A Powerful Protocol Proven to Help Reverse Brain Damage

I’ve been reading a lot about brain damage and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in retired NFL football players lately.

While doing so, I came across an interesting study by Dr. Daniel Amen, MD, titled “Reversing brain damage in former NFL players: implications for traumatic brain injury and substance abuse rehabilitation.

In the study, thirty retired NFL players who had brain damage and cognitive dysfunction followed a brain-healthy protocol (which I outline below in this post).

After following the protocol for six months, the former NFL players had increased blood flow to the brain and significant increases in performance. 

Neuropsychological testing showed that they had significant improvements in attention, memory, reasoning, and information processing. 

The NFL players themselves also self-reported subjective increases in memory, attention, mood, motivation, and sleep.

It just so happens that a lot of the supplements and therapies used in this protocol have also improved my mental health and supported my brain after suffering multiple concussions, living in a moldy home, and experiencing neurotoxicity. 

We demonstrated that even if you have been bad to your brain, on the right program you can often reverse the damage and improve your life. It’s one of the most exciting discoveries in medicine today. I hope this message finds anyone who played contact sports like football, hockey, soccer, boxing so they can find help because their degenerative conditions can be reversed.
— Dr. Daniel Amen, MD, psychiatrist and author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life
Illustration of a brain with a band-aid on it, demonstrating that it is damaged.

Why This Research Study Is So Important

It’s well known that brain injuries are common in professional American football players, and they increase the risk of mild cognitive impairment, dementia, depression and CTE (1-2).

A study sponsored by the National Football League (NFL) found that 6.1% of retired NFL players over the age of 50 had been diagnosed with dementia, which is five times the national average of 1.2%.

Even 2% of players aged 30 to 49 have received a dementia-related diagnosis, which is 20 times higher than the rate of the general population within that age group (3). 

And in a study of 100 active and retired NFL players, researchers found reduced brain blood flow and higher rates of depressionmemory and attention problems compared to the general population (4). 

Brain injuries also increase the risk of drug abuse (5-6). 

Lastly, another study reported that 96% of all former NFL players autopsied had CTE, and that 79% of males who played football at any level also had CTE (10). 

But brain injuries and neurological damage don’t just affect retired professional football players. 

Millions of people, including soldiers, suffer concussions every year.  

In addition, substance abusers also experience high levels of brain damage from drugs and alcohol, and from the increased likelihood of suffering brain injuries during intoxication (7). 

But based on Dr. Amen’s protocol, there is hope. And it’s possible to reverse brain damage.

Below is the protocol that the NFL players followed to reverse brain damage and cognitive impairment, and it significantly improved their brain, mental health and quality of life.

 

1. Improve Your Diet and Exercise Regularly

Even after taking into account their large body frames, forty-eight percent of players in the study were overweight or obese.

So they were encouraged to eat healthier and exercise regularly in order to lose weight. 

This is because obesity is associated with dementia and smaller brain size (8). 

For exercise, you should find an aerobic activity that you enjoy so that you’ll stick with it consistently.

This is exercise routine I try to follow consistently:

Group of people running. Exercise helps reverse brain damage.
  • Lift heavy weights 1-4 times per week

  • High-intensity interval sprinting 1-2 times per week

  • Walk as much as I can (ideally 30-60 minutes every day)

  • Run for 20-30 minutes before lifting weights

If you’re looking for a bunch of healthy, brain-boosting foods that you can eat on a regular basis, check out my Free Grocery Shopping Guide for Optimal Brain Health and my Fuel Your Brain Cookbook.

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2. Eliminate Alcohol

A mug of beer. Alcohol should be avoided if wanting to reverse brain damage since it is a neurotoxin.

Not too surprisingly, the NFL players in Dr. Amen’s study were encouraged to completely eliminate alcohol.  

Alcohol is a neurotoxin and wreaks havoc on the brain by raising cortisol levels, disrupting the blood-brain barrier, and increasing inflammation and oxidative stress (11). 

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 from brain damage. I personally don’t drink alcohol at all anymore.

Other than alcohol, the NFL players were also told to eliminate others drugs, including cigarettes.  

 

3. Get Enough Sleep

Baby sleeping. Sleeping helps the brain recover and heal and helps reverse brain damage.

Getting enough high-quality sleep was another key aspect of Dr. Amen’s therapeutic protocol for the NFL players because it’s so important for brain health. 

Deep sleep has been shown to slow down cognitive decline, reduce cortisol levels, promote the regeneration of myelin, increase the growth of new brain cells, and support the blood-brain barrier

That’s why getting at least 7 hours of high-quality, restorative sleep is so important.

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

Here are some ways I now maximize the quality of my sleep:

  • Expose your eyes to sun in the morning

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule and go to bed at the same time every night

  • Don’t eat anything for at least 3 hours before bed, other than raw honey, bone broth and MCT oil, which are easy to digest and can actually support sleep.

  • Avoid stimulating movies and TV before bed.

  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon. Most people should completely avoid it after 2 pm. Some may have to cut it out even earlier. I can’t have any after 10 am, otherwise the quality of my sleep suffers.

  • Blue light significantly suppresses your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep–wake cycle. Therefore, blue light leads to disrupted sleep patterns and abnormal functioning of your nervous system. You can read more about the problem with blue light here. So as soon as it’s dark outside, you should avoid sources of blue light. Turn off household lights or get red light bulbs instead (red light doesn’t disrupt melatonin); install Iris on your computer; and/or wear blue blocking glasses. These glasses block out blue light in your environment.

  • Sleep in a dark environment. Completely black out your room with curtains or wear a sleep mask overnight. Sleeping with lights on in your room decreases neurogenesis and impairs cognitive performance (276). If you need to have light in your room (nightlight or alarm clock), it’s better to have red, orange or amber lighting rather than blue.

  • Reduce stress before bed. I supplement with magnesium and lie on this acupressure mat for 10 minutes before bed.

  • Avoid alcohol before sleep, as it prevents getting into the deeper stages of sleep, which is when the body and brain heal.

  • Melatonin secretion can also be disrupted by EMF exposure, so turn off cellphones, Wi-Fi and other electrical devices while you sleep.

  • Take this sleep supplement, which contains magnesium and other natural compounds that I’ve used over the years to promote the production of melatonin.

 

4. Reduce Brain Inflammation with Omega-3 Fatty Acids

A piece of cooked salmon. Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids which can help the brain heal and recover from damage.

Your brain is made up of about 60% fat, so you want to eat high-quality fats so that it can rebuild itself.

Omega-3s fatty acids are the highest quality fats for the brain, and increasing your intake of them is one of the most impactful ways to reverse brain damage. 

Dr. Amen gave the NFL players 5.6 grams of fish oil each day, containing 1720 mg of EPA and 1160 mg of DHA.

EPA and DHA are omega-3 fatty acids that are necessary for the optimal functioning of your brain and nervous system. They have been shown in many studies to significantly reduce inflammation; improve memory, mood and cognition; and protect against mild cognitive impairment, dementia and Alzheimer's disease (9-10). 

They are also the structural components of synapses, and have been shown to support the brains of people with neurodegenerative diseases who have experienced synaptic loss (12). 

