5 Ways to Increase Your Good Gut Bacteria For A Healthier Brain

gut_bacteria

My brain totally broke in 2010 and I felt like I had developed ADHD, depression, and dementia all at once. By scouring the literature, interviewing and consulting with doctors and researchers, and experimenting with my own body and mind, I finally came to understand that it wasn’t just one thing that had caused my brain and body to break, but the accumulation of many things. 

One of my main problems: I had an imbalance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria in my digestive system. 

There are approximately 100 trillion microorganisms and 500 known bacterial species living in our guts. That means there is 10 times more bacteria cells in our bodies than human cells and over 90% of our cells are non-human. Simply put, we are more bacterial than we are human (1, 2).

Gut bacteria affect our nervous, hormonal and immune systems and play a key role in countless bodily functions, including the digestion of food and production of vitamins. So not surprisingly, the makeup of these bacteria in our system can affect how we feel physically and mentally. 

But our modern lifestyle isn’t good for our gut bacteria. Stress, bad diet and medications can reduce probiotic (good) bacteria and increase bad bacteria in our digestive tract. A lot of people today have out-of-balance and dysregulated gut bacteria. So if we want to regain optimal brain health, it’s critical to restore and support the “good germs” in our gut.

In this post, I’ll show you how to increase your good bacteria and reduce your bad bacteria like I did, so that you’ll improve the health of your brain and experience more mental resilience. 

gut_brain_connection

What the Cutting-Edge Research Says: You Need Healthy Gut Bacteria to Have a Healthy Brain

Impressive new research shows that there is a connection between our brain and our digestive tract, and that the bacteria in our gut can have a profound influence on our behaviour, thoughts and mood.

There’s evidence that healthy gut bacteria produce and regulate the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain (such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA), which can affect mood, pain and cognition (50-52). 

Dr. Stephen Collins, a gastroenterology researcher at McMaster University, has done a lot of research in the field and discovered that unhealthy gut bacteria play a key role in causing abnormal behaviour (including anxiety and depression), while certain strains of good bacteria can reduce stress hormones and anxious behavior. 

In one study, Collins took the gut bacteria of mice that were prone to anxious behaviour and transplanted it into calm mice. After the transplant, the calm mice started acting nervously. He has also seen the same results with humans (28 – 35). 

It’s increasingly clear that our gut bacteria, or microbiota, can communicate with the human brain.
— Dr. Kathy Magnusson, PhD, Oregan State University

Studies by Dr. John Cryan, a neuropharmacologist and microbiome expert at the University College Cork, shows that gut bacteria can alter brain chemistry.  

He found that after eliminating their good bacteria, mice act in ways that mimic human anxiety, depression and autism. And in one of his studies, two strains of bacteria were more effective than an antidepressant at treating anxiety and depression (36 – 42). 

Lastly, research has found that mice with autistic-like behaviour have much lower levels of a common type of bacteria called “Bacteroides Fragilis” than normal mice. They were stressed, antisocial, and had the same digestive problems often found in autism. And when they were fed “Bacteroides Fragilis”, there was a reversal in their autistic symptoms. They became less anxious, communicated more effectively, and showed less repetitive behavior (43, 44). 

This is just the tip of the iceberg. A growing number of scientists and practitioners around the world are researching and speaking out about this, explaining that the gut-brain connection can be hacked to treat psychiatric disorders. 

So without further ado, here are five powerful ways to nurture your good bacteria and eliminate the bad bacteria in your gut. By following these steps, you’ll feel stronger both mentally and physically.  

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1. Take A High-Quality Probiotic

Simply increasing the amount of beneficial bacteria in your gut through probiotic supplementation might be one of the most powerful things you can do for your brain and mental health. 

Probiotic supplements add good germs to your digestive system, and providing your body with a diverse array of friendly bacteria can significantly reduce your susceptibility to the negative effects of stress. Researchers have found that mice are less anxious when they are fed probiotics, and numerous studies have shown that humans experience less stress, anxiety, rumination, hostility, depression and aggression when supplementing with probiotics (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10). 

