the food drill” by now!
Your GI tract is increasingly thought of as (don’t laugh!) your second brain:
The quality, quantity, and composition of the bacteria in your GI tract does indeed influence the function of our brains. There are many studies involving autistic children who have different GI tract microbiomes than non-autistic children.
Dr. David Perlmutter who is famous for “Grain Brain” explores the connection between gut health and degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s in his book, Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain for Life. It’s great!
The main “idea” if I were to sum up this book in one “idea” is this. GI tract bacteria help maintain the integrity of your gut lining. Many of the factors that affect permeability of the blood-brain barrier are similar to those that affect the GI tract. This is WHY “leaky gut” can lead to neurological diseases.
So now let me give you the three step treatment so you don’t have to go hunting for it! You are welcome.
Get your GI tract in top shape to help immune system, mood, weight, brain:
Depression Can Influence Alzheimer’s Disease
If you have followed “my blog” you will note several articles linking depression to a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. The basic mechanism in the brain is that two “happy neurotransmitters” which are low in depression, are responsible for quite a bit of memory consolidation and storage. Indeed the “memory storage area” in the brain called the hippocampus tends to be smaller in those with long term depressive histories. (The two neurotransmitters are dopamine and serotonin and CAN be raised naturally, without drugs.)
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia and AD patients can experience depression. Often, in older individuals, the initial diagnosis is difficult because depression can “present” with impaired memory and Alzheimer’s can “present” with depression.
There tend to be three distinct groups of people involved here. The first group are those who have experienced prior bouts of depression. The second group are those at risk for dementia due to changes within the brain from depression. The third group are those who experience a change of behavior, such as depression or anxiety and then later developer cognitive symptoms.
Why These Findings Matter
There are two important aspects of the findings presented above. First, depression can become more apparent as we age and secondly, dementia is more common in those with depression. If you are over the age of 50 with depression, it is important to consider the symptoms of dementia.
Bottom line-depression and early MCI (mild cognitive impairment) are treatable so get help now if this is you or a loved one. Now, onto BDNF! The very latest, greatest in brain health research!
What is BDNF and Why You Should Care – Brain Health!
BDNF, Brain-Derived Neutrophic Factor, is a vital protein that improves brain and nervous system functioning. Functions that are influenced by it include the growth of new neurons and synapses, prevention of the death of existing brain cells, and overall cognitive functioning. BDNF is considered the most important neurotrophin within the brain. When BDNF levels decrease, it increases the chance of Alzheimer’s.
How To Increase BDNF (Brain-Derived Neutrophic Factor)
1. Intense Exercise
Individuals that lack enough exercise have a decreased amount of BDNF. Engaging in intense exercise that boosts your heart rate will increase your production of BDNF. Consistency is important as just one intense exercise once in a while will not make a difference. There are far more benefits that are associated with high intensity training such as strength training, but brain health is certainly right up there. To reap the full benefits of increasing your BDNF levels through exercise, you must stay consistent.
2. Intermittent Fasting or Caloric Restriction
Reducing your caloric intake or practicing intermittent fasting can increase levels of BDNF signaling in the brain. When this occurs an improvement in brain health, glucose levels and cardiovascular functioning are seen. The best part is that if you cannot make it to the gym frequently, you can still elevate your BDNF levels and benefit the same as you would with aerobic exercise. This BDNF increase, as with the increase seen with exercise is not seen immediately. And – don’t think I’m telling you not to exercise!
3. Dietary Modifications
A diet that is high in saturated fat and refined sugar has been shown to impact the structural changes in the brain mainly through neurotrophins like BDNF. Translation: we see a marked decrease in all neurotrophins. It is crucial for overall health and brain health that you cut out refined sugar and eat only “good” saturated fats.
The levels of BDNF can be impacted by a diet after two months, whether it is bad or good. When you are consuming a diet mainly of refined sugar and saturated fat your beneficial neurotransmitter levels will measurably decrease and so will your testable cognitive performance.
In our modern world, sunlight exposure is decreasing and we are getting less vitamin D in our bodies. Adequate sunlight exposure is the most efficient way to increase your level of Vitamin D. However to get enough sun exposure to raise your Vitamin D level to what we deem adequate (50 ng/ml) you are usually endangering your skin.
As an Anti-aging doctor in sunny Florida – I rarely find a patient who does not need Vitamin D supplementation. We all would like to think that “sun is enough”, but for most, it just isn’t. Inadequate Vitamin D plunges BDNF levels down within months.
