Overcome Memory Loss with These 8 Natural Remedies
When we think about health problems, our mind usually goes to things like autoimmune conditions, heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. However, we often overlook conditions that affect the brain like dementia as a health problem worth our concern.
Instead, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and general dementia are typically viewed as inevitable problems that come with age that we can’t do much about. But with Alzheimer’s being the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, it’s about time we start taking our brain health seriously.
You also don’t have to have dementia to have memory problems. Brain fog and poor cognitive function are all impacted by our daily choices and can gradually result in dementia over time.
So, how can I restore my memory naturally? It’s a question my patients often ask in my telehealth functional medicine clinic. Between the foods we eat and don’t eat, supplements, and lifestyle choices we have the upper hand when it comes to fighting memory loss.
Whether you want to enhance your cognitive function or prevent dementia, let’s take a deeper look at memory loss and my favorite natural remedies to improve memory and concentration.
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Symptoms of memory loss
While everyone has periods of forgetfulness, early signs of memory loss can include:
- Mixing up words when speaking
- Placing items in unfamiliar places
- Getting lost in a familiar area
- Mood or behavior changes
- Trouble concentrating for extended periods of time
- Repeating questions
- Taking longer to complete familiar tasks
- General brain fog
Again, just because you experience one of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have dementia. However, these warning signs are important to watch for as we get older. By monitoring how often they occur it can help you determine if you should seek out some natural remedies for memory loss.
Natural remedies for memory loss
Thankfully, there are many things you can do to improve your cognitive function, naturally. These are my favorite tools I recommend time and time again to my patients.
1. Eat less sugar
Your health is just as much determined by the foods you don’t eat as by the foods you do eat. In fact, did you know that health experts are beginning to refer to Alzheimer’s as type 3 diabetes? Because of its close link to metabolic health researchers have correlated the development of this disease with insulin resistance.
One study in particular looked at brain scans in 150 late middle-aged adults who were at risk for Alzheimer's disease and showed that people with higher levels of insulin resistance used less blood sugar in areas of the brain most susceptible to Alzheimer's, which means that part of the brain has less energy to process information and create and retain memories. (1)
The best way to start lowering blood sugar? Eat less sugar, especially processed sugar. Instead, stick with fruit and other natural sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit, raw honey, and pure maple syrup.
2. Healthy fats
Many people have been taught that fat is bad when in reality, not eating fat is what is harming your brain health! Your brain is the fattiest organ in your body, composed of 60 percent fat, and as much as 25 percent of the body’s cholesterol is located in the brain. It’s no wonder we have a society filled with memory problems if we are depriving our brains of its very makeup!
It’s also not a coincidence that many of the potential side effects associated with statins - cholesterol-lowering drugs - are brain problems and memory loss. (2) On the flip side, diets rich in polyunsaturated fats, wild-caught fish specifically, are associated with a 60 percent decrease in Alzheimer’s disease. (3) Compare that to high-carb diets which have been shown to actually increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions. (4)
Whether you switch to a high-fat, moderate protein, low carb ketogenic diet, eat more of a Mediterranean diet, (5) or just incorporate more foods rich in healthy fats like MCT oil, you can’t deny the abundant research supporting the link between improved memory and healthy fat intake! (6)
Herbs + Supplements
If healthy fats are essential to brain health, supplementing with omega-3s only make sense for added support against memory loss. Studies have shown that regular supplementation can help improve multiple markers of cognitive function including short-term and verbal memory. (7)
Wild-caught seafood is one of the best sources of Omega-3s as it is extremely bioavailable. You can get this in a high quality daily fish oil supplement like The Omega+ from my supplement like The Collection. If you are vegan, you can also try a hemp or flaxseed oil supplement as that is a great plant-based source of Omega-3s.
Chances are you are familiar with turmeric - the bright yellow spice used in curry and other dishes. But it’s so much more than just a flavorful ingredient. Curcumin is the main compound found in turmeric and has been shown to be extremely beneficial at protecting against dementia and improving memory.
One study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that regular curcumin supplementation helped enhance memory and attention span in people with and without diagnosed dementia by as much as 28%! (8)
3. Lion’s mane
I’m often asked what herbal remedy helps with memory. Adaptogens are one of my favorite natural healing tools as these plant and herbal medicines have been used for years to help improve a variety of health problems including cognitive function.
