Over the past decade there has been a surge of interest in brain health, most likely from the surge of brain related conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and autism. Many more patients are aware of their cognitive health and wanting to optimize their brain function, mostly in regards to memory and focus, and now recently in anti-aging.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2019, there were 55.2 million patients with dementia in the world, and this is estimated to increase to 78 million by 2030.

This increase in awareness of cognitive health has boosted the cognitive supplement market and which is predicted to grow by 10 percent between 2021 and 2030. One fourth of all adults over age 50 take brain health supplements. Many of us have aging parents who have been living with some form of major cognitive decline. Overall there is a dramatic increase in people wanting to stay focused, have optimal memory and recall and be more social in their later years.

Gut-brain connection

The latest hot topic is the realization that the health of our gut has a an affect the brain. When we are viewing health from a holistic view where every part affect the other parts, this is no surprise. There was a landmark 12 week study with Alzheimer’s patients showing a positive response in cognition, after taking a multi-strain probiotic daily. Studies with autism, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis patients are now revealing similar results. This is showing us that our biochemistry, and how we create and maintain our body, makes a big difference in our brain health.

Probiotics help our gut lining to remain healthy and that helps keep our blood cleaner. Poor microbiome can lead to a porous gut lining that allows toxins and bacteria to enter the blood. Cleaner blood means less toxins, less toxins means less inflammation in the brain. Having a strong gut lining also keeps toxins from breaking down the blood-brain barrier, which is one of the main ways toxins enter the brain in higher amounts, again causing inflammation, irritation, which causes the brain to form plaques to protect or wall of these offending factors. If the gut health is so vital to the brain health, we should really be aware of all the factors that cause dysbiosis including diet, toxins, stress just to name a few. For information on testing your microbiome, please contact the office.

Research shows that good bacteria in the bowels affect a few key things that help our brains:

  • Regulation of the hormones of appetite, leptin and ghrelin
  • Serotonin production increase (‘the happy hormone’)
  • GABA receptor increase, supporting calmness, parasympathetic / vagus nerve activity
  • Positively affects the Immune system
  • Modulation of neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, acetylcholine and histamine

Supplementation and diet

Some supplements your brain will love. Most brain supplements are …

  • Antioxidant, protective to the brain cells from oxidative processes such as lipid peroxidation
  • Supportive brain cell growth, by stimulating neural growth factor
  • Providing healthy fats, or phospholipids, essential for membrane integrity and fluidity
  • Increasing blood flow to capillaries

This is by no means a complete list, but these are certainly my favorites to use personally, with patients, family, and friends.

DHA. DHA makes up 90% of the n-3-PUFA’s in the brain and highest in the grey matter. DHA is vital in brain healing from oxidative stress. DHA has a regulatory action on inflammation by decreasing NFkB, a potent inflammatory agent. DHA as a supplement in fish oil, is an omega 3 fatty acid which is great. However, some experts claim it does not cross the blood brain barrier much if at all. If you EAT the DHA in foods, from such things as seafood, and caviar, it is reconfigured by the liver as LPC-DHA and then can be transported across the blood brain barrier easily. Interesting!

Plasmalogens. These are vital phospholipids that support the health of our cell membranes, most abundant in the brain and the heart. The brain uses much of our total oxygen, 20%! Because of this there is more oxidative stress. Because of this we need potent antioxidants to control inflammation in the brain. According to the Townsend Letter, Plasmalogen is known to decrease with age. The blood plasmalogen levels in older individuals (average age, 65.5 years) are reported to be approximately 40% lower compared to the levels in young people (average age, 23.5 years). Furthermore, it has been reported that patients with Alzheimer’s-type dementia have lower blood plasmalogen levels than healthy subjects, especially in the type of plasmalogen that is bound to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In addition, plasmalogen levels are correlated with the severity of dementia symptoms. Patients with severe symptoms of dementia were shown to have lower plasmalogen levels in the brain than those with mild symptoms. Studies have shown taking oral scallop-derived plamalogen, improved cognitive function significantly. One product of interest is by Daiwa, called Brain Health.

Lions Mane Mushroom. This one is amazing, clinical results are very good in my office. Lions Mane mushroom’s phyto-constituents, namely hericenones and erinacines stimulate Neural Growth Factor which speeds up growth and repair of neurons.

Curcuminoids. BCM-95 is a patented highly absorbable (7 times more absorbable than the curcumin/fat/piperine), enhanced combination of curcuminoids. Curcuminoids when absorbed into the blood stream are anti-cancer, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory to the body and brain. They have been studied and shown to directly bind to and reduce beta-amyloid plaque by > 3%. They reduce NF-kB, a potent agent of inflammation. Curcuminoids also help regenerate neurons, grow new ones, and even refresh low performing neurons. One mode of action for this is that the increase of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) which helps this process directly.

Gingko and Scutellarin. Gingko biloba is an antioxidant and improves cerebral blood flow. There is more research on this herb than any other. My own mother was in a mental decline study at the University of Virginia and after 10 years, her memory improved, which was not what was expected! She was religiously taking gingko biloba daily. Then there is Scutellarin. Scutellarin is a flavone, a type of phenol compound found in the Asian “barbed skullcap”. It is another potent stimulator of blood circulation and an antioxidant.

Other diet hacks, see Top 10 Brain Foods.

Hope this helps you and your brain or the brain of one you love!