Supplements that Improve Memory & Help You Stay Sharp
If you’re like most of my patients, you’re concerned about your memory. As the years go by, you’ve probably noticed small – but disturbing – changes: forgetting a good friend’s name, walking into a room and then wondering why, telling a story to a friend who’s already heard it several times. For many people, these experiences are frightening reminders that we are all vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease and similar types of dementia.
Although research is ongoing, there is no cure for these ailments. There is also no standardized test that can determine whether an individual’s memory problems are being caused by Alzheimer’s or another issue, such as a nutrient deficiency. But we do know that taking certain steps before it’s too late can counteract the damage caused by aging, drugs, and environmental toxins – and help keep your brain functioning at optimal levels. Here are four easy ways to keep your brain healthy and strong and your memory intact.
- If you’re not already taking an omega-3 (essential fatty acids) supplement, definitely add one to your daily regimen.
- Start supplementing with curcumin, which has repeatedly been shown to enhance memory.
- Maintain brain health with targeted nutrients, such as the antioxidant Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) that protects neurons from harmful free radicals, and supplements that are proving to support healthy mental functions.
- Don’t overlook the benefits of detoxification to rid your body of memory-damaging heavy metals and other toxins.
Good Fats (Omega-3) mean Better Memories
Many people don’t realize how important getting the right fats is to brain health. The truth is: most of the brain is made up of fat, and the types of fat you consume have a profound influence on how well your brain works. When you eat foods like French fries, potato chips, margarine, and anything made with bad fats (known as partially hydrogenated oils), your brain’s chemical messengers (known as neurotransmitters) can’t do their jobs.
Consume too many of those bad fats, and you might find that those inefficient neurotransmitters are making you forget appointments, struggle with depression, or work harder than you should have to master a new skill.
This is why I recommend my patients take 3 grams (3,000 milligrams) of omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) each day from a product containing about twice as much DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), the two primary ingredients for health. The importance of getting the right ratio of DHA to EPA is the reason that I formulated my own omega-3 product. It also enabled me to review the omega-3 processing so that I’m sure that it is free of toxins and heavy metals that contaminate so much seafood these days.
Be aware that omega-3 EFAs thin the blood to some extent. So, if you take blood thinners (Plavix, Coumadin, warfarin), talk with your physician or pharmacist about adding omega-3 EFAs to your daily regimen.
During the past decade, thousands of researchers all over the world have focused on curcumin, a compound found in the spice turmeric. Now we are seeing the results of hundreds of clinical trials showing the benefits of curcumin, including:
- Reduced inflammation
- Lowered cholesterol levels
- Stimulated circulation
- Improved digestion
- Reduced risk of developing certain cancers
- Providing five to eight times the antioxidant punch of vitamins C and E
In addition, a number of studies have examined curcumin’s effect on memory and learning, and researchers found that the nutrient can protect the brain from changes that occur as we age.
I recommend that all of my patients take 500 mg of curcumin one to three times each day. Many of them report back, telling me how excited they are to discover that their arthritis, diabetes, allergies, or asthma symptoms have improved (meaning less medication) along with their memory. Not many drugs perform multiple duties like that – and do it without side effects. That’s why I created my own curcumin product that’s eight times more absorbable than the typical curcumin on the market.
Again, be aware that curcumin thins the blood. So, if you’re taking medication such as warfarin (Coumadin), discuss curcumin supplements with your physician or pharmacist first.
Protect Your Brain with C0Q10
Rogue molecules known as free radicals damage cells throughout the body, including the brain. But simply taking nutrients known as antioxidants can protect your cells. You can see the process of oxidation at work when you cut an apple open. Once exposed to oxygen, the white interior of the apple soon turns brown. But applying antioxidant-rich lemon or pineapple juice to the apple after cutting interferes with that process and protects the apple from oxygen’s potentially damaging effects.
You can do the same thing in your body with antioxidant supplements, such as Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). A number of studies have shown that supplementing with CoQ10 revs up brain energy production and simultaneously prevents damage by free radicals.
Although your body produces its own CoQ10, that production declines with age. So I recommend at least 200 mg daily of supplemental CoQ10 to all of my patients over the age of 40. CoQ10 is especially important for anyone taking statins to control cholesterol. As I’ve written before, statins can contribute significantly to memory loss.
Make the Most of Your Mitochondria
Mitochondria are the tiny energy factories that fuel your body and your brain. In order for them to work properly, they need an abundant supply of CoQ10, mentioned above, along with plenty of PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone).
A relatively new nutrient, PQQ is shaping up as a powerhouse supplement that enhances the growth of new mitochondria. Prior to this discovery, the only way to boost the number of mitochondria in the body was with intensive exercise or ongoing calorie restriction, both of which are difficult to sustain in real life. PQQ provides a practical way to keep mitochondria functional, and actually helps your cells create additional mitochondria.
PS: Natural Brain Food
Healthy brains contain plenty of a substance known as phosphatidylserine (PS), one of the main ingredients in cell membranes. PS allows these cells to “talk” to one another, something that is vitally important for a fully functioning brain.
Hundreds of studies vouch for PS’s ability to enhance memory. Furthermore, PS also reduces the production of the stress hormone cortisol, one of the most notorious memory thieves. So PS battles both memory difficulties and the unwelcome side effects of stress.
Go Organic, Exercise, & Get Some Sleep
We are living with more environmental chemicals than ever before. Skyrocketing numbers of people being diagnosed with autoimmune disorders and related ailments provide plenty of evidence that these toxins are affecting our health and mental functions. You probably will not be surprised to hear that some of these toxins are famous for their ability to damage the brain, so ridding yourself of these substances is extremely important.
Here are some simple steps you can take right now to reduce your toxic load:
- Choose organic foods and beverages whenever possible.
- Drink plenty of fresh, pure water each day.
- Spend some time in a Far Infrared or regular sauna to encourage toxin removal through sweating.
- Get plenty of deep, restful sleep, since that’s when our bodies work hardest at detoxing.
- Take liver-supportive supplements, such as milk thistle.
- Engage in 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily, to protect the brain against deterioration and depression, and support overall health.
Being proactive about protecting your memory and brain health is not that difficult and the pay-off is huge. Plus, making the changes I’ve outlined here can improve other aspects of your health, too. That’s why the best time to begin your brain and memory-enhancing program is right now!
Last Updated: August 16, 2018
Originally Published: December 1, 2013