It’s important to get enough omega-3s because they are essential fats that your body cannot produce itself.

They are found primarily in cold water fish such as salmon, black cod, sablefish, sardines and herring.

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. I don’t feel as well when I stop taking it. I actually notice the difference.

I previously wrote about the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in-depth here

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5. Get Enough of These Vitamins and Minerals

Research shows that supplementing with B vitamins, vitamin C and minerals can reduce stress, improve mental health, and increase cognitive performance (13).

So Dr. Amen got the NFL players in the study to take a high-potency multivitamin every day. 

I don’t usually recommend all-in-one multivitamins because they often contain too many synthetic vitamins that we don’t need, and not enough of the minerals that we do need. 

Instead, I regularly take this mineral complex, separate B vitamins, and this supplement with Vitamin C.

 

6. Enhance Brain Blood Flow

An illustration of a brain and blood flowing throughout it. Blood flow to the brain is essential if you want to reverse brain damage.

Dr. Amen also focused on increasing blood flow in the brains of the retired NFL football players. 

The main way he enhanced brain blood flow was by giving them Ginkgo Biloba.

Ginkgo Biloba is a plant used in China for thousands of years to treat a number of health problems. It’s one of the top-selling herbal supplements in the world, and it’s even a prescription herb in Germany. 

It’s most commonly used to improve brain health, as it’s been shown to increase cognitive function, memory and attention in both healthy and unhealthy individuals. It even reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and can improve mood and mental energy.

It has these effects primarily by increasing blood flow to the brain (27). 

Ginkgo biloba extract is included in the Optimal brain supplement

Check out this article for 20 other ways to increase blood flow to the brain. 

 

7. Increase Acetylcholine

Illustration of a body.

The retired football players also supplemented with Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) and Huperzine A to increase levels of acetylcholine in their brain. 

Acetylcholine is considered the “learning” neurotransmitter and plays a key role in the brain’s cognitive processes. 

Huperzine-A is a compound extracted from the herbs of the Huperziceae family.

It has neuroprotective effects and cognitive enhancing properties because it increases acetylcholine. It does this by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine. Because of this, it’s a promising treatment for fighting cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease (33). 

Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) is an acetylated form of the amino acid carnitine. It has neuroprotective and cognitive-enhancing effects and helps reverse neurological decline by increasing levels of acetylcholine in the brain and supporting mitochondria function (32). 

It is often used as a brain booster because it increases alertness and provides support to brain cells. It’s also been shown to be very effective at alleviating chronic fatigue and improving mood.

ALCAR can be found in the Optimal Brain supplement

 

8. Increase Antioxidants

Another key aspect of reversing brain damage is optimizing your intake of antioxidants, and Dr. Amen doesn’t ignore this.

Dr. Amen had the NFL football players in his study take Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) and N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) daily. 

NAC is a modified form of the amino acid cysteine, and precursor to glutathione, your body’s master antioxidant

Environmental toxins and oxidative stress deplete your body's reserves of cysteine and glutathione, but supplementing with NAC can increase and normalize cysteine and glutathione levels.

This can combat and reduce oxidative stress in the brain, which helps treat several mental illnesses, including cognitive problems and addiction (23). 

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a fatty acid created in the body, playing a role in mitochondrial energy metabolism. In supplement form, it is a potent antioxidant compound that has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain, which can contribute to neurological decline. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels, which is crucial for healthy brain function (24-25). 

Several other studies have found that a combination of antioxidants – including NAC, ALA, Vitamin C and Vitamin E can improve cognitive functioning and decrease symptoms of cognitive decline. This is likely because oxidative stress plays a major role in the development of cognitive impairment and dementia, and these antioxidant nutrients and plant compounds can counteract this (14-22). 

NAC, ALA and several other antioxidant nutrients are included in the Optimal Antiox supplement.

Antioxidants can also reduce levels of cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone. 

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9. Reduce Cortisol with Phosphatidylserine

Participants in Dr. Amen’s study also supplemented with phosphatidylserine.

Phosphatidylserine is a fat-soluble amino acid that supports cognitive function. 

High amounts of phosphatidylserine can be found within the brain, and supplementation has been shown to improve attention, learning and memory.

…consumption of phosphatidylserine may reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive dysfunction
— Food and Drug Administration

It’s also been shown to reduce cortisol, which can negatively affect the brain at chronically high levels (26). 

I personally take phosphatidylserine every day. It's included in the Optimal Brain supplement

 

10. Optimize Important Health Markers

Picture of blood in blood containers after being drawn.

Important health markers were also monitored and optimized to ensure that the NFL players were in the best health possible to support their brain.

Here are some of the markers Dr. Amen monitored in the NFL players:

Weight measures, such as body mass index and height-to-weight ratio – research shows that as a person's weight goes up, the size of their brain goes down. To reduce this problem, Dr. Amen ran an weight loss class to help the NFL players lose excess weight. 

Fasting blood glucose levels – Having high fasting blood glucose levels increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is associated with depression and dementia

C-reactive protein – This is a measure of inflammation, which is associated with many chronic illnesses, including depression, dementia and chronic pain. Dr. Amen aims for a measure of less than 1mg/liter. A healthy diet and nutrients can help get inflammation under control.

Vitamin D Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that our skin synthesizes when exposed to the sun. Every tissue in your body has vitamin D receptors, including the brain, so a deficiency can lead to costly physiological and psychological consequences, including cognitive impairment. Normal levels are between 30 and 100 ng/mL. Dr. Amen prefers his patients’ levels to be between 50 and 100 because optimal vitamin D levels can reduce inflammation and improve mood. To boost vitamin D levels, he encouraged players to get more sunlight or take a Vitamin D3 supplement.

Ferritin – Ferritin is a measure of iron stores. Iron deficiency can cause fatigue, but too much iron can cause stress and accelerate aging. If the NFL players’ ferritin levels were too low, Dr. Amen gave them iron. If they were too high, he encouraged them to donate blood. I personally prefer beef liver capsules as good source of iron instead of taking iron supplements. 

In addition to the above strategies, Dr. Amen and his team treated other dementia risk factors, such as hypertension, heart disease, gum disease, alcohol and drug abuse, low thyroid and testosterone levels, sleep apnea, and ideally the cessation of anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines.

Check out this article for several other important blood tests.

 

11. Reduce Homocysteine

Illustration of the homocysteine symbol. Normalizing homocysteine levels can help the brain recover after damage.

This step – and the next two – are not a part of the original study.

However, Dr. Amen says he uses these treatments with his patients, including retired football players.

Homocysteine is an inflammatory compound at high levels, which can lead to the development of mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and other mental health disorders. 

However, certain B vitamins have been shown to normalize homocysteine levels and reduce the rate of cognitive decline.

As a result, Dr. Amen says that he recommends his NFL patients supplement with methyl-B12, methyl-folate, and P-5-P (bioactive B6).

Trimethylglycine (TMG) and S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) also lower homocysteine.

I personally prefer SAM-e since it is the most powerful and noticeable. I take this one.

Here is a full article all about how to lower homocysteine levels. 