5. Lose Weight
When you are overweight, both your brain and your body undergo metabolic changes. BDNF has shown to decrease when an individuals have a high body weight or are obese. When decreasing your weight, you not only improve your health and mood, but also your BDNF levels.
6. Certain Drugs
There are some drugs, which, when used short term, can likely raise BDNF levels. However, their long term use is quite unclear. I will only list the classes of drugs or individual drugs and nothing else as I do NOT support the use of pharmaceuticals to raise BDNF. I will explain the mechanism of one class of drugs below because there is a healthy alternative.
SSRIs, selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors, have been shown to increase levels of BDNF and even used to treat depression. They work by elevating levels of the happy neurotransmitter serotonin. However, more evidence is needed and it is unclear how these may affect us over long term use. The most notable benefit, however, is its increase in BDNF serum levels.
Now the healthy alternative way to increase serotonin (if you are not on other anti-depressants and don’t have bipolar illness) is to take the building block, 5-OH tryptophan. Our 5-HTP 200 mg supplement is taken as 1-2-3x daily and as much as tolerated by the GI tract at night. This tends to be 500-1000 mg.
7. Social Enrichment
Social enrichment for adults and children helps maintain and increase levels of BDNF. When children are exposed to socially enriched environments, it has been shown to have long lasting neural and behavioral benefits.
One remarkable conclusion that has been shown in animal studies is that a socially-enriched environment is not only beneficial for humans but animals as well. Rodents, for instance, are shown to have a lifelong increase in levels of BDNF, decreased anxiety, positive social behaviors, and reduced risk of depression when in a rich social environment.
What About Hormones and Memory Vis-A-Vis, Brain Health?
Short increases of cortisol are needed for survival as they help us cope and respond to the many challenges we face in life. But when cortisol levels are abnormally high or cortisol spikes are prolonged, it can result in memory lapses as we age and overall mind and body consequences. This was proven and demonstrated in a study done by the University of Iowa. This study was the first to show the impact of cortisol levels on the prefrontal cortex, showing that long term elevated amounts of cortisol can result in shrinking and disappearance of synapses (brain connections.)
These findings suggest that with treatment (adrenal support) to lower cortisol we can slow or prevent some of the short memory decline we experience as we age.
Women experience more challenges as hormone levels fluctuate throughout life, especially during peri-menopause-when the initial symptoms of PMDD, brain fog and sleep disturbances occur due to progesterone deficiency. However, there are safe and effective progesterone-supplementing products which can be taken pre-menopause. Pregnenolone will relieve many symptoms including menopausal belly fat, especially if supplemented with adrenal support.
During menopause, women can experience a variety of unpleasant symptoms due to decreased estrogen and progesterone levels. With the addition of topical, bioidentical estrogen along with supplementing with cruciferous vegetable concentrates (DIM) to aid in eliminating estrogen metabolites and avoiding unopposed estrogen replacement with progesterone cream/capsules, women can now virtually “sail through menopause.”
What Causes Brain Fog & Short-Term Memory Loss in Perimenopause?
Brain fog and short term memory loss come from a variety of issues in perimenopause. Factors such as stress, unbalanced hormones, inadequate sleep, and other issues all contribute to these symptoms. However the biggest culprit is the loss of progesterone and somewhat due also to the loss of DHEA.
What about the symptoms that occur during menopause?
Estrogen levels decrease during menopause. When estrogen levels drop they impact the neurotransmitters that help regulate mood, manage stress, and cognitive functioning. The symptoms from these lower levels can create, mood swinging, depression, and short term memory issues. And of course women generally experience the more well know symptoms of hot flushes, libido issues, etc. In combination with stress and insomnia, even more negative symptoms can develop including adrenal fatigue and thyroid dysfunction. Luckily all of this is 100% treatable. Men are affected by their partner’s menopause so that’s why we are picturing a male meditating!
I have explained menopause for women, but did you know that men can experience the equivalent of menopause as well? Male menopause is known as andropause which happens when testosterone levels drop. The symptoms include loss of motivation and sex drive, grumpiness, and becoming apathetic. These symptoms that also do affect brain health can be reversed through testosterone creams or injections, supervised by a qualified M.D.
Other Assorted Brain Fitness Tips:
Are you seeking out people who are funny? You should…laughter is crucial for brain health. If you don’t send jokes on email and don’t receive any just google a good source and share the laughter! (Email me please-I love jokes!) Stress should be managed as well. To again give you a brief synopsis on the physiology of that-stress increases cortisol which in turn depresses the immune system which is crucial for brain health. If your stress isn’t controlled then look for THAT category in my blog and also on my Youtube channel.
