The most precious thing we own is not actually our family photo album, but the memories associated with it. Without these memories, the album would just be a collection of pieces of paper with people on them. It's the experiences and memories we have built over the years that make us who we are, and shape the way we think, we love, and we see the world. But What if one day those memories get erased? And most importantly, you start to see the people you love the most as a complete strangers.
"The number of Americans living with Alzheimer's is growing — and growing fast. An estimated 5.8 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer's. This number is projected to be nearly 14 million by 2050"
For many years, it was believed that nerve cells are incapable of regeneration, and that genetics are responsible for determining our limits. This would mean that when we’re born, we would have all the neurons that we would have throughout our entire lives. That we must take good care of them, because if they die, they don’t come back.
The Brain PotentialToday we know that the brain actually has the ability to change and adapt as a result of experience. This adaptability is referred to as “neuroplasticity”. Therefore, it’s important and empowering to know that our surrounding environment provides both opportunities and limitations for expanding our potential. Our learning and memory capabilities are not limited to a young brain. Let’s look at this in action. London taxi drivers who learn all the streets in the city develop a larger hippocampus, an area of the brain that plays an important role in the consolidation of learning from short-term memory to long-term memory. So how can we make sure we keep our memories and continue to make new ones while we unlock our brain’s full potential?
1. The Neurotransmitter For MemoryCholine is an essential nutrient and is a building block of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter associated with memory. Foods that are naturally high in choline include whole eggs, meats and fish. Studies suggest that consuming foods or supplements rich in choline may elevate levels of acetylcholine in the brain. But choline isn’t the only thing you need to make sure you have enough of... A few studies done at the University of California in 1960 found that mice that lived in larger spaces with various things to explore were better at learning, memory, and solving problems than mice that were raised in the standard lab cages. When the brains of the mice that lived in larger spaces were studied, they found that the enzyme cholinesterase, which destroys the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, was increased. It was later found that the offspring of these mice were better learners than their parents, and that their brains contained more cholinesterase. Their brains were also measurably larger, with a considerable thickening of the cortex, which is considered to be the part mainly responsible for complex behavior, memory, learning and intelligence. The other mice in smaller enclosures showed high levels of acetycholine but low levels of the enzyme cholinesterase. This is because the buildup of acetycholine can cause a jam in the system if there is no “off” button. Too much acetycholine with no enzyme to break it down is shown to lead to high levels of cortisol. Many other experiments done on mice show the same findings when it comes to cholinesterase. The increase of cholinesterase by enriched living serves to protect tissues against a vast accumulation of acetylcholine in the body, which affects the nerve cells by exitotoxicity, or deterioration of the brain neurons. How do we make sure we increase Acetycholine as well as the enzyme cholinesterase? This brings us to the next part of the puzzle...An amino acid can help.
2. The Uber Of FatsL-Carnitine is derived from an amino acid and is found in nearly all cells of the body. L-Carnitine has been found to increase the activity of AChE, the enzyme that breaks down acetycholine in the hippocampus. That’s because neurons require a high level of active acetate in the form of acetyl CoA for acetytocholine synthesis. This process is stimulated by carnitine in the brain because carnitine helps to transport Acetyl CoA to the cytoplasm for acetycholine synthesis. Therefore an increase in the availability of acetycholine after L-carnitine supplementation might be responsible for the increase in the activity of AChE. When it comes to food sources, carnitine exists primarily in animal products. Small amounts are synthesized in the liver and kidneys. More carnitine is needed if you have a diet high in polyunsaturated fats (like nuts, grains, and seeds), are vegan (avoiding animal products), or have a DNA variant for the protein OCT2 (responsible to transfer carnitine into the cells). This is generally linked to the gene SLC22A5. If there are any variants, then you might have difficulty in delivering fats. Also, if you have a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s then you might look into carnitine. That’s because carnitine is the nutrient that shuttles long chain fatty acids from the blood into the mitochondria, so that the fatty acids can be used as energy. [bctt tweet="Low levels of carnitine in the cells can accumulate lipid peroxidation, which happens when the fats oxidize in the body and accumulate. This creates obesity, diabetes, and many related chronic diseases." username=""] People with Alzeihmer’s are shown to have low levels of carnitine and high levels of oxidation in the brain. One animal study showed that Acetyl-Carnitine, in comparison with its cousin l-carnitine, decreased dangerous oxidation in the brain. Another animal study revealed Aectyl-Carnitine increases synaptic neurotransmission (or how quickly your brain can process information) and improved learning and memory capacity.
