You don’t get alarmed when you you lose your keys, but what if you constantly forget what you were trying to say a few seconds ago. Full blown dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is disabling and difficult on family members. Today I am offering suggestions from my Functional Medicine standpoint which should protect your brain and help you regain memory molecules.
Eliminate harmful foods. We know that certain foods and additives can slow down brain function, or harm your cells. We know them as excitotoxins because they ‘excite’ or vibrate your cell to death. So it’s better for your brain cells to eliminate artificial sweeteners, colors and preservatives. This pretty much means no more junk food or sugar substitutes. Animal studies prove the presence of brain damage in mice that ate junk food for only 9 months. I bet some of you have been eating this stuff for decades.
Eliminate drugs that mess with your mind. First on the list is alcohol. Yep, you didn’t know alcohol was a “drug”? Well, it can kill your brain cells over time. The more hangovers, the worse for you. Also, antihistamines (allergy medicine) can leave you with morning brain fog and cognitive fatigue. In particular, diphenhydramine, or any drug with that ingredient in it, will leave you a little messed up in the morning. Drugs that end in “PM” sometimes have this ingredient in it.
Exercise. One very fast way to increase brain-derived neurotropic factor or BDNF. The more BDNF you have, the stronger and tighter the connections are between your brain cells. This means less brain fog, sharper memory, better focus and heightened alertness. Supplements raise BDNF, but exercise does it rapidly and for free. Get moving!
DMAE. Dimethylaminoethanol. Our brain makes it and it occurs naturally in sardines and anchovies. Yum! You can also get supplements. It’s iffy as to whether it increases your acetylcholine, a memory hormone, but some people claim benefit.
SOD. That stands for Superoxide Dismutase, and it’s an enzyme that we have when we are born. The SOD enzyme is responsible for putting out the fire in your body, more specifically reducing ROS (reactive oxygen species) commonly termed free radicals. SOD is a strong antioxidant, and it reduces amyloid plaque deposits associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Some people (like me) don’t have enough SOD enzymes, mine are genetically cramped, so I take SOD supplements. Luckily, we are not our SNPs, so having an SOD mutation doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop cognitive dysfunction.
Vinpocetine. I love this herb. It increases cerebral blood flow and is well-studied. One Hungarian study literally concluded, “vinpocetine treatment can be recommended for patients with mild cognitive impairment.”
Theobromine. Similar to caffeine this is found in small amounts in coffee, chocolate, carob and tea. It stimulates your vagus nerve to increase oxygen flow to your brain to improve mood and energy.
Phosphatidylserine. This is a fat-soluble amino acid found in high concentrations in your brain. It’s found in every single cell membrane in your body, but a lot of it is found in your brain (which you realize is fatty). You can also supplement with this compound. There are soy-free formulas that are derived from nonGMO sunflowers in case you prefer.
Piracetam. Not in love with this one because the research isn’t that strong, but some people claim it helps “wake” them up and improve memory. It’s kind of hard to find in the US, and probably sold online (careful where you buy this, again, I am not recommending it). In Europe, it’s sold as a drug. It is considered a “nootropic” or “mind turning” drug.
Citicoline. This is a dietary supplement sold in 6 dozen countries by various brand names (NeurAxon, Synapsine, Somazina, and others). It breaks down in your intestine into two different compounds, choline and cytidine. Those travel to your brain and penetrate the thin barrier around your brain called the “blood brain barrier.” Citicoine protects against neuronal degeneration and has been used for head trauma and stroke, especially in Japan and European countries. If you have a stroke, this supplement may be helpful in terms of reducing disability although that statement will be met with much controversy. The reason is because a large study of 2,298 patients found no benefit after administering citicholine to stroke victims, yet citicoline is the only substance that has ever showed significant neuroprotective effects in people with mild stroke-like events. Seems like the studies conflict. So take this information to your practitioner and see if it’s right for you.
Bacopa Monnieri. Yes, awesome supplement. This tropical plant extract has stood the test of time and has been well-studied for it’s effect in people with memory dysfunction, learning disabilities or attention problems. Bacopa goes by the name Brahmi as well. It is popular all over the world and I think it supports a positive mood. Some companies standardize this extract in their formula. The reason they do that is to make it stronger. They are basically pulling out one active ingredient from thousands of compounds that naturally occur, and they are making the formula based upon this one potent compound. That’s why you sometimes see labels like this:
“Bacopa monnieri standardized to 20% bacosides.” If the formulator is using the whole entire leaf or herb, it will say “Bacopa monnieri whole leaf extract” or “full spectrum” or “whole plant” or something that denotes they are using every part.
Which is better, standardized or whole herb?
It’s kind of personal. The standardized extract is thought to be more potent and faster acting, but when you pull one compound out of a whole entire plant, you lose the beautiful synergy of that herb. It’s like listening to drums, instead of the whole song with all the instruments playing. Before trying anything on this list, ask your doctor what is right for you. These herbs and nutrients have interactions and may affect your medications. Please do not dismiss the effects these things have on your mind, it’s a precious thing to play with.
Comment below to me, I’d love to hear your feedback.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.