Do you have trouble concentrating, easily forget things, experience brain fog, notice that your memory’s deteriorating, feel depressed for no reason, have trouble sleeping or always feel stressed out? Do you want to optimize brain function, improve memory, and reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia? If so, you’re going to love the information in this post!
According to several studies, dementia, brain inflammation and brain diseases including Alzheimer’s is affecting more and more people under the age of 55, and has risen 92% in the last 31 years in people under 74 years old! Alzheimer’s disease rates as the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., and one in three seniors currently dies with some form of dementia.
The good news is your brain has the ability to regenerate, repair and change structure and function, meaning you can change your brain and improve your memory. This is known as neuroplasticity. Just because your Dad, grandma or any other family member had (has) heart disease, diabetes, obesity, alcoholism, depression, Alzheimer’s or you have the APOE4 gene does not mean you’re predestined to follow in their footsteps.
Genes are plastic based on environmental epigenetics, which means we can alter which genes turn on or which genes are expressed and which genes turn off based on our environment and lifestyle choices including what we choose to eat and drink, lifestyle habits such as sleep, stress, exercise, environment, chemical exposure and toxicity, activity level, social circle, behaviors, thoughts, beliefs and level of consciousness. “Neurons that fire together wire together.” –Donald Hebb
Prevention is the best way to combat memory problems and mental decline, reduce risk of neurocognitive disorders, and stimulate production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that supports memory and learning by stimulating the growth of new neurons and preserving existing brain cells.
Diet, exercise, inflammation levels, gut health, lifestyle modifications and other aspects of our daily interaction with the environment have the potential to slow cognitive decline and alter our brain health and mental function. According to an analysis in the Lancet Journal of Neurology, more than half of Alzheimer’s cases worldwide can be attributed to diet and lifestyle risk factors.
—A Mediterranean diet is linked to lower levels of cognitive decline. You’ll naturally improve memory, brain function and mood with anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense brain foods particularly dark leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, asparagus, choline-rich pasutre-raised organic eggs, cold water fish, sardines, wild (not farmed) salmon, cocoa, walnuts, turmeric, ginger, garlic, coconut oil, green tea, and flavonoid-rich berries especially blueberries.
—Manage insulin and stabilize blood sugar. Hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes and diabetes impact brain health. Matter of fact, Alzheimer’s is known as type 3 diabetes! Studies have shown a direct correlation between high blood sugar, increased insulin levels and brain shrinkage, brain inflammation, and an increased risk of dementia. Carb-heavy and high sugar diets are correlated to increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, those with diabetes are twice as likely to succumb to dementia, and insulin-dependent diabetics have four times the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
—Approximately 60% of brain matter consists of fats that create all of the cell membranes in your body. Our brains depend upon an ample amount of healthy fats such as coconut oil, wild salmon, sardines, grass-fed beef, pastured butter, avocado, egg yolks, pecans, and walnuts. According to the Mayo Clinic, the risk for cognitive impairment or full-blown dementia is 42% lower in those who eat a diet higher in fat and lower in carbohydrates.
MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) can be found in coconut oil and MCT oil. Smaller amounts of MCTs are also found in butter from grass-fed cows and palm oil. MCT oils help to increase energy, fight infections, improve mood, support hormones, healthy brain function, and increase metabolism!
—Studies show that coffee can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, even in those who already have some form of mild dementia. Caffeine blocks inflammation in the brain, and prevents the formation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrulary tangles. Keto Coffee Recipe
—Nourish and fuel your brain with protein at the first meal of the day. Protein contains amino acids that provide the necessary building blocks for optimal brain function. Amino acids derived from protein are precursors to brain chemicals (neurotransmitters). Insufficient intake of protein is common in the elderly, those with depression and mood disorders.
—Avoid offending foods that are detrimental to the brain, damage and kill neurons, promote brain inflammation, shrinkage, brain ageing, cognitive decline, degeneration and reduce levels of BDNF. These include sugar, HFCS, wheat, gluten, soda, casein, artificial sweeteners, chronic alcohol use, rancid vegetable oils, trans fats, soy, factory-farmed meats and dairy, GMOs, glyphosate, MSG, food additives, dyes and processed foods.