3. Keep Iron under controlThere's a saying: Iron Kills Massive Stars. There’s no killing happening here per se, but heavy metals do accumulate as a star ages, and over time the core becomes massive that it can no longer sustain itself and the star falls in on itself. Sounds like a tragic Hollywood story? Well, this can also happen to the rest of us not-so-famous humans. One of the major lines of aging research, going back to the early 2000’s, was based on the accumulation of a brown material in the tissues known as "age-spots." The technical name for this material is "lipofuscin," meaning "fatty brown stuff." Yes, those "age-spots" spots that start to show on the back of your hands and on your forehead. For everyone of those spots, there's thousands underneath the skin. Research has shown that the regulation of iron is a central function of the immune system. This seems to have evolved because iron is a basic requirement for the survival and growth of our cells, in fact the cells of all types, including bacteria, parasites, and cancer. Around the 1950’s there was a pandemic of anemia in the country. The government decided that iron needed to be added into flour to alleviate the increase of anemia. Today iron has been added in almost everything that we eat. Still, it is very common to hear about someone getting a blood test back showing they are anemic. Believe it or not, it is actually possible to be iron deficient and at the same time have iron accumulation. That’s because most of the iron in our food is inorganic as ferrous sulfate and very reactive, meaning it destroys other vitamins. Have you seen the household experiments done in a regular box of cereal? You blend the cereal with water, put it in a plastic bag, let is sit, and hours later you can see the sediments of ferrous sulfate iron. Especially if you use a magnet you can move it around the bag -- Gross, but a true awaking. We consumed this as kids on a daily basis, and the aisles of cereal at a supermarket remain longer than the aisles of nutrient-dense food. [bctt tweet="An excess of iron, by destroying vitamin E and oxidizing the unsaturated fats in red blood cells, can contribute to hemolytic anemia, in which red cells are so fragile that they break down too fast. In aging, red cells break down faster, and are usually produced more slowly, increasing the tendency to become anemic, but additional iron tends to be more dangerous for older people” –Ray Peat MD" username=""] Iron is a potentially toxic heavy metal. In excess, it can cause cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses. Iron accumulation is found in the brain of Alzeihmer’s patients. In addition, having too much iron can block our absorption of copper, and too little copper makes us store too much iron. Most minerals work in synergy. With aging, our tissues lose copper as they store excess iron. Because of those changes, excess iron destroys vitamin E, and vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, and oxidation is the cause of premature aging. Oysters and shrimp both contain high levels of copper, and by preventing copper deficiency we can reduce excess storage of iron.
4. Consuming The Wrong FatsYes, this includes canola oil, vegetable oils, and even the fish oil labeled as heart healthy Omega-3 supplements. These polyunsaturated fats are contributing to a decline in cognitive health and other chronic diseases that are on the rise. When we talk about unsaturated fats, like polyunsaturated fats, it means that some hydrogen atoms have been removed, and this opens up the molecule to attack by free radicals. Related links: What are free radicals? Free radicals are atoms that are reactive because of their loss of electrons, leaving them imbalanced and unpaired. This damages the cells as the unstable atoms are desperately looking for an electron to steal so they can become once again balanced, but to no avail, bringing a domino effect on other cells. This is when you need antioxidants to come help. When unsaturated oils are exposed to free radicals they can create chain reactions of free radicals that spread the damage in the cell, and contribute to the cell's accelerated aging. Biologist Ray Peat explains it as: “Rancidity of oils occurs when they are exposed to oxygen, in the body just as in the bottle. Harmful free radicals are formed, and oxygen is used up.” Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFA’s) -- sorry, might get nerdy here-- in a molecular level, are highly prone to oxidation due to their large number of double bonds and their position within the fatty acid chain. The rate of lipid peroxidation is influenced by light, heat, and oxygen concentration even at normal room conditions. Moreover, even for example grapeseed oil stored in the dark at 39°F may oxidize within a month of storage. The human body is full of oxygen and heated to over 39°F so when ingesting, even if it’s fresh in the bottle it will oxidize rather quickly inside of you. The body will store this as fat, causing inflammation in the cell membranes, and most commonly fatty liver disease, diabetes, and other chronic and cognitive issues. Simply look up studies on lipid peroxidation. How do they get those pigs so fat in a conventional farm? It’s a diet high in grains, especially corn and soy. These grains high in polyunsaturated fats cause the animals' fat to be chemically equivalent to vegetable oil. These suppress their thyroid function to fatten them faster with less food. A few studies have shown that when polyunsaturated fats oxidize under light they are also influenced by the presence of impurities such as protein or heavy metals. So a diet high in grains, and canola oils, vegetable oils, any highly refined oil that comes from a seed, legume, or a plant is prone to oxidation. Especially when combined with iron, aluminum from aluminum foil, or nickel from stainless steel pans. Stick with stable saturated fats like ghee, coconut oil, and a very high quality cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil.
