The Best Doctor-Approved Supplements To Beat Your Brain Fog

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In a world of constant distraction, stimulation, and all too often crippling anxietythe brain can be our ticket to well-being.

Clarity of the mind is central to cultivating attention, which plays huge role in our productivity, performance, and ability to make sound decisions. One of the most direct and accessible ways to increase your attention span is through physical movement or meditationor any practice that fosters the mind body connection. But sometimes it's not enough. So we enlisted mbg's network of functional health experts and medical doctors to share the supplements they recommend for banishing brain fog and increasing focus. Our list reflects the most highly recommended mental health supplements.

While we know that the foods we eat can change the way we feel physically, proper supplementation can improve the gut-brain connection, leading to healthier gut and a sharper mind. "The function and health of the brain, and even mood, are highly influenced by the state of health of our gut bacteria. Our microbiome, the collection of more than 100 trillion microbes that live within us, is one of the key components of the so-called 'gut-brain connection.' Nurturing our gut bacteria allows us to reap the benefits of a healthy microbiome. And that means reduced inflammation and more balanced immunity," said leading brain health expert Dr. David Perlmutter.

We strongly recommend talking to your doctor before changing your supplement regimen, especially because these suggestionsyes, even the herbscan interact with any medication you may be taking.

1. Curcumin

"A good majority of brain problems can be associated with blood-brain-barrier permeability (also known as leaky brain.) This can stem from inflammation and lead to even further inflammation in the brain because your brain's immune system is working in overdrive. Curcumin can help because it's one of nature's most powerful inflammation takers."

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Dr. Will Cole, instructor of The Elimination Diet

"Tumeric helps boost working memory and attention in healthy older adults, helps treat depression. Note, it's not recommended for women who are pregnant."

Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies To Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love

"In a recent report in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers investigated the association between curry consumption level and cognitive function in elderly Asians. Those who consumed curry "occasionally" and "often or very often" had significantly better scores on specific tests designed to measure cognitive function than did subjects who "never or rarely" consumed curry. The results of this study are not surprising given the strong association of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia with inflammation and the powerful anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric.

Look for products that are USDA-certified organic. I generally recommend 70-100mg as a daily supplement. But by all means, embrace the use of turmeric in your cooking."

Dr. Perlmutter, most recently author of Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain for Life

"Found in turmeric, a popular Indian spice, curcumin provides the body with a variety of benefits and has been used in both traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda. Due to its ability to increase blood flow to the body and the brain, it has found specific popularity in the exercise community. Unlike many supplements that require prolonged use to see results (if any), curcumin has found success in boosting memory and retention in Alzheimer’s patients in as little as an hour’s time, in addition to improving their mood and stress levels. It is also particularly anti-inflammatory, allowing the blood to flow more freely in the brain and has a positive effect on the brain stem cells. Curcumin has also found popularity in a variety of other health fields and for a variety of needs, including cancer, diabetes, and HIV. As a simple spice, it can easily be worked into your foods, but for a true response, it needs to be linked with a fat of some sort such as by creating micoremulsions with coconut oil or other healthy fats. Be sure that you have high-quality organic curcumin free of any additives or fillers and be sure to do your research on the company producing it."

Dr. Mariza Snyder, author of The Matcha Miracle

2. Rhodiola

"Rhodiola eliminates fog and increases focus, especially during the luteal phase of your [menstrual] cycle."

Alisa Vitti, nutritionist and hormone expert, and creator of the flo living app

"While its traditional use may have been to prevent altitude sickness and to help cope with cold climates, Rhodiola Rosea, an adaptogenic herb, is finding new uses as a mood enhancer and anti-fatigue agent. Rhodiola helps to increase serotonin levels, which can improve your overall mood and may improve reasoning skills as well. Rhodiola can enhance energy metabolism and increase the capacity of mitochondria to produce energy-rich compounds in the brain, as well as in the muscles, liver, and blood. Rhodiola was found to protect every organism testedfrom snails to humansagainst physical and mental stresses, fatigue, heat, cold, toxins, and radiation."