—Hydrate! Anything that dehydrates the brain (insufficient water intake, extreme heat, EMF exposure, too much caffeine or alcohol) impairs memory, mood, performance, mental health, thinking and judgment. In fact, just a 2% loss of body fluid affects cognition and short-term memory. Invest in a water filter to remove brain-altering neurotoxic chemicals such as chlorine, fluoride and heavy metals from your drinking water.
—Spice it up for brain health! Turmeric may reduce plaque in the brain. Cinnamon, garlic and oregano increase blood flow to the brain. Rosemary, thyme and sage improve memory.
—Choose organic as much as possible. Pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, glyphosate and GMOs disrupt brain health, increase oxidative stress, risk of leaky gut, and neurological disorders, ADHD, autism, dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
—Time restricted feeding. Fast a minimum of 12 hours each night, including three hours prior to bedtime. Close up the kitchen and stop eating by 6:30 – 7:00pm. Wait until the next morning or lunch to eat. When your stomach is empty, a hormone called ghrelin is released in the memory centers of the brain. Ghrelin causes new connections to form between brain cells.
—The health of your gut has a profound impact on the health of your brain. Taking care of your gut is taking care of your brain. Digestive problems inhibit absorption of nutrients thereby causing nutrient deficiencies, hormone imbalances, anxiety, depression, mood disorders and brain dysfunction. The second brain is through the gut (gut-brain axis). The gut has more neurons and produces more neurotransmitters than the brain. Your brain is connected to your gut and vice versa.
Gut on fire equals a brain on fire! An inflamed gut is an inflamed, irritated brain, which increases risk of depression, bipolar, mood disorders and dementia. Matter of fact, Parkinson’s disease actually starts in the gut! Most common early symptoms of neurodegenerative disease, especially Parkinson’s is lack of motility and constipation. David Perlmutter, MD, Board-Certified Neurologist and author of Grain Brain says if his patients have brain problems, he always looks to the gut first. He believes no organ is more susceptible to the damaging effects of inflammation than the brain.
—The gut-brain axis involves intestinal microbiota that are important in normal healthy brain function and have a powerful impact on the brain. The delicate balance of your gut ecosystem determines how you look, think, feel and function. The flora in your gut helps maintain brain function and has a profound influence on risk of psychiatric and neurological disorders including anxiety, depression, bipolar, dementia, autism, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
—Test to assess and rule out gut dysbiosis. Underlying infections (bacterial, Candida, yeast, parasites, H.pylori, SIBO), altered microbiome and bacterial imbalances have a direct impact on healthy brain function.
—Stimulate the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the longest of all our cranial nerves and has a direct connection between our brain and our gut. This nerve provides vital information between the brain and the gut on how the body is digesting food. Those with low vagal tone are more sensitive to stress, more predisposed to disease, and tend to have challenges such as difficulty swallowing, increased heart rate, constipation and weak digestion. Naturally stimulate the vagus nerve with this breathing exercise. Other ways to naturally and effectively activate the vagus nerve is gargling, humming, pactice yoga, wash your face or splash your face with cold water, chiropractic care, acupuncture, hot/cold showers (5 sets of 20 second each; always end with cold).
—Get plenty of good sleep. The glymphatic system is activated during restful sleep sweeping away toxins from the brain. Sleep deprivation, interrupted sleep, sleep apnea and chronic insomnia is associated with brain shrinkage, memory loss, depression, cognitive decline, and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
—Hormone balance is critical to the well-being of your brain and cognitive function specifically insulin, cortisol, thyroid, estrogen, progesterone, DHEA and testosterone.
—Nothing is more damaging to the brain than stress, whether it’s stress from eating processed, inflammatory foods, infections, oxidative stress, GI dysfunction, hypertension, smoking, poor digestion, autoimmune disease, excess alcohol, food sensitivities, heavy metal toxicity, soul wounds, mental and emotional stress or sleep deprivation. These stressors cause brain cell death, cellular aging, impaired memory and learning. A study in the journal Neurology reported that women who were the most easily upset by stress and experienced excessive worry, jealousy or moodiness were two times more likely to experience brain dysfunction and develop Alzheimer’s disease. Stress was defined as anything stirring feelings of anxiety, irritability, nervousness, tension, fear or sleep disturbances. Turn off your stress genes and turn on your bliss genes modulate epigenetics. We are what we see, act, think, believe and feel.