Say no to:
- Canola oil (widely used in most restaurants because it’s so cheap)
- Vegetable oils
- Grapeseed oil
- Safflower oil
- Sunflower oil
- Sesame oil
- Corn oil
- Omega 3 Fish Oil
- Soy oil
5. Carbohydrates Are Your Friends
As far as food goes, the brain is a picky eater and prefers simple sugar molecules –glucose. When the brain senses a lack of glucose, nerves are activated to increase the amount of glucose in the blood, to correct the problem. As long as the brain senses the need for more glucose, the regulatory systems will make the adjustments to the blood glucose level. The body most easily creates glucose by metabolizing carbohydrates. Limiting carbohydrates could fog up cognitive function. The way we convert food to energy is thanks to the mitochondria that act like furnaces when they convert glucose into adenosine triphosphate (ATP): They “burn” (use) oxygen and give off carbon dioxide and water. Because the process uses oxygen, it is said to be aerobic (as in aerobic exercise). Yes, you have the keto diet since ketone molecules can cross the brain blood barrier. The body has to work harder to achieve this, well…the liver does. It can become damaged. See, the body is not dumb. It knows what it’s doing. Your body is the smartest biochemist, executing multiple chemical reactions every second of your life, when you are missing an ingredient to create something it will grab it from another source or just tell you it needs it by giving you small hints, or cravings. Ultimately what your body wants to do is make energy, so you can think, survive and basically walk around so you can get food so it can make more energy. That’s your life in a nutshell. Any additional chemical steps, your body will save for survival mode in case of emergencies. The body likes to follow a protocol so when hindering that protocol because of survival - let’s say there’s no carbohydrates when you are foraging or there is a lack of food - it will convert fats into ketones. In the case of type 3 diabetes – which is a type of dementia, like diabetes for the brain. There is inflammation within the cells so the ability for the glucose to get in is hard. MCT oil has been proven to help the brain get energy and fuel in these extreme conditions, helping people with Alzheimer's retrieve some memories, but only as a short-term backup after a few years of doing MCT Oil the disease progresses. It is possible to have an extracellular excess of glucose in the body while being intracellular absent; this is the problem of diabetes. This happens when inflammation takes over, and just like type 3 diabetes, the glucose can’t absorb and metabolize in the cells despite the presence of glucose in the blood. Wonder why you eat that fried food and have glucose cravings of candy of desserts? Yes, your cells are still starving. What to do? Eat whole foods, like fruits, vegetables. Stay away from refined oils that clog up the cells. And anything refined kick to the curb.