For those players who were depressed or demented, we did more. I acted as the psychiatrist for a number of our players or a consultant to their own physicians. For many, I prescribed natural antidepressants, such as SAMe, because it also helps with pain.
— Dr. Daniel Amen
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12. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)

A number of our players also opted to do hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), which we have seen improve blood flow to the brain. Over the years I have been impressed with HBOT’s ability to increase blood flow to damaged brains.
— Dr. Daniel Amen
Woman lying in hyperbaric oxygen tank. Male doctor sitting beside her. HBOt helps reverse brain damage.

Again, this wasn’t included in the main protocol of the study, but Dr. Amen often recommends it to NFL players or anyone else with brain damage. 

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a treatment that enhances healing in the brain.

Patients inhale 100% oxygen in a total body chamber. 

Usually, oxygen is transported throughout the body only by red blood cells. But with HBOT, oxygen is dissolved into all body fluids, including the fluids of the central nervous system.

This leads to oxygen being  carried to areas of the body where circulation is diminished or blocked. As a result, extra oxygen can reach all damaged tissues, including areas of the brain that need to heal.

Lots of research shows that HBOT improves blood supply to the brain, reduces inflammation, and enhances neurogenesis, which improves recovery after injury to the central nervous system (34-38). 

You’ll need to find a practitioner or clinic in your area that provides this treatment.

HBOT can be expensive though. That's why I decided to buy my own oxygen concentrator. An oxygen concentrator is much less expensive than HBOT but it still helps a lot. It has definitely helped me recover.

My doctor uses this one at his clinic and recommended it to me. 

But I did a lot of my own research before buying my own and got this one instead. I use it almost every day. It's the best option on the market. You can also get a refurbished one for cheaper.  

Check out my full article about oxygen therapy for more information. 

 

13. Neurofeedback

Brain hooked up to computer. Neurofeedback can help reverse brain damage.

Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that shows you your brain activity in real-time and teaches you how to self-regulate it.  

Sensors are placed on your scalp to measure your brain’s activity, and the measurements are displayed using video or sound.

Dr. Amen uses it with his NFL patients.

In our retired NFL players, we often saw excessively high slow wave activity (excessive delta and theta) and too little fast wave activity (too little beta) in the front part of the brain. Many of our athletes thought of neurofeedback like going to the gym for their minds and found it very helpful.
— Dr. Daniel Amen

It’s best to work with a qualified practitioner.

But I also like the Muse headband. It’s a good substitute and gives you real-time feedback in your brainwaves while you meditate. I previously wrote about it here, and you can get it through Amazon or the Muse website

 

Conclusion

Illustration of person holding a blue brain in their hands.

Researchers used to believe that the brain could not heal, but they now know that’s wrong. 

Brain plasticity is possible, and if you put the brain in a healing environment, it can get better, and brain damage can be reversed. 

But the above protocol isn’t just for retired NFL players. 

It also applies directly to the larger traumatic brain injury and drug abuse communities.

Or simply anyone who is experiencing cognitive decline, depression or other mental health problems. 

The retired NFL players in the study had sustained brain injuries decades previously, but they improved. 

If researchers can improve the brains of retired football players – who have had tens of thousands of hits to their heads – imagine the benefit you can get with a brain healthy program.

You don’t have to be held hostage by your bad brain. 

You can recover from brain damage, brain infection, substance abuse and toxic exposure. 

And Dr. Amen isn’t the only doctor showing the brain’s incredible power to heal.

Dr. Dale Bredesen, MD, is reversing cognitive decline and dementia with his own brain rehabilitation program. 

You can read more about his protocol here.

This work is incredibly important for football players, soldiers, firefighters, police, and anyone who has suffered brain trauma and damage.

Please share this post with anyone that you think would benefit from the information within it.

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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References:

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16239884

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17545878

(3) http://ns.umich.edu/Releases/2009/Sep09/FinalReport.pdf

(4) http://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/doi/abs/10.1176/jnp.23.1.jnp98

(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18991956

(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20414130

(7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19345341

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19662657

(9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17574755

(10) http://ftw.usatoday.com/2015/09/researchers-find-evidence-of-cte-in-96-of-deceased-nfl-players-they-tested

(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17241155

(12) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2344157/

(13) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20454891

(14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2984445/

(15) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14500988

(16) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9110909/

(17) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10681271/

(18) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16402761

(19) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18042001

(20) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC161361/

(21) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2675154/

(22) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17510979/

(23) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18990082

(24) https://examine.com/supplements/alpha-lipoic-acid/

(25) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/20622459/

(26) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2170852

(27) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12905098

(28) https://examine.com/supplements/vinpocetine/

(29) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15760651

(30) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12498034

(31) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12460136

(32) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19720082

(33) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17657601

(34) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3231808/

(35) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20715898

(36) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22146131

(37) https://www.hindawi.com/journals/mi/2013/512978/

(38) http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/45/6/1807

Medically reviewed by Dr. Daniel Amen, MD

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How to Fight Alzheimer's Disease with Intranasal Insulin

A woman spraying insulin up her cose with an intranasal bottle.

Today I want to discuss "intranasal insulin", a cutting-edge therapy that could help a lot of people. 

Neurologists and psychiatrists tend to undervalue the impact of hormones originating outside the brain.

Until modern medicine treats the entire body as one unified system – like functional medicine practitioners do – people will continue to lose faith in conventional practitioners and look elsewhere for solutions to their chronic brain and mental health problems. 

As Dr. Suzanne Craft, Ph.D, Professor of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, explains:

People are now starting to understand the critical interaction between the brain and the body and that many of the peptides and hormones produced in the body have very substantial roles to play in the brain. I think we’re at the beginning of a very exciting era in which we’re going to be able to start putting together these systems to understand Alzheimer’s disease, which is clearly a disease of the entire organism, not just of the brain.

Insulin is one of the hormones that significantly affects brain function.

It's been shown to pass the blood-brain barrier and act on insulin receptors directly within the brain (3, 4). 

Not only does our body produce and release it, but it can also be taken as a medication, particularly for the treatment of diabetes (1, 2). 

Researchers have found that insulin has “neurotrophic, neuromodulatory, and neuroprotective effects” by:

  • Promoting neuronal growth;

  • Regulating the levels of certain neurotransmitters;

  • Increasing brain energy levels (ATP in your mitochondria);

  • Increasing blood flow in the brain;

  • Preventing dopaminergic neuron loss;

  • Reducing inflammation in the brain; and

  • Protecting against oxidative stress in the brain by restoring antioxidants and energy metabolism (5-13).

Insulin in the dictionary.
In the brain, insulin has a number of roles to play. It promotes glucose uptake in the neurons of the hippocampal formation and the frontal lobes, areas that are involved in memory. Insulin also strengthens the synaptic connections between brain cells, helping to form new memories. In addition, insulin regulates the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which plays an important role in learning and memory.
— Dr. Suzanne Craft, Ph.D

So, it clearly does a lot in the brain, and research shows that it can be therapeutic for a number of mental health conditions, particularly Alzheimer’s disease

In a new therapeutic approach, commercially-available insulin (Novalin R) is prepared and added to nasal spray bottleslike this one – and sprayed and inhaled through the nose to support brain and mental health. 

