As our most complex body tissue, you could say that the human brain is very high maintenance. It needs a lot of self care, and taking the right supplements based on your individual needs and test results can help a lot with mental performance and mood. Also, food these days does not always have everything we need. But before we go further, I want to stress that you cannot supplement your way out of a bad diet. As I've said in previous talks / posts, the brain needs a constant and steady supply of three things: glucose, oxygen, and stimulation, and the proper diet and lifestyle are key at maintaining that supply.
Supplement #1: B-Complex. The B vitamins, especially B12 and folate, are very important for brain health and mood, and lower levels are linked to depression. B12 helps in the maintenance of myelin, the protective sheath for our nerve cells. Folate, along with B12 and B6, helps lower homocysteine. In high levels, homocysteine can damage the brain, and taking a good B-complex has now been shown to slow brain degeneration in Alzheimer's dementia. If someone suffers from depression or anxiety, optimizing B-vitamin levels can be a great first step.
Supplement #2: Vitamin D. If someone suffers from a poor mood, getting the blood level of vitamin D up can help a lot. This is especially true if an individual is low on the laboratory range. Vitamin D is really a hormone and can have a powerful effect on brain neurotransmitters and inflammation.
Supplement #3: Fish oil (i.e omega-3s EPA and DHA). Don't let doctors lead you to believe it doesn't work. For those with adequate blood levels of omega-3s, fish oil likely won't improve mood. But for those who are deficient in omega-3s, taking a fish oil supplement can be very impactful. Note that DHA is the preferred omega-3 for the brain.
Supplement #4: Magnesium. It is known for its soothing properties such as helping to relieve anxiety, migraines, and supporting good sleep. Like the B vitamins, it is also involved in some neurotransmitter production and can help counter the effects of toxic high levels of excitatory substances like glutamate. Note that in the hospital, intravenous magnesium is often given to relieve an intractable migraine. Magnesium is a mineral that many people are deficient in.
Supplement #5: Zinc. Being involved in over 300 different enzymatic reactions in the body, zinc is important for a healthy immune system, wound healing, and taste and smell. Large quantities can be found in the brain where it is involved in proper neurotransmitter regulation. Studies show that women suffering from depression tend to be low in this mineral. A simple taste test or a blood test can pick up a deficiency.
Supplement #6: Lithium. Many people think of lithium as a drug for bipolar disorder. However, you may be surprised to hear that lithium is a important trace mineral for the body, especially in the brain. Higher lithium levels in drinking water have been shown to correspond to decreased rates of suicide, depression, etc. The pharmaceutic versions use doses ranging from around 600 to 1200mg per day, which can have side effects. However, using much lower doses like 5-10mg of lithium orotate per day is not only safe but can stabilize mood, improve memory, assist depression and may even prevent dementia.
Supplement #7: Nitric Balance by Apex Energetics. A fantastic combination product, Nitric Balance is a liquid supplement combining herbals that increase blood flow and mitochondrial energy in the body, as well as the brain. Just a few teaspoons can stimulate nitric oxide production, the molecule involved in blood vessel dilation. Expect a boost in your cognitive and exercise performance after taking this one.
Supplement #8: Resveratrol. I don't recommend you rely on red wine since daily alcohol consumption may not be ideal for everyone. And while it may be though of as a supplement for the heart or cancer prevention, I feel it is an ideal brain supplement. Like curcumin and flavonoids, resveratrol is a powerful anti-inflammatory, so it can be helpful for someone with brain inflammation (i.e. symptoms of brain fog). By supporting the vascular system it can also support healthy blood flow to the brain as well. I like it in a good tasting liquid form, also by Apex Energetics, called "Resvero-Active".