Dr. Nigma Talib, gut health expert and author of Younger Skin Starts in the Gut

3. Activated B Vitamins (including B12)

"It is important to take care of methylation, your body's biochemical superhighway, because it plays a major role in detox pathways and brain function. Methylation is mainly supported by B vitamins so taking activated B vitamins such as B9 L-Methylfolate (L-5-MTHF) and B6 Pyridoxyl-5-Phosphate (P5P) is key."

Dr. Will Cole, instructor of The Elimination Diet

"Almost 40 percent of Americans are deficit in vitamin B12, which can result in difficulties with fatigue, memory, mental fogginess and even depressed mood. Vitamin B12 helps with normal functioning of the nervous system, including the brain. People with higher levels of Vitamin B12 seem to have less brain shrinkage as they get older.

Taking Vitamin B12 when you are deficit can be helpful to address memory, mental clarity, overall energy and depressed mood. However, if you are not deficit in Vitamin B12 (a blood test till tell you), it may not be as helpful."

Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies To Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love

4. Vitamin D

"Other than thyroid hormones, vitamin D is the only other hormone every cell of your body needs to thrive. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to everything such as increased depression and suicide rates, decreased memory, and cases of Alzheimer's."

Dr. Will Cole, instructor of The Elimination Diet

"Vitamin D helps support the creation of new neural connections. The most recent data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005 to 2006 analyzed the vitamin D levels of 4,495 adults, finding that 41.6 percent were deficient. The number of people suffering from suboptimal and deficient vitamin D in an age where we get outdoors less often is sure to be much higher than that. To make matters worse, national recommendations for vitamin D supplementation grossly underestimate people’s requirements. After 10 years of supplementing and checking blood vitamin D levels, I can tell you most adults in a Northern altitude with dark winters, will need about 5,000 IU daily to reach an optimal level of 40 to 70 ng/mL. If you want to preserve your brain health, then you need to start with optimizing your vitamin D levels, usually through a combination of diet, safe sun exposure, and supplementation."

Dr. Vincent Pedre, healthy gut expert and author of Happy Gut: The Cleansing Program To Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy & Eliminate Pain

5. Bacopa

"Bacopa helps balance neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, and adds benefits to delayed word recall () for healthy older adults. It decreases forgetting new information, and may even have a positive impact on depression.

Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies To Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love

"Known as the 'natural Adderall' (an ADHD medication), Bacopa monnieri, this Ayurvedic herb has been used in India for centuries for its memory enhancing properties. In a double-blind placebo controlled 6-week trial in second year medical students, it was shown to result in a statistically significant improvement in memory. This may just be what you’re looking for to boost your brain power, if you want to stay off side-effect ridden medication. Since there have been no safety studies in pregnancy, it is best to stop bacopa during the first trimester of pregnancy, and consult with your doctor before restarting it."

Dr. Vincent Pedre, healthy gut expert and author of Happy Gut: The Cleansing Program To Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy & Eliminate Pain

6. Omega-3s

"Our brain is a soft-gelatinous structure that is mostly made up of fat. In order to have fluid connections between neurons that allow for easy communication across synapses (the relay stations of neural signaling, numbering at 100 trillion!), you need omega-3 fatty acids to be the primary fat in the cell membrane. If your diet has been rich in trans-fats and hydrogenated oils (many vegetables oils are like this, except for olive oil, avocado oil, and macadamia nut oil, to name a few). Not only do omega-3 supplements in the form of fish oil, assist with that, they are also potent anti-inflammatory agents that help improve the number of neural connections in someone that is facing memory loss. Their healing benefit is most saliently seen when used at high doses to help a person recover from a traumatic brain injury. They promote the growth of new neurons and microvessels, which correlate with improved cognitive recovery."

Dr. Vincent Pedre, healthy gut expert and author of Happy Gut: The Cleansing Program To Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy & Eliminate Pain

"In a study appearing in the American Journal of Clinical Medicine, 176 adults with normal memory function and generally poor dietary intakes of DHA were placed on a DHA supplement for six months. Their memory function was evaluated at the beginning of the trial, and at its conclusion. In both males and females, there was a marked increase in memory function comparing those that were given DHA versus those who received a placebo pill.