—Protect against oxidative damage and reduce oxidative stress (an overproduction of free radicals that damage cells, mitochondria and DNA). Oxidative stress has been linked to environmental exposures that have also been implicated in Alzheimer’s and cognitive issues. The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative damage. Think of iron or metal oxidizing; this is what happens on a cellular level as a result of a number of things including physical, mental, environmental, electromagnetic and emotional stress, immune dysfunction, chronic low level inflammation, high toxic load, heavy metal toxicity, BPA, PCBs, glyphosate, underlying infections, mycotoxins and excessive exercising.
—Rule out heavy metal toxicity and increased ferritin and iron. High levels of lead, mercury, aluminum, arsenic and iron present no discernible symptoms in the early stages. Toxic metal body burdens are neurotoxic, inflammatory and oxidative causing adverse symptoms that negatively affect the brain, psycho, neuro, immune and endocrine systems.
—Mycotoxins and CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome) are associated with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and many other illnesses. Test for mold and mycotoxin load. If your home or workplace has been water damaged, test for mold with an ERMI test, which identifies 36 different mold species.
—Balance body chemistry through a functional blood chemistry analysis to detect your unique nutrient deficiencies, excesses, inflammatory markers, and any underlying health issues. For example: cholesterol is an essential building block that’s necessary for optimal brain function, a healthy nervous system and immune function.
Low HDL and a low total cholesterol <160 is associated with memory loss, dementia, depression, stroke and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
—Increased lab values including iron, ferritin, insulin, glucose, hemoglobin A1C, C-reactive protein (CRP), fibrinogen and homocysteine are red flags that cause brain inflammation, accelerate brain aging and increase risk of dementia and heart disease. Other markers for example, high serum calcium levels is associated with faster cognitive decline. Low selenium levels are associated with lower cognitive function.
—Minimize exposure to pesticides, GMOs, glyphosate, fluoride (a neurotoxin), obesogens, plastics and other harmful chemicals, and avoid flu shots, vaccines, non-stick Teflon cookware, antiperspirants, mercury amalgams that are known to disrupt neurological function, brain health, hormones and cognition whether one is exposed in utero, childhood or adulthood.
—Heavy drinking, alcoholism, OTC and pharmaceutical drug use and smoking destroy brain cells, diminish brain function, shrink the brain and damage neurons.
—Depression has been associated with an increased risk for dementia. Brain inflammation increases risk of memory loss, depression, anxiety and mental disorders. A common symptom of brain inflammation is brain fog and depression.
—Avoid pharmaceutical and OTC drugs. Anti-anxiety meds, antidepressants, benzos, sleep meds, antibiotics, cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, blood pressure drugs, PPIs (antacids), pain killers and anticholinergic drugs like Benadryl are just a few of the drugs that negatively affect brain function and memory, change brain plasticity and increase risk of dementia. Commonly prescribed drugs for heartburn set the stage for later degenerative diseases by interfering with digestion and absorption of protein, vitamins and minerals. Benzodiazepines (the most popular ones being Xanax, Ativan, Valium and Klonopin) used to treat anxiety and insomnia are associated with memory problems and a 51% increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease!
—Excess calcium increases risk of ischemic stroke risk, heart disease, arterial calcification and may have a direct neurotoxic effect on the brain causing brain lesions.
—Prevent, treat and reverse lifestyle diseases: diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity are not only risk factors for cardiovascular disease, but also increase the risk of dementia.
—Lose belly fat. The bigger the belly, the smaller the brain. Obesity is associated with cognitive decline, lifestyle diseases and neurodegenerative diseases.
