2 Affordable Biofeedback Devices That Will Help You Focus and Relax

Technology is often blamed for causing us stress and inattention.

But what if technology could solve these problems?

There is an increasing amount of accessible biofeedback technology available today that can actually help you reduce anxiety and increase your concentration. Yet a lot of people don't know about them. 

Biofeedback is the process of gaining greater awareness of how your body is functioning. By doing this, you learn how to change and manipulate your body and brain at will.  

I’ve already discussed how neurofeedback dramatically altered my brain function for the better.  

But neurofeedback is just one form of biofeedback, and there are a number of different biofeedback gadgets available today. 

Here are my two favourite biofeedback devices that I’ve used and continue to use on a daily basis to maintain optimal brain and mental health. 

1. The Muse Headband

Neurofeedback has been the best investment of my entire life. But when I first wrote about it, I got a lot of messages and comments from people expressing their disappointment that neurofeedback isn’t available in their area. Or that it's simply too expensive!

I understand that. You have bills to pay and children to support. If it's between putting food on your plate or doing some strange brain training, it makes sense that you'll choose the former and forget the latter. 

But that doesn't mean you can't experience the benefits of clinical neurofeedback through other technologies.

In my experience, the Muse headband is an excellent substitution that can help you increase your mental resilience. 

Muse is a brain-sensing headband that accurately monitors and measures your brainwaves, just like neurofeedback, but in the comfort of your own home.

As I discussed in my article about neurofeedback, your brain is constantly generating electrical signals. These signals can be detected from outside your head, via electroencephalography (EEG) sensors. Doctors and scientists have used this technology for more than 100 years to study the brain.

The Muse headset has seven EEG sensors that pick up the electrical activity of your brain while you meditate. 

How The Muse Works and How It Can Help You

The headset rests across your forehead and tucks behind your ears

The headset rests across your forehead and tucks behind your ears

During each meditation session, the Muse headband sends your brainwave data to your mobile phone via Bluetooth.

The Muse app then quickly analyzes this data, and determines whether your mind is relaxed or active. It then provides you with instant feedback through your mobile phone.

The feedback comes in the form of auditory weather sounds. When you’re calm and focused, you’ll hear sounds of peaceful weather through your phone, such as gentle waves and chirping birds. But when your mind is wandering, the weather will become more turbulent and you’ll hear loud wind and crashing waves, reminding you to relax and refocus.

After each session, the app will display the percentage of time you spent in a calm, neutral or active state of mind.

In other words, the Muse is a mental health wearable that lets you hear what’s going on inside your mind so that you can learn to naturally guide yourself to a calmer, focused state. 

(Insert images of me wearing the headband)

To do this, you typically need multiple sensors attached to your head and thousands of dollars of professional neurofeedback equipment. That’s why many physicians, researchers and educators are extremely interested in the Muse.

Over 100 universities and institutes including Harvard are running clinical trials with the device. The Denver Public School system has already implemented a pilot program using the Muse in classrooms to help children with ADHD and other learning difficulties. And the Department of Veterans Affairs plans to test the product’s efficacy in managing the symptoms of PTSD. 

If you’re interested in trying it, you can get it through Amazon or the Muse website

If you truly struggle with anxiety and lack of concentration, I think it’s money well-spent. It costs about the same as several therapy sessions, but the Muse is much more helpful because, unlike psychologists and psychiatrists, it provides instant feedback on the functioning of your brain and doesn't push medication on you. Plus, you only need one headband for your household because more than one person is able to use the same headset.

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My Experience with the Muse and How It’s Similar to Clinical Neurofeedback

I bought the Muse headband late last year after it was recommended to me by my neurofeedback practitioner here in Ottawa.

Based on further research, it appears to be the most effective and affordable EEG device on the market. It's very accurate, easy to use and immediately picks up when your mind wanders. I use it for 20 minutes, five to seven days each week. 

Because of my intensive clinical neurofeedback training, I get very high scores on Muse.  I usually get at least 95% calm during each session. During the above session, I got 99% calm.

Because of my intensive clinical neurofeedback training, I get very high scores on Muse. I usually get at least 95% calm during each session. During the above session, I got 99% calm.

The Muse headband may not be as tailored and profound as working with a neurofeedback practitioner, but it’s very similar. And with consistent practice and patience, you can reach similar levels of calm and experience many of the same cognitive benefits that you would with neurofeedback (without having to pay thousands of dollars for it). In fact, it’s signal quality has been shown to be almost as accurate as expensive clinical-grade EEG neurofeedback equipment (12). 

As you train with the Muse on a regular basis, you'll get better at managing your brain waves and become more centered and focused over time. Because of neurofeedback and the Muse, I have a consistent sense of being in the present moment, rather than being lost in thoughts about the past or future.

I still recommend clinical neurofeedback training over the Muse, as it’s the fastest way to make mental progress. But if you can’t access or afford neurofeedback, the Muse is an excellent substitute that packs traditional EEG technology into a small and cheaper device. 

My neurofeedback practitioner actually suggests that some people may only need consistent practice with the Muse. Depending on the patient and the results of their "brain mapping," she'll sometimes recommend the Muse instead of neurofeedback training at her clinic. 

However, this isn’t the case for everyone. The Muse wouldn’t have been enough for me. I personally needed clinical neurofeedback training, and others likely do too. But the Muse is definitely a good place to start. You can get it here or here.

If you decide to get the Muse Headband, you should also consider downloading the third-party EEG monitoring app called the “Muse Monitor” app. It's a third-party EEG monitoring app that displays all of your brainwaves (alpha, beta, theta, etc.) and their patterns on your phone in real time. 

This app has allows me to test and experiment with different nootropic supplements and monitor how they affect my brain waves, something I was unable to do in the clinic with my neurofeedback practitioner. I plan on writing more about those experiments later. 

2. The EmWave2

When you experience stressful emotions such as tension, anxiety, irritation, or anger, your heart rhythm becomes irregular and incoherent, negatively affecting your health and brain function. When you experience positive emotions such as appreciation, care, joy and love, your heart rhythm is more ordered and coherent.

The EmWave2 trains you to change your heart rhythm pattern and reach a state of coherence. When you are in a coherent state, there is harmony between your heart, brain and nervous system. Your psychological and physiological bodily functions are balanced, and your parasympathetic “rest-and-digest” nervous system becomes dominant.

Overall, high coherence is like “being in the zone” – a simultaneous state of calm relaxation and energized alertness. And the EmWave2 helps you get there. 

How EmWave2 Works

The EmWave2 is a small handheld device about the size of an iPod. It collects your pulse through a pulse sensor, measures your heart rhythm, guides you to breathe in and out every five seconds, and determines if your nervous system is in a “coherent” or “incoherent” state. 


If you’re completely stressed, the EmWave2 will give you feedback in the form of a red light, letting you know that you’re in an incoherent state. The device will then provide guidance you so that you can consciously increase your coherence. Once your heart rate and breathing are synchronized, the EmWave2 will give you positive feedback in the form of a green light, letting you know that you’ve reached a coherent state. As you get used to the device, it becomes a challenge to see how high you can score on the coherence scale. Higher coherence scores indicate that you are in a more relaxed state of mind.

The EmWave2 is being used by over 10,000 different health care professionals in the U.S., including 65 veteran administration hospitals and clinics for the treatment of PTSD.

Dr. Lawrence Rosen, an Integrative Pediatrician at the Whole Child Center, says he uses the EmWave2 with his patients that struggle with anxiety:

I teach my anxious and stressed patients really simple little breathing techniques, and we work on synchronizing their breathing with their heartbeat. Not only do they feel more relaxed, but the body’s physiology changes. We can measure hormone levels that show that the body is in a less stressed state. I’ve used it on people as young as 3 years old and up to 103.
— Dr. Lawrence Rosen, MD

My Experience with the EmWave2 and How It Could Help You

I’ve been using the EmWave2 for over a year now and it works. Increasing my coherence has had a number of mental and emotional and benefits. When I have a high degree of coherence, I am able to focus while remaining physically and emotionally calm.

I use the EmWave2 twice every day for just five to ten minutes. After using it, it feels like there has been a positive internal shift within my body. It’s hard to explain exactly. But when I stop using it, I notice I feel less content and fall into negative attitudes and mindsets much more easily.

If you're interested in trying the EmWave2, you can get it through Amazon or the HeartMath website.

Here are some of the main benefits you may notice from using it:

  • Less stress and anxietyThe EmWave2 will help turn down your “fight or flight” response. If you struggle with generalized anxiety or chronic stress like I used to, I highly recommend this device (and supplementary zinc and magnesium). It won’t stop stress and anxiety completely, but it will definitely reduce the amount you experience, increase your resilience to it and help you cope with it when it does hit you. I use it when I find myself in an anxious state of mind. It shifts my mindset into a calmer state.

  • Improved mood – When you have low heart coherence, you’re more likely to be stuck in a stressed and depressed state of mind. In my experience, the EmWave2 can help you snap out of it and regain an emotionally-balanced mood and optimistic outlook.

  • Improved cognitive performance – Anxiety and depression can cause poor cognition. I noticed this for many years. Whenever I wasn’t feeling mentally well, my performance suffered and it was hard for me to think straight and be productive. That’s because stress shuts down the prefrontal cortex. The EmWave2 can increase the efficiency and functioning of your nervous system, which reduces stress and helps reactivate your brain’s higher-order functions. My focus has improved since I started using it.

Without some sort of biofeedback, it’s hard to know when you’re coherent or incoherent. The EmWave2 will tell you when you’re in an incoherent state, and then guide you so that you can consciously get yourself out of it.  

At first, you may get really low coherence scores and find it incredibly frustrating. I went through the same thing. But you need to give it some time. These devices are long-term healing strategies, not quick-fixes. Getting the most out of the device will require a commitment to use it on a regular basis because the benefits appear over time. And if it doesn't end up helping you, you can return it for a refund.


As I’ve said before, cognitive problems and mental illness are multi-faceted. There are many underlying problems and multiple fixes. But regulating your nervous system and brainwaves is a big part of it, and these devices (along with neurofeedback) have allowed me to make huge strides:

Unfortunately, your health insurance won’t cover them. The pharmaceutical industry would lose a lot of money if everyone had access to these biofeedback technologies. Profits are the foundation of the broken medical system, not human health. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t take control of your own brain and mental health starting today. 

Please let me know what you think in the comments, and share with anyone you think might benefit because a lot of people don’t know about these types of biofeedback technologies.

