Blame it on the holiday season or the sudden lack of sun, but many of us seem to lose some brain power in the winter months. Use these suggestions below–including supplements for memory and vitamins to boost your brain–to up your concentration level and step up your brain game.
Bump Up Your Neurotransmitters
Tyrosine is a building block of dopamine, norepinephrine and thyroid hormones in the body. A study looking at the effects of tyrosine on cognitive task performance found that under psychosocial and physical stress, supplementation could combat the effects that stress and fatigue have on concentration levels. Take 500 to 1500 mg a day of L-tyrosine, upon rising (avoid if you have an overactive thyroid). If you have trouble sleeping, adding 100mg of 5HTP before bed will also help boost your serotonin levels, another amino acid that has been shown to be low in those with ADHD.
Take the Edge Off with Rhodiola
There’s nothing like the holidays to crank up cortisol, but that’s the quickest way to downgrade your brain power. This herbal supplement can enhance learning capacity and may also be useful for treating fatigue, stress and depression. Researchers found improved mental performance in a group of 56 healthy physicians on night duty who were supplemented with Rhodiola. They tested overall level of mental fatigue, involving complex perceptive and cognitive cerebral functions, such as associative thinking, short-term memory, calculation and ability of concentration, and speed of audio-visual perception. A statistically significant improvement in these tests was observed in the Rhodiola-supplemented group versus their counterparts. Take 200–400 mg a day in the morning, away from food, for at least six weeks.
Boost Blood Flow to The Brain
Vinpocetine has been shown to enhance cerebral blood flow, prevent age related memory loss, and protect neurons in the brain from injury or degeneration. This wonder supplement may help support brain functions such as concentration and memory by activating cerebral metabolism. As an interesting bonus, some people have reported enhanced colour vision while taking this supplement. One pilot study looked at patients with pre-dementia and found that after 12-weeks the group receiving the supplement experienced a significant improvement of cognitive functions (aka, brain power). Start with a low dose of 5mg once per day and increase to 10mg. You can often find the supplement in conjunction with gingko biloba, another known brain booster.
Improve Memory Recall
Your brain, like the rest of your body, requires specific nutrients to work optimally. One of those is Phosphatidylcholine (also referred to as lecithin), which promotes the synthesis of acetylcholine—an essential neurotransmitter involved in both memory and learning. Levels in brain cell membranes decline with age, possibly contributing to memory loss. In fact, it’s one of the supplements that I give my pregnant patients to support the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system–and I swear the babies I see in my practice are smarter for it. Take 1,200–2,400 mg a day with food. You can also opt for a tbsp of lecithin granules in your morning smoothie. Avoid if you have an allergy to soy.
Don’t Forget Your Omegas
Not only can omega-3s make you smarter, the opposite is also true. According to a study published in Neurology, a diet lacking in omega-3 fatty acids may cause your brain to age faster and lose some of its thinking abilities. Researchers found that people with lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids had lower brain volumes that were equivalent to about two years of structural brain aging. Participants with levels of all omega-3 fatty acids in the bottom 25 percent also scored lower on tests of visual memory and executive function, such as problem solving and multi-tasking and abstract thinking – certainly not a recipe for a productive day. However I often encounter patients that take too low a dose of Omega-3’s or opting for a poor quality brand. I recommend taking no less than 2 capsules (1 teaspoon) twice daily with food for optimal effects and getting a pharmaceutical grade fish oil from a health food store.