In another study, published in the journal, Neurology, researchers found that higher levels of DHA actually correlated with a bigger brain!

Why DHA is so powerfully important for the brain likely stems from the fact that it is powerfully anti-inflammatory. Our most dreaded brain degenerative conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease, are actually caused by inflammation, so anything we can do to reduce this activity should help protect the brain. I recommend supplementing DHA in a dosage of 800-1200mg daily, depending upon how much cold water fish (a good source of DHA) you are consuming."

Dr. Perlmutter, most recently author of Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain for Life

7. Prebiotic fiber

"Fructo-oligosaccharides (also known as FOS)—this supplement is going to really surprise you, because it is not a brain-specific supplement. It’s actually a fermentable dietary fiber that acts as a prebiotic in the gut. Why is this important? Well, you may know about the gut-brain connection, but did you know that a metabolic by-product from your gut flora, butyrate, acts as a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor? Say what? HDAC is an enzyme that controls the rate of gene expression, by inhibiting it, butyrate promotes cellular protective mechanisms, including the secretion of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a very important signal to increase the number of neural connections, facilitating learning, short-term and long-term memory. Back to FOS, it feeds a group of bacteria that ferment it into butyrate, this key anti-inflammatory short-chain fatty acid, that enters the circulation, crosses the blood-brain barrier easily, then affects gene expression in the brain. The lesson: you need a happy gut (microbiome) to have a healthy brain."

Dr. Vincent Pedre, healthy gut expert and author of Happy Gut: The Cleansing Program To Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy & Eliminate Pain

"How does fiber factor in? As was revealed in a recent report in The Journal of Nutrition, children with the highest dietary fiber consumption demonstrated much greater ability to remain focused on a task. While some foods are higher in prebiotic fiber, like jicama, garlic, and dandelion greens, by and large most people aren’t consuming nearly enough of this important nutrient.

We’ve got to consider prebiotic fiber as an important addition to the list of brain supportive supplements. Powerfully effective prebiotic fiber supplements are widely available at health food stores. Look for non-GMO, organic products made containing acacia and baobab powders. Generally, 2 teaspoons a day is a reasonable dosage for most people."

Dr. Perlmutter, most recently author of Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain for Life

8. Phosphatidyl serine

"Phosphatidyl serine has both amino acids and fatty acids which aid in cellular functioning, espcially the brain, can help treat depression, helps at least short term cognitive functioning in patients with Alzheimer’s, helps reduce ADHD symptoms, and improves memory functioning."

Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies To Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love

"Phosphatidylserine (PS) is produced by the body, but we get most of our intake from food. When food isn’t enough or we have a greater need for this vital molecule, supplements are another option. it’s a key building block for the billions of cells in your brain.

PS improves cognitive function before a bout of exercise so this is a good one to take for regular gym goers for that added boost body and mind. Get your body in shape and boost your memory and mood at the same time. Phosphatidyl serine is critical to the maintenance of all cellular function, especially in the brain."

Dr. Nigma Talib, gut health expert and author of Younger Skin Starts in the Gut

9. Rosemary essential oil (not to be ingested)

One of the simplest ways to increase memory and concentration is to simply inhale the scent of pure, high-quality Rosemary Essential Oil. The terpene levels in this essential oil enter the blood stream and directly affect your body, especially since they can easily pass the blood-brain barrier. These are IMMEDIATE results! Memory can improve up to 75% by simply inhaling Rosemary due to its primary constituent 1,8-Cineole, according to recent studies,. It has the ability to inhibit the enzymes that break down acetylcholine in the brain, allowing more to remain and aid the brain in its function. Rosemary is one of my favorite ways to improve my daily focus without the worry of side effects or putting unnatural substances into my body. You have to be sure that you are using only the highest-quality essential oils, however, for the results to be impactful and that you aren’t putting any adulterated substances into your body. Pregnant women should also avoid contact with Rosemary EO as the increased blood flow could cause contractions.

Dr. Mariza Snyder, author of The Matcha Miracle


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