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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How to Actually Heal and Repair a Leaky Blood-Brain Barrier

Blood-brain barrier leakage means that the brain has lost its protective means, the stability of brain cells is disrupted and the environment in which nerve cells interact becomes ill-conditioned. These mechanisms could eventually lead to dysfunction in the brain.
— Dr. Walter H. Backes, Maastricht University Medical Center

A healthy, properly-functioning blood-brain barrier is absolutely critical for optimal brain and mental health.

The blood-brain barrier is a protective shield that surrounds your brain. It acts as a gatekeeper and filter, allowing beneficial nutrients to cross over into your brain, and keeping unwanted molecules out of your brain.  

But in his book Why Isn’t My Brain Working, Dr. Datis Kharrazian explains that the blood-brain barrier can break down and become “leaky”. This allows harmful substances to enter your brain, contributing to brain inflammation, which has been shown to cause cognitive problems and mental illness (92, 110-111).

Hyper-permeability of the blood-brain barrier and neuroinflammation have been linked to a number of different brain and mental health problems and symptoms, including depression, anxiety, cognitive impairment, brain fog, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson’s disease, headaches, migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and schizophrenia (101-109). 

A number of factors contribute to “leaky brain”, including (93-100):

  • Systemic inflammation

  • Oxidative stress

  • Autoimmune disease

  • Chronic psychological stress

  • Infections

  • Head trauma

  • Poor diet and food additives

  • Disrupted circadian rhythm

  • Intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome)

  • Excess alcohol consumption

  • Environmental toxins and heavy metals

  • High blood sugar

  • Poor brain blood flow


Needless to say, these things are very common today, so a lot of people likely have a leaky blood-brain barrier.

The good news is that even though the blood-brain barrier can break down and become leaky, it can also be fixed!

You can repair it if you give it what it needs to heal. 

After living in a moldy home and suffering multiple concussions, my brain and its barrier were in rough shape.

Since then, I’ve searched far and wide for solutions that could strengthen it.

Here are 22 strategies that have helped me.

They've been proven to help repair and support the blood brain barrier

Together, they can help you reduce neuroinflammation, heal your “leaky brain,” and overcome your brain and mental health challenges. 


1. Avoid Gluten

Avoiding gluten is necessary for optimal brain and mental health.

I’m convinced that if you struggle with a chronic brain or mental illness, you should follow a strict gluten-free diet for at least 30 days and see how you feel. You'll likely feel better.


There’s one main reason I recommend this…

Gluten has been shown to elevate “zonulin”.

Zonulin is a protein in your body that increases the permeability of the intestinal barrier and disrupts the blood-brain barrier (48).

Researchers have found that gluten clearly increases zonulin and contributes to “leaky gut” and “leaky brain”, resulting in neuroinflammation and altered cognitive function (49, 50).

Gluten sensitivity can also create visible changes to the white matter in your brain, according to research in The Lancet Neurology (51).

Yet unfortunately, the myth continues to spread that only people with celiac disease need to avoid gluten-containing food. That’s simply not true.  

Dr. David Perlmutter, MD, author of Grain Brain and Brain Maker, explains:

Not only is there increased gut permeability when the gut is exposed to gliadin, a protein found in gluten, but in fact the blood brain barrier also becomes more permeable in response to gliadin exposure.

You should also determine if you have other food sensitivities and remove those foods from your diet as well. A lot of people are sensitive to dairy, along with gluten. I can't tolerate gluten, dairy and egg whites and have to avoid them completely. 


2. Heal Your Gut

There is a clear connection between your brain and digestive system. I’ve discussed this before.

Whatever happens in your gut directly impacts your brain function.

Because of this connection, it’s critical to address gut issues in order to heal a leaky brain.

Researchers have studied mice that are “germ free”.

“Germ-free mice” means that the mice don’t have any bacteria in their intestines.

And what did the researchers find?

They found that these mice had very leaky blood-brain barriers (56).

But when these germ-free mice received a fecal transfer, where researchers introduced bacteria into their intestines, the permeability of their blood-brain barriers decreased significantly (57).

So it’s becoming increasing clear that our gut bacteria directly affect the health of our blood-brain barrier.

And manipulating your gut bacteria, and increasing the amount of good bacteria in your digestive system, can help improve the integrity of your blood-brain barrier and heal your leaky brain. 

Given that the microbiome composition and diversity change over time, it is tempting to speculate that the blood-brain barrier integrity also may fluctuate depending on the microbiome.
— Dr. Sven Pettersson, MD, PhD

In my experience, this is true, as my brain functions much better when I take care of my gut. 

Eating more prebiotic fiber and resistant starch, taking a high-quality probiotic, and eating fermented foods on a regular basis can increase the amount of good bacteria in your gut.

You should check out my previous article about gut health to learn more.

And if you have depression or anxiety, taking these probiotics can help.


3. Drink Coffee

Coffee and caffeine are excellent for brain health. There is a lot of research showing they are very healthy and can be protective against dementia.

One possible explanation for this is that caffeine supports the blood-brain barrier.

Studies show that caffeine protects against Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson’s disease by keeping the blood-brain barrier intact, and protecting against blood-brain barrier dysfunction and leakage (32).

In one study, researchers found that caffeine blocks the disruption of the blood-brain barrier, concluding that caffeine is “useful in the treatment Alzheimer's disease” (33, 34).

Another study showed that caffeine can protect against Parkinson’s disease and neurodegeneration by stabilizing the blood-brain barrier (35).

I used to not be able to handle any coffee and caffeine at all. But now that I'm healthy, I can handle it just fine. I drink one cup of this coffee most mornings.

Coffee and caffeine can disrupt sleep though, so make sure you don’t drink it later in the day. I have my last cup sometime between 10 in the morning and noon. If I have it any later than that, it disrupts my sleep.

It's also important to note that some people simply can’t tolerate coffee. This is because most coffee contains low levels of mycotoxins (toxic metabolites produced by mold). 

After living in a moldy home for more than one year, I’m extremely sensitive to mold and mycotoxins. Kicking Horse Kickass coffee and Bulletproof coffee are the only two coffees I have found so far that don’t make me feel sick. I can also tolerate pure caffeine tablets.

Most people can tolerate regular coffee just fine. But if coffee makes you feel terrible and jittery, it might be the quality of the coffee. Consider trying one of the two coffees above, or simply take pure caffeine, and see how you feel. You’ll likely feel better than if you consumed low-quality coffee. 

Lastly, there are additional brain health benefits when you consume the whole coffee fruit, instead of just coffee or pure caffeine. 

The coffee bean is usually extracted from the whole coffee fruit for roasting. And the surrounding fruit is then thrown away. 

But this is a problem because the coffee fruit contains several healthy compounds not found in coffee beans themselves.

And researchers have now discovered that ingesting whole coffee fruit concentrate significantly increases brain function.

That’s why I included coffee fruit concentrate in the Optimal Brain supplement

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4. Sulforaphane

Sulforaphane is a phytochemical found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts or cabbages.

It has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions.

It’s quite similar to curcumin.

Numerous studies have shown that sulforaphane can prevent the breakdown of the blood-brain barrier, reduce permeability of the blood-brain barrier, and improve cognitive function after stroke and traumatic brain injuries (87-91).

You can take sulforaphane in supplement form.

If you decide to take it as a supplement, make sure you get the "myrosinase-activated" form.

Myrosinase is the enzyme in broccoli that helps metabolize sulforaphane.

I once bought a supplement that didn't contain myrosinase and had to return it, and then ended up buying this one instead.


5. Avoid Alcohol


Not surprisingly, alcohol and acetaldehyde – a byproduct of alcohol metabolism – can weaken and damage the blood-brain barrier, and contribute to leaky brain.  

Researchers have found that the oxidative stress that results from excess alcohol consumption can result in blood-brain barrier dysfunction (58, 59).

And this can then lead to neuro-inflammation (60).

There are ways to protect your brain from alcohol, but you’re better off avoiding it completely or significantly reducing your consumption if you’re trying to heal.

Some types of alcohol are better than others. You can learn more about that here



6. Resveratrol or Pterostilbene

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 scientists are starting to understand why.

Resveratrol can increase BDNF and support your mitochondria.

And according to cutting-edge research, it can protect and support your blood-brain barrier.

In a recent study, researchers gave resveratrol to Alzheimer’s patients and it restored the integrity of their blood-brain barriers. Because of this, there was a reduction in brain inflammation, which slowed down cognitive decline in the patients (38, 39). 

Numerous other studies have found that resveratrol:

  • Significantly reduces the breakage, damage and dysfunction of the blood-brain barrier;

  • Defends and protects the blood-brain barrier; and

  • Improves and maintains the overall integrity of the blood-brain barrier (36-37, 40-43).

Resveratrol imposes a kind of crowd control at the border of the brain. The agent seems to shut out unwanted immune molecules that can exacerbate brain inflammation and kill neurons.
— Dr. Charbel Moussa, MD, PhD

Because of resveratrol’s ability to stabilize the blood-brain barrier and protect against neuroinflammation, researchers also believe it may reduce the clinical severity of multiple sclerosis (44).

Lastly, resveratrol has been shown to protects against oxidized LDL-induced breakage of the blood–brain barrier (45, 46).

So clearly resveratrol is great for our blood-brain barriers.

If resveratrol was a pharaceutical drug, we would definitely be hearing more about it. But natural compounds cannot be patented, so we don't.  

I regularly supplement with this resveratrol. You can get it here or here

Pterostilbene, a compound found in blueberries, is very similar to resveratrol.

It’s also been shown to protect the blood-brain barrier by reducing oxidative stress, but it’s better absorbed. In fact, it’s commonly referred to as a “better resveratrol” (47).

I tried this pterostilbene and it was beneficial, but I didn’t find it any more helpful than resveratrol, so I’ve decided to just stick with resveratrol considering it has significantly more research to back it up. 

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7. Reduce Stress

I highly recommend you try to do something every day to manage and reduce your stress.

Research suggests that acute stress damages the blood-brain barrier (52).

And extreme stress has been shown to increase inflammation and increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier (53-55).

Luckily, normalizing stress can help the blood-brain barrier repair itself.


The most effective way to significantly reduce your stress and anxiety is neurofeedback. It’s advanced, guided meditation and I previously wrote about my experience with it here.

If you can’t access neurofeedback, taking up a daily meditation practice is an excellent idea.

