10 Natural Ways to Boost Brain Function and Memory

The human brain controls all functions of the human body. With blazing speed, it estimates body functions and its environment and serves to maintain balance.

The brain is continuously regulating everyday processes such as blood flow throughout the body, our breathing, hormonal balance, and managing our thoughts. It’s operational 24/7.

Age, unhealthy lifestyle choices, poor diets, negative thought patterns, and a toxic environment all negatively affect our brain.

While there are medications that attempt to address the symptoms of poor brain function such as reduced memory, there are natural alternatives that support brain health.

Here are 10 natural ways to improve brain function and memory:

1. Meditate

Stress and anxiety increase the size of the amygdala which is the area of the brain responsible for the fear response. An increase in the size of the amygdala and the stronger its connections with other regions of the brain responsible for the perception and the regulation of emotion, causes one to become even more anxious,  [1] and more susceptible to psychological disorders. Ongoing meditation is excellent for managing stress and anxiety, allowing your brain to feel more at ease even in seemingly stressful situations and to focus better.

According to a study on mindful neuropsychology released in the L’Encéphale, Paris; mindfulness principles, such as meditation, help stabilize attention and improve cognitive flexibility. [2]

2. Avocado

Avocados aid in absorbing antioxidant nutrients, lowering cholesterol levels, and increasing blood flow to the brain. Avocados contain monounsaturated fats which protect the brain. Avocados are also an excellent source of vitamins C, E, K, and B-6, as well as riboflavin, niacin, folate and pantothenic acid, practically all of the essential vitamins. Avocados are also rich in magnesium, and potassium. They also provide lutein and beta-carotene. Avocados are rich in healthy fats that enhance absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, boost immune function while also supporting the breakdown of carbohydrates, which helps to keep sugar levels in the blood stable.

3. Broccoli

Broccoli is rich in nutrients, especially vitamin C, beta-carotene, iron, chromium, B vitamins, calcium, and vitamin K. It is also a great source of dietary fiber, vitamin E, manganese, phosphorus, choline, potassium, and copper. All these nutrients keep the blood flowing well, removes harmful metals, and protects against free radicals that are damaging to the brain. [4]

4. Coconut Oil

Medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s) found in coconut oil, help support the brain cell membranes, aiding cognitive ability. MCT’s have been shown to improve cognition and preserve brain function during hypoglycemia.  [3]

5. Physical Exercise

Physical exercise increases oxygen flow to the brain and decreases the risk of memory loss due to the increase in BDNF, a brain growth factor that supports brain cell health. Exercise also promotes new neuronal connections and boosts brain cell growth and protection to maintain healthy brain functioning.

6. Adequate Sleep 

Sleep is critical to memory and learning. Memory consolidation occurs during the deepest stages of sleep. Sufficient sleep is crucial to your ability to function at your peak on a daily basis.

In a study led by Julia Ladenbauer from the Department of Neurology at the University of Greifswald in Northern Germany, it was concluded that sleep is a promising treatment to counteract memory decline. Furthermore, they found that sleep disruption was involved in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. [5]

7. Dark Chocolate 

Dark chocolate contains flavanol, an antioxidant that promotes blood vessel health which improves memory and brain function.

8. Red Wine

Red wine is rich Resveratrol, an antioxidant which also boosts brain blood flow and reduces the decline of brain function that occurs with aging [6], and improves memory [7].

9. Brain Fitness

Memory games are a great exercise for your brain similar to physical activity for keeping muscles in optimal shape. Brain exercises can strengthen brain function and improve cognitive function. Games such as crosswords, scrabble, chess or Sudoku help sharpen your mind and exercise your brain.

10. Brain Supplements

Ginko Biloba is a herbal supplement derived from the Ginkgo biloba tree which is known to improve focus and memory and increase blood flow to the brain. This herbal supplement has been used for decades to support brain function [8, 9].

Omega 3 fatty acids have been linked with many benefits to health, including improved brain function, [10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15] because they play a vital role in supporting the structure and function of your brain.

You may supplement your diet with walnuts, chia or flax seeds which are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. If you do not consume sufficient amounts of these foods, I recommend taking a supplement of 1000 milligrams per day of a combination of DHA and EPA to promote brain health.