Researchers are starting to uncover how probiotics work to support the brain. One study showed that probiotics can help you naturally produce more GABA, a relaxing amino acid and neurotransmitter. Amazingly, this same study showed that probiotics not only help your body produce more GABA, but they enhance the sensitivity of the GABA receptors in your brain, making you more susceptible to calming effects of your natural GABA production (8, 53). On the other hand, if you go to the doctor for anxiety, you’ll likely receive anti-anxiety medication, which works by activating GABA receptors in the brain. 

Other species of probiotics have demonstrated an ability to reduce stress hormones and increase tryptophan, serotonin and omega-3 fatty acids in the brain, all of which play a role in proper mood and cognition (54, 55). So it’s critical to keep your insides flourishing with a healthy colony of good bacteria.

These bacteria could eventually be used the way we now use Prozac or Valium. I think these microbes will have a real effect on how we treat these disorders. This is a whole new way to modulate brain function.
— Dr. John F. Cryan, PhD, University College Cork

I’ve tried a number of different probiotics over the years. Some have helped me somewhat, while others haven’t helped me at all and even made me feel worse.

I’ve now created my own probiotic supplement, called Optimal Biotics.

I created it because I want to give my clients and readers the very best probiotic supplement so that they can experience superior results.

I have found that many probiotic supplements on the market fall short and even cause side effects.

But Optimal Biotics doesn't, and it contains the 8 most well-researched and beneficial probiotic strains.

2. Avoid antibiotics (unless absolutely necessary)

Seven years ago, I went to the doctor because my asthma was getting significantly worse. A lot of inflammation and phlegm was building up in my lungs. It felt like I was breathing through a straw all of the time. 

The doctor incorrectly assumed I had a bacterial infection (I actually had gluten and dairy allergies), so he gave me a course of antibiotics. And then another course. And then another. They did anything. 

Broad-spectrum antibiotics don’t differentiate between good and bad bacteria. These drugs not only kill bad bacteria, but they destroy good bacteria too. By the time I was done all three courses of antibiotics, a lot of the good bacteria in my gut was completely wiped out. And not only did my asthma get worse (and my body less able to handle the gluten and dairy I was eating), but my mental health deteriorated as well. 

Moral of the story: Antibiotics can save lives, but they can also destroy your health if they aren’t completely necessary. Yet many conventional doctors hand them out like candy on Halloween. 

In most cases, those who suffer from mental health disorders like depression and schizophrenia, and from developmental disorders like autism, something has harmed the beneficial bacteria in their gut, sometimes before birth and sometimes later on in life.
— Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD, Author of the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet

Studies show that antibiotic use can lead to profound changes and rapid loss of diversity in the composition of the gut bacteria and this can lead to other chronic health complications. American children are typically prescribed one course of antibiotics every year, and excessive and inappropriate use can cause serious long-term consequences without probiotic intervention. For example, antibiotics used to treat acne are associated with the development of inflammatory bowel disease (12, 13, 16, 17). 

An article published in Nature highlights the negative long-term consequences of antibiotic over-prescription. It points out that antibiotics cause significant and possibly permanent changes in gut bacteria, and infants delivered via caesarean section and/or by a mother given antibiotics during pregnancy significantly will have an insufficient level of good bacteria (14, 15). 

I don’t want to suggest that antibiotics are absolutely terrible and we should always avoid them. But they are excessively and inappropriately prescribed and their benefits come at a cost. You should be aware of this so you can make an informed choice. If you do decide to take antibiotics, make sure you take probiotics afterwards. 

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3. Feed the good guys with prebiotics and resistant starch

The existing probiotics in our gut need to be nourished and supported, and this can be done by eating or supplementing with prebiotics. 

Prebiotics are substances that humans can't digest, so they pass through our gastrointestinal tract and promote the growth of many different strains of good bacteria in our lower bowel. They are essentially food for the good bacteria in our intestines. 

Dr. Phil Burnet, a neurobiologist at Oxford University, published a paper in 2015 showing that people who ingested prebiotics have lower levels of cortisol, a key stress hormone, and focused more on positive feedback and less on negative stimuli. He said the results were very similar to when people take anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication, but without the side effects.

Other research by Burnet shows that prebiotics support overall brain health in humans and foster the growth of probiotics in mice, which leads to increased levels of several neurotransmitters that reduced anxiety-like behaviour (19, 20, 21, 22). 