Any sort of brain exercise will work, whether it’s playing a musical instrument, doing puzzles or doing “my grocery list trick”. Want to hear my trick? I never use a list: I just think of what I need and remember the number of items. I don’t leave the store without the right number.
Good relationships with people AND pets are also great for brain health. Yes, you are getting the message that I DO want you to adopt a dog!
Brain Supplements AKA the “Cool Stuff” Regarding Brain Health
Supplements That Increase BDNF
BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) is an important protein that influences brain and peripheral nervous system health. BDNF influences a variety of functions including: preventing death of existing brain cells, inducing the growth of new neurons (neurogenesis) and synapses, and supporting cognitive function. Low levels of BDNF have been linked to: Alzheimer’s, accelerated aging, poor neural development, neurotransmitter dysfunction, obesity, depression, and even schizophrenia. There are other brain
neurotrophinsbut BDNF is so far, more important than all others combined.
There are several supplement options that you can do to improve your BDNF production, which I will explain below. Some of these do “other things” which are quite important and will therefore be repeated. There will be a table at the end so you can see which supplement does multiple good things for your brain health.
Curcumin has shown in various studies to promote BDNF production within the hippocampus. In rodent studies, the results showed an improved cognitive functioning and anti-depressant effects.
Green tea has EGCG as an active ingredient that has shown to increase BDNF and even improve mental focus. Drinking green tea or using a supplement of it will definitely improve BDNF production. WE recommend our decaf green tea supplement, with the right amount of EGCG to boost BDNF and increase mental focus.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Within my articles you can see that this fatty acid is almost always mentioned to improve overall health by decreasing inflammation and more. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil include DHA and EPA, but it is specifically the DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) responsible for increasing levels of BDNF. However, our diet usually does not contain the right amount. When you have the right amount of omega-3 fatty acids within your diet it increase levels of BDNF. To ensure that you have adequate amounts see the two choices we offer.
This is a supplement that has been studied for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases as well as aging. In one study, researchers examined the effects of resveratrol supplementation on the encoding of BDNF in the hippocampal region of rats.
They discovered that supplementation of resveratrol resulted in increased levels of mRNA BDNF expression. The researchers concluded that the increased expression of the BDNF mRNA may result in neuroprotective effects. Because this is not proven in any clinical studies as of yet, it will not be included as a neuroprotective in this article.
This amino acid has been shown to increase levels of BDNF in several clinical studies. It is also used for “natural energy” in Anti-aging and Regenerative medicine.
Although the “big fuss” is about sunshine, most of us need to supplement to get our levels to where they will stimulate BDNF.
Brain Health Supplements Which Are Neuroprotective
Curcumin – the biggest bang for your health buck – and not just for brain health
Curcumin has been used in research to see how its capability to cross the blood-brain barrier can improve stroke damage, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. It has also shown an increase in overall brain health due to it’s powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Curcumin can inhibit both the activity and the inflammatory metabolic byproducts of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2) and 5-lipooxygenase (5-LOX) enzymes, as well as other enzymes and hormones that modulate inflammation in the body and brain.
Melatonin has been known to aid in restoring restful sleep, but the focus of scientific research is now it’s benefits for brain health. It does indeed protect the brain. Melatonin has been shown to protect the brain from oxidative stress, aging, environmental factors, and even likely combating Alzheimer’s disease.
Melatonin has been found to help combat Alzheimer’s disease by reducing the damage caused by two harmful proteins: amyloid beta proteins and tau proteins. High levels of these two proteins contribute to the death of brain cells and have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Melatonin also helps fight Alzheimer’s disease by guarding against the harmful effects of aluminum, which is thought by most experts to produce Alzheimer’s-like oxidative changes in brain cells.
The aging brain benefits from the treatment of GPC, and in fact it decreases the loss of brain cells and nerve fibers that come with aging. A well done animal study found that long-term treatment with GPC offset, in part, the loss of nerve fibers and brain cells that typically occurs with aging. In GPC-treated rats, both the density and the area occupied by neuroconnecting fibers were significantly higher than in age-matched controls. The number of neurons of the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is closely associated with the cerebral cortex, was higher in GPC-treated animals than in control 24-month-old rats.