Summary:

You can start to improve brain function and memory by changing some lifestyle habits and replacing them with a healthier lifestyle. Eat a healthy diet and choose foods that are beneficial to brain health, exercise both your body and mind, manage stress, practice mindfulness, get sufficient sleep and supplement your brain when needed for optimal and long-lasting brain function.

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References

[1] Qin, Shaozheng et al. Amygdala Subregional Structure and Intrinsic Functional Connectivity Predicts Individual Differences in Anxiety During Early Childhood. Biological Psychiatry, Volume 75, Issue 11, 892 – 900

[2] Bulzacka E, Lavault S, Pelissolo A, Bagnis Isnard C: Mindful neuropsychology: Mindfulness-based cognitive remediation. 2017 May 5. pii: S0013-7006(17)30090-8.

[3] Page KA, Williamson A, Yu N, et al. Medium-Chain Fatty Acids Improve Cognitive Function in Intensively Treated Type 1 Diabetic Patients and Support In Vitro Synaptic Transmission During Acute Hypoglycemia. Diabetes. 2009;58(5):1237-1244. doi:10.2337/db08-1557.

[4] Tarozzi A, Angeloni C, Malaguti M, Morroni F, Hrelia S, Hrelia P (2013). “Sulforaphane as a potential protective phytochemical against neurodegenerative diseases.” Oxid Med Cell Longev (Review). 2013:

[5] Ladenbauer J, Ladenbauer J4, Külzow N, de Boor R, Avramova E, Grittner U, Flöel A: Promoting Sleep Oscillations and Their Functional Coupling by Transcranial Stimulation Enhances Memory Consolidation in Mild Cognitive Impairment. 2017 Jul 26;37(30):7111-7124.

[6] Dias GP, Cocks G, do Nascimento Bevilaqua MC, Nardi AE, Thuret S. Resveratrol: A Potential Hippocampal Plasticity Enhancer. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016; 2016:9651236.

[7] Witte AV, Kerti L, Margulies DS, Flöel A. Effects of resveratrol on memory performance, hippocampal functional connectivity, and glucose metabolism in healthy older adults. J Neurosci. 2014 Jun 4; 34(23):7862-70.

[8] Kaschel R. Specific memory effects of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 in middle-aged healthy volunteers. Phytomedicine. 2011 Nov 15;18(14):1202-7. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2011.06.021. Epub 2011 Jul 30.

[9] Mashayekh A, Pham DL, Yousem DM, Dizon M, Barker PB, Lin DD. Effects of Ginkgo biloba on cerebral blood flow assessed by quantitative MR perfusion imaging: a pilot study. Neuroradiology. 2011 Mar;53(3):185-91. doi: 10.1007/s00234-010-0790-6.

[10] Lee LK, Shahar S, Chin AV, Yusoff NA. Docosahexaenoic acid-concentrated fish oil supplementation in subjects with mild cognitive impairment (MCI): a 12-month randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013 Feb; 225(3):605-12.

[11] Thomas J, Thomas CJ, Radcliffe J, Itsiopoulos C. Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Early Prevention of Inflammatory Neurodegenerative Disease: A Focus on Alzheimer’s Disease. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:172801. doi: 10.1155/2015/172801.

[12] Zhang XW, Hou WS, Li M, Tang ZY. Omega-3 fatty acids and risk of cognitive decline in the elderly: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Aging Clin Exp Res. 2016 Feb;28(1):165-6. doi: 10.1007/s40520-015-0381-9.

[13]  Witte AV, Kerti L, Hermannstädter HM, Fiebach JB, Schreiber SJ, Schuchardt JP, Hahn A, Flöel A. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids improve brain function and structure in older adults. Cereb Cortex. 2014 Nov; 24(11):3059-68.

[14] Molfino A, Gioia G, Rossi Fanelli F, Muscaritoli M. The role for dietary omega-3 fatty acids supplementation in older adults. Nutrients. 2014 Oct 3;6(10):4058-73. doi: 10.3390/nu6104058.

[15] Dyall SC. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: a review of the independent and shared effects of EPA, DPA, and DHA. Front Aging Neurosci. 2015 Apr 21;7:52. doi: 10.3389fnagi.2015.00052.

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