Prebiotic-rich foods include sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, asparagus and squash. These foods are included in my free grocery shopping guide for optimal brain health and you should be eating them regularly. If you feed the good bacteria, you will feel healthier physically and mentally.

Resistant starch is one of the most potent ways to boost your prebiotic intake, and it’s been shown to help prevent and manage chronic disease (18). 

A convenient way to incorporate more resistant starch into your diet is by using Bob’s Red Mill Unmodified Potato Starch. I’ve tried and recommend it. You can get it through Amazon. It's one of the easiest and cheapest ways to incorporate more resistant starch into your diet. It is bland so you can simply add it to beverages, smoothies and meals. It has to stay raw though, so don’t cook it. 

Other high-quality resistant starches that I’ve tried include banana flour, plantain flour and waxy maize. I usually rotate between them.

sugar_addiction

4. Don't feed the bad guys with sugar

Avoiding sugar is a critical aspect of preventing and treating brain and mental health challenges. Not only does high sugar consumption increase inflammation, but sugar is fuel for bad bacteria. Significantly limiting your sugar intake will starve the bad bacteria and allow the probiotic bacteria in your gut to thrive. 

Diets high in sugar cause negative changes in gut bacteria that impair “cognitive flexibility”, which is the ability to adapt to changing situations. Sugar can also impair short and long-term memory (23). 

In his book The Sugar Blues, William Duffy argues that sugar is an addictive drug and eliminating it can have a profoundly beneficial impact on mental health. For some people, cutting out refined sugar may be all they need to do to overcome their depression and other mental health challenges. 

When I first cut out sugar several years ago, I actually went through withdrawal. I was incredibly tired, had increased anxiety and depression, and was sweating profusely at work. This makes sense in light of the research showing that people who drink more sweetened beverages are more likely to suffer from depression (24). My boss at the time thought I was sick, so he actually sent me home for the day. Eventually, I overcame the withdrawal and my mood and energy improved significantly. 

So radically reducing your sugar intake will support your gut bacteria, brain chemistry and overall health. 

5. Eat whole, probiotic-rich foods

Overall, you should also be eating a wide-variety of whole foods to support your gut health. Eating a standard Western diet for just one day can dramatically change your gut bacteria in a bad way, while eating lots of whole foods increases the diversity of good bacteria (45, 46, 47). 

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If you haven’t already, grab my Free Grocery Shopping Guide for Optimal Brain Health for a full-list of healthy whole foods. 

And probiotics don’t just need to come in supplement form. You can also experiment with incorporating probiotic foods into your diet. Fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, natto and pickled cucumbers. The probiotic bacteria in these foods cause their fermentation. If you can tolerate dairy, foods like kefir and yogurt (unsweetened) are also high in nourishing bacteria. 

By eating them, you’re promoting the proliferation of good bacteria in your gut, which will then support your brain. One study suggests that young adults experience less social anxiety if they eat fermented food, and another study shows that yogurt eaters experience positive changes in brain function that cause them to react more calmly to visual stimuli (25, 26).

This was not what we expected, that eating a yogurt twice a day for a few weeks would do something to your brain.
— Dr. Emeran Mayer, MD, Psychiatrist at UCLA

Probiotic foods tend to have a broad combination of bacteria too – more than what can be found in typical probiotic supplements. And people have been fermenting food for more than 8,000 years, yet most of us stopped after the invention of the refrigerator, which may explain the decreased diversity of good bacteria in our digestive tracts today. 

Conclusion

Promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria through positive lifestyle choices can make our brains feel great and function optimally. Too much bad bacteria can make you feel mentally weak, tired and ill, and you may even see changes in your personality. I know I did.  

Bacteria have lived inside humans for hundreds of thousands of years and therefore have lots of experience modifying our brains. They are more precise and subtle than pharmaceuticals, meaning means fewer side effects. As a result, changing the composition of our gut bacteria through lifestyle and dietary interventions is emerging as a very effective and practical way to treat anxiety, depression, autism and other mental health disorders (27, 48, 49).