6. Dr. Jeffrey Thompson and Brainwave Entertainment
Dr. Jefferey Thompson is a pioneer of neuroacoustics – the brainwave entrainment through sounds. How does this relate to the brain? There is no secret that we are affected by sounds, all around us from the minute we wake up to the moment we go to sleep, think about how that favorite song of yours makes you feel. Sound really does influence the brain. According to Dr. Thompson “The brain tends to match its own wave pulses to those of exterior sound pulses, a phenomenon known as brainwave entrainment.” He records music that tunes to the brain’s waves that are imperceptible frequency patterns woven in every sound in his recordings. His recordings are designed to influence the body’s functioning by resonating it with sound frequencies. When your brain senses these hidden pulses, your brainwaves will tend to match them, enhancing your ability to enter into the Default Mode Network state. The Default Mode Network consists of four specific zones of the brain that form a functional network that is highly synchronized together with an extremely slow brainwave pulse of 0.1 Hz - 0.2 Hz. Research has identified a multitude of debilitating conditions associated with a de-synchronizing of the Default Mode network including: Schizophrenia, Anxiety syndromes, depression, PTSD, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease, Autism, classic psychiatric dissociative disorders and more. According to his website ScientificSounds.com listening repeatedly to some of the soundtracks creates a learned neurological response in the brain over time - like “going to a gym for your brain”. When it is work time around my house, or I just want to relax, I play his music. It just helps me focus, boost my learning and memories, makes me feel calm, and my house sounds like a peaceful spa.
7. Red Light therapyThere’s no better red-light therapy than the infrared emitting from the sun, especially early in the morning, or when the sun is about to set in the evening. That’s because red and infrared wavelengths have a unique ability to boost ATP energy production by enhancing mitochondrial function. Infrared light can penetrate quite deep into the body and can also enhance cytochrome c oxidase activity, activate cell-signaling pathways, up-regulate transcription factors, and increase the expression of protective gene Light therapy has also been shown to increase resting-state EEG alpha, beta, and gamma power in the brain. Do you know what else enhances EEG alpha waves? Meditation and L-theanine found in matcha and black tea, which significantly increases activity in the alpha frequency band, which indicates that it relaxes the mind without inducing drowsiness. So maybe having a cup of matcha and black tea while you say hello to the morning sun might help you power through the day. The number two option if you don’t have access to the sun around these times, because maybe you are at work, or living life. There are companies deep into the research of red-light therapy that offer technology you can have with you at the comfort of your home. One of these companies is Joovv, they have a few selections of red-light therapy from lamps to portable devices, some of them which help boost cognitive health. Their website offers informative cited information on some of the newest studies found on the subject, according to their website “When applied directly to the head, light therapy uses red and near infrared wavelengths to stimulate, preserve, and regenerate brain cells and tissues. A high-quality light therapy device can send photons of light through the skull, stimulating the mitochondria of brain cells to produce more metabolic energy.” Try Joovv here
8. Stay Away From EMF RadiationElectric and magnetic fields are invisible areas of energy (also called radiation) that are produced by electricity, which is the movement of electrons, or current, through a wire. Electric fields are produced whether or not a device is turned on, whereas magnetic fields are produced only when current is flowing, which usually requires a device to be turned on. Power lines produce magnetic fields continuously because current is always flowing through them. Electric fields are easily shielded or weakened by walls and other objects, whereas magnetic fields can pass through buildings, living things, and most other materials. Electric and magnetic fields together are referred to as electromagnetic fields, or EMFs. The electric and magnetic forces in EMFs are caused by electromagnetic radiation. EMF radiation is nothing new. It’s been known for decades that electromagnetic fields are not very human friendly. The exposure from decades ago is not the same today. We are now at higher risk from its effects than ever before through the use of our devices, the increase in new technology, and the introduction of 5G networks and posts on most major cities. Sometimes posted right next to people’s homes, schools, and hospitals. In 1997 in a study done by USC that found seamstresses working in Los Angeles at a garment district shop were shown to be at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The workers were exposed to medium to high EMF’s from sewing machines. This was before cell phones, computers, and Bluetooth technology was available to everyone. The body has never in its evolution experienced something so foreign to itself and therefore responds as if the incoming signal was an invader (like a virus) except that there is nothing the body can fight against. The body doesn’t recognize it, as we did not evolve to recognize such unnatural signal. Some people might be more sensitive than others.
Some of the symptoms related to EMF exposure are:
- skin rashes
- sore eyes
- heart palpitations
What can you do?
