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. 

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

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(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

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

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How to Improve Your Brain Function with An Oxygen Concentrator

Insufficient oxygen means insufficient biological energy that can result in anything from mild fatigue to life threatening disease. The link between insufficient oxygen and disease has now been firmly established.
— Dr. W. Spencer Way, Journal of the American Association of Physicians

Oxygen is absolutely essential for life, and your brain depends it more than any other part of your body.

Your brain weighs about 2% of your body weight.

But it consumes about 20% of the oxygen you breathe.

Your brain cells need to get enough oxygen to produce energy and function optimally.

If they don’t, they can start to deteriorate, leading to poor memory and concentration, low mood, lack of energy and drive. 

I personally use oxygen therapy with an oxygen concentrator to support and optimize my brain function. 

This post discusses oxygen therapy, the benefits, how I use it, and how it could help you. 

It’s a great way to boost cognitive function, memory and energy.

Read on to learn more. 

Types of Oxygen Therapy

Oxygen therapy is the use of supplemental oxygen to treat a variety of medical conditions.

Air is typically 21% oxygen by volume, but oxygen therapy increases the amount.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is the most well-known type of oxygen therapy, and it allows patients to inhale 100% pure oxygen in a total body chamber.

Tube plugged into oxygen tank

HBOT is often used by professional athletes for recovery and performance.

But it’s expensive and not available to most people. 

Luckily, it’s not the only option available to you. 

Normobaric oxygen therapy (NBOT) is much less expensive, and it’s easily accessible and non-invasive. I personally use NBOT at home. 

Similar to HBOT, NBOT brings a higher percentage of oxygen into the body and can bring major benefits to your brain and cognition.

Researchers have found that both normobaric and hyperbaric oxygen therapy increase the amount of oxygen that is delivered to the blood and brain (1-2). 

With normobaric therapy, oxygen can be delivered via an oxygen concentrator

An oxygen concentrator is a machine that separates oxygen from room air, and then delivers the concentrated oxygen through a nasal cannula or mask.

I use this oxygen concentrator. You can get it here or here.  

Make sure you read the “My Experience” section below where I discuss how to use it. .

Why You Might Need Oxygen Therapy and How It Works

Hypoxia is a condition in which the body or a region of the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply.

If this happens to you, you can end up with mitochondria dysfunction and poor brain function. 

But how do you know?

You can use an oxygen saturation monitor to measure and monitor your blood oxygenation levels. I use this monitor. It’s the best and most accurate oxygen saturation monitor that is often used by medical professionals, and freely available to the public.

Your blood oxygen saturation levels (SpO2) should measure 99-100% if you want to feel optimal.  

An illustration of the benefits of oxygen therapy.

There are a number of reasons why your body and brain might not be getting enough oxygen:

  • Sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise

  • Shallow breathing – Most people today don’t breathe well and are shallow breathers.

  • Chronic stressStress and anxiety can also affect your breathing. If you're stressed and anxious, you end up taking more shallow breaths. Your sympathetic “fight or flight” nervous system is chronically active, and this reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches your brain.

  • Abnormal blood pressure – Both high and low blood pressure can be problematic and may suggest that blood is not optimally flowing to your brain. If blood flow to your brain is poor, oxygen levels in your brain will also be suboptimal.

Normobaric oxygen therapy can help you if you’re struggling with any of these problems.

It can also help if you’re recovering from a concussion or brain injury or some sort of toxic exposure (e.g. mold). 

Neuroplasticity and neurogenesis require oxygen, and increasing the delivery of oxygen to the body and brain supports the healing process of damaged tissue.

Normobaric oxygen therapy has been shown to work by increasing brain blood flow, reducing permeability of the blood-brain barrier, and it may even have cholinergic properties (3-8). 

Researchers have concluded that the “neuroprotective role of normobaric oxygen therapy is extremely promising” (9). 

They have also found that it can lead to a number of positive cognitive outcomes, which I'll explore below. 

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1. Normobaric Oxygen Therapy Improves Memory and Recall

In their book Advances in Natural Medicines, Nutraceuticals, and Neurocognition, Dr. Andrew Scholey and Dr. Con Stough state that normobaric oxygen therapy is an effective memory enhancer

Research has shown that oxygen administration leads to improved long-term memory compared to a control group of normal air-breathing.

Several clinical studies also show that concentrated oxygen significantly enhances memory formation and recall in adults (10-11, 16-17). 