Dr. William Banks, Professor of Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, says there are more than 100 different intranasal compounds that are being tested for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease

“Intranasal insulin” is just one of them, and it’s one of the more promising ones, as it’s been reported to significantly enhance memory, increase mental energy, reduce brain fog, improve mood, and lower anxiety and stress levels

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The Link Between Alzheimer’s Disease, Insulin and Diabetes

Many of the brain health experts I’ve talked to are convinced that Alzheimer’s disease should actually be called "Type 3 diabetes".

This is because diabetes and insulin are closely linked to cognitive decline and dementia

Many studies show that diabetes is associated with an increased risk of cognitive dysfunction, and people with diabetes are 2 to 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment than non-diabetics (14-21). 

Researchers have also found that insulin declines in the brain as people age, and patients with Alzheimer’s disease often have insulin resistance and reduced levels of insulin in their brains (25-30)

But what if insulin deficiency is detected in the brain, and then insulin is supplied to the brain, could neurodegeneration and the development of dementia be prevented? And could the progression of existing Alzheimer’s disease be halted?

The answers to these questions appears to be yes:

  • Diabetic patients who take insulin have improved memory and reduced rates of Alzheimer’s disease;

  • Elderly diabetics who take insulin have less severe Alzheimer’s disease compared with non-diabetics;

  • Insulin improves cognition and memory in people with Alzheimer’s disease; and

  • Insulin prevents and reverses brain degeneration and cognitive impairment in diabetic animals (22-24).

Check out the below video to learn more from one of the leading researchers in the field: 

Cutting-Edge Research Shows That Intranasal Insulin Improves Cognition and Memory

The intranasal route of insulin administration provides direct access to the cerebrospinal fluid and brain.

This allows insulin to directly enter the brain from the nose, and bind to receptors within specific areas of the brain that are involved in memory and cognition (42). 

Insulin receptors in the brain are found in high densities in the hippocampus, a region that is fundamentally involved in the acquisition, consolidation, and recollection of new information.

An increasing amount of research has been published over the last ten years, demonstrating that intranasal insulin can significantly improve cognition, attention, memory and overall brain function in people with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease (31-33, 38-39, 43-45). 

In fact, there are over 30 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials showing that it’s effective at improving memory, learning and cognitive performance in humans (34-37). 

Illustration of how intranasal insulin works.

Yet most people aren’t aware of it, and doctors aren’t prescribing it, while millions of people suffer from dementia

One study found that it improved objective biomarkers of neurodegeneration, including amyloid deposits and tau pathology, in people with Alzheimer’s disease within a few months. In the group of patients that didn’t receive intranasal insulin, brain function continued to deteriorate (40). 

In another study, researchers gave intranasal insulin to 104 adults with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease. At the end of the 4-month study, the participants who received insulin had significantly better memory and cognitive function compared to the group who didn’t receive insulin (41). 

The researchers also found that the improvements in cognition were correlated with improvements in objective biomarkers, and concluded that “intranasal insulin therapy can help to stabilize, slow, or possibly even reverse the course of Alzheimer’s disease (41). 

Because of the promising research so far, the US government is currently funding a two-year long clinical trial to see if intranasal insulin will help 240 people with Alzheimer’s disease. Results from the Study of Nasal Insulin in the Fight Against Forgetfulness (SNIFF) are expected to be released in 2017. 

And intranasal insulin doesn’t just help elderly people with dementia. It’s also been shown to improve memory in younger, healthy individuals (46-51). 

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Intranasal Insulin and Other Brain and Mental Health Disorders

Alzheimer’s disease isn’t the only brain and mental health condition that can benefit from intranasal insulin. 

Here are some others:

  • ADHD and drug addiction – Insulin affects dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter linked to both these conditions (52).

  • Depression, anxiety and anger – In one study, 38 healthy people took intranasal insulin for 8 weeks and experienced enhanced mood, increased self-confidence and reduced anger. Another study found that it affected heart-rate variability (53, 59).

  • Stroke – Researchers point out that “intranasally administered insulin possesses many of the ideal properties for acute stroke neuroprotection” (54, 62).

  • Bipolar disorder – One study found that intranasal insulin significantly improved executive function in patients with bipolar disorder (55).

  • Neurodevelopmental disorder – Two studies have found that intranasal insulin improves cognition, autonomy, motor activity, nonverbal communication, social skills and developmental functioning of children and adults with a rare neurodevelopmental disorder (Phelan-McDermid syndrome) (57, 58).

  • Overall brain function – “Intranasal insulin appears to restore complex neural networking in the direction of normalization”. In other words, it seems to “reboot” the brain (56).

  • Parkinson’s disease and Down Syndrome – There is no evidence for this yet but there are ongoing trials looking into whether intranasal insulin could help people with these conditions (60, 61).

Safety of Intranasal Insulin and How to Try It Yourself

Numerous studies show that intranasal insulin is incredibly safe and does not cause any significant adverse side effects. The only minor side effects I came across were dizziness, nose bleeding and mild rhinitis, but these were rare (63-65). 

This is because unlike regular insulin administration, intranasal insulin only affects the nose and brain. It doesn’t enter the bloodstream, change insulin levels throughout the entire body, or cause low blood sugar (66-83). 

Overall, I believe the benefits outweigh the risks and it’s worth trying, especially if you’re struggling with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimer’s disease. It may be another decade or more until the research trickles down and reaches your doctor’s office. Research shows that it takes about 17 years for new scientific evidence to be implemented in clinical practice

However, I’m not a doctor and you should definitely talk to your doctor about this if you’re considering trying it. If you have an open-minded doctor, perhaps they will support you in trying it. Don’t be surprised if they dismiss the idea entirely though. 

With that said, you can easily and legally buy insulin yourself. It’s available over the counter without a prescription at any pharmacy (in the US and Canada). Pharmacists hold it behind the counter and you just have to walk up and ask for “Novolin R.” In Canada, it’s called “Novolin Toronto.”

It’s that simple. You don’t need to provide personal identification or sign anything. It costs about $30.

After that, you can get a nasal spray bottle - like this one or this one

Then, use pliers to carefully remove the rubber cap from the insulin vial, and pour the insulin into the spray bottle. 

At this point, you’re ready to use it. Make sure to keep it in the fridge when you're not using it. 

Again, I’m not a doctor. So talk to your doctor about this before trying it. But I feel this is worth sharing and writing about considering it has massive potential to help many people who are struggling day-to-day. 

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Dosage

Each spray from the nasal bottle is 0.1mL or 10IU of insulin. 

Dosages in human studies range from 10IU to 160IU (1 to 16 sprays) daily. 

In the longest lasting study, participants took either 20 IU (2 sprays) or 40IU (4 sprays) of insulin daily for four months (86). 

So, if you’re going to try it, I wouldn’t take more than 40IU (4 sprays) for longer than 4 months.

However, participants in the ongoing SNIFF trial have been taking intranasal insulin for more than one year, so once the results from that study are released in 2017, my recommendation may change. 

Overall, self-experimentation is necessary to find the correct dosage that works best for you. 

Conclusion

Intranasal insulin is a very impressive and exciting substance, and the lack of side effects is encouraging. 

If you’re looking to improve your memory and brain function and avoid Alzheimer’s disease, it’s definitely worth considering and talking to your doctor about it. 