I’m a big fan of the Muse headband. It’s a device that guides you while you meditation. Similar to neurofeedback, it gives you real-time feedback while you meditate. I wrote an entire review about it here, and you can get the device through Amazon or the Muse website

Regular massage, acupuncture, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), emotional freedom techniques (EFT), heart-rate variability (HRV) training, and this acupressure mat have helped me a lot as well.

Lying on this acupressure mat while using my EmWave2 for just 10 minutes relaxes my entire body and mind. I do this at night before bed.

Some supplements that can help you with stress include zinc, magnesium, ashwagandha and phosphatidylserine.

This anti-anxiety supplement also includes a number of natural compounds that have helped me manage my stress over the years.


8. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that your body cannot produce itself, and they are absolutely necessary for the normal functioning of your brain and nervous system.

They can support your mitochondria, increase your BDNF levels, and help you overcome addiction and withdrawal.

But they can also support your blood-brain barrier.

Researchers have found that omega-3 fatty acids can: 

  • Reduce damage to the blood-brain barrier after stoke;

  • Limit blood-brain barrier disruption after traumatic brain injury; and

  • Benefit people with multiple sclerosis by indirectly reducing disruption of their blood-brain barriers (76-78).

Wild fish is the best food source of omega-3 fatty acids, but unfortunately, most people don't consume enough omega-3 fatty acids through their diet.

That’s why I recommend people supplement with krill oil, a special kind of fish oil that contains the essential omega-3 fatty acids. I take this one

Krill oil also contains astaxanthin, a powerful, naturally occurring carotenoid.

Astaxanthin has also been shown to decreases inflammation and protect the blood-brain barrier (118-119).


9. Sleep and Melatonin

Deep sleep is necessary for the optimal functioning of your blood-brain barrier.

My sleep used to be terrible and it was one of main factors that contributed to my poor brain and mental health. And then my poor brain and mental health would make my sleep worse. So it was a vicious cycle.

Sleep restriction has been shown to impair the functioning of the blood-brain barrier and increase its permeability (84).


So you should really try to get at least 7 hours of high-quality, restorative sleep every night.

Supplementing with melatonin can also help.

Melatonin is a hormone released by your pineal gland, a small gland in your brain. Melatonin helps control your sleep and wake cycles (circadian rhythm).

Adequate levels of melatonin are necessary to fall asleep quickly and sleep deeply throughout the night.

Research also shows that melatonin can stabilize the blood-brain barrier and prevent damage caused by traumatic brain injury (85, 86).

Besides taking melatonin, here are some other steps you can take to maintain your circadian rhythm and maximize the quality of your sleep:

You can also take this sleep supplement, which contains magnesium and a number of other natural compounds that I’ve used over the years to promote the production of melatonin.


10. Berberine

Berberine is an alkaloid extracted from various plants. 

It has anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and possibly antidepressant effects. It also can improve intestinal health and lower cholesterol.

Several studies have shown that it can also decrease the permeability of the blood-brain barrier and reduce brain damage after traumatic brain injury. It does this by suppressing inflammation (23-26). 

I’ve experimented with varying dosages of this berberine. I personally didn’t notice any profound brain and mental health benefits, but I have heard good things about berberine from other people. 

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11. Avoid Environmental Mold and Mycotoxins

Environmental mold can be a serious problem for some people.

Unfortunately, most people aren’t even aware that mold is in their home or workplace and affecting their brain function.

In water-damaged buildings, mycotoxins (toxic metabolites produced by mold) are released into the air.

If you’re genetically susceptible, they can wreak havoc on your brain, and your cognitive function and mental health can deteriorate for no apparent reason.

One way mold and mycotoxins can disrupt brain function is by causing “leaky brain.”

Researchers have discovered that mycotoxins can clearly reduce the integrity of the blood-brain barrier (62).

They’ve also concluded that exposure to mycotoxins in an indoor environment can cause neurological damage. One way it does this is by breaking down the blood-brain barrier (61).


Several other studies have found that mycotoxins increase the permeability of blood-brain barrier and disrupt the functioning of the nervous system (63-66).

I lived in a moldy house for more than a year, and my blood-brain barrier likely became significantly leaky during that time as my brain and mental health deteriorated. I also suffered a terrible concussion while living in that house, making my brain even more permeable. It took a while to get it back to normal.

Today I use this air filter in my apartment to protect myself from any mold. It removes any mold spores and smoke that may be in the air.

Mycotoxins aren’t just in your environment though. Low amounts of mycotoxins are also often found in some seemingly healthy foods, such as tea, nuts, coffee and chocolate. I recommend finding the freshest, highest-quality, organic versions of these foods.

If I'm exposed to mold or their toxins, I supplement with activated charcoal or bentonite clay. Activated charcoal and bentonite clay are potent natural treatments that can trap toxins and chemicals, allowing them to be flushed out of your body.


12. B Vitamins

Several B vitamins have been shown to support the blood-brain barrier and help heal leaky brain.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency disrupts the blood-brain barrier, and supplementing with Vitamin B1 restores its integrity (80-81).

Researchers have also found that vitamins B12, B6, and B9 (folate) can restore the integrity of the blood-brain barrier in adults that have elevated homocysteine levels and mild cognitive impairment. Homocysteine is an inflammatory compound that can contribute to blood-brain barrier breakdown at high levels, and the B vitamins normalize homocysteine levels (82-83).

I take this B complex regularly. It contains the bioactive forms of all the B vitamins, including methyl-B12, methylfolate and P-5-P. 


13. Magnesium

Magnesium is a vital mineral that plays a role in more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body.

It impacts your neurotransmitters and hormones, both of which can significantly impact your mood and brain function.

Magnesium is one of the three nutrients that I think everyone should be taking for their brain, because most people are deficient nowadays.

Research shows that it can support your mitochondria, protect your brain from alcohol, increase your BDNF levels, and help you overcome addiction and withdrawal.

And there is plenty of research showing that it can protect and support your blood-brain barrier as well.


Multiple studies have found that magnesium protects the blood-brain barrier, prevents its disruption, and significantly reduces hyperpermeability of the blood-brain barrier (27, 28, 31).

One study found that it decreases blood-brain barrier permeability by 41% (29).

Magnesium’s protective effect against blood-brain barrier hyperpermeability has also been seen after traumatic brain injury (30).

Foods that contain magnesium include spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocado, dark chocolate and bananas.

But supplementation and taking Epsom salt baths is still necessary for most people because magnesium is rapidly used up during times of stress and certain psychiatric drugs can deplete magnesium.

I take this magnesium


14. Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) and Acetyl-Carnitine (ALCAR)

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is an antioxidant produced by your body. It can also be taken as a supplement.

ALA is fat soluble and can easily cross the blood-brain barrier to protect your brain (1-3).


As I’ve discussed before, it can protect your brain from alcohol and support the mitochondria in your brain.

But not only can it cross your blood-brain barrier and support your brain; it can also support your blood-brain barrier itself.

Studies show that ALA has neuroprotective effects, and it maintains the integrity of the blood-brain barrier by reducing oxidative stress (4-5)

Researchers also point out that its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects can stabilize the blood-brain barrier. This makes it an “attractive therapeutic agent for the treatment” of multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injury (6-8).

ALA is synergistic with Acetyl-Carnitine (ALCAR), meaning that when you take them together, they are more effective at supporting your brain.

ALCAR is an acetylated form of the amino acid carnitine. It is neuroprotective and cognitive-enhancing, and as I’ve discussed before, it can help you overcome brain fog, addiction and withdrawal.

ALCAR is part of the Optimal Brain supplement, and ALA is part of Optimal Antiox.

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15. Curcumin

Curcumin is the most heavily researched compound within turmeric, the spice that gives curry its yellow colour.

Curcumin is one of my favourite compounds for the brain. It can lower your cortisol levels and increase your BDNF levels.


But it can also:

  • Reduce the disruption and hyperpermeability of the blood-brain barrier;

  • Reverse blood-brain barrier dysfunction; and

  • Improve the overall integrity of the blood-brain barrier (13-18).

Studies have also shown that curcumin can prevent blood-brain barrier damage and reduce the permeability of the blood-brain barrier caused by oxygen and glucose deprivation (20-22).

Researchers believe it can do all of this because it significantly reduces inflammation and oxidative stress (19).

There are several different forms of “bioavailable” curcumin and I've tried most of them. My favourite is the "Longvida" form of curcumin


16. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that your skin synthesizes when it’s exposed to the sun.

Every tissue in your body has vitamin D receptors, including the brain, heart, muscles, and immune system.

This means your entire body needs it to function properly and a deficiency can lead to costly physiological and psychological consequences.

Researchers have found that Vitamin D can prevent the disruption of the blood-brain barrier, mainly by reducing inflammation (72, 73).

In patients with multiple sclerosis, Vitamin D has been shown to protect endothelial cells and reduce blood-brain barrier disruption (74).

And one study found that intranasal administration of vitamin D reduces blood–brain barrier disruption (75).

I personally use this Vitamin D lamp to make sure my Vitamin D levels are optimal.


17. Citicoline or Alpha GPC

Choline is an essential nutrient that most people don’t consume enough of because very few foods in the Western diet contain it.


Citicoline (also known as CDP-Choline) is the most bioavailable form of choline.

As I’ve discussed before, it can help you overcome brain fog and addiction.

But it’s also been shown to significantly decrease the disruption and breakdown of the blood-brain barrier after traumatic brain injury (11-12).

And after brain ischemia, Citicoline significantly reduces blood-brain barrier dysfunction (10).

I personally take Citicoline every day.

It helps me a lot because I’ve had multiple concussions. 

Alpha GPC is another excellent form of choline that has been shown to support the blood-brain barrier.

Researchers have found that it improves cognitive function by reversing changes to the blood-brain barrier after a brain injury (9).

You can find some choline in beef liver and egg yolks, but both citicoline and Alpha GPC have much more noticeable and immediate effects.  

Both citicoline and Alpha GPC are included in the Optimal brain supplement


18. Reduce Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs)

“I have no doubt in my mind that, at the present time, the greatest polluting element in the Earth’s environment is the proliferation of electromagnetic fields.” - Dr. Robert Becker, Nobel Prize nominee and author of The Body Electric: Electromagnetism And The Foundation Of Life

An increasing amount of research is showing that radiofrequency electromagnetic fields emitted from Wi-Fi, laptops, and cellphones can negatively affect the brain and produce widespread neuropsychiatric effects including depression.

It’s an inconvenient truth that needs to be talked about, rather than downplayed, ignored and dismissed.

One way that radiofrequency EMFs may be causing neuropsychiatric effects is by contributing to a "leaky brain".  