In one study, inhalation of oxygen immediately prior to learning a word list resulted in a significant increase in the average number of words recalled 10 minutes later (14). 

In other studies, subjects who received oxygen remembered shopping lists and faces better than subjects that didn’t receive oxygen (12-13, 18). 

Researchers have also found significant positive correlations between changes in oxygen saturation and memory performance (15). 

2. Normobaric Oxygen Therapy Improves Cognitive Performance

Research shows that concentrated oxygen significantly enhances cognitive performance (19-20, 29). 

And it doesn’t just improve cognitive function in the elderly; it also enhances cognitive processing in young adults (21-23). 

In one study, students that inhaled oxygen while playing a computer game performed much better compared to students who didn’t inhale any additional oxygen (26). 

In two other studies, researchers found that the inhalation of 30% oxygen improved cognitive functioning and performance by activating several brain areas (24-25). 

Oxygen administration appears to facilitate cognition most effectively for tasks with a higher cognitive load.
— Advances in Natural Medicines, Nutraceuticals, and Neurocognition

They concluded that breathing a higher concentration of oxygen increases blood oxygen levels in the brain, which then supports cognition (24-25). 

And other researchers have found significant correlations between blood oxygen levels and cognitive performance (27-28). 

3. Normobaric Oxygen Therapy Enhances Accuracy

Several studies have found that normobaric oxygen therapy can also increase your accuracy when doing tasks. 

Two studies found that 30% and 40% oxygen administration significantly enhanced accuracy rates compared to 21% oxygen (normal air). It did this by increasing oxygen levels in the blood, which then stimulated activity in the brain (31-32). 

As the difficulty of the task increased, the difference in the accuracy rate between 40% and 21% oxygen administration also increased (33-34). 

And researchers found a positive correlation between task performance and oxygen levels in the brain (33-34). 

Other research has found that 30% oxygen administration enhances accuracy rates during verbal tasks by activating specific areas of the brain (35-36). 

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4. Normobaric Oxygen Therapy Reduces Reaction Time

People who receive normobaric oxygen therapy also have faster reaction times (37-38). 

In one study, participants performed visual matching tasks under 43% oxygen or 21% oxygen (normal air).

Researchers reported a significant decrease in reaction time in the presence of 43% oxygen (39).

The researchers hypothesized that normobaric oxygen therapy increases oxygen levels in the blood, which then leads to more available oxygen in the brain (39). 

Another follow-up study confirmed that response time decreases during normobaric oxygen therapy due to the increase in blood oxygen levels (40). 

Normobaric oxygen therapy has even been shown to reduce reaction time in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (41). 

5. Normobaric Oxygen Therapy Increases Energy

Despite comprising only 2 percent of the body’s weight, the brain gobbles up more than 20 percent of daily energy intake.

All cells within your body need oxygen, particularly your brain cells.

They require a lot of oxygen to produce energy. 

In fact, your energy levels depend on how much oxygen you have and how well your mitochondria utilize it.

If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it simply won’t function properly, and you’ll end up feeling tired. 

But normobaric oxygen therapy can increase energy.

Research shows that it "decreases fatigue and reduces feelings of sleepiness" (51). 

6. Normobaric Oxygen Therapy Improves Neurological Function After Stroke

Researchers say that normobaric oxygen therapy is a promising therapy for stroke patients. 

It’s been shown to reduce brain swelling and blood-brain barrier permeability and increase brain blood flow after stroke (42-43). 

One study found that normobaric oxygen therapy significantly improved neurological functions in patients with acute ischemic stroke (44). 

Other researchers have found that normobaric oxygen therapy increases oxygen supply to damaged tissues and improves outcomes after stroke, in both animals and humans (45-46). 

As a non-pharmaceutical and non-invasive treatment, normobaric oxygen therapy is “worthy of notice” (47). 

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7. Oxygen Therapy May Help Reverse Brain Damage After Traumatic Brain Injury

Researchers found that a combination of normobaric and hyperbaric oxygen therapy reversed brain damage in 2-year-old girl who nearly drowned in a swimming pool.

She received normobaric oxygen treatment (twice daily for 45 minutes by nasal cannula), and doctors witnessed significant improvements in her neurological function (48-49). 

Normobaric oxygen therapy alone improved the girl’s neurological function before she started hyperbaric oxygen therapy (48-49). 

She eventually made a full recovery with both types of oxygen therapy. 

Researchers have also said that the “neuroprotective role of normobaric oxygen therapy is extremely promising” for traumatic brain injury (50). 