Fish Oil Supplements
Well-designed clinical trials are needed before omega-3 fatty acids can be recommended for the prevention of cognitive impairment or dementia. However we now know it increases BDNF and many studies suggest it is neuro-protective so it’s only a matter of time before good fish oil supplements will have yet another “indication” for taking them. Because there are well done studies which suggest that “science” will soon conclude that fish oils are indeed neuroprotective, it is being included in this section.
EGCG is first and foremost a potent antioxidant.
Antioxidants protect brain cells from free radical damage — a major cause of cognitive disease and aging.
Since EGCG readily passes through the blood-brain barrier, it protects delicate brain cells which are highly susceptible to free radical damage. It is also a potent anti-inflammatory-good for the body’s health including one’s brain health.
This polyphenol found in green tea discussed above as upping BDNF prevents and reduces the formation of the brain plaques linked to Alzheimer’s especially when taken with a fish oil supplement. (Hence my belief that fish oils will be found as definitely neuroprotective.)
EGCG is the most potent of the polyphenols found in green tea. The only way to get a significant amount of EGCG from your diet is to drink green or white tea. White tea contains about half the EGCG of green tea. And not teabag tea-you need “real green tea” containing the top 3% of the leaves to get enough EGCG.
Trace amounts are found in a few other foods — apples, plums, onions, pecans, hazelnuts, and carob powder. EGCG belongs to a group of specific kinds of polyphenols known as catechins.
Similar catechins found in green tea are epigallocatechin (EGC), epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG) and epicatechin (EC). However the easiest way to get your ECGC is via decaf supplementation.
ALC, Acetyl-l-Carnitine, can positively influence stress tolerance because of its superior ability to protect the brain against stress and excitotoxic damage. Unlike plain l-carnitine (an amino acid), acetyl-l-carnitine is fat soluble and highly active in nerves. It offers superior protection from stress and excitotoxic damage. Recall that a common excitotoxins are MSG and aspartame.
ALC is known for its protection of nerve cells and regenerative effect on them.
L-Carnosine can prevent the cause of cross linking between proteins which is caused by oxidation and glycation. These cross linking events produce inflammation as well. When brain tissue contains high levels of carnosine this is largely prevented and normal neuronal functioning is preserved.
Patients with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as other neurodegenerative disorders, have shown to have decreased levels of carnosine.
Brain Health Supplements Which Boost Your Immune System
This is sufficiently discussed above in the the GI-brain health connection section here.
DHEA and 7-Keto DHEA
The reproductive organs and the brain make small amounts of this important hormone which is principally made in the adrenal glands . In the nervous system, DHEA is made by individual neurons (nerve cells) and is classified as a neurosteroid.
In severely depressed individuals, it plays an important role in improving mood. Recall that neurotransmitters involved in maintaining a normal non-depressed mood are crucial to optimal brain health. But this is an “aside” here. Suffice it to say that DHEA levels, parallel immune function as we age-they decrease. But supplemental DHEA amps up immune health and therefore also brain health.
Brain Health Supplements Which Stimulate Neural Stem Cells and Connections
As we age, DHEA dramatically decreases within our body. In fact, individuals who are severely depressed tend to have low DHEA levels and respond positively to DHEA supplementation. Scientific studies done in tissue culture have shown definitively that DHEA stimulates neural stem cells to form neurons and neuronal connections. Therefore, DHEA likely plays a role in moderating the genesis of new brain cells.
It has been shown that taking around 90mg or more every day of DHEA can increase cognitive functioning and alleviate depression. Do note that this dosing is from a study and I have found that people need anywhere from 10 mg to 200 mg so get this value measured, tell me and I’ll tell you what dose to take of either DHEA or keto-DHEA* (*speeds up metabolism) to take!
This supplement is also believed, based on several very good studies to also increase neural stem cell “sprouting” as well as new neuronal communications.
Dosing for this is up to 60 mg/night! My recommendation is to go up 1-3 mg a week until you are sleeping deeply and not having so much dreaming that it is sleep interruptive. I am personally taking 60 mg each night but this isn’t tolerated by all. On my website I put the upper limit at 30 mg since not everyone has a consultation with me. Just as always make sure you have a good pharmaceutical grade melatonin supplement source.
Recent findings and past studies are finally coming together to show the real benefits of aromatic-turmerone, found within turmeric. Aromatic-turmerone has shown to increase neural stem cell growth within the brain by 80% in various concentrations. It can possibly help those that are experiencing a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s recover. Although this is not as well-studied as the other compound (curcumin) found in tumeric, we know that this effect has been proven over and over with curcumin. In the future we likely will see products containing both curcumin and aromatic turmerone.