Several studies have found that EMFs emitted from cellphones increase the permeability of the brain-blood barrier, and this increased permeability may lead to the accumulation of brain tissue damage and cognitive impairment (112-114). 

I encourage you to check out my other post about EMFs here

I'm still learning about how to manage and combat them, but here are some initial steps you can take:

  • Get an EMF meter to determine your exposure. I use the Cornet ED88T. It's the best option that is currently available. It measures electric, magnetic and radiofrequency fields. It's like having three meters in one. You can get it here.

  • Put your phone on airplane mode when you’re not using it and/or use a radiation-blocking phone case such as Safe Sleeve. I did a lot of research into radiation-blocking cases and Safe Sleeve is the best on the market. They are manufactured with materials that have been 3rd-party tested to block 99.9% of radiation coming off a cell phone.

  • Turn off Wi-Fi at night while you’re sleeping.

  • If you have a laptop, don’t touch it. Use a wired keyboard and wired mouse instead.

  • Supplement with the herb Rhodiola. It has radioprotective effects (60-62). I take this one, and previously wrote about it here.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other steps you can take, and I plan on writing more about this soon because it isn’t discussed enough.

This may seem like “woo-woo” but it’s a real issue. And I suspect it will eventually become one of the biggest issues of our time.

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19. Lower Homocysteine

Homocysteine is an amino acid that is produced in the body as a result of methylation.

In healthy people, it’s properly metabolized and normal levels are maintained. 

But when homocysteine isn’t properly metabolized, it can build up inside the body and levels can become too high.

And that’s when homocysteine becomes dangerous and unhealthy. 

At high levels, homocysteine is inflammatory, and research shows it increases permeability of the blood-brain barrier (115).

If you test and find out your levels are high, check out this article for 16 ways to lower your homocysteine levels.

Normalizing homocysteine not only helps the brain recover from physical damage, but also reduces depression and cognitive decline.


20. Progesterone

Progesterone is a natural steroid and sex hormone involved in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.  

It has a variety of important functions in the body, and even plays an important role in brain function.  

Research has found that progesterone supports the normal development of brain cells and protects them from damage

And one study shows that it reduces inflammation and can support the blood-brain barrier after brain injury (120).

In addition to its role as a natural hormone, progesterone can be taken as a medication, usually by women during menopause as part of their hormone replacement therapy. 


21. Increase Brain Blood Flow

Brain blood flow, or cerebral blood flow, refers to the blood supply that reaches your brain during a given period of time. 

Your brain needs almost 20% of the blood supply provided by each heartbeat.

A steady flow of blood brings oxygen, glucose and nutrients to the brain, and carries carbon dioxide, lactic acid, and other metabolic waste products away from the brain.

But when blood flow to the brain is impaired, problems can arise, including a leaky blood-brain barrier.

Research shows that lack of brain blood flow increases oxidative stress, damages the blood-brain barrier, and increases blood-brain barrier permeability (116-117).

Be sure to check out this post for 21 ways to increase blood flow to the brain.


22. Other Nutrients, Antioxidants and Herbs

Here are several other nutrients, antioxidants and herbs that have been demonstrated to support the blood-brain barrier.

I’ve decided to not write about these in-depth because there isn’t as much research to back them up.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t useful though. They have still helped me: 

The brain has a remarkable ability to heal itself, and this includes the barrier that protects it.

The above 18 steps have been proven to help repair and support the blood brain barrier, and I’ve noticed the benefits of implementing them into my own life.

I hope they help you too!

Enjoy This Article? You Might Also Like My FREE Food Guide for Optimal Brain Health!

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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Reviewed by Dr. Richard Nahas, MD CCFP DCAPM ABIM and Dr. Robert Blake Gibb, MD


How to Protect Your Brain from Alcohol & Never Be Hungover


Alcohol isn’t good for you.

Ideally, you should completely avoid it for optimal brain and mental health. 

But that’s in a perfect world. 

Alcohol is everywhere and social interactions often involve it. So you’re going to end up drinking it every now and then. And during big holidays or special occasions, you likely won’t stop at one drink. 

And I don’t blame you. 

There are times when I let loose and have a drink or two (or several). Life’s too short not to indulge once in a while. 

Fortunately, it’s possible to have a few drinks on occasion without completely destroying your brain and mental health. In fact, you can enjoy the buzz safely and wake up the next day feeling great.

So I’m going to share with you my comprehensive anti-alcohol regimen so that you can manage and fight back against the damaging effects of alcohol. 

I often go many months without having a sip of alcohol. But when I do imbibe, I follow the steps below.

These recommendations will:

  • Protect your brain while consuming alcohol

  • Decrease the chances that you'll wake up depressed, anxious and hungover

  • Help you recover if you do wake up feeling sub-optimal

  • Heal your brain after long-term alcohol abuse

The more steps that you take, the less likely you will wake up feeling physically and mentally sick. 

And as you’ll see, these recommendations are very good for your brain and mental health in general. If you don’t drink, implementing some of these strategies into your everyday life will help you overcome anxiety and depression.

The Most Important Steps For Protecting Your Brain From Alcohol and Avoiding a Hangover

1. Pick The Right Drinks

The type of alcohol you drink can make a huge difference in how you feel the next morning. 

Certain drinks are worse for your brain and increase your chance of waking up hungover and depressed. 

Based on my experience and research, here are some common forms of alcohol, from best to worst:

  • Vodka – best option

  • Gin

  • Rum

  • Dry cider

  • Dry white wine

  • Tequila

  • Whiskey

  • Regular white wine

  • Red wine

  • Cider with lots of sugar

  • Gluten-free beer

  • Regular beer – worst option

Highly filtered and distilled liquor such as vodka, gin and rum are your best options. And it’s best to drink them straight. Carbonation increases the absorption of alcohol, which may increase the chance of you experiencing a hangover the next day (7). 

Dry cider and dry white wine are also decent options, but not as optimal as filtered and distilled liquor.

I recommend you completely avoid or significantly limit sugary drinks and beer. Refined sugar and wheat in beer can activate the immune system and trigger inflammation, which can negatively affect your brain and make you feel mentally unstable and foggy (57, 58). 

Some alcoholic drinks also contain congeners, substances produced during fermentation. They are often found in dark alcoholic drinks, such as whiskey and tequila, and can also contribute to hangovers, making you feel suboptimal the next day. So you should try to stay away from those too (4). 


Lastly, mycotoxins are toxic metabolites produced by mold that are capable of causing disease in humans. Low amounts of mycotoxins are often found in wine and beer, and can make you feel sick if you’re sensitive to them. And some research shows that one type of mycotoxin, ochratoxin A, can cause brain damage (49, 50, 51, 52). 

After living in a moldy environment for over one year, I became extremely sensitive to seemingly healthy foods and drinks, such as coffee, tea and nuts. Eating low-quality versions of these foods give me asthma and make me feel mentally tired. I couldn’t figure it out why at first, but I’ve now confirmed that it’s the mycotoxins that are commonly found in cheap versions of these foods. 

Not everyone will be sensitive to them. But if you are, your hangover will be worse and your cognition will suffer the next day.

That’s why I don’t recommend red wine, as it often contains them. Red wine is also overrated. It does contain the beneficial antioxidant resveratrol but not very much. Red wine manufacturers love to make it seem like it has a lot, but that’s just a marketing gimmick. You would have to drink several bottles of red wine on a regular basis to consume enough resveratrol and get major health benefits. And by drinking that much alcohol, you’d be destroying your health anyway. So you’re better off just supplementing with resveratrol

If you decide to drink something other than straight liquor, I recommend you take activated charcoal along with each drink. You can get it here

2. Drink Lots of Water

Alcohol dehydrates your body. 

And the tissue around your brain is made up of water. So as you drink, and you lose water, the tissues around your brain start to shrink. This leads to pressure around your head that can contribute to headaches, fatigue and dizziness (5, 6).

That’s why you should hydrate heavily. Have one or two cups of water with each alcoholic drink, and lots of water before bed. 

Your brain will thank you for it. 

3. Liposomal Glutathione

Your body breaks down alcohol into acetaldehyde, a highly-reactive compound that is actually much more toxic to your brain than alcohol itself.

Your liver enzymes and antioxidants try to detoxify and eliminate it, but they often cannot keep up, leading to common hangover symptoms (19).

But hangover symptoms can be prevented or significantly reduced if you help your body get rid of the acetaldehyde. 

This can be done by supporting your body's natural detoxification pathways.  

One way to do this is by increasing glutathione, your body’s master antioxidant. 


Glutathione plays a key role in alcohol detoxification by “mopping up” acetaldehyde. And it's been shown that regular alcohol exposure depletes glutathione (47).

That’s why I recommend supplementing with liposomal glutathione before and after you drink alcohol. Doing so will guarantee you have enough of the antioxidant to protect your brain and prevent hangover symptoms. 

It’s important to note that most standard glutathione supplements get broken down by the your digestive tract and do not enter your bloodstream. So you’ll need to find a highly-absorbable form of glutathione

I take liposomal glutathione an hour before drinking, and in the morning to restore glutathione to healthy levels.  You can get it on Amazon.

4. N-Acetyl-Cysteine and Vitamin C

Another way you can increase gluathione is by taking Vitamin C and n-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) together. 

NAC is the precursor to glutathione. It's been shown that it effectively produces and replenishes glutathione levels in our tissues, helping us fend off the consequences of alcohol consumption (23, 24).

In rats, it prevents alcohol toxicity and death by binding directly to acetaldehyde and blocking its damaging effects in the body and brain (25, 26). 

I’ve also previously discussed how NAC can help treat six different mental illnesses

Along with NAC, Vitamin C plays a key role in the production of glutathione. Research shows that it also helps soak up acetaldehyde, and it is depleted by alcohol consumption (25, 36).

If you do just one thing to protect your brain from alcohol, it would be to take either glutathione, or NAC and Vitamin C.

NAC and Vitamin C are both included in the Optimal Antiox supplement. I take it before, during, and after I drink alcohol.

It’s important to note that taking glutathione, NAC and Vitamin C before or during alcohol consumption does not prevent you from getting drunk. It simply blocks alcohol toxicity and the irritable side effects that you may experience the next day. So technically, you can “have your cake and eat it too” when you follow these steps properly.

Lastly, NAC is excitotoxic. If you are deficient in Vitamin B6 or magnesium, you may experience headaches from taking too much NAC along with alcohol. Obviously we’re trying to avoid headaches, so if this happens to you, just stick with glutathione and Vitamin C. 

