Studies have shown that taking the proper supplements can help protect our brain against mental decline. Below are some of the most sought-after supplements that cover a wide variety of needs for a healthy brain.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids. It means that it is needed for our health but our body can’t make them. Also, “Some studies suggest that Omega-3s may be helpful in the treatment of depression as they seem to have a mood-stabilizing effect.” says Staci Lee Schnell, MS, CS, LMFT. That being said, we have to get it from the food we eat. Omega -3 fatty acids help build brain cell membranes and promote new brain cell formation. It also reduces brain inflammation. Senior adults make this part of their daily supplement as this improves one’s mood and memory, plus it gives protection against brain disorders ranging from depression to dementia. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish such as tuna, salmon, and halibut; kinds of seafood like algae and krill; some nuts and grains like flaxseed and flaxseed oil, walnuts, chia seeds; vegetables like beans and spinach.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits, especially to the digestive system. Probiotics are good bacteria. They are naturally produced by our bodies and can also be found in the food that we eat and supplements in the form of capsules and liquid drinks. Our digestive system carries a balanced level of good and bad bacteria. Sometimes, the balance gets
disrupted because of the antibiotics we take when we are sick, or the stress that we encounter every day. Probiotics help restore the balance. Our gut bacteria are responsible for producing various neurotransmitters, including the “happy molecule” serotonin. The good bacteria strains Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria act as antioxidants that protect our brain cells from radical damage. Imbalanced gut flora can cause a number of brain-related conditions including anxiety, ADHD, autism, carb cravings, depression, memory loss, concentration problems, chronic inflammation, and more. So, better keep that gut balanced all the time. “Eat a healthful diet, that is low in fat, high in fiber, and rich in vitamins and minerals. Specific dietary factors that may be beneficial in depression are the B-complex vitamins (found in whole grains) and omega-3 fatty acids (found in cold-water fish, fish oil, and flax seeds).” says ADAA member Stephanie Kriesberg, PsyD.
Fermented products like yogurt and kefir are a good source of probiotics. Fermented soy foods like tamari, miso tempeh; and traditional pickled vegetables of all kinds are also major sources of probiotics.
- S-Adenosyl Methionine (SAMe)
S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe) is a naturally-produced compound that is within the body tissues. SAMe takes care of the cell membranes and it is part of the immune system’s function. It helps in the production and the release of brain hormones such as serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine. It is best paired with vitamin B12 and vitamin B9. Deficiency in either vitamin B12 or vitamin b9 reduces levels of SAMe in your body. Studies show that SAMe can be of assistance to those with depression issues. There are man-made SAMe supplements that can be taken by mouth and by IV.
Gamma-Amino Butyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid that serves as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. GABA inhibits nerve impulse transmission in the brain resulting to calm nervous activity. This amino acid is produced from glutamate in the brain cells and serves as a neurotransmitter inhibitor. While glutamate acts as an excitatory neurotransmitter and tells nearby cells to release nerve impulses, GABA does the opposite—it tells the adjacent cells not to send or “fire” impulses. Seizures and anxiety disorders such as panic attacks and other conditions including headaches, Parkinson’s Syndrome, addiction and cognitive impairment are all related to low GABA activity. GABA is sold as a supplement and promoted for these neurotransmitter effects as a natural tranquilizer.
- Vitamin B12
According to Christina L. Gmyr, LMHC, NCC “Certain foods are linked to mental health issues such as increased symptoms of depression and decreased self-esteem.” That is why our body requires B12 as this plays an important role in the development of the human brain, blood cells, and the nervous system. Many studies have also been conducted in recent years for Vitamin B12 as an aid to fight brain shrinkage in the elderly. Maintaining the proper level of this vitamin helps keep our brain healthy as it fights off depression and other memory problems. Vitamin B12 can be found mostly in animal foods like eggs, poultry, meat, dairy, pork, clams, and liver.