An elderly man sprays intranasal insulin up his nose.

All that’s needed is:

I’m aware that this might be little bit “out there” for some people, but I think it has the potential to help a lot of people reach optimal brain and mental health. 

Please share with anyone who is struggling with cognitive impairment or the early signs of dementia because it isn't a very well known treatment. 

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Jordan Fallis

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References:

(1) http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00125-003-1153-1

(2) http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/31/11/957.short

(3) http://press.endocrine.org/doi/abs/10.1210/edrv-13-3-387

(4) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26401706

(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15750214/

(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4191295/

(7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15750214/

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22586589

(9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18348871

(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23907764

(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26040423

(12) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26777890

(13) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4391678/

(14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4191295/

(15) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22201977/

(16) http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/54/5/1264?ijkey=3186b318b004c253abda2b3f67535508da9fa50a&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha

(17) http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/63/7/2253?ijkey=5cc5fc39ea0a601c551a668d0829247222ae292e&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha

(18) http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/20/3/438

(19) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11678970

(20) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10647755

(21) http://www.alzheimersanddementia.com/article/S1552-5260(13)02918-X/abstract

(22) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15750215/

(23) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23565496/

(24) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22201977/

(25) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17049785?dopt=Abstract

(26) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17430239/

(27) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16340083/

(28) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4743662/

(29) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18549783

(30) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15750215

(31) http://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/106378

(32) http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40263-013-0076-8

(33) http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/1107947

(34) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25008180/

(35) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16266773

(36) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3260944/

(37) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21883804

(38) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22710630?dopt=Abstract

(39) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21911655?dopt=Abstract

(40) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4743662/

(41) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/219116/

(42) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3443484/

(43) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804944/

(44) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17942819/

(45) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23507773

(46) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20719831/

(47) http://www.psyneuen-journal.com/article/S0306-4530(04)00052-6/abstract

(48) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15288712

(49) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15288712?dopt=Abstract

(50) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19091002?dopt=Abstract

(51) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4391678/

(52) http://www.news-medical.net/news/2007/10/18/31385.aspx

(53) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15288712

(54) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4828994/

(55) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23107220

(56) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25249577

(57) http://www.nature.com/ejhg/journal/v24/n12/full/ejhg2016109a.html

(58) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18948358

(59) http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/63/12/4083.long

(60) https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02064166

(61) https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02432716

(62) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26040423

(63) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25374101

(64) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18948358

(65) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25374101

(66) http://press.endocrine.org/doi/pdf/10.1210/jc.2007-2606

(67) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4743662/

(68) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4743662/

(69) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23719722?dopt=Abstract

(70) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15288712?dopt=Abstract

(71) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19091002?dopt=Abstract

(72) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26777890

(73) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15288712

(74) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11992114

(75) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26855666

(76) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12951650

(77) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15288712

(78) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804944/

(79) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12951650

(80) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23107220

(81) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24101698

(82) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25337926

(83) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25374101

(84) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20876713

(85) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15288712

(86) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21911655

Medically reviewed by Dr. Fred Hui, MD, CCFP, CAFC

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The Brain and Mental Health Benefits of Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) & Photobiomodulation

Low-level laser/light therapy (LLLT) is the very last treatment I used to restore my brain function after serious concussions, toxic mold exposure and multiple psychiatric prescriptions

And in my experience, it is one of the most efficient ways to boost brain function and improve mental health. 

Yet your doctor likely has no idea what it is. 

It’s about as cutting-edge as it gets, and even more unconventional than neurofeedback. But it works. 

Also known as photobiomodulation, LLLT is the application of low-power lasers or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to the body for therapeutic purposes.  When LLLT is applied to the brain, it is known as transcranial LLLT or transcranial photobiomodulation (44). 

LLLT has been around since 1967, and there are now more than one thousand scientific studies showing that it can help treat a variety of disorders without any harmful effects. Unlike high-intensity surgical lasers, low-powered lasers do not cut or burn tissue. Instead, these lasers stimulate a biological response and encourage cells to function properly (11, 12, 33). 

And luckily, it’s very easy to treat yourself at home with LLLT using red and infrared light.

I use two main devices on my brain and they have significantly improved the quality of my life.

Make sure you read the Recommended Devices section below, where I discuss the different devices I use. 

Picture of mitochondria being irradiated and stimulated by red and infrared light.

How It Works

Research shows that red and infrared light between the wavelengths of 632 nanometers (nm) and 1064 nm produce positive biological effects. For brain cells, the optimal range appears to be between 800 nm and 1000 nm, as these wavelengths can penetrate the scalp and skull and reach the brain (19, 20, 25-31).

The devices I use fall within this range. 

The light emitted from these devices stimulate a photochemical reaction within cells, which can accelerate the natural healing process and cause beneficial changes in behaviour (45).

How does it do this?

Mainly by supporting your mitochondria

As I’ve discussed before, mitochondria are considered the “powerhouses of the cell,” generating most of the energy in your body in the form of adenosine-5’- triphosphate (ATP). 

ATP is your body’s main source of cellular fuel. You are constantly using it, and your brain needs enough of it to work properly. 

Proper mitochondrial function and ATP production is critical for neuroprotection, cognitive enhancement, and the prevention and alleviation of several neurological and mental disorders (46).

And research demonstrates that transcranial LLLT supports mitochondrial function and significantly increases the production of ATP in the brain (3-5, 8-10, 13-17, 21-22, 34, 45).

Your mitochondria contain photoacceptors that absorb the photons from light and convert them into ATP – energy that can be used to perform cellular tasks and biological processes (39, 40).

This process is comparable to plant photosynthesis, during which sunlight is absorbed by plants and converted to energy for the plants to grow (23, 24). 

By stimulating the mitochondria and producing more ATP, LLLT gives brain cells extra ATP energy to work better and heal and repair themselves.

On top of this, LLLT has also been shown to:

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My Experience and What You Should Expect

Along with neurofeedback, LLLT is one of the most impactful actions I have taken to optimize my brain and mental health.

Man using LLLT helmet and intranasal Vielight device.

By the time I was off all psychiatric medications, I had lost a lot of my full cognitive capabilities. Thankfully, LLLT has restored them.

Here are some of the results I’ve noticed:

  • Increased cognitive function

  • Sharper thinking

  • Improved mood, concentration, alertness

  • Less fatigue and reduced need for sleep

  • More mental motivation, endurance and productivity

Overall, it has improved my mental constitution. I don’t get fatigued and worn down as easily and I can focus and think harder for longer periods of time.

LLLT also has a cumulative effect. Your brain becomes stronger and more resilient over time as you do the treatment consistently.  

It has allowed me to reduce the number of supplements I take daily. I now realize that I needed the treatment for many years, but I just didn’t know it existed.

Luckily, I’m now able to treat myself on a regular basis and I’ve never felt better. 

Many serious brain injuries and mental illnesses can be successfully treated with LLLT, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, post-concussion syndrome, stroke and Alzheimer's disease.

I explore how LLLT has been shown to help each of these disorders below. Feel free to skip to the disorder you're struggling with to learn more.

Depression and Anxiety

Studies in rats and humans provide evidence that LLLT improves mood and decreases depressive symptoms.