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5. Bioavailable Vitamin B1

Thiamine (vitamin B1) is an essential water-soluble vitamin.

Alcohol depletes Vitamin B1, and deficiency is common in regular drinkers. A lack of Vitamin B1 has been shown to damage brain cells and cause a variety of mental symptoms including lethargy, fatigue, apathy, impaired awareness, loss of equilibrium, disorientation, memory loss and anorexia, (37, 38, 39). 

NAC’s antioxidant effects are even more powerful when combined with Vitamin B1. In one study, NAC, Vitamin C and Vitamin B1 completely blocked a deadly dose of acetaldehyde in animals. None of the animals treated with these nutrients died (25, 34). 

The two bioavailable forms of vitamin B1 that I recommend to you are benfotiamine and sulbutiamine

Benfotiamine is the fat-soluble form of vitamin B1, and its absorption is approximately five times higher than regular thiamine (48). 

I recommend you take 300 mg of benfotiamine with each drink. You can get it through AmazonIt’s also available in some B complex supplements, like this one.

Sulbutiamine is a synthetic version of Vitamin B1, consisting of two thiamine molecules bound together. This allows vitamin B1 to easily cross the blood-brain barrier and support the brain. I recommend you take 200 mg of sulbutiamine before you go to bed, and then another 200 mg when you wake up in the morning. You can get high-quality sulbutiamine here

I remember the first time I took sulbutiamine after years of regular drinking. It felt like a light was turned on in my brain. Everything was brighter and I had a lot more mental energy. It was as if my brain hadn’t fully recovered from chronic alcohol consumption. I suspect regular vitamin B1 wasn’t reaching my brain. 

6. Alpha Lipoic Acid and Acetyl-L-Carnitine

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is an antioxidant that could possibly be even more protective than Vitamin C. It is fat soluble and can easily cross the blood-brain barrier to protect your brain (53, 54, 55).

ALA enhances the antioxidant power of glutathione, NAC and vitamin C and helps them clear acetaldehyde from your body (56).

ALA is included in the Optimal Antiox supplement, along with NAC and Vitamin C.

Combining ALA with Acetyl-l-carnitine (ALCAR) is even more powerful.

ALCAR is a neuroprotective and cognitive-enhancing amino acid.

ALA and ALCAR are synergistic, meaning that when you take them together, they are more effective at protecting your brain.

They've been shown to prevent brain inflammation and neurotransmitter impairment caused by alcohol. They can also reverse brain damage and restore healthy brain function after drinking alcohol (55, 59, 60). 

Along with Optimal Antiox, I also take the Optimal Brain supplement before and after drinking. It includes 500 mg of ALCAR.  

7. Minerals

Alcohol depletes a number of minerals, particularly zinc, potassium and magnesium. 

That’s why I recommend taking a high-quality multi-mineral supplement after your last drink, before going to bed, and then again the next morning. 

Zinc and magnesium are especially important for brain and mental health, so you don’t want to be deficient in either of them. I take extra zinc and magnesium on top of my multimineral before bed. 

Magnesium is especially helpful, as it’s been shown to prevent and relieve headaches and improve sleep. Epson salt baths can provide your body with lots of magnesium (8). 

It’s also been shown that alcoholics are often deficient in zinc (and have too much copper) (28). 

Zinc deficiency may explain why alcoholics drink in the first place. As I’ve discussed before, zinc deficiency can contribute to social anxiety and generalized anxiety. And chronic drinkers often drink to manage their anxiety and stress. 

That’s why I would recommend a zinc supplement if you struggle with anxiety, stress or a drinking problem.

As a former anxious drinker, I find great relief in taking zinc. 

I created and take the Optimal Zinc supplement.

8. Theanine

Theanine is a relaxing amino acid that has a number of health benefits (9, 40). 

It’s been shown to protect your brain from alcohol, as it blocks free radicals, counteracts the loss of glutathione, improves sleep, and accelerates the breakdown acetaldehyde – all of which contribute to the development of a hangover (12). 

It can also make you feel less drunk.

When researchers give theanine to mice, it significantly reduces blood levels of alcohol (12). So when you want to drink socially, but would rather not feel intoxicated, you should take theanine before consuming alcohol. 

Personally, I don’t want to block the buzz of alcohol. That’s why I take 200 mg of theanine just before going to bed, and then another 200 mg again in the morning when I wake up. Doing this will improve your sleep, help you sober up, and make you calmer and more stable the next morning. 

Theanine can also be found in green tea, but you would have to drink a lot to get the same amount that you would in supplement form. 

If you don’t want to experiment and take each supplement individually, I recommend taking this supplement called Vive. It includes many of the nutrients that I recommend throughout this article. I bought and tried Vive myself, and it works. It’s much more convenient than taking everything separately. I contacted Vive and got a discount code for readers. You can save 15% by using the code OPTIMAL15 at checkout.

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Additional Steps To Protect Your Brain From Alcohol and Avoid a Hangover

Based on my research and self-experimentation, my previous recommendations are the most impactful steps you can take. 

However, here are some extra tips and recovery solutions for you to consider.


Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that mixes well with alcohol. 

It has anti-anxiety effects that are synergistic with alcohol, so you will need less of each to experience the relaxing effects of each (61). 

In my experience, ashwagandha is helpful when you want to be in a relaxed and socialble mood, but would rather limit your alcohol intake. I have a reduced urge to continue drinking alcohol when I take ashwagandha before drinking. And from what I’ve heard, there isn’t any negative interaction between them, and I only experience positive results mixing the two.

It’s also been shown to help relieve anxiety and depression during alcohol withdrawal. In one study, its anti-anxiety effects were comparable to diazepam, an anti-anxiety medication (62).

So when you experience anxiety and depression after drinking alcohol, I’d recommend taking ashwagandha the next morning. It definitely helps me manage and overcome any alcohol withdrawal much easier.

You can get high-quality ashwagandha here. Take a low dose before drinking alcohol or a larger dose the morning after drinking. 

S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e)

If you struggle from depression, you probably notice that alcohol makes you feel more depressed the day after.

I used to be convinced that I would need to avoid alcohol forever because every time I drank it, I would be very depressed for several days afterwards.


This is likely because alcohol increases the amino acid homocysteine, and high levels of homocysteine have been associated with depression (2, 3). 

That’s why I take S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) after a night of drinking, as it helps lower homocysteine. Regular alcohol consumption has also been shown to lead to SAM-e deficiency (27). 

SAM-e also helps restore glutathione after you drink alcohol (29, 30). 

Even if you don’t drink, but struggle with depression, supplementing with SAM-E may really help you. I took it for a few months after coming off psychiatric medication, but no longer need to take it regularly. You can get it here.

Supplementing with trimethylglycine and B vitamins (folate and B12) also helps your body synthesize its own SAMe, similar to how NAC and vitamin C work together to produce glutathione. 


Taurine is another amino acid that reduces the bad effects of alcohol on your brain. 

It’s been shown to prevent brain cell death, reduce lack of coordination, and decrease the urinary loss of certain minerals during alcohol use (31, 32, 33).

Taurine is included in the Optimal Zinc supplement

I recommend taking taurine before and after consuming alcohol.

B Vitamins

Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, took B vitamins to manage his alcohol cravings

Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, took B vitamins to manage his alcohol cravings

As I mentioned above, Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is the most important B vitamin to take when consuming alcohol.

But research shows that alcohol significantly depletes all the B vitamins, particularly vitamin B3, B6 and folate (2, 27). 

Vitamin B3 (niacin) is very beneficial for the brain of regular drinkers. Niacin deficiency often leads to a desire to drink alcohol, and drinking alcohol further depletes niacin in the body and brain. Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), took niacin to remain sober and manage his cravings for alcohol. 

Alcohol has also been shown to deplete the body of folate and vitamin B6, which are critical nutrients involved in the production of GABA and serotonin (20, 64). 

I take this B complex before and after drinking alcohol. 


As I just mentioned, alcohol depletes vitamin B6. 


Similar to subutiamine, pyritinol is a special form of Vitamin B6 in which two Vitamin B6 molecules attached to each other. This allows Vitamin B6 to easily cross the blood-brain barrier and support the brain. 

Taking it before, during and after alcohol consumption has been shown to reduce hangover symptoms by more than 50% (46).

I take 300 mg before and 300 mg after drinking. You can get it here

Krill Oil

I’ve talked about the many mental health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids before, and it appears they can protect your brain from alcohol exposure too.

When people are exposed to both alcohol and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, they experience less brain inflammation and brain cell death than people who simply drink alcohol alone. It appears that DHA mitigates oxidative damage in the brain that results from binge drinking (11).

I take this krill oil everyday. 

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I’ve also discussed curcumin lots before, as it has helped me overcome chronic depression and anxiety. It’s one of the best supplements you can take for your brain and mental health. 

And here’s another reason you might want to consider taking it – it can increase glutathione and prevent brain damage caused by alcohol (35). 

It’s also been shown to prevent brain inflammation, and reverse the negative biochemical and behavioural changes that result from previous alcohol consumption (1).

I take the Longvida form of curcumin every day anyway. But I try to take it immediately before having any alcohol because of its protective effects. You can get it here.

Silymarin (Milk Thistle)

Silymarin is the active compound found in milk thistle, a herb commonly used to improve liver health and protect the liver from alcohol and other drugs.

Milk thistle also has powerful antioxidant properties that have been shown to help prevent the conversion of alcohol to acetaldehyde (18, 45). 

I take it before a night out. You can get it through Amazon.


Garlic contains the antioxidant s-allyl-cysteine, which neutralizes acetaldehyde. It’s also been shown to reduce oxidative stress and protect the nervous system (41, 42). 

Maybe this is why I always crave garlic shawarma at the end of a night out :) 

I haven’t tried supplementing with garlic extract for preventing hangovers, but I did take this garlic extract after moving out of my moldy house in 2011 and it made me feel better.  

Other Antioxidants

One of the best ways you can  the oxidative stress that results from alcohol consumption is to regularly consume enough antioxidants, especially leading up to a night out (21).

Some other protective antioxidants include CoQ10, quercetin, grape seed extract, Vitamin E, selenium and resveratrol. 


Resveratrol is a very powerful antioxidant that can protect against alcohol’s toxic effects (13, 14, 15). 

Grape seed extract has also been shown to prevent the oxidative damage caused by alcohol (16, 17). 

Selenium levels tend to be lower in people who drink alcohol on a regular basis (22). 

And Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin with antioxidant properties that can prevent brain damage caused by alcohol. It’s often depleted in chronic drinkers (43, 44). 

