Sunday, September 04, 2005

Supplements for Your Brain - Keep Your Brain Young!

There are five parts to an exemplary life
1. a personal relationship with God
2. outstanding mastery of your feelings
3. top-notch physical health
4. loving and supportive relationships and
5. positive thinking.

As you know, your brain plays a major role in each of these areas.

In this piece, I will share with you the latest and greatest ways to optimize your brain:
to combat anxiety
to stave off Alzheimers
to improve your overall mood
to relieve your depression
to keep your brain healthy and young
to boost your sex drive
to save your memory and much, much more.

Let me go over some of the main ideas to keep in mind when discussing brain enhancing supplements.

First, the approach to providing proper nutrients to the human brain is not a matter of swallowing a large dose of one nutrient, rather it depends upon our ability to combine a healthy lifestyle with the right mixture of nutrients and in the proper dosages. The brain requires a number of supplements in small dosages as opposed to one supplement in a large dose.

Second, each nutrient we talk about today has an ideal dosage. If you take too much, it may lead to a negative effect.

You want to be cautious when taking two or more supplements together because their effects might be additive and build upon one another. For instance, caffeine has a cumulative effect when added to other nutrients that are stimulants and could result in anxiety or irritability.

Third, always start with a low dose and gradually increase it over time, days or weeks. Do not assume that you want to match the dosages being given in studies as researchers are looking at high dosages to cause a measurable response. By starting low and building slowly, you can avert potential side effects and discover your ideal dose.

Fourth, the time of day at which you take any medication or supplement is critical. A new branch of medicine, chronotherapy, is based upon the principle that our body functioning is rhythmic and it is important to take these rhythms into account when looking at any number of areas: blood pressure, sleep, mental alertness, and more. Most of the supplements we?ll be discussing help you to be alert and improve your mood and are best taken in the morning.

Fifth, some natural supplements have not been adequately tested. In 1994, the United States Congress eased the dietary supplement laws allowing a wide variety of nutrients and herbal extracts onto the market. Do not assume that just because it is available on the shelf that it is effective or safe.

Finally, always consult your doctor before starting any regimen that includes supplements. Your general doctor should have access to a database, such as epocrates, that contains interaction effects between any prescription medications you may be taking and natural supplements.

Try Aspirin Therapy

Another step you can take is taking 162 mg of aspirin each day if you are over forty years of age to keep your arteries from getting inflamed and your blood from clotting. The latest research on aspirin use shows a decrease in the number of strokes, and reduced dementia and Alzheimers. It helps the body create more blood vessels. And it helps blood and oxygen get to the brain more easily. It also helps keep your arteries healthy. It?s recommended that you drink � glass of water before and after taking the aspirin to reduce wear and tear on the stomach lining.

Natural supplements can help you fight off the effects of aging, anxiety, depression, memory loss and more. Here are the latest recommendations along with dosages, frequencies and known side effects.

Vitamin E to Stave Off Alzheimers

Vitamin E has been shown in some studies to help fight off Alzheimers. In one study, people who ate more than 23 IU (international units) of vitamin E had a 43% reduction in their risk of Alzheimers. In addition, ask your doctor about taking 400 international units (IU) to 1,000 IU of vitamin E daily for extra brain protection.

Now there is an elaborate link between the brain and the body. Chemical messengers that help the brain cells ?talk? to one another are called neurotransmitters. They are like the postal service of the brain. They carry messages between brain cells.

While we are on the topic of Alzheimers, I want to point out that your risk of Alzheimers increases by 30% for each hour of TV that you watch daily. While watching TV doesn?t cause Alzheimers, it does represent an inactive or sedentary lifestyle which contributes to the disease. Staying mentally and physically active will enhance the health of your brain as well as help prevent age-related diseases.

Get Your Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Better Health

Ever since 1945, the rates of depression have increased worldwide and the age of onset is moving downward ? younger people are affected by it. This was noted by Dr. Gerald Klerman who found that each generation of individuals born since WWII appears to have a higher incidence and earlier age of onset of major depression and bipolar disorder. There are many theories for this. However, one of them points to the increase in our diets of sources of omega-6 oils (e.g. from corn and soy) and a decrease in Omega-3 fats. (This has not been proven however).