In 2009, researchers took 10 patients with a history of major depression and anxiety (including post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse) and applied LLLT to their foreheads for four weeks. At the end of the study, six of the 10 patients experienced a remission of their depression, and seven of the 10 patients experienced a remission of their anxiety. There were no observable side effects (54). 

The data supports that LLLT to the head constitutes a promising neurotherapeutic tool to modulate behaviour in a non-invasive manner.
— Dr. Julio C. Rojas, MD, PhD, University of California

This makes sense considering that several studies show that depression is linked to abnormal blood flow in the frontal cortex of the brain, and LLLT increases blood flow and circulation (47, 53). 

Other studies have shown that participants report a significant increase in positive emotions and a reduction in depressive symptoms for two weeks after LLLT treatment (55-57). 

Sufferers of traumatic brain injury (TBI) also experience a decrease in depression, anxiety, irritability and insomnia, and an overall improvement in quality of life, because of LLLT (58, 59).  

I’ve personally experienced all of these results.

Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a growing health concern. An estimated 1.7 million people sustain a TBI annually in the U.S. (60). 

Mild TBIs (concussions) make up 75 per cent of all brain injuries. Military personnel deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan frequently experience mild TBI while overseas, and many months after they return home, they often struggle with PTSD, depression and anxiety (61, 62). 

And research shows that transcranial LLLT can help (63). 

I personally experienced this. In 2010, I suffered multiple concussions while living in a moldy home, and thankfully LLLT has helped me completely recover from post-concussion syndrome. It’s helped me as much as neurofeedback

A number of human studies show that patients with chronic mild TBI experience improved cognition, memory and sleep with LLLT treatment. 

One study examined whether LLLT could help 11 patients with chronic mild TBI symptoms. They all had cognitive dysfunction, and four of them had multiple concussions like I did. 

After 18 LLLT sessions, their cognition, memory and verbal learning improved. Participants also said they slept better and had fewer PTSD symptoms. Coworkers, friends and family reported improved social, interpersonal, and occupational functioning (65). 

If LLLT was a drug, we would definitely be hearing about it.

In another study, 10 people with chronic TBI were given 10 treatments of LLLT (810 nm) and witnessed a reduction in headaches, cognitive dysfunction, sleep problems, anxiety, depression and irritability (66). 

There have also been a few case studies showing beneficial effects of transcranial LLLT in TBI patients (67, 68):

Seven years after closed-head TBI from a motor vehicle accident, case 1 (a 66-year-old woman) began transcranial LED treatments. Before LLLT treatment, she could focus on her computer for only 20 minutes. After eight weekly LLLT treatments, her focused computer time increased to 3 hours. She has treated herself nightly at home for 5.5 years now and maintains her improved cognition at age 72 years.
Case 2 (a 52-year-old retired, high-ranking female military officer) had a history of multiple closed-head injuries. Before beginning LLLT treatments, she was on medical disability for 5 months. After 4 months of nightly LLLT treatments at home, she returned to working full-time as an executive consultant with an international technology consulting firm and discontinued medical disability. Neuropsychological testing performed after 9 months of transcranial LED showed significant improvement in cognition and memory, as well as reduction in post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
Case 3 received 20 LLLT treatments over two months and experienced highly favourable outcomes with decreased depression, anxiety, headache, and insomnia, whereas cognition and quality of life improved.

So LLLT can improve cognition, reduce costs in TBI treatment and be applied at home?

Hmm, sounds like something the pharmaceutical industry would not like people to know about – and something that would force them to lose a lot of life-long customers. 

Several mouse studies also show that transcranial LLLT can prevent cell death and increase neurological performance after TBI (69-72). 

Researchers believe that LLLT works so well for people struggling with TBI symptoms because mitochondria in the brain are significantly dysfunctional after TBI, resulting in an inadequate supply of ATP, and LLLT can support the mitochondria and increase ATP production (73-75, 79). 

There is also poor blood flow and oxygenation, and increased inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain after head injuries. This contributes to brain damage, but LLLT can help combat these problems, increase antioxidants, promote neurogenesis and relieve chronic symptoms (76-78, 80-83).

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Alzheimer's Disease and Cognitive Impairment

Research shows that LLLT can boost performance and improve cognitive function, including attention and memory, in elderly people, young healthy people and animals.  

Preliminary studies demonstrate that LLLT could slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by decreasing a protein in the brain that is linked to dementia (84-86, 94). 

Downregulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) occurs early in the progression of Alzheimer's disease, and LLLT has been shown to prevent brain cell loss by upregulating BDNF (87). 

LLLT could be used as a preventive intervention in people who present risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, or a history of head trauma. In such patients, LLLT could be combined with cognitive intervention approaches.
— Dr. Francisco Gonzalez-Lima, PhD, University of Austin, Texas

Researchers have also applied LLLT to middle-aged mice, and discovered that the memory and cognitive performance of the middle-aged mice improved so much that it was comparable with that of young mice. The researchers concluded that LLLT should be “applied in cases of general cognitive impairment in elderly persons” (5, 88). 

Several others studies have shown that LLLT significantly increases alertness, awareness and sustained attention, and improves short-term memory and reaction time. Study participants also made fewer errors during tasks and tests (89-91, 93, 95). 

Another study found that LLLT was just as effective as exercise at enhancing cognition, likely by providing neuroprotection and supporting the mitochondria (92, 96).

Stroke

Multiple studies show that LLLT can significantly reduce brain damage and improve recovery outcomes after a stroke (110-113). 

In one study, researchers applied LLLT over the entire surface of the head of stroke patients approximately 18 hours after a stroke. Five days after the stroke, they found significantly greater improvements in the LLLT-treated group. The improvements continued 90 days after the stroke. At the end of the study, 70% of the patients treated with real LLLT had a successful outcome compared with only 51% of the control subjects (114). 

Follow up studies with over 600 stroke patients found similar beneficial results. Researchers believe increase in the production of ATP is responsible for the improvements (115, 116, 117).  

Numerous studies also show that LLLT significantly reduces neurological problems and improves behaviour in rats and rabbits after stroke. It also increases the growth of new brain cells in these animals, improving their overall recovery (118-124).

Other Disorders

There are a number of other disorders that can also improve with LLLT treatment: 

  • Parkinson’s disease (PD) – “Mitochondria in PD tissues are compromised… LLLT could be developed as a novel treatment to improve neuronal function in patients with PD” (109).

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) - Mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress play an important role in motor neuron loss in ALS. Motor function significantly improved with LLLT group in the early stage of the disease (99).

  • Autism – Linked to mitochondria dysfunction and inflammation, so LLLT would likely help (103, 104).

  • Bipolar disorder – Linked to mitochondria dysfunction and inflammation (105, 106, 107)

  • Schizophrenia – Linked mitochondria dysfunction and inflammation (105, 106)

  • Smoking Cessation – Check out this video.

  • Alcoholism (101, 102)

  • Opiate addiction (102)

  • Headaches and migraines (108)

  • Acne - This is unrelated to brain health but LLLT can also treat acne. Improving my diet and gut health helped me overcome my acne, but I definitely wish I had known about LLLT when I had it. An integrative physician here in Ottawa has had a lot of success with her patients struggling with acne and other skin issues (97, 98).