And similar to statin drugs, alcohol has also been shown to deplete CoQ10 (63). 

I created and take the Optimal Antiox supplement before and after drinking, and it contains many of the antioxidants mentioned above.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is a potent natural treatment that can trap toxins and chemicals, allowing them to be flushed out of your body. 

If you choose to drink wine or beer, you should take activated charcoal with each drink and once you’re done drinking. 

Activated charcoal can help bind and remove gluten and mycotoxins from your body, although it won’t catch them all. You’re definitely better off just avoiding drinks that contain them. 

The activated charcoal is also very good at protecting you from the congeners found in tequila and whiskey. 

I take this activated charcoal whenever I eat something that makes me sick. You can get it through Amazon. 


Clearly, there’s lots that can be done to protect your brain from alcohol. 

Even though your body and brain can be overwhelmed by alcohol, you can support yourself and reduce the damage by drinking the right alcohol, hydrating heavily, and supplementing with various antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Obviously it would be much easier to just avoid alcohol altogether. And that would definitely be optimal for your brain and mental health.

But if you do decide to drink, I’ve shared bunch of ideas here, and hopefully you find a good mix of preventative solutions that work for you. Self-experimentation is key.

But in my experience, the below interventions are the essentials. They work very well for me, mitigating damage and allowing me to wake up in the morning feeling great:


If you don’t want to experiment and take each supplement individually, I recommend taking this supplement called Vive. It includes many of the nutrients that I recommend throughout this article. I bought and tried Vive myself, and it works. It’s much more convenient than taking everything separately. I contacted Vive and got a discount code for readers. You can save 15% by using the code OPTIMAL15 at checkout.

Lastly, it’s important to consider your current level of health. If you’re an alcoholic, on medication, or struggle with severe mental health issues, you should focus on dealing and overcoming those issues first. Otherwise, alcohol will make everything worse. After you heal your body and brain, you should be able to tolerate it just fine.

Alcohol used to be a complete no-no for me, but I can now handle it just fine because I'm healthy. Yet, funny enough, now that I experience optimal brain and mental health, I actually don’t even feel the need to drink alcohol like I used to. 

Overall, I hope you found this useful. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Do you drink? What do you do to protect yourself or avoid a hangover? Have I missed anything?

Enjoy This Article? You Might Also Like My FREE Food Guide for Optimal Brain Health!

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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(1) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23583655

(2) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18790817

(3) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17541043

(4) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18182417

(5) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20336685

(6) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20497950

(7) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17720590

(8) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8984087

(9) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18296328

(10) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15226168

(11) http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0101223

(12) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16141543

(13) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17567031

(14) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3037055/

(15) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21281738

(16) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17910615

(17) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17567031

(18) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19900758

(19) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20712596

(20) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10726110

(21) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10728605

(22) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18175657

(23) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2538005

(24) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16899047

(25) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1171591

(26) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8833231

(27) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8139796

(28) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4012273

(29) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC508623/

(30) http://toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/content/115/1/131.full

(31) http://www.hubmed.org/display.cgi?uids=19239146

(32) http://www.hubmed.org/display.cgi?uids=17961547

(33) http://www.hubmed.org/display.cgi?uids=19239172

(34) http://www.dsf.uniss.it/documenti/54.pdf

(35) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10548748

(36) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15969504

(37) http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-2/134-142.htm

(38) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15166742

(39) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15778906

(40) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21735551

(41) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15380627

(42) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12885594

(43) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11723717

(44) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11454938

(45) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21182217

(46) http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1974-20470-001

(47) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16054981

(48) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8929745

(49) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3153291/

(50) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228666280_Mycotoxin_Contamination_of_Beverages_Occurrence_of_Patulin_in_Apple_Juice_and_Ochratoxin_A_in_Coffee_Beer_and_Wine_and_Their_Control_Methods

(51) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11403149

(52) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21954354

(53) http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/96legacy/releases.96/14316.html

(54) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11854488

(55) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11854529

(56) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23238616

(57) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25642988

(58) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26970578

(59) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3022478/

(60) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2734271/

(61) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18697607

(62) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2222180812602795

(63) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22841563

(64) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12163694

Reviewed by Dr. Richard Nahas, MD CCFP DCAPM ABIM and Dr. Robert Blake Gibb, MD

The 36 Best Ways to Naturally Increase Dopamine Levels in the Brain

Dopamine makes you happier, smarter, more productive, more creative, more focused, and more social.

Who doesn't want that? 

There are many ways to increase dopamine naturally.

But what are the VERY BEST ways to do it?

This article gives you the answer. 

It includes the 36 very best ways to increase dopamine levels in your brain.

It starts off with my 10 personal favourites.

And then offers 26 other great options. 

Not only do they work, but many of them work very quickly.

Read on to learn more. 


What Is Dopamine and What Does It Do in the Brain?

Dopamine may be the secret to what makes us human – meaning awfully bright, able to plan ahead, and resist impulses when necessary.
— Dr. Emily Deans

Dopamine influences almost every aspect of your life.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, meaning it’s a chemical messenger released by neurons (nerve cells) to “communicate” with other neurons (236). 

Like all neurotransmitters, dopamine shuttles between cells and binds to receptors.

In the media and popular culture, dopamine is often promoted as the main pleasure neurotransmitter.   

But dopamine actually appears to increase desire and motivation more than pleasure.

In fact, it’s often called the “motivation molecule”. 

The brain includes several dopamine pathways, and they play a key role in reward, motivation, memory and attention (233-235). 

So not surprisingly, dopamine significantly impacts human behaviour.

And research shows that naturally increasing dopamine levels can lead to numerous benefits, including:

Conditions and Symptoms Associated with Low Levels of Dopamine in the Brain

Low levels of dopamine make people less likely to work for things.
— Dr. John Salamone

Research shows that low dopamine levels are associated with a number of brain and mental health conditions and symptoms, including:

Perhaps you struggle with one of these conditions or symptoms. 

The good news is that you’re not powerless.

You can naturally increase your dopamine levels and recapture your zest for life.

All you need to do is implement some of the natural strategies below.   

They can significantly improve your motivation, focus and mood.

They have helped me, and they can help you too. 

Let’s jump into them.


My Top 10 Favourite Ways to Naturally Increase Dopamine Levels in the Brain

1. Sunlight and Vitamin D

Exposing yourself to sunshine is one of the best natural ways to increase dopamine levels in your brain. 

And it’s my personal favourite.

Research shows that sunlight increases dopamine release (4-5).


I personally get sunlight every single day during the spring and summer months to increase dopamine. 

It’s important to get the sunlight in your eyes to trigger the release of dopamine. 

So make sure you don’t wear contacts, glasses or sunglasses when you go outside. This way, you’ll get a bigger dopamine boost. 

It’s especially important to do this in the morning because it sets your circadian rhythm (3). 

During the winter months, when there isn't enough sun, I use this Vitamin D sunlamp.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that your skin synthesizes when exposed to the sun.

But most people still don’t get enough Vitamin D from the sun.

Researchers believe that 50% of people are at risk of Vitamin D deficiency (6).

Having a deficiency in Vitamin D leads to lower dopamine levels, but treatment with Vitamin D3 enhances dopamine release (1-2). 

So at the very least, you should take a Vitamin D supplement if you’re deficient. 

2. Vagus Nerve Stimulation

The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in your body and part of your parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system.

Research shows that chronic impairment of vagus nerve function leads to the inhibition of dopamine in the brain (7). 

But vagus nerve stimulation reverses a dysregulated dopamine system (8).

Read this article for 13 ways to stimulate your vagus nerve. 

Deep breathing with the EmWave2 device is my favourite way. 

3. Low-Level Laser Therapy

Low-level laser therapy (LLLT), or photobiomodulation, is a treatment that can improve your brain function and support your dopamine levels.

LLLT involves the use of low-power lasers or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that emit red and infrared light.

You can shine this light on your head, it penetrates the skull and stimulates your brain cells.

This helps your brain function much better.

Dr. Norman Doidge, a psychiatrist and researcher who teaches at the University of Toronto, discusses the amazing effects of LLLT in his book The Brain’s Way of Healing.


Research shows that LLLT significantly increases the secretion of dopamine in the brain (12).

Several studies also show that LLLT is neuroprotective and protects dopaminergic brain cells from degeneration (13-21).

Because of this, researchers say LLLT is a promising therapeutic strategy for dopamine-related diseases such as Parkinson’s disease (12).

I previously wrote about my experience with low-level laser therapy here.

I use this device and shine the red and infrared light on my forehead.

I also use the Vielight 810, which is an intranasal device with 810 nm of near infrared light (If you decide to try any of the Vielight devices, you can use the coupon code JORDANFALLIS for a 10% discount).

You can learn about how I use these devices in my LLLT article. I highly recommend reading it if you want to try this.

4. Rhodiola

Rhodiola is one of the most popular herbs in the world used to increase physical and mental performance.

It’s a Traditional Chinese and Scandinavian herb, and it’s also sometimes called golden root or arctic root.

I previously wrote about rhodiola here

Researchers have found that rhodiola stimulates dopamine receptors and inhibits the enzymes that break down dopamine in the brain (22). 

It also increases the amount of dopamine precursors that can pass the blood brain barrier (23). 

I take this rhodiola supplement. I don't take it every day, only when I want to boost my energy and cognitive function.

You can get it here or here

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5. Coffee

Drinking coffee is another great way to boost dopamine levels.

Research shows that caffeine increases the release of dopamine in the brain (26-27). 

Other studies have found that it also enhances dopamine signaling and increases dopamine receptors (24-25). 

I usually drink one cup of this coffee most mornings. I also sometimes take pure caffeine tablets before a workout.


Sometimes people find that coffee makes them feel terrible and jittery.

This might be due to the quality of the coffee. 

I find that low-quality, non-organic coffee makes me feel terrible.

In fact, cheap coffee feels like it lowers my dopamine.

Most people can tolerate regular coffee just fine.

But if it makes you feel sick, consider trying Kicking Horse coffee, which I can tolerate just fine, or simply take pure caffeine, and see how you feel. You may feel better than if you consumed low-quality coffee.

Coffee and caffeine can disrupt sleep though, so make sure you don’t drink it in the evening close to bed. Some people like me are really sensitive and have to stop drinking it very early in the day so that it doesn’t disrupt their sleep.

I have my last cup sometime between 10 in the morning and noon. If I have it any later than that, it disrupts my sleep and don't feel great the next day.

