In other words, my brain has taken quite the beating.
Researchers used to think that if you damaged your brain like I did, you simply had to live with it.
But that’s no longer true.
They now know the brain is plastic and flexible, and it can heal and recover.
You’re not stuck with the brain you have.
You can actually change and improve it.
One way your brain repairs itself is through a process called synaptogenesis.
Synaptogenesis is the formation of new synapses in the brain.
Synapses are the connecting points between your 100 billion brain cells. You have trillions of synapses in your brain, and your brain cells communicate with one another across them (1).
The deterioration and loss of synapses is linked to a number of neurodegenerative disorders and mental health problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, depression, poor memory, intellectual impairment and other cognitive deficits (2-6).
The good news is that researchers now know that synaptogenesis occurs in the brain throughout our entire lives (7-8).
And there are a number of ways you can support synaptogenesis and promote the formation of new brain synapses.
Here are 8 natural ways to do that.
Following these strategies can improve your mood, memory and cognition.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Uridine and Choline
The formation of synapses depends on sufficient brain levels of three key nutrients – uridine, omega-3 fatty acids, and choline. These nutrients are synergistic, and if you take them taken together, they accelerate the formation of new synapses in the brain (9-14).
Unfortunately, most people nowadays don’t get enough of these essential nutrients through their diet because very few foods in the Western diet actually contain them.
But several researchers have concluded that supplementing with all three nutrients can increase synaptic formation and improve cognition and memory, particularly in people with Alzheimer’s disease (15-21).
Besides supplementing with these nutrients, you should also try to eat more foods that contain them.
The best way to get more omega-3 fatty acids is by eating more cold-water fish, such as salmon, black cod, sablefish, sardines and herring. And the best sources of choline include grass-fed beef liver and egg yolks. These foods are included in my Free Grocery Shopping Guide for Optimal Brain Health.
Unfortunately, the uridine found in food is not bioavailable, and no food has been shown to increase levels of uridine in the brain (22).
So you will have to supplement with uridine to get its brain-healing benefits.
Bacopa monnieri is an adaptogenic herb with cognitive-enhancing effects.
Several studies show that it improves cognition and memory by strengthening communications between brain cells. Both healthy and elderly people who take the herb experience improved attention, learning and memory (23-26).
Researchers believe these improvements are because bacopa encourages and enhances synaptogenesis (27).
Bacopa is one of my favourite herbs. It has significantly supported my brain over the years. I highly recommend it to everyone.
- Magnesium Threonate
Magnesium is a vital mineral that participates in more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body.
It affects neurotransmitter and hormonal activity, which can have a huge effect on your brain function.
Researchers have found that increasing magnesium levels in the brain improves learning and memory by promoting synaptogenesis (28-29).
One study concluded that magnesium threonate increases the number of synaptic connections between brain cells and boosts the density of synapses (30).
Unfortunately, lot of people are deficient in magnesium today (31-33).
But there are a number of ways you can make sure you’re consuming enough.
First, make sure you’re eating magnesium-rich foods on a regular basis, including spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocado, dark chocolate and bananas.
Epsom salt baths are another great way to increase your body’s intake of magnesium.
But since most people are deficient, magnesium is one of the three supplements that I think everyone should be taking.
Magnesium threonate is the best type of magnesium to supplement with to increase your brain magnesium levels and form new synapses.
Exercise is one of the best ways to promote the formation of new synapses.
Researchers have repeatedly found that physical activity encourages synaptogenesis (34-35).
So not surprisingly, many brain health experts recommend exercise as their number one piece of advice for optimal brain health.
I recommend finding a sport or exercise routine that you enjoy, so that you’ll stick with it consistently.
- Intermittent Fasting
Fasting allows your digestive system to take a break and triggers a number of hormones that boost your body’s ability to repair itself.
On most days, I don’t eat breakfast at all, and then “break my fast” by eating my first meal of the day around 2 or 3 p.m. That means I eat all my food for the day within an 8-hour window.
There are many health benefits to doing this.
Researchers have found that fasting can trigger and enhance synaptogenesis (36-39).
The best way to start fasting is simply by eating dinner around 6, not eating anything after that before bed, and then eating a regular breakfast the next day. That should give you about 12-14 hours of fasting time.
- Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo Biloba is a plant that has been used in China for thousands of years to treat a number of health problems. It’s one of the top-selling herbal supplements in the world, and it’s even a prescription herb in Germany.
It’s most commonly used to improve brain health because it’s been shown to increase brain blood flow and improve memory and attention in both healthy and unhealthy individuals. It even reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and may also improve mood and mental energy (40).
But that’s not all.
Researchers have also discovered that it stimulates synaptogenesis (41).
Resveratrol is a beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound found in grapes, red wine, raspberries and dark chocolate.
It’s known to help prevent the development of neurodegenerative diseases.
And researchers are starting to understand why.
For one, it promotes and enhances synaptogenesis (42-43).
Quercetin is a bioflavonoid found in fruits and vegetables.
It has potent antioxidant action and is “neuroactive”, meaning it can affect brain function.
As a result, it can protect brain cells from oxidative stress and inhibit the pro-inflammatory molecules that are associated with many progressive brain disorders (44-45).
Researchers have also found that it stimulates synaptogenesis (46).
Red apples, onions and tomatoes have the high levels of quercetin. But you can also supplement with it if you want.
It’s interesting to note that quercetin increases the absorption of resveratrol, so it’s a good idea to take them both together if you want to increase synaptogenesis and form new brain synapses (47).