Ground breaking research has shown that brain cells can regenerate and an amino acid known as taurine can help create new brain cells by activating “sleeping” stem cells. Animal studies have demonstrated that taurine triggers new brain cells to grow within the hippocampus. But not only does it influence the growth of new brain cells, taurine also increases the survival of new neurons, resulting in an increase in adult brain cell creation.
Our brain health supplement which contains your daily dose of taurine is called NeuroConnect.
Brain Health Supplements Which Dissolve Amyloid Protein
Several well done research studies have shown that curcumin may help inhibit the accumulation of destructive beta-amyloid and tau protein in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients, as well as break up existing plaques.
Brain Health Supplements Which Speed Neural Transmission
Phosphatidylserine is found within our popular supplement Brain Rejuv which can favorably affect neuronal membranes, cell metabolism, and levels of brain neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is responsible for “neuronal transmission speed.” Within two clinical studies, it was concluded that this can improve cognitive functioning including memory, learning, focus, and communication.
GPC is a powerful supplement that has proven time and time again how it can do multiple health tasks. It can actually improve our stress levels by increasing the calming neurotransmitter called GABA.
GPC enhances communication between nerves in the cerebellar cortex, a brain region responsible for coordination and movement control through its effect on receptors for nerve growth factor. As we age, nerve growth factor receptors tend to decrease unless sufficient GPC is present.
Finally, GPC is also involved in the synthesis and recycling of phospholipids in the brain. Laboratory studies suggest that GPC can increase the rate of phospholipid synthesis, including the phosphoinositides, which are used for signal transduction in the central nervous system. Signal transduction=neural transmission speed. It’s the #1 best for doing this function. Meaning it really increases acetylcholine levels. Bottom line-this powerful supplement ABSOLUTELY increases neural transmission speed and you can “feel it”!
ALC is known to boost general nerve transmission….and generally agreed to have the same effects in neural cell transmission. This was tested recently in diabetic patients with peripheral neuropathy. A dose of 2000 mg per day showed a decrease in pain, improvement in nerve conduction (speed of transmission of nerve impulse), and some nerve regeneration.
Brain Health Supplements Which Have Good Studies to Show They Improve Memory
When melatonin is taken daily, it can significantly improve cognitive functioning and memory. This has been proven statement in a whopping number of studies.
In a series of studies, researchers have now shown that people taking between 3 and 24 mg of a fast-acting formulation of melatonin daily for 15 to 60 months performed significantly better on a host of cognitive assessment scales and tests of memory.
DHEA (Including 7-Keto DHEA)
DHEA clinical studies are increasing each year, with each showing an improvement with memory recall and retention. This may be related to DHEA’s ability to stimulate the proliferation of key brain cell receptors specifically associated with memory processing.
Phosphatidylserine is involved in the upkeep and restoration of nerve cell membranes. Among its list of functions, phosphatidylserine stimulates the release of dopamine (a mood regulator that also control physical sensations, and movement, enhances brain glucose metabolism (the fuel used for brain activity), increases the production of acetylcholine (necessary for learning and memory), reduces cortisol levels and boosts the activity of nerve growth factor (NGF), which nurtures the health of cholinergic neurons.
By boosting glucose metabolism and stimulating production of acetylcholine, supplemental phosphatidylserine (100 mg three times daily) has been shown to improve cognitive performance in patients experiencing age-associated memory impairment or other signs of cognitive decline.
Research has shown that dietary supplementation with phosphatidylserine can slow and even reverse the decline of learning, mood, memory, concentration, word recall related to dementia or age-related cognitive impairment in middle-aged and elderly subjects.
GPC (Alpha Glyceryl Phosphoryl Choline)
GPC is similar to phosphatidylserine as it is an orthomolecular compound that is found naturally in the brain and is an acetylcholine precursor. Acetylcholine is important for sleep, neuromuscular control, cognition, and memory. It naturally declines as we age, and can be prevented and improved by supplementing with GPC. Interestingly enough, in Europe, GPC is regulated as a prescription drug used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, where it is known under the generic name, choline alphoscerate.
Huperazine A is an alkaloid that blocks the breaking down of a neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine which you now know is the “cognition neurotransmitter.” It has been shown to improve the effects of anxiety, memory loss, dementia, and depression.