So in conclusion, support and feed the good bacteria with:

And starve and fight off the bad bacteria in your gut by avoiding:

  • Sugar

  • Antibiotics

By taking these steps, your gut, body and brain will become stronger and more resilient over time.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

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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References:

(1) http://gutpathogens.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1757-4749-3-1

(2) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150414083718.htm

(3) http://gutpathogens.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1757-4749-3-1

(4) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150414083718.htm

(5) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3179073/

(6) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25449699

(7) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25862297

(8) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21876150

 (9) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20974015

(10) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16117982

(11) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17692729

(12) http://www.nature.com/ajg/journal/v105/n12/full/ajg2010303a.html

(13) http://www.pnas.org/content/108/Supplement_1/4554.full.pdf#page=1&view=FitH

(14) http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v476/n7361/full/476393a.html

(15) http://www.nature.com/nrmicro/journal/v7/n12/full/nrmicro2245.html

(16) http://jac.oxfordjournals.org/content/15/3/319.abstract

(17) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19018661

(18) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24228189

(19) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4410136/

(20) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26476141

(21) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24144322

(22) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3858812/

(23) https://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1957/55795/MagnussonKathyBiomedicalSciencesRelationshipsBetweenDietRelatedChanges.pdf?sequence=1

(24) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3990543/

(25) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150609092803.htm

(26) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3839572/

(27) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25415497

(28) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150728110734.htm

(29) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23845749

(30) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24997039

(31) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181531/

(32) http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2015/150728/ncomms8735/full/ncomms8735.html

(33) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21988661

(34) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20600016

(35) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21683077

(36) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25251188

(37) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20696216

(38) http://www.pnas.org/content/108/38/16050

(39) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22968153

(40) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21303428

(41) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22483040

(42) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26372511

(43) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3897394/

(44) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24315484?dopt=Abstract&holding=npg

(45) http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/1/6/6ra14.long

(46) http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v518/n7540_supp/full/518S14a.html

(47) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24939238

(48) http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v13/n10/full/nrn3346.html

(49) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gbb.12109/abstract;jsessionid=F9A259194D111B1544816067055A05B7.f04t02

(50) http://journals.plos.org/plospathogens/article?id=10.1371/journal.ppat.1003726

(51) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166432814004768

(52) http://www.pnas.org/content/108/38/16050.long

(53) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22612585?dopt=Abstract&holding=npg

(54) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23686721

(55) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23686721

Medically reviewed by Dr. Robert Blake Gibb, MD

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How to Support Your Mitochondria for Better Brain Health

how-to-support-your-mitochondria-for-better-brain-health-mental-boost-increase-optimize-restore-repair-function-depression-fatigue-energy-foods-supplements-naturally-biogenesis

It’s becoming increasingly clear that chronic dysfunction of mitochondria is another underlying factor that contributes to poor brain function and mental illness. 

Mitochondria are unique structures within every cell of your body. You have trillions and trillions of them, making up approximately 10% of your total body weight. They are considered the “powerhouses of the cell,” generating most of the energy in your body by converting your nutrition into 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 (106-107). 

Along with your gut bacteria, your mitochondria are critically important and need to be supported to overcome depression and anxiety, and reach optimal brain and mental health.

Mitochondria are especially abundant in your brain cells and involved in many important biological processes in the brain, including the regulation of free radicals and neurotransmitters. In fact, monoamine oxidase (MAO), the enzyme responsible for the metabolism of monoamine neurotransmitters, is localized within the outer mitochondrial membrane (91-93). 

So not surprisingly, numerous studies show that there is a correlation between impaired mitochondrial functioning in the brain and many psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases, including bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer's disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, schizophrenia, psychosis, panic disorder, social anxiety, generalized anxiety and other stress-related diseases (82-90, 94-100, 102-104). 

Yes, you read that right. Every single one of those conditions has been linked to mitochondrial dysfunction. In fact, many researchers are convinced that mitochondrial dysfunction is involved in almost every chronic disease (108-110). 

Mitochondria dysfunction decreases ATP energy production and increases oxidative stress, which are commonly found in the brains of people suffering from brain and mental health disorders. Cognitive symptoms of mitochondrial dysfunction can also include impairments in attention, executive function and memory. Unfortunately, a number of psychiatric drugs damage the mitochondria and worsen dysfunction (105). 