Recommended Devices

I first discovered LLLT when reading Dr. Norman Doidge’s book, The Brain's Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity. I highly recommend the book. 

Dr. Doidge talks about the BioFlex Laser Therapy equipment, which costs thousands of dollars.

I found an integrative physician here who owned a Bioflex and I gave it a try. 

After a few sessions, I started experiencing beneficial effects.

So I decided to go ahead and buy my own LLLT devices for cheaper. And they have provided me with the same brain and mental health benefits as the expensive Bioflex: 

  • Platinum Therapy Lights Bio-450 (Combo Red/NIR) - This is a powerful device that shines 660 nm of red light and 850 nm of infrared light. I shine it on my forehead for 5-10 minutes every other day. I also shine it on other parts of my head, and on my thyroid, thymus gland and gut. If you decide to get this device, you can use the coupon code OPTIMAL for a 5% discount.

  • Vielight 810 – This is an intranasal device with 810 nm of near infrared light that I use regularly. It penetrates deeper into brain tissue and is absorbed better by the central nervous system. If you decide to get this one, you can use the coupon code JORDANFALLIS for a 10% discount. Some research has shown a 20-fold higher efficiency of light delivery to the deep brain through the nose instead of transcranial application (125).

  • Vielight also has two new devices - the Neuro Gamma and the Neuro Alpha. I haven't tried them yet because I’m happy with my Bio-450 and Vielight 810. But I have heard great things from other biohackers and researchers. They are apparently even more effective than the Vielight 810. Again, you can also use the coupon code JORDANFALLIS for a 10% discount if you buy one of these devices.

  • Red Light Man is another reliable company that provides red and infrared light devices.

Unlike most pharmaceuticals, LLLT is very safe, non-toxic and non-invasive, so you can easily try it on yourself without concern and see if it helps you like it has helped me (33, 34, 126). 

Woman applying a red and infrared light LLLT device to her forehead.

You can shine the light all over your head. But start slow and apply the light to different areas of your head for just 1-2 minutes, maybe even less if you’re really sensitive. Then work your way up to longer periods of time, perhaps 5-10 minutes per area. There’s no exact proper way to do this. Listen to your body and see how it affects you. 

It’s important to note that some people experience grogginess and fatigue after using LLLT. I experienced this the day after my first treatment. I was incredibly tired and lethargic. This was a sign that I did too much. 

If you feel extremely tired immediately after LLLT or the next day, take a break and do less next time. For example, if you applied light to your forehead for 3 minutes, then drop back down to 2 minutes for your next session. 

It is also important to cycle LLLT. The way it works is similar to exercise, so you need to take breaks in order to heal and get stronger. Using it everyday can cause a burnout effect. I use it every 2-3 days to give my brain a chance to recover.

Conclusion

Frankly, it’s ridiculous that this therapy is not more well-known and promoted by doctors. But like everything else on this website, you don’t have to wait for conventional medicine to catch up, and you can experiment with the LLLT devices yourself. There is a high benefit-to-risk ratio. 

I suspect that home-use application of LLLT will become much more popular in the coming years.

The remarkable effects of the treatment in healing the brain in a non-invasive manner, along with the fact that there is little evidence of any adverse side effects, suggests to me that it’s use will only increase.

At the same time, distrust in pharmaceuticals continues to grow because of uncertain efficacy and unbearable side effects. 

And as the Western population continues to age, the incidence of the degenerative brain diseases will only continue to increase, which will produce a severe financial and societal burden.

So people will realize they are at a disadvantage by not having their own device(s) and will start using them on a regular basis for optimal mental health and cognition.

I've come to this conclusion, and I'm glad I did.

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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References:

(1) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23003120

(2) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23281261

(3) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945284/

(4) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21274733

(5) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22850314

(6) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15954817

(7) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/lsm.20583/abstract

(8) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9421973

(9) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11959421

(10) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17603858

(11) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/5098661  

(12) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4659882

(13) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10365442/

(14) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6479342/ 

(15) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2476986/

(16) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17463313/

(17) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19837048/

(18) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19995444/

(19) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2442599/

(20) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0004951414601276

(21) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3288797/

(22) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23239434?dopt=AbstractPlus

(23) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3953713/

(24) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3065857/

(25) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26535475

(26) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26347062

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(31) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17463313

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(57) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23200785

(58) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26535475

(59) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26347062

(60) https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/pdf/bluebook_factsheet-a.pdf

(61) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18234750/

(62) https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/pdf/mtbireport-a.pdf

(63) http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0053454

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Fred Hui, MD, CCFP, CAFC

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The Best Amino Acid for Depression, Anxiety and Pain

An illustration of a woman worrying and ruminating.

Today I want to talk to you about one of the best amino acids that has really helped me manage feelings of depression, anxiety and trauma.

I write about many different helpful nutrients and supplements, and I know it can be overwhelming. 

So I want to dedicate this post to one amino acid, because I feel like it’s helped me more than any other (even more than n-acetyl-cysteine). 

As soon as I realize I'm running low and have just a few capsules left, I order it immediately because it gives me so many benefits.

Even though I can live without it, I’d rather not.

A man sitting on the edge of a cliff, depressed and worrying. Clouds are above him and raining down on him.

Taking it every so often helps my mood and significantly improves the quality of my life. 

A subtle sense of “impending doom” starts to creep in when I’ve gone too long without it. 

If you struggle with chronic anxiety and depression, you probably know what I’m talking about.

This feeling used to be a lot worse for me. 

It felt like a dark cloud was following me around all day, and I just couldn’t shake it.

It’s now gone.

And thankfully, I know exactly how to keep it away.

But life can be tough at times, and things happen.

And that’s why I’m glad I have access to DL-Phenylalanine (DLPA) whenever I need it.

It helps me get through stressful times.

It can get me out of a deep hole like nothing else.

And if you struggle with feelings of trauma, anxiety and depression on a regular basis, it may help you too. 

What is DL-Phenylalanine (DLPA) and How Does It Work?

I first learned about phenylalanine in the book The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. 

It’s an essential amino acid that plays a key role in the proper functioning of your nervous system.

If you're deficient in phenylalanine, you can have the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue

  • Confusion

  • Memory problems

  • Decreased alertness

  • Loss of appetite

DL-Phenylalanine, or DLPA for short, is a combination of two different forms of phenylalanine – D-Phenylalanine and L- Phenylalanine.

The D and L forms of phenylalanine have different beneficial effects on your body and brain. 

L-Phenylalanine is used as a building block by your body to create a number of important proteins, hormones and neurotransmitters. 

This includes dopamine, norepinephrine and thyroid hormone – all of which are necessary for optimal brain and mental function.

Dopamine in particular is very important as it’s the main neurotransmitter that supports your attention and motivation, and plays a key role in the “reward system” of your brain.

D-Phenylalanine, on the other hand, inhibits the breakdown of endorphins.

Endorphins are pain-relieving compounds that originate within your body. 

Your brain produces and releases these natural painkillers during times of strenuous exercise, emotional stress and pain. 