Taking it is basically a duplication of efforts if you are taking the agents which increase acetylcholine. If you think about it, acetylcholine decreases with age. Therefore, in my opinion, it makes more sense to amp it up rather than merely preserving what you have. I am making this editorial note here so you can really think about this one. I know it’s popular in the lay media-so just think about it that way.
Vinpocetine is found within the periwinkle plant. It can increase blood flow and therefore oxygen to the brain. Several studies from quite a while ago suggest that it improves memory and reaction time.
Brain Health Supplements Which Increase Concentration
When EGCG is combined with l-theanine and caffeine it offers a great amount of improvement with learning, focus, and memory. The increase in focus can even be picked up on EEG testing!
Note that L-theanine is used more for relaxation and sleep. It is thought to affect levels of the neurotransmitter for relaxation called GABA and thus enhance relaxation. Since reducing stress levels are so important for brain health this may be the mechanism of action for the l-theanine on brain health. Here is our most popular sleep supplement which contains l-theanine, amongst other useful ingredients. It is called the silly name of Sito-slumber but wow, it works!
Brain Health Supplements With Mixed Reviews / Research
No studies have yet to prove the long told belief that ginseng can provide an increase in brain health. But it can be noted that there are many anecdotal reports of both young and older individuals who experience an improvement in focus and reaction time when using ginseng in combination with Ginkgo biloba. It is clear that both short term and long term studies need to be done on this supplement.
Just like Ginseng, Ginkgo is widely marketed to improve brain functioning, but there is a mix of goods and bad reviews. Once again, this one needs much more research and evidence to support its claims.
Supplementing with policosanol will lower your cholesterol. Although several compelling studies suggesting a positive impact on brain health have been done, there is not enough evidence to recommend it.
Khat is a flowering evergreen plant that has been grown for use as a stimulant for centuries. It has been reviewed on both sides, some suggesting benefits, others suggesting negative effects. More conclusive studies are needed.
Guarana has traces of caffeine in it that can improve reaction time temporarily, which can help with athletic performance and fatigue. An increased amount of clinical studies should be done to conclude on whether memory is improved as well.
When niacin levels are low, it can lead to the onset of dementia. However, supplementation without deficiency lacks evidence of benefit.
Rhodiola has been stated to enhance memory, learning, and mental performance. However, this has the lack of evidence supporting it. However my editorial comment on this one is that it is an adrenal adaptogen, so it will decrease cortisol levels and that, if you recall, is good for your brain health.
Herbs, like Rhubarb, have been stated to improve the effects of age-associated memory loss. To confirm this, further research is needed.
Bacopa monnieri leaf extract is called brahmi in Ayurvedic medicine. It is commonly used in India for enhancing memory, pain relief, and treating epilepsy. Although bacopa is traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to enhance cognition, high-quality clinical trials are lacking.
Which Supplements Are Right For Me?
Click to view larger image.
EGCG (Green Tea)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Curcumin, EGCG (Green Tea)
Melatonin, Vitamin D
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
GPC (Alpha Glyceral Phosphoral Choline)
|Boosts Immune & Overall Brain Health||DHEA, 7-Keto DHEA|
|Stimulates Neural Stem Cells & Connections||Curcumin|
DHEA, 7-Keto DHEA
|Dissolves Amyloid Protein||Curcumin|
|Speeds Up Neural Transmission||Acetyl-L-Carnitine|
GPC (Alpha Glyceral Phosphoral Choline)
|Improves Memory||EGCG (Green Tea)|
DHEA, 7-Keto DHEA
GPC (Alpha Glyceral Phosphoral Choline)
|Improves Concentration||EGCG (Green Tea)|
Brain Health – A Word from Dr. Kim
There is so much research going on but to really give you a personalized “brain program” I would need to know which area needs improving. Is it concentration? Memory? Are you having “brain fog?” Here is the brain store – take a look at the kit as it has all of the basics for maintaining brain health. You would probably benefit from taking the self evaluation questionnaire on brain health to identify where you need improvement. Of all of the anti-aging products you can invest in, let me ask you this – where are you “without your brain?” Case closed.
If you would like my help, just check out the online doctor page. If you want the whole brain enchilada done for you, then just get yourself the memory loss prevention kit. It contains all categories of products mentioned in this article. All products are 15% off and you’ll receive a lifetime 10% discount code after placing your order. As a bonus – there is an optional free email consultation with me, Dr. Kim. This kit plus other instructions in this article will give you great brain health for life.
Best wishes for your life and health,