But luckily, there are ways to halt and reverse mitochondrial decay.

Below are a number of strategies I’ve used over the years to support my mitochondria and you can use them to regain optimal brain and mental health.

Eat Nutrient-Dense, Whole Foods

Not surprisingly, eating lots of fresh, nutrient-dense whole foods is the most impactful action you can take to power your mitochondria. 

In order to thrive, your mitochondria need phytonutrients, antioxidants, healthy fats and proteins.

Dr. Terry Wahls, MD, clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa, is a leading expert on the relationship between nutrition and mitochondrial health.

She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) more than a decade ago but reversed the neurodegenerative brain disease by repairing her mitochondria with an intensive nutritional strategy. She outlines how she recovered her health in her book The Wahls Protocol

Research on her protocol shows that patients witness a “significant improvement in fatigue” (67). 

She recommends eating six to nine cups of vegetables and fruits every day, including green veggies (kale, spinach), brightly colored vegetables (beets, carrots, peppers), and sulfur-rich veggies (broccoli, cauliflower).

My Free Grocery Shopping Guide for Optimal Brain Health also contains a bunch of foods that you should be eating on a regular basis for optimal mitochondrial health. 

Dr. Wahls also has a fascinating TED talk that you can watch below if you're interested in learning more. 

Avoid Certain Foods and Ingredients

Eating poor-quality foods can also wear down your mitochondria. 

how-to-support-your-mitochondria-for-better-brain-health-mental-boost-increase-optimize-restore-repair-function-depression-fatigue-energy-foods-supplements-naturally-biogenesis-processed-foods

Genetically, your mitochondria were not designed to deal with our current food environment and lifestyle habits. 

On top of this, your mitochondria are expected to perform proficiently for much longer, as our ancestors rarely lived to the age of 80.

That’s why you should avoid refined sugars, processed flours, industrial oils and trans fats. They can damage your mitochondria and prevent them from properly producing energy.

Dr. Wahls also recommends you avoid all gluten, dairy and soy products for optimal mitochondrial health. I feel much better avoiding them completely. 

Eat More Essential Fats

Healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, help build and strengthen the membranes of your mitochondria. They’ve also been shown to improve mitochondrial functioning in brain (5-7). 

That’s why Dr. Wahls recommends eating organic grass-fed beef or wild-caught fish, such as salmon, every day. Avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut and olive oil are also rich in healthy fats. 

Supplementing with krill oil is another option. I’ve discussed the overwhelming benefits of krill oil before here

Exercise

Not surprisingly, exercise strengthens your mitochondria by increasing oxygen and blood flow and activating biochemical pathways that produce new mitochondria (8). 

Runners have more high-functioning mitochondria than non-runners, and strength training and high-intensity interval training also increase the number of mitochondria and improve the efficiency of your existing mitochondria (9, 10).

Many experts recommend exercise for brain health, and as I’ve mentioned before, it can also increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), your brain’s growth hormone

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Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)

Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is a treatment that uses low-level (low-power) lasers or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to stimulate brain cells, helping them heal and function better. 

There is strong evidence to suggest that LLLT supports the mitochondria. 

Research shows that it reduces oxidative stress and increases the production of ATP energy in mitochondria (39, 40). 

These mitochondrial benefits have also been seen directly within the brain. Studies show that LLLT increases mitochondrial activity within brain cells, and this leads to beneficial effects in behaviour (41). 

On top of all this, LLLT treatment has been shown to increase the number of mitochondria and mitochondrial oxygen usage within the brain (42, 43).

Frankly, it’s ridiculous that this therapy is not more well-known and promoted by doctors.

But if you’ve read my blog for a while now, I’m sure you understand why.

You don’t have to wait for conventional medicine to catch up, and you can experiment with it yourself since it’s known to be very safe (44).

I use these two devices :

  • Platinum Therapy Lights Bio-450 (Combo Red/NIR) - This is a powerful all-one-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 day or 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).

You can learn more about LLLT in this post

Infrared saunas are another excellent way to expose yourself to infrared light. Check out my post about the benefits here

And you should also limit your exposure to artificial blue light, as it can also wear down your mitochondria. You can learn more about the risks of too much blue light in this post

Resveratrol

Resveratrol is a beneficial antioxidant compound found in grapes and red wine. 