But D-Phenylalanine has been shown to slow the action of enzymes that destroy these morphine-like substances. By doing this, it can prolong the activity of your endorphins within your nervous system, allowing you feel better for longer (1-6). 

How It Can Help You

Together, D and L-Phenylalanine can support your brain and mental health by increasing both dopamine and endorphins levels.

My research and personal experience suggest it can help treat a number of different conditions, including:

  • Depression

  • Anxiety disorders

  • Chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia and arthritis

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

  • Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

  • Drug withdrawal, including alcohol, opiates and psychiatric medication (antidepressants, benzodiazepines, antipsychotics).

Personally, it helped me the most with depression and anxiety, and there are several studies that show it can improve your mood.

In one study, 20 depressed patients took 200 mg of DLPA everyday. At the end of the 3-week study, 12 patients no longer had depression, and 4 patients experienced mild to moderate improvements in their mood (8). 

This makes sense considering that researchers have found that people struggling with depression often have low levels of phenylalanine, and supplementation significantly elevates their mood (9). 

In fact, one study found that DLPA is just as effective as standard antidepressants (but without side effects), and another found that people who don’t respond to common antidepressants often get significantly better when they take DLPA (10, 11). 

And even if you take medication, research shows that combining DLPA with antidepressants leads to greater increases in mood than simply taking an antidepressant alone (12).

Yet unlike antidepressants, you can feel the effects of DLPA quickly (within a few hours) and in some cases, it can “terminate depression within 2 to 3 days” (13).

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My Experience

By building up your natural endorphin production, DLPA doesn’t just help reduce physical pain – but mental pain as well.

I'm currently taking this DLPA.

I'm currently taking this DLPA.

When I first started taking DLPA, it was such a relief. I was so glad I had found it. 

I notice it makes me:

  • More comfortable, happy and satisfied with my life;

  • More relaxed and calmer every time I take it;

  • Less moody and irritable;

  • Less likely to take things so seriously; and

  • Less reactive to negative events and situations.

Overall, it lifts my mood and reduces emotional sensitivity. Life becomes less intense. I’m not as sensitive to the world around me. I would definitely recommend it to others who also have “sensory processing sensitivity”. 

And eventually, DLPA helped me successfully wean off multiple psychiatric medications. Along with some other supplements, it played a critical role in making the withdrawal process as smooth as possible. 

I used to take 500 mg every day. Currently, I only need 500 mg once or twice each week, mainly because neurofeedback, low-level laser therapy and EMDR have helped me so much.

Other Success Stories

I understand that you might be thinking that perhaps DLPA won’t help you like it helped me.

And I can't guarantee that it will. 

But I did some digging and found a number of other people online who say that DLPA has also helped them manage or overcome their mental health issues. 

I’ve gathered their comments below and bolded anything that I can personally relate to or I have experienced while taking it:

  • “Suffering from severe post-traumatic stress, I've tried any number of natural products as the chemical cocktails handed out by conventional medicine are simply not acceptable to me. After my first dose of 1000mg DLPA, my depression lifted and trauma reactions (flashbacks and hyperviligence) significantly reduced. I've been taking this for a couple months now and there is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel. It has almost completely reversed my suicidal tendencies which were increasing regularly; they are now practically nonexistent. This product has truly saved my life.”

  • “My brain finally feels at rest and the anxiety has greatly decreased, and I can get on with my life. DLPA is my lifesaver. I will be taking this for as long as I need to.”

  • DLPA has been a huge help to me. I have type 1 bipolar and this has helped me more than anything I have ever tried. I will buy more and I also take more than 1. I take 2 to 3 a day and it calms my mind like nothing else ever has.”

  • “My husband is mildly bipolar. We've decided to try to treat him naturally and phenylalanine is one of the treatments. He only takes this on an "as needed" basis, which turns out to be at least two days per week. He has other regular supplements he takes daily. This is only for "extra support" on bad days. And it really works.”

  • DLPA is a key factor in improving my anxiety, depression and ADHD more than any of the several medications I have taken over the last 10 years.”

  • “I take DLPA first thing in the morning and it literally helps me get out of bed, get focused and get the day going with a positive attitude.”

  • “I honestly felt a difference right away. I was suddenly happy and smiling non-stop. I truly had a sparkle in my eye and I felt talkative and social. After a few hours the feeling wore off but I still felt an inner sense of content. It has helped with feelings of anxiety as well which is a plus.”

  • “Wow, what a difference! I have been so relieved from all those false moods that I can honestly say I am happy, alive and free.”

  • “I use this daily for the treatment of mild depression. I do notice a difference while on it. I went off of it briefly and felt as if someone had let some air out of my balloon, just kind of deflated.”

  • “I have suffered with extreme depression and anxiety since I was 13 (I’m now 42). I have gone through many different prescription/herbal/clinical therapies, and this product has been life-changing in a very short time. This has given me energy and focus I never had, a zest for life, an ability to handle stresses. I tell my husband (who keeps mentioning what a huge difference he has noticed) that this must be how "normal" people live.”

It absolutely blows my mind that more people aren’t aware of DLPA’s incredible and diverse benefits.

Clearly, it should be a first-line treatment for depression and anxiety. 

Yet I was never told about it, and it took me years to finally discover it.

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Where to Get It and How to Take It

I currently take this DL-Phenylalanine

I've also taken this one at one point.

I've also taken this DLPA and it works. It's currently less expensive than others through Amazon.

I've also taken this DLPA and it works. It's currently less expensive than others through Amazon.

Both work very well in my experience.

There are a number of other brands with good reviews, but I personally can’t vouch for them.

Make sure you get a combination of both D and L-Phenylalanine. I tried L-Phenylalanine alone once and it didn’t help me as much. 

In theory, it’s also a good idea to take it alongside Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C because they help with the conversion of phenylalanine to dopamine.

You should start with 500-750 mg each day and monitor how you feel. You will have to experiment and figure out your ideal DLPA dosage. The DLPA dosage for depression, pain or anxiety can vary. You may even need up to 1,500 mg daily.

But the benefits seem to increase over the time. The more you take it, the more you can feel it’s effects. 

Also, make sure you take it on an empty stomach. Do not take it with high-protein foods. Other amino acids (such as tryptophan) can compete with phenylalanine, and reduce its absorption and transportation across the blood-brain barrier.

Lastly, this anti-anxiety supplement includes several other natural compounds and amino acids that have helped me manage my anxiety over the years. It can also help reduce stress and anxiety, along with DL-Phenylalanine

Conclusion

Antidepressants and benzodiazepines are not your only options for depression and anxiety. 

Unfortunately, much of the so-called “science” behind mainstream psychiatric drugs is untrustworthy and fraudulent, and other safe and effective treatment options are often ignored by conventional medicine. 

A person’s hand and it says “I am stronger than depression.”

DL-Phenylalanine is one of these other options.

I can’t promise it will work for everyone, but since it’s easily accessible through Amazon, it’s worth a try if you suffer from depression and anxiety. Experiment with it and listen to how you feel. 

And like I have, I encourage you to use as many tools as you can to help yourself, including nutrition, supplements, exercise, neurofeedback, light therapy, etc. The list goes on and on. 

None of them have to work completely.

But all together, they can make a huge difference and change the course of your life like they have mine.

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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