- Turn off wifi when you are sleeping
- Turn off devices when you are not using them or are sleeping
- Be mindful to where to rest your head at night, especially around outlets
- Smart TV’s emit EMF’s even when powered off, they are looking for a wifi connection, unplug them if you are not using them
9. Avoid AluminumAluminum and iron react similarly in cells and are suspected causes of Alzheimer's disease. Aluminum is neurotoxic. Its free ion makes it highly reactive and ready to do damage at a neurological level. Just like iron and other heavy metals aluminum accumulates with age in the human brain. The most recent research demonstrates that a significant proportion of individuals older than 70 years of age have a potentially pathological accumulation of aluminum somewhere in their brain and is linked to a decline in cognitive health. Simply look around your kitchen; we constantly cook our meals in foil paper, cook with pots and pans with highly reactive metals, and the aluminum teakettle that dissolves aluminum when heated. How about the fork we use to eat our food? Stainless steel also makes the cut as a potential foe. There are two main types of stainless steel, magnetic and nonmagnetic. The nonmagnetic form has a very high nickel content, and nickel is allergenic and carcinogenic. It is much more toxic than iron or aluminum. HACK: You can use a small magnet to test your pans. The magnet will stick firmly to the safer type of pan. Opt in for some glass cookware like the Pyrex Skillet.
10. Vitamin D Makes Every List
Vitamin D is not a vitamin but a hormone. You need it to balance the other hormones, and if this is missing this cause a domino effect of hormonal imbalance, thyroid malfunction and cognitive noise. More recent findings have also linked vitamin D deficiency to a range of conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, strokes and metabolic disorders including diabetes. Cognitive impairment and dementia must now be added to the list. Vitamin D receptors are widespread in brain tissue, and vitamin D's biologically active form D3 has shown neuroprotective effects including the reduction of amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. Deficiency of this vitamin has been associated with Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Similarly, the risk of cognitive impairment was up to four times greater in the severely deficient elders in comparison with individuals with adequate levels. Further studies have also shown associations between low vitamin D concentrations and strokes. Other recent studies have also indicated that low vitamin D concentrations may increase the risk of cognitive decline. The best type of vitamin D you can get is from the sun. The cholesterol in your body synthesizes vitamin D and absorbs it into your body. Depending on your skin color, you need at least 10 minutes a day if you are in the lighter spectrum and 30 or more if you are in the darker spectrum. This all depends on the amount of melanin (your skin color), because melanin is your body’s natural sunscreen. The more melanin the more time in the sun you need. Besides vitamin D, you need the combined full spectrum wavelengths of light during the day, they each have a function within the body. Especially red light, and UVB, which at the end of the day will help you produce melatonin so you can sleep, which takes us to the final tip…sleep.
11. Sleep Don’t Stress
Over more than a century of research has established the fact that sleep benefits the retention of memory. That’s because no sleep for long periods of time has been linked to cognitive decline. We’ve all done this experiment when you don’t sleep for one, two, or even three nights and your body cannot function very well. Everything changes from your mood, to your reflexes, to the way you socialize with others. No one really knows what sleep actually does, but we can certainly feel the consequences from its absence. Hold your breath for a few minutes and you will feel the consequence of not having oxygen, go without drinking water and you will feel the desperation of needing it. Rats deprived of sleep die within two or three weeks. These are all needed for basic survival, like sleep. The most promising theory of sleep so far is that it plays a major role in the brain's plasticity and connectivity. Plasticity is involved in learning and memory. Plenty of scientific evidence and I might add, from “non-scientific” from our own experiences suggests that losing sleep can produce problems with memory, predominantly working memory, which is important for many cognitive processes including problem solving. It can hinder the procedure that allows humans to hold information and have the ability to access it while working out a problem. People who are sleep-deprived also struggle with choosing what to pay attention to and regulating their emotions. Some studies suggest that sleep plays a role in clearing beta-amyloid out of the brain, that nasty plaque that accumulates when you age. Lack of sleep has been shown to elevate that plaque levels in mice. Amyloid is also present in big numbers with people with Alzheimer’s. What to do?
- Set a strict time for sleep, everyday, and try to wake up at the same time every day to reset your biological clock
- Say hello to the sun for at least 10 minutes so you can create melatonin through its light.
- Get enough vitamin D, which helps in regulating sleep though the conversion of melatonin
- Turn off all devices that emit EMF, including WIFI and night.
- Airplane mode your phone if you are going to sleep next to it at night
- Your liver plays a huge role in waking you up at night, make sure your glycogen is not depleted because then your adrenals will take over with adrenaline.