Rates of depression have been found to be much lower in countries that eat a great deal of fish. In fact, the relationship is so strong, the rates of depression can actually be predicted based on per capita fish consumption!

Dr. Andrew Stoll (author of the Omega Connection) published a double-blind placebo study looking at the effects of Omega 3 fats with bipolar patients (supplementing their current meds). There were 2 groups. 1 group received a placebo (or sugar pill with no physiological effect). 1 group received 9 grams of Omega 3 fatty acids daily. In less than 9 months, the omega 3 group experienced dramatic improvement. The control group relapsed or failed to improve.

Why? When a neurotransmitter binds to a receptor (in the brain) the receptor sets in motion within the cell a series of chemical processes known as signal transduction, amplifying the original signal. Mood stabilizers inhibit or dampen that amplification. It?s similar to building a dam across a raging river which quiets the downstream waters.

One of the most studied nutrient, is the Omega-3 fatty acids. About 60% of the brain is made up of fats (lipids) that make up the lining of every brain cell. Omega-3s are required by the brain to an extraordinary degree. They cannot be produced by our bodies but must be ingested via diet or pills. They are found in large, fatty, cold water fish, many types of nuts such as walnuts, flaxseed oil, olive oil, and canola oil.

Omega 3s help turn down the ?volume? of communications between brain cells (similar to the action of a mood stabilizer). Documented benefits of Omega-3 oils include improved mood, clearer thinking, more serenity, better concentration and focus, and better vision. While still under exploration, it is believed that omega 3s can help combat normal age related deterioration of the brain, depression, anxiety, heart disease, and addictions. It?s been linked to pain relief, cancer prevention, lower blood pressure, and reduced asthma risk.

Many Americans only get as little as 200 mg per day of fish oils while Eskimos or Japanese people go as high as 10,000 mg per day due to their fish intake. The recommended daily dose is 2 to 5 g daily of a combination of the 2 key fatty acids in Omega 3s: EPA and DHA. Take 1 to 2 g with each meal. Little extra benefit has been found at dosages over 5 grams per day. Do not worry too much about the particular break down or combination of amounts of EPA vs. that of DHA. Any combination of the two is fine. Future research may indicate that DHA is more beneficial, but we have not found that out yet, and supplements that contain DHA, by itself, tend to be more expensive.

Now, some people do not like the fishy aftertaste you get from the fish oil supplements, so they take flaxseed oil instead. However, there is an important difference between fish oil and flaxseed oil. Fish oil contains the preformed omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Flaxseed oil, on the other hand, has ALA, or alpha linolenic acid, which is the precursor to omega 3 fatty acids that are in fish. Our bodies can convert ALA to EPA and DHA but the amount converted is minimal. So while flaxseed oil is good for you and thought to be heart healthy, it is not a true substitute for fish oils.

The only 2 ways to bump up your daily fish oil intake is to eat fish or take fish oil supplements. As fish oil appears to substantially reduce the levels of triglycerides (dangerous blood fats) in your blood as well as get the necessary amounts of EPA and DHA. Fish oil at a daily dose of 2 to 5 grams has been shown to reduce triglyceride levels by 20 to 50%. So research suggests that fish oil is helpful to your heart as well as your brain, cutting your risk of heart disease. I cannot say enough about fish oil. It has been related to a lower the heart rate, fights arterial inflammation, reduce blood clot formation, and slows the buildup of plaque in arteries which leads to blockages, heart attacks, and strokes.

I personally take 4,000 mg per day of fish oil supplements and 2,000 mg per day of flaxseed oil.
One word of caution is that fish oil supplements of more than 3 g per day can thin the blood. When combined with blood thinners such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, Vitamin E, ginkgo, garlic, phosphatidylserine (or PS), and prescription blood thinners, it could increase the risk of too much bleeding.

Be careful where you get your fish oil supplements. Make sure they screen out the mercury, a known neurotoxin, which means it kills brain cells. When eating fish, you may want to be aware of which fish are more likely to contain high levels of mercury. You can get the latest information on healthy fish at

A difference should be noticeable after approximately 3 weeks.

Recommended daily dose: 3 to 4 grams daily. Take an antioxidant with your fish oil to clean up any left over free radicals. Take 1 gram with each meal. Fish oils are one of the most critical components of optimizing your brain.

Stay tuned for more brain supplements to come as well as new ways to keep your brain healthy and young!


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