Lastly, it's also a good idea to try to consume the whole coffee fruit, instead of just coffee or pure caffeine

Traditionally, the coffee bean is extracted from the coffee fruit for roasting. And the surrounding fruit is discarded. 

But that’s a problem because the coffee fruit contains several healthy compounds not found in coffee beans themselves.

And researchers have found that consuming whole coffee fruit concentrate can significantly enhance cognitive functioning.  

That’s why I included it in the Optimal Brain supplement

6. Uridine

Uridine is a natural compound commonly found in beer.

I definitely don’t recommend drinking beer, but supplementing with pure uridine can protect the brain, enhance cognition, and increase mood and motivation.

Research shows that uridine significantly increases the release of dopamine and elevates dopamine levels (29-32).

It’s important to note that uridine in food is not bioavailable, and there isn’t any foods that have been shown to increase plasma levels of uridine unfortunately (28). 

So I take this uridine supplement sublingually, usually before bed. You can get it here or here.

7. Cold Exposure

Exposing yourself to cold can also increase your dopamine levels naturally.


Researchers have found that cold water immersion increases dopamine by 250% (43-44). 

I take a cold shower every day.

During the winter, I’ll also go outside for short periods of time with hardly any clothes. It boosts my dopamine and increases my motivation.

You don’t have to be that extreme though.

You can start by finishing your next shower with one minutes of cold water.

See how it feels, and then over time, increase the amount of time you turn off the hot.

I can be a bit painful.

But the beneficial effects end up being worth it.

Another way is to stick your face, hand or foot in ice cold water.

Or you can try cold plunges, cold baths and even cryotherapy if you want!

Find what works best for you and do it regularly.

8. Meditation

Meditation is my favourite daily activity.

And research shows that it's linked to increases in dopamine (46-48). 

In one study, researchers used brain scan imaging to confirm that meditation naturally increases dopamine release by 65% (45).

It likely has these effects by stimulating the vagus nerve

I use the Muse headband to meditate. It gives you real-time feedback while you meditate. It makes meditation a lot more fun and tolerable.

I previously wrote about it here, and you can get it through Amazon or the Muse website.

9. Ginseng

There are two types of ginseng that increase dopamine – American Ginseng and Siberian Ginseng.

American Ginseng has been shown to improve attention and cognitive processing by increasing levels of dopamine in the brain (93-94). 

Researchers have also found that Siberian Ginseng has antidepressant effects by significantly elevating dopamine levels in the brain (95). 

10. Citicoline and Alpha GPC

Citicoline (also known as CDP-Choline) is the best supplemental form of choline.

Choline is an essential nutrient for optimal brain health, but unfortunately that most people don’t consume enough of it.


Because very few foods in the Western diet contain it.

Citicoline has been shown to enhance the synthesis of dopamine, increase the release of dopamine, and increase the density of dopamine receptors in the brain (136-142). 

It also protects brain cells that release dopamine, which then prevents a reduction in dopamine (143). 

Alpha GPC is another excellent form of choline that has been shown to increase dopamine levels in the brain (144). 

Citicoline and Alpha GPC significantly improve my focus and mental energy. That’s why they are both included in the Optimal Brain supplement

You can also find some choline in beef liver and egg yolks, but it’s better to take Citicoline and Alpha GPC because you get noticeable and immediate benefits.

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Other Effective Ways to Naturally Increase Dopamine Levels in the Brain

11. Take Dopamine Precursors

You can also increase your dopamine levels by giving your body the raw materials to create dopamine. 

It’s first important to understand that dopamine is created within the body from the amino acid Phenylalanine (149). 

Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid, meaning that your body cannot create it, and you must obtain it from your diet. 

Phenylalanine is converted into Tyrosine, which is converted into L-Dopa, which is then finally converted into dopamine (150). 

Vitamin B6 and iron are two nutrients that are needed for this conversion to take place.   

Both phenylalanine and tyrosine can be obtained from protein-rich foods.


Here are some healthy sources: 

These foods are included in my Free Grocery Shopping Guide for Optimal Brain and Mental Health.

You can also supplement directly with Phenylalanine, Tyrosine and/or L-Dopa, along with P-5-P and iron

Research shows that supplementing with these dopamine precursors can enhance cognitive performance by increasing dopamine levels in the brain (151-155). 

Mucuna Pruriens, a tropical plant commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, is good source of L-DOPA and has been shown to increase dopamine levels in the brain (156-161). 

In my experience, Tyrosine and Mucuna Pruriens can sometimes be too stimulating and increase anxiety in some people.

So I prefer supplementing with DL-Phenylalanine because it has other mental health benefits besides increasing dopamine, and can actually reduce anxiety.  

12. Probiotics

Research suggests that certain probiotics can also increase dopamine.

One study found that the probiotic species Lactobacillus plantarum significantly increases dopamine.


Researchers concluded that daily intake of Lactobacillus plantarum may be able to help treat neuropsychiatric disorders (36). 

Another study found that Lactobacillus rhamnosus increases dopamine in the frontal cortex (37). 

I created and take the Optimal Biotics supplement to support my dopamine levels and mental health.

You can also read this older article for 4 other ways to increase your good gut bacteria. 

And if you struggle with anxiety, here are 7 other probiotic strains that can help. 

13. Acetyl-L-Carnitine

Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) is a special form of the amino acid carnitine that helps reverse neurological decline and supports mitochondria function in the brain.

It’s often used as a natural brain booster because it provides support to brain cells, enhances cognition, and increases alertness.

It’s also been shown to help reduce chronic fatigue and improve mood.

It does a lot.

So not surprisingly, researchers have also found that it increases dopamine output in the brain (42). 

I find that it gives me a big boost in mental energy and cognitive resilience.

ALCAR is included in the Optimal Brain supplement

14. Acupuncture


Acupuncture is an alternative treatment that has been shown to increase dopamine levels in the brain.

Researchers have found that acupuncture increases the production of dopamine in the brain by stimulating the vagus nerve (9). 

Other studies show that acupuncture enhances the availability of dopamine in the brain and normalizes the release of dopamine during withdrawal (10-11). 

I really like auricular acupuncture.

Auricular acupuncture is when needles are inserted into ear.

It really helped me when I came off psychiatric medication. So I recommend finding a practitioner that provides it if you’re trying to get off medication as well.

In my experience, ear acupuncture is more effective than regular acupuncture. I don’t really know why, I’ve just personally noticed more benefits from ear acupuncture. 

I also use this acupuncture mat at home to relax before bed.

15. Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba is a plant that has been used for thousands of years to treat a number of health problems.

It’s one of the most popular natural supplements in the world, and it’s even prescribed by doctors 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 also improves mood and mental energy, and even reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers have also discovered that it significantly increases dopamine levels in the brain (33-34). 

It increases the number of dopaminergic neurons in the brain as well (35). 

Ginkgo Biloba is included in the Optimal Brain supplement

16. Pregnenolone

Pregnenolone is a hormone naturally produced by the body.

But it can also be taken as a supplement.

It helps form almost all other steroid hormones in the body, including DHEA, progesterone, testosterone, estrogens, and cortisol.

So it’s very important.

And since hormones affect brain health so much, it’s been shown to enhance memory and reduce stress-induced fatigue.

Research shows that it also increases dopamine release in the brain (38). 

Whenever I take pregnenolone, it gives me a big boost in energy and supports brain function. It definitely works. But if I take it everyday, it starts to make me angry and irritable for some reason. So I only take it every so often.

If you want to try it, you can get it here.

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17. Intranasal Insulin

Insulin is a hormone that significantly affects brain function. 

Researchers have found that it passes the blood-brain barrier and acts on insulin receptors directly within the brain.

Unfortunately, many people today develop insulin resistance within the brain.

When this happens, there is a reduction in dopamine.

Research shows that insulin resistance within the brain alters normal dopamine functioning, leading to depression and anxiety (40). 

So in a new therapeutic approach, commercially-available insulin (Novalin R) is being prepared and added to nasal spray bottles - like these ones - and sprayed and inhaled through the nose to support the brain and mental health.

Intranasal insulin has been reported to significantly enhance memory, increase mental energy, reduce brain fog, improve mood, and lower anxiety and stress levels.

One possible mechanism is by increasing dopamine levels.

One study found that insulin enhances dopamine release in the brain (39). 

Another study found that intranasal insulin is neuroprotective and protects dopaminergic brain cells from damage (41). 

If you’re interested in learning more about intranasal insulin, I previously wrote a full article about it. You can read that here.

18. Forskolin

Forskolin is a natural herb historically used in Ayurvedic medicine. It’s been used for hundreds of years to treat various conditions and diseases.

The herb comes from the roots of the Indian coleus, which is a tropical plant. 

Researchers have found that it stimulates the conversion of tyrosine to dopamine and enhances the release of dopamine (49, 51). 

Other studies show that it can upregulate dopamine receptors (50, 52-56). 

I don’t take it anymore because I prefer Rhodiola and Ginseng. But when I did take it, I noticed an increase in mental energy and clarity.

The one I took isn't available anymore but there are many options available on Amazon

19. Standing

One of the best hacks for your brain is simply standing more often.

Researchers have found that prolonged, uninterrupted sitting leads to fatigue and lower dopamine levels (57). 

I have this standing desk so that I’m not sitting all the time while working.  

20. Iron

Iron is a trace mineral found in every living cell in our bodies.

It carries oxygen to all parts of your body, and low levels can leave you feeling tired, pale and irritable.

Research shows that iron plays a key role in the regulation of dopaminergic neurotransmission, and iron deficiency can lead to lower dopamine levels (58). 

I don’t actually recommend supplementing with iron because some research suggests that too much iron can cause health problems (59). 

It’s definitely much better to just get your iron from food. 

I make sure I get enough iron simply by taking these grass-fed beef liver capsules.

Beef liver is one of the best sources of iron, but I don’t like the taste, so I take the capsules every day instead. You can get them here or here

Other good sources of iron include:

These foods are included in my Free Grocery Shopping Guide for Optimal Mental Health.

21. Salt


Salt is another tasty, natural way to boost your brain’s dopamine levels.

Researchers have found that dietary salt intake increases dopamine levels (60). 

Keep in mind that processed salt should be avoided or limited. 

Stick to sea salt and pink Himalayan salt.

I add this Celtic sea salt to most of my meals. 

22. Theacrine

Theacrine is a natural compound that can increase energy, focus and mental clarity, and improve mood and motivation.

It’s a small alkaloid molecule found in certain fruits and plants. It’s most commonly found in a Chinese tea known as kucha.