—Oral health is crucial! Tooth loss, dental infections in the mouth, periodontal disease and bleeding gums increase inflammation, heart disease, and risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
—Support and optimize kidney and liver function. A liver that is congested, sluggish and burdened with toxins is unable to do its job filtering toxins causing memory problems and a higher risk of brain diseases. Viral, bacterial and Candida infections, OTC and Rx drugs, constipation, chronic alcohol consumption, fructose, and repressed emotions are just a few things that burden and compromise liver function.
—Spiritual connection and a positive mindset. The brain can change its function and structure (neuroplasticity) creating positive neural pathways in the brain in response to positive emotions, experiences and thoughts, a positive outlook, gratitude, regular prayer and meditation.
—Meditation is more than just a way to calm our thoughts and lower stress levels. Our brain processes more thoughts and feelings during meditation than when simply relaxing. Meditation has been shown to diminish age-related effects on gray matter in the brain and reduce the decline of cognitive function, improve memory, focus and creativity.
—Challenge your mind and train your brain. Continue learning to improve memory. As we age, not only do muscles atrophy without the appropriate stimulus placed upon them, the brain also atrophies. Play a musical instrument to engage both sides of the brain. Sing. Learn a new activity. Play games: chess, crossword puzzles, cribbage, word games.
As neuroscience expert and psychologist Dr. Rick Hanson says, “the mind and the brain are a unified system. As the brain changes, the mind changes. As the mind changes, the brain changes.” This means that you can use your conscious mind to change your thoughts and make lasting changes to your brain to bring about greater well-being, inner-peace and happiness in your life.
—Music has a profound impact on the brains of humans, animals and even on plant development. Listening to classical music specifically releases neurons in the brain that help the body to relax. Music stimulates the left and right hemispheres of the brain at same time and enhances spatial IQ by increasing short-term and long-term memory, and learning ability.
—Essential oils such as rosemary, vanilla, sandalwood, lavender, frankincense, peppermint, sage and cedarwood boost brain function, increase circulation within the brain, stimulate concentration and improve memory.
—Grounding. Take your shoes off and walk in the grass, the sand or the ocean. Spend more time in nature! It’s natural medicine for the body, mind and soul. Outdoor activities alleviate symptoms of dementia, stress, anxiety, depression, and improve memory, cognitive function, sleep and hormone balance.
—Sunshine. Daily sunlight exposure resets the natural circadian rhythm, a natural way to restore melatonin levels, prevent dementia, depression and get a natural dose of vitamin D!
—Unplug! Time for a digital detox from electromagnetic pollution. Avoid exposure to blue light at night! Less screen time minimizes EMF exposure that causes negative changes in energy levels, sleep, mood and reduces brain activity.
—Other therapies to consider for a healthy brain: chiropractic adjustments have a positive effect on the central nervous system. Acupuncture. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy.
—Restore neurotransmitter balance. Neurotransmitter imbalances have been linked to Parkinson’s, depression, anxiety, insomnia, addictions, ADHD and memory loss. Inflammation, poor blood sugar regulation, nutrient deficiencies and hormone imbalances are just a few factors than can sabotage neurotransmitter function.
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve memory, optimize brain function, increase IQ, build new brain cells, and protect your brain. Researchers have found that exercise improves memory, increases learning potential, and boosts the growth of new nerve cells.
—Nature walks improve brain health, reduce depression and lower stress. Walking outside for just 20 minutes a day releases BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which increases the growth of new cells in the hippocampus, and protects and repairs neurons in the brain helping to improve memory. Studies have found that walk-friendly communities result in better outcomes for physical health, cognition and improve memory.
Walking is one of the best ways to release BDNF, a protein that protects your brain from stress and cell death, improves the function of brain neurons, encourages new ones to grow, and repairs memory neurons in the brain helping to improve memory.
Higher BDNF = LESS dementia. When BDNF levels are high, learning is easier, memories are retained, and people feel happier. BDNF is also critical for healthy heart function and can even be thought of as a natural antidepressant.
Proven methods to reduce Alzheimer’s risk and raise BDNF: go for a walk, get some sunshine and take omega-3 DHA.
—Strength training improves memory. Studies report that just 20 minutes of weight training improves long-term memory.
—A study conducted at the University of Adelaide in Australia found that one 30-minute session of vigorous exercise makes the brain more plastics, improves memory, support mitochondrial health, and motor skill coordination.