Lion’s mane mushroom is one adaptogen that has potent neuroprotective properties, making it the perfect choice for enhancing cognitive function and memory. The power comes from the nerve growth factors found in Lion’s mane, which protect and regenerate brain tissue. One study found that those who took a lion’s mane supplement for 16 weeks showed significantly higher cognitive function compared to those who didn’t. (9)
Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to regenerate itself by making new neural connections. This slowly decreases over time but meditation can increase (10) the thickness and activity (11) of the brain’s prefrontal cortex - the area of the brain responsible for memory and focus. This helps to slow down cognitive decline and preserve neuroplasticity. Just 15-30 minutes a day can do wonders for making a difference in memory loss!
If there’s one thing to do to prevent dementia and overcome memory loss, it’s moving your body. A review of existing research showed that regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s by 30 to 40 percent. In fact, out of five healthy behaviors (getting regular exercise, not smoking, maintaining moderate alcohol intake, and having a healthy body weight and healthy diet) exercise reduces dementia risk the most.
Sometimes it’s the simplest wellness advice that makes the biggest difference. Along with exercise, getting enough high-quality, uninterrupted sleep is one of the best things you can do to improve memory and keep your brain sharp for years to come.
Studies have linked just one night of poor sleep to impaired attention and memory with continued sleep deprivation inhibiting long-term memory. (12) Work on cultivating a night time routine that facilitates the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep every night. (13)
When to see a medical professional
As we age, our memory and cognitive function has the tendency to decline. While we can do a lot to improve and prevent memory loss, there comes a time for some individuals where natural solutions aren’t able to make enough improvements in memory. If you notice that you or a loved one’s memory is impacting the safety of their daily life or those around them, it’s vital to seek out the help of a medical professional.
Not only can they continue to give you additional resources to help improve your memory, they can help you navigate more long-term solutions for healthy aging.
If you are struggling with brain fog, forgetfulness or other signs of memory loss or you just want to take preventative action, schedule a telehealth consultation today to learn how functional medicine can help improve your cognitive function.
As one of the first functional medicine telehealth clinics in the world, we provide webcam health consultations for people around the globe.
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2. Iowa State University. "Cholesterol-reducing Drugs May Lessen Brain Function, Says Researcher." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090223221430.htm>.
3. Morris, Martha Clare et al. “Consumption of fish and n-3 fatty acids and risk of incident Alzheimer disease.” Archives of neurology vol. 60,7 (2003): 940-6. doi:10.1001/archneur.60.7.940
4. Henderson, Samuel T. “High carbohydrate diets and Alzheimer's disease.” Medical hypotheses vol. 62,5 (2004): 689-700. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2003.11.028
5. Mosconi, Lisa et al. “Lifestyle and vascular risk effects on MRI-based biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease: a cross-sectional study of middle-aged adults from the broader New York City area.” BMJ open vol. 8,3 e019362. 23 Mar. 2018, doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-019362
6. Reger, Mark A et al. “Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults.” Neurobiology of aging vol. 25,3 (2004): 311-4. doi:10.1016/S0197-4580(03)00087-3
7. Martí Del Moral, Amelia, and Francesca Fortique. “Omega-3 fatty acids and cognitive decline: a systematic review.” “Omega-3 y deterioro cognitivo: una revisión sistemática.” Nutricion hospitalaria vol. 36,4 (2019): 939-949. doi:10.20960/nh.02496
8. Small, Gary et al. "Memory and Brain Amyloid and Tau Effects of a Bioavailable Form of Curcumin in Non-Demented Adults" Am J Geriatr Psychiatry 26:3, March 2018 doi.org/10.1016/j.jagp.2017.10.010
9. Mori, Koichiro et al. “Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Phytotherapy research : PTR vol. 23,3 (2009): 367-72. doi:10.1002/ptr.2634
10. Lazar, Sara W et al. “Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness.” Neuroreport vol. 16,17 (2005): 1893-7. doi:10.1097/01.wnr.0000186598.66243.19
11. E. Baron Short, Samet Kose, Qiwen Mu, Jeffery Borckardt, Andrew Newberg, Mark S. George, F. Andrew Kozel, "Regional Brain Activation during Meditation Shows Time and Practice Effects: An Exploratory FMRI Study", Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 7, Article ID 132717, 7 pages, 2010. https://doi.org/10.1093/ecam/nem163
12. Alhola, Paula, and Päivi Polo-Kantola. “Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance.” Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment vol. 3,5 (2007): 553-67.
13. United States, Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “How Much Sleep Do I Need?”Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2 March 2017, www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html.
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.