Not only does it increase BDNF levels, but it also activates the SIRT1 gene. This gene triggers a number of positive biochemical reactions that protect and improve the functioning of your mitochondria. Caloric restriction and intermittent fasting also trigger the SIRT1 gene (11, 12, 13).

In 2006, Harvard researchers found that resveratrol may increase lifespan by protecting the mitochondria (14).

That’s why I take this resveratrol on a regular basis and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

Caloric Restriction and Intermittent Fasting

Restricting your calories is one the best actions you can take to improve mitochondrial function.

how-to-support-your-mitochondria-for-better-brain-health-mental-boost-increase-optimize-restore-repair-function-depression-fatigue-energy-foods-supplements-naturally-biogenesis-intermittent-fasting

Studies show that eating less food reduces the demand and damage on your mitochondria. 

But reducing calories is tough to do and absolutely no fun. 

That’s why I intermittent fast instead. 

Fasting activates your mitochondria and triggers autophagy, which is an intracellular process that essentially allows the mitochondria to clean themselves by removing unwanted and damaged debris, proteins and reactive oxygen species (1, 2, 4).

This process has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease (3). 

Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NADH)

NADH is a naturally-occurring compound found in the cells of all living organisms.

It plays a key role in the production of energy within the cell and is highly concentrated within your mitochondria (45). 

Depletion of NADH has been linked to a number of diseases, including depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and stabilized oral NADH has been shown to improve all of these conditions (46, 47, 48). 

Although I don’t take it anymore, I’ve witnessed a beneficial effect from supplementing with this NADH through Amazon

LLLT also increases NADH in your mitochondria. 

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Ketogenic Dieting

A ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet. 

When you restrict carbohydrate-rich foods, your body enters ketosis, a metabolic state in which your body and brain run on fatty acids and “ketones” instead of glucose (36).

Ketones are an alternative source of energy for your brain cells and their mitochondria. 

When your mitochondria are dysfunctional, following a ketogenic diet can be an effective strategy to fuel the mitochondria. 

When mitochondria are fueled by ketones instead of glucose, their ability to produce ATP is enhanced and free-radical byproducts are reduced.
— Dr. Jong Rho, MD, Professor of Pediatrics and Clinical Neurology at the Alberta Children’s Hospital

Ketogenic diets may help treat many different brain and mental health diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy and autism. 

Exogenous ketones can help you get into ketosis quickly.

I take Optimal Ketones, and it immediately increases my mental clarity (even when I'm eating carbohydrates). 

B Vitamins

All of the B vitamins play an essential role in maintaining mitochondrial function, and your mitochondria will be compromised if you have a deficiency of any B vitamin (37). 

Deficiency is more likely if you take certain medications

I take this B complex. It includes the bioactive forms of all of the B vitamins. 

Ribose

Ribose is a five carbon sugar created naturally by your body. Even though it’s a sugar, research suggests it does not raise blood sugar levels. Instead, your body stores it in the mitochondria (49, 50). 

Ribose is used by the mitochondria to produce ATP and if you don’t have enough, you’ll experience low energy (51). 

Chronic stress can deplete ribose, and certain conditions have been linked to chronic ribose deficiency, including depression and chronic fatigue syndrome. That’s why I recommend people supplement with ribose if they struggle with these disorders because it can help reduce mental and physical lethargy (52, 53).

I don’t take it every day, but I do cycle this ribose with other mitochondrial enhancers. 

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant molecule found in every cell of your body. It’s particularly concentrated in the mitochondria, playing a key role in the production of energy and protecting the mitochondria from oxidative damage. 

Without CoQ10, your body cannot synthesize ATP because CoQ10 is an essential component of the mitochondrial electron transport chain.

Many doctors are unaware that CoQ10 is an excellent treatment for many brain health issues, including depression, chronic fatigue, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Low levels of CoQ10 can cause brain fog, mental fatigue, difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, depression and irritability (68-70). 

Researchers have found that CoQ10 levels are significantly lower in the depressed patients (71). 

Unfortunately, chronic oxidative stress and medications can further deplete CoQ10

But supplementing with CoQ10 can increase your mitochondrial energy production and reduce symptoms of depression and chronic fatigue (71). 