—Practice yoga, Qi gong and Tai chi to improve cognition. Research published in The Journal of Psychiatric Practice suggests that yoga helps people manage bipolar, mood and anxiety disorders. Yoga improves cognition, memory and balance. Inability to balance on one leg for longer than 20 seconds was associated with early pathological changes in the brain and functional decline.
—Your brain needs downtime! Take a mental break every day (nature walks, meditation, deep breathing, gardening, a nap or just daydream). As little as 10, 20 or 30 minutes does wonders to increase productivity, performance, and motivation, improve memory, attention, creativity, and relieve stress, anxiety and depression.
Memory loss, mood disorders and cognitive dysfunction are linked to nutrient deficiencies. Clinical studies have shown that particular nutrients have a definitive link to cognition, mental disorders, learning disorders and brain function.
A deficiency in any single nutrient can alter brain function and lead to anxiety, depression and other mental disorders.
—Get an ample amount of omega-3 fatty acids: EPA, a potent anti-inflammatory and DHA, enhances communication between neurons and is a key component of all cell membranes found in abundance in the brain and retina. Even a slight omega-3 deficiency affects intelligence, attention, mood and behavior. EPA and DHA are used by the body to modulate inflammatory pathways. EFAs are essential for proper fetal development and healthy aging. Those with higher omega-3 levels have less inflammation, less brain shrinkage, neurodegeneration, body fat, healthier hearts, and a lower risk of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
—Vitamin D is essential for healthy brain function. Higher vitamin D status is associated with a 77% lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease! A study in the journal Neurology reported that those who were moderately deficient in vitamin D (<50 ng/ml) had a 53% increased risk of developing dementia, and the risk increased to 125% in those who were severely deficient (<20 ng/ml).
—B vitamins: folate, vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and thiamine are essential for healthy brain and nerve function. Folate deficiency can lead to neurological disorders, depression and cognitive impairment.
—Magnesium is essential to maintaining healthy brain function , plus hundreds of other functions for optimal health. Magnesium enhances brain plasticity and increases the number of synapses, thereby boosting the speed of brain transmissions by 160% and increasing memory recall by 56%. Magnesium deficiency is a contributing factor in dementia and Alzheimer’s. Magnesium also plays a critical role in happiness. Magnesium threonate powder or capsules and magnesium glycinate are two of my top magnesium picks for brain health.
—Curcumin, a compound from turmeric is a powerful antioxidant that lowers blood sugar and inflammation, both of which are involved in Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline. Curcumin protects the brain from lipid peroxidation, inflammation, free radicals, oxidative stress and neurodegenerative disorders.
—Sporebiotics and probiotics reduce brain inflammation, support proper brain development and function, have a positive influence on gut health, the microbiome, and can actually change brain chemistry. There is a close connection between healthy gut flora and a healthy brain. Certain strains of bacteria have the ability to stimulate the production of BDNF and normalize the gut-brain-microbiota axis.
—N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) is a powerful free radical scavenger and potent antioxidant that is necessary for glutathione production. Studies have shown that NAC reduces depressive and manic symptoms in those with bipolar disorder and is beneficial for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), ADHD, addictions, autism, schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
—Alpha Lipoic Acid (R-ALA) has been shown to reduce cognitive decline, neutralize free radicals and improve memory in those with Alzheimer’s disease.
—Acetyl-L-Carnitine supports energy function in the brain, helps improve memory, mood, cognition, learning, and reduces oxidative stress.
—Coenzyme Q10 levels are inversely associated with risk of dementia. Studies have found that CoQ10 is helpful in preventing and treating neurodegenerative conditions related to environmental toxins.
—Phosphatidylserine minimizes brain aging, helps maintain memory function, and prevents cognitive decline and early onset dementia.
—Other powerhouse nutrients that are helpful for healthy brain function: resveratrol, astaxanthin, ginkgo biloba, neuperzine, vitamin E, vitamin K2, adaptogens (ashwagandha, rhodiola, ginseng, holy basil), melatonin, DHEA, selenium, berberine, choline, taurine and other amino acids.