Theacrine’s chemical structure is similar to caffeine. In fact, it’s considered a “new alternative” to caffeine because it activates similar pathways in the brain.

Researchers have found that theacrine acts through the dopamine system to provide a stimulant effect (66). 

It activates dopamine receptors, which increases motivation and wakefulness (67). 

In my experience, theacrine is a good replacement for coffee. It works and feels similar to caffeine, but it has a longer half life and less of a tolerance. It’s also less likely to disrupt sleep (61-63). 

I sometimes take this theacrine supplement when I feel like taking a break from coffee and caffeine. You can get it here or here

You can also take them together for even better results. Research shows that theacrine and caffeine are more effective when taken together because caffeine increases the bioavailability and positive effects of theacrine (64-65). 

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23. Exercise

Not surprisingly, exercise is another natural way to increase dopamine levels in your brain. 

Plenty of research shows that daily exercise leads to increased dopamine neurotransmission, including increased dopamine release and increased dopamine receptor expression and binding (70-73). 

Exercise also slows the break down of dopamine and prevents the loss of dopaminergic brain cells (71). 

Besides boosting dopamine levels, exercise can also stimulate the vagus nerve, promote neurogenesis and increase blood flow to the brain.

Many experts recommend exercise as their number one piece of advice for optimal brain health.

Exercise can be a big chore for a lot of people, so I recommend finding some sort of sport or aerobic activity that you enjoy. That way you won’t get sick of it and you’ll exercise regularly.

24. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s fatty acids are the highest quality fats for the brain.

Eating more of them is one of the greatest steps you can take to promote optimal brain and nervous system functioning, and boost your dopamine levels.

In one study, researchers fed animals omega-3 fatty acids, and they found that the animals had 40 per cent higher levels of dopamine in the brain than animals that didn’t receive omega-3 fatty acids (69). 

The researchers also noted a reduction in the enzyme that breaks down dopamine, and greater binding of dopamine to the dopamine receptors (69). 

Research also shows that omega-3 fatty acids can help restore normal dopamine release after traumatic brain injury (68). 


It’s important to eat enough omega-3 fatty acids through your diet because they are essential fats that your body cannot produce itself.

Omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in cold water fish, including:

These foods are included in my Free Grocery Shopping Guide for Optimal Mental Health.

Unfortunately, most people don't consume enough omega-3 fatty acids through their diet.

That’s why I recommend supplementing with krill oil, a special kind of fish oil that contains the essential omega-3 fatty acids. 

I take this one.

I actually feel more depressed when I stop taking it. It makes a difference.

25. Touch and Massage

Interpersonal touch is another natural way to increase your dopamine levels.

Researchers have discovered that touch significantly increases dopamine release in the brain (74-76).

This can include kissing, cuddling, stroking, tickling, hugging and sex. 

But it can also include massage therapy. 

Studies have shown that massage therapy increases dopamine by 31% on average (77). 

This is one reason why I regularly get a massage from a registered massage therapist. 

Massage also reduces cortisol, increases oxytocin, and stimulates the vagus nerve

26. Tea and Theanine


Tea has also been shown to increase dopamine levels in the brain.

This includes both green tea and black tea (79-83). 

Both green tea and black tea contain theanine, an amino acid.

Theanine has also been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier and significantly increase the release of dopamine in the brain (78, 84-85). 

I take theanine alongside my morning coffee. It’s calming and cancels out the jitters of caffeine. 

This anti-anxiety supplement contains theanine. 

27. Intermittent Fasting

Fasting allows your digestive system to take a break and triggers the release of hormones and neurotransmitters, including dopamine.

Researchers have found that intermittent fasting leads to higher levels of dopamine by increasing dopamine release and enhancing dopamine action (86-89). 

It also reduces age-related loss of dopamine receptors (90). 

I often eat all my food for the day within an 8-hour window, and then fast for the rest of the day. 

The best way to start fasting is 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.

28. Taurine

Taurine is an organic compound found in food, particularly meat and seafood. It has a wide variety of health benefits.

It can cross the blood-brain barrier and elevate dopamine levels in the brain (91). 

Taurine is included in the Optimal Zinc supplement.  

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29. Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral.

Unfortunately, a lot of people are deficient.

This is a shame because it plays a role in more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body, and it’s absolutely necessary for optimal neurotransmitter activity.

Magnesium has antidepressant effects, and one reason for this is because it increases dopamine activity in the brain (92). 

There are a number of things you can do to make sure you’re getting enough magnesium.

First, make sure you’re eating magnesium-rich foods on a regular basis, including:

These foods are included in my Free Grocery Shopping Guide for Optimal Mental Health.

You can also increase your body’s intake of magnesium by taking epsom salt baths.

Supplementation is also a good idea for most people. I now take this magnesium threonate supplement before bed. It’s the best form of magnesium for the brain.

Since most people are deficient, magnesium is one of the three supplements that I think everyone should be taking.

30. Folate

Folate (Vitamin B9) is an essential B vitamin that plays a key role in methylation, one of the most important processes in your body and brain for optimal energy and nervous system function.

Researchers have found that if you are depressed, you likely have lower levels of folate circulating in your blood, and people with low blood folate are at greater risk for developing depression

One reason for this is because folate is absolutely necessary for the production and synthesis of dopamine in the brain (99-100). 

When you have low folate levels, you will also have lower dopamine levels because your body can’t produce dopamine efficiently, and this contributes to depression (101). 

Good dietary sources of natural folate include: 

These foods are included in my Free Grocery Shopping Guide for Optimal Brain and Mental Health.

If you decide to supplement with folate, avoid synthetic folic acid, which is commonly found in standard multivitamins. Instead, you should take a biologically active form of folate (methylfolate or 5-MTHF). 

Methylfolate supplements are almost seven times more effective than synthetic folic acid at increasing folate levels. Regular synthetic folic acid has been shown to be quickly cleared from the central nervous system and poorly transported into the brain (96-98). 

On top of this, many people have genetic mutations in the enzyme that converts folic acid into methylfolate in the body. Therefore, folic acid is a waste and can actually cause harm if you have this genetic mutation.

Methylfolate is included in this B vitamin complex

Folate also lowers homocysteine levels

31. St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) is a natural medicinal herb with antidepressant effects.

A 2015 meta-analysis concluded that it is as effective as standard antidepressant pharmaceuticals for treating depression and has fewer adverse effects (105). 


A number of studies have also shown that it significantly increases the release of dopamine and increases dopamine levels in the brain (106-110).

One study shows that it increases dopamine in the prefrontal cortex by 40% after one hour (106). 

I took this St. John’s Wort supplement years ago for my depression. It helped me, but I eventually stopped taking it and fixed the true, underlying causes of my depression instead. 

In my experience, it’s best for people who are struggling with mild or moderate depression

It’s important to note that St. John’s Wort shouldn’t be taken if you’re already taking antidepressant medication

32. SAM-e

S-Adenosyl-l-methionine (SAM-e) is a compound that naturally occurs in the body. 

It’s also available as a supplement

It’s most commonly used for treating depression because lowered SAM-e levels are associated with depression.

Research shows that SAM-e improves mood by producing dopamine and increasing dopamine levels in the brain (102-104). 

I took this SAM-e supplement after coming off psychiatric medication and it significantly helped me by improving my mood and energy. 

33. Curcumin

Curcumin is the most heavily researched compound within turmeric, the spice that gives curry its yellow colour.

It’s one of my favourite natural compounds for the brain.

It’s been shown to help treat both depression and Parkinson’s disease (111-112). 

Several researchers have found that curcumin increases dopamine levels by reducing the break down of dopamine in the brain (113-120). 

There are several different forms of “bioavailable” curcumin and I've tried most of them. The “Longvida” form is my favourite. You can get it here.

34. Reduce Inflammation

Reducing inflammation throughout your entire body is a key step towards increasing your dopamine levels naturally. 

Lots of research shows that chronic inflammation reduces dopamine synthesis and dopamine release in the brain, which then leads to a lack of motivation, fatigue and depression (121-124). 

There are many causes of chronic inflammation, including infections, mold, brain injuries, and leaky brain.

But one of the most common causes – and the one you have the most control over – is your diet. 

That’s why I recommend following an anti-inflammatory diet and avoiding foods such as gluten and dairy that can trigger inflammation in the gut and brain. 

You should also remove processed food from your diet, and increase your intake of vegetables, fruits, wild fish, grass-fed beef and organic chicken

Check out my Free Grocery Shopping Guide for Optimal Brain and Mental Health for a full list of anti-inflammatory foods. 

Other steps you can take to reduce inflammation include reducing stress, exercising, improving gut health, treating infections and getting enough sleep. 

35. Music

Previously, I talked about how music can naturally reduce cortisol and increase oxytocin.

But it also increases dopamine. 

Researchers have found that listening to your favourite music significantly increases the release of dopamine in your brain (125-126, 129-132).

Even the anticipation of good music leads to the release of dopamine (127). 

We are really excited about our study’s results because they suggest that even a non-pharmacological intervention such as music can regulate mood and emotional responses at both the behavioural and neuronal level.
— Dr. Elvira Brattico

And several brain imaging studies show that listening to music activates the reward and pleasure areas of the brain, which are rich with dopamine receptors (133-134). 

Want to take it a step further?

Start making music. 

Research shows that creating and performing music boosts dopamine levels, even more than simply listening to music (128). 

Because of this, researchers believe music therapy may be an effective therapy for the treatment of disorders caused by low dopamine (130). 

Music has even been shown to help people with Parkinson’s disease improve their fine motor control (135). 

36. Get Enough Sleep

Getting enough sleep is very important if you want to increase dopamine and naturally optimize your dopamine levels. 

I used to have sleep problems and it was one of the main factors that contributed to my poor mental health.

Research shows that lack of sleep downregulates dopamine receptors, and reduces dopamine receptor availability and sensitivity in the brain (145, 147-148). 

When people are forced to pull an “all-nighter”, the availability of dopamine receptors in their brain is significantly reduced the next morning (146). 

So try your best to get at least 7 hours of high-quality, restorative sleep every night. 

If you’re having trouble with sleep, try this sleep supplement. It contains magnesium and other natural compounds that I’ve used over the years to promote deeper and more restful sleep.  

Enjoy This Article? You Might Also Like My FREE Food Guide for Optimal Brain and Mental Health!

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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(226) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27225499

(227) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3654247/

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(236) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9457173

Reviewed by Dr. Richard Nahas, MD CCFP DCAPM ABIM and Dr. Robert Blake Gibb, MD