People often ask me, "What are the best things I can do to improve cognitive function?"
So here's how to get started.
The key point to realize is that our brain is like our body's motor. It consumes 10 times as much energy for its size as the rest of our body. So what we feed it determines whether it purrs like a Ferrari, or runs in fits and starts, leaving us with "brain farts" through the day.
So what are the key fuels that our brain needs, as they relate to diet?
- Eggs. One of the key memory molecules is called acetylcholine. To make this, our body requires that we take in about 500 mg of choline daily. Interestingly, when a woman does not have enough estrogen, as occurs during perimenopause and menopause, they are more likely to develop memory problems when they don't get enough choline. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/92/5/1113.full. This can be aggravated by certain genetic defects and can be a major player in cognitive dysfunction. The solution? Simply eat one or two eggs a day. Each egg supplies 680 mg of choline. Be sure to eat the egg yolk, as this is the part that has the choline. More good news? Numerous studies have now shown that eating eggs does not increase cholesterol or increase risk of heart disease. In fact, eggs have been shown to be a very healthy food.
- Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, sardines or mackerel. Most of our brain is made of the omega-3 oils found in fish.
- B vitamins and magnesium. These are the key nutrients needed to make energy. They can be found in whole unprocessed foods. For example almonds are a good source of magnesium, and you want your fresh veggies for the B vitamins.
- Up to two cups a day of coffee and tea, along with up to an ounce of chocolate daily also can have wonderful benefits for mental clarity.
For the neurotransmitters, the choline for acetylcholine and to a lesser degree tyrosine to make dopamine would be most important for memory.
It is especially important give the body the basic raw materials that it normally needs.
In terms of supplements, the key items that I would recommend (and personally take myself ) are:
- Omega 3's—as upwards of 90 percent of the oils in most fish oil products are not Omega 3's, and are more likely to be toxic than helpful, I take one of Vectomega (EuroPharma) daily. This replaces seven large fish oil pills giving optimal support with one small pill.
- Energy Revitalization System (Enzymatic Therapy) vitamin powder. This supplies optimal levels of B vitamins, magnesium, amino acids (approximately 950 mg of tyrosine) and other nutrients needed to optimize brain function (including choline) in one low cost simple drink daily.
- I add one scoop (5 g) of SHINE ribose powder to the vitamin powder. For the first six weeks, I recommend taking it three times daily. Then it can often be dropped to 1–2 times a day. In our published study, ribose dramatically improved cognitive function in people with fibromyalgia by an average of 30 percent.
- I also add CuraMed 750 milligrams once daily for its overall brain and immune system benefits. So basically, for supplements the one Energy Revitalization System (Add a 5g scoop of SHINE Ribose) drink a day and one Vectomega is the best 30 seconds people can spend all day to optimize cognitive function.
Cognitive Function Intensive Care
For those with CFS and fibromyalgia, once the above aspects are addressed, the next step is to use the SHINE Protocol to optimize sleep, thyroid and adrenal function and orthostatic intolerance, as well as candida and other infections. The free Energy Analysis Program at www.vitality101.com can tailor the SHINE Protocol to your specific case with a simple 10-minute quiz. It can even assess pertinent lab tests if you have them available.
Love and blessings,
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Jacob E Teitelbaum, MD
Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, is a board certified internist and Medical Director of the national Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers and Chronicity. He is author of the popular free iPhone application "Cures A-Z," and author of the best-selling books
- The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia
- From Fatigued to Fantastic!
- Pain Free 1-2-3
- Three Steps to Happiness: Healing Through Joy
- The Complete Guide to Beating Sugar Addiction
- Beat Sugar Addiction Now! Cookbook
- Real Cause, Real Cure: The 9 root causes of the most common health problems and how to solve them
Dr. Teitelbaum knows CFS/fibromyalgia as an insider — he contracted CFS when he was in medical school and had to drop out for a year to recover. In the ensuing 25 years, he has dedicated his career to finding effective treatments.