I took this CoQ10 supplement after coming off psychiatric medication

Ubiquinol is a lipid-soluble form of CoQ10. I haven’t taken it but it is the most active form of CoQ10. 

If you decide to supplement with CoQ10, you should take it with a healthy fat source such as coconut oil to increase absorption because it is fat soluble. 

Food sources with high natural concentrations of CoQ10 include organic red palm oil and grass-fed beef heart (72, 73). 

Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ)

Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) is a vitamin-like enzyme and potent antioxidant found in plant foods with a wide range of brain health and mitochondrial benefits.

It’s been shown to preserve and enhance memory, attention, and cognition by protecting the mitochondria from oxidative damage and promoting the growth of new mitochondria in the brain (56-59). 

Since it helps grow new mitochondria, it may help you if you suffer from depression, since fewer mitochondria have been found in people with depression (63). 

Reactive nitrogen species (RNS) and reactive oxygen species (ROS) cause severe stress on brain cells and mitochondria, and PQQ has also been shown to suppress RNS and ROS (60-62). 

Researchers have found that supplemental PQQ can be neuroprotective by increasing mitochondrial activity levels (64-66). 

I recommend taking 10-20 mg each day along with CoQ10, as they are synergistic. Taking them together leads to further improvements in cognitive function (57).

You can get it here

It's also included in this supplement

Check out the “Neuroprotective” section of the PQQ Wikipedia page for more information on the brain health benefits of this compound. 

Magnesium

Magnesium is a vital mineral within your body, and the mitochondria are considered magnesium “storage units” because they hold onto a lot of your body’s magnesium. 

Magnesium protects the mitochondria and plays a role in the production and transfer of ATP within the mitochondria. And research shows that if you have a deficiency in magnesium, your brain cells will have fewer mitochondria, and they will be less healthy (54, 55). 

This is just another reason to supplement with at least 200 mg of magnesium every day. It’s one of the most important nutrients for optimal brain health. I take this one through Amazon

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Acetyl-Carnitine (ALCAR) and Alpha Lipoic Acid

Acetyl-Carnitine (ALCAR) is an acetylated form of the amino acid carnitine.

Carnitine is an amino acid that improves mitochondrial activity and plays an important role in energy production by transporting fatty acids directly into the mitochondria of your brain cells. It is required to produce ATP and deficiencies are associated with reduced mitochondrial function in the brain (74). 

Supplementing with ALCAR makes it easier for fatty acids to cross your blood-brain barrier and nourish the mitochondria within your brain. This can improve your mood, memory and energy levels.

Several studies show that ALCAR eases depressive symptoms and improve quality of life in patients with chronic depression (75-78). 

how-to-support-your-mitochondria-for-better-brain-health-mental-boost-increase-optimize-restore-repair-function-depression-fatigue-energy-foods-supplements-naturally-biogenesis-alcar-rla

And individuals with autism often have reduced levels of carnitine within their brain (79). 

ALCAR is included in the Optimal Brain supplement

ALCAR is also synergistic with Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA), meaning that when you take them together, they are more effective at supporting the mitochondria in your brain.

ALA is a mitochondrial enzyme and antioxidant. It is fat soluble and can easily cross your blood-brain barrier.

It’s been shown to improve cognition by reducing oxidative stress, and protecting existing mitochondria and creating new mitochondria in the brain (80, 101).

Other helpful nutrients that support your mitochondria and provide raw materials for them to produce ATP:

Conclusion

how-to-support-your-mitochondria-for-better-brain-health-mental-boost-increase-optimize-restore-repair-function-depression-fatigue-energy-foods-supplements-naturally-biogenesis

Paying attention to your mitochondria is crucial for optimal brain and mental health, and luckily there are a number of dietary and lifestyle habits that can protect and support mitochondrial function.

The following steps will ensure your body and brain have healthier and more abundant mitochondria: 

Over time, if you follow these strategies, you can improve your mitochondrial health and naturally restore your mood and energy levels.

Please share this post with one of your friends or family members who you think might benefit from protecting and supporting their mitochondria, because it really is an underappreciated and unknown aspect of optimal brain and mental health. 

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Terry Wahls, MD

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