I’ve also seen multiple studies with rats and mice showing that normobaric oxygen therapy reduces brain swelling and brain damage.

8. Other Possible Benefits (with Less Research Behind Them)

  • Increases attention and vigilance – Oxygen administration significantly improved performance on several measures of attention and vigilance (52).

  • Reduces inflammation – Oxygen levels play a critical role in determining the severity of the inflammatory response and ultimately the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs (53-54).

  • Improves hand-eye coordination (55).

  • Increases positive sense of wellbeing (56).

My Experience with Normobaric Oxygen Therapy

If you use oxygen for 20 minutes, muscles become loosened, headaches and stress seem to disappear, there is a renewed energy and a feeling of relaxation.
— Dr. Richard de Andrea

 

I was first introduced to oxygen therapy through an integrative doctor I know.

At the end of each appointment with him, I would use his oxygen concentrator for about 15-20 minutes. He used this oxygen concentrator

I eventually decided to buy my own oxygen concentrator and now regularly use it at home. 

There is a dial for adjusting the flow of oxygen and the port is located on the upper right of the machine.

There is a dial for adjusting the flow of oxygen and the port is located on the upper right of the machine.

I bought this oxygen concentrator. You can get it here or through Amazon. I'll discuss how it has helped me below.

The oxygen from the concentrator is supplied through an nasal canula. It’s completely non-invasive and painless, and it’s become one of my favourite tools for supporting my brain.

I use it for about 20 to 30 minutes, a few times each week. I often do this while exercising on this indoor stationary bike. Sometimes I use it without exercising on the bike. 

I also use it for about 3 to 5 minutes as needed, usually when doing work. 

During a session, I use this oxygen saturation monitor to measure my blood oxygenation levels. 

Your blood oxygen saturation levels (SpO2) should measure 99-100%. I see mine increase and max out while using the concentrator

My oxygen concentrator delivers up to 5 litres of oxygen per minute. I usually set mine somewhere between 3 and 5 litres per minute. 

But I would recommend starting lower and working your way up. 

Similar to low-level laser/light therapy, oxygen therapy is somewhat experimental. You need to find the right “dosage” for yourself.

Benefits and What I’ve Noticed

Jordan Fallis using oxygen concentrator.

I've had good results with concentrated oxygen therapy and it has surprisingly increased the quality of my life. 

One of the main things I notice is that it feels like it puts energy back into my body every time I use it.

One of my clients uses it whenever she gets brain fog, and it clears it up. Another client uses it when she gets a headache and the headache disappears within 10 minutes.

It also does an incredible job of getting rid of hangovers. They essentially go away if you use the concentrator the morning after drinking. You just immediately feel like a completely new person.

Here are some other benefits I’ve experienced:

Keep in mind that this is my personal experience (and the experiences of a couple of clients). There really is no guarantee that you’ll experience the same results, but it’s worth a try if you’re sick and other therapies aren’t improving your brain function. 

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Combining Oxygen Therapy with Other Therapies

I also combine oxygen therapy with other therapies and supplements for their synergistic effects. 

Researchers have found that combining normobaric oxygen therapy with the following therapies leads to better results (57-59):

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References:

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23317164

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5234199/

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3023418/

(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5110143/

(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28931617

(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25804925

(7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27177548

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9600580/

(9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19922270

(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9600580/

(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4107523/

(12) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10604851/

(13) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9600580

(14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8740047

(15) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18322865/

(16) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9600580/

(17) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9694523/

(18) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9862412

(19) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4107523/

(20) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10604851/

(21) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9694523/

(22) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4107523/

(23) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4107523/

(24) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15522765

(25) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15684544

(26) https://goo.gl/h9o5Aj

(27) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4107523/

(28) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10604851/

(29) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17662686/

(30) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4107523/

(31) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17053947/

(32) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17395994/

(33) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18569150/

(34) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20080151

(35) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16678926

(36) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15929498

(37) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15627418/

(38) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10604851/

(39) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19429029/

(40) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4107523/

(41) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22285726

(42) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26416428

(43) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25804925

(44) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28931617

(45) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5110139/

(46) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4146175/

(47) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5110139/

(48) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5510296/

(49) https://goo.gl/m2CbrR

(50) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19922270

(51) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15627418/

(52) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9694523/

(53) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131202121536.htm

(54) https://jlb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1189/jlb.0912462

(55) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11258587

(56) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11258587

(57) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27458543

(58) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27177548

(59) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26416428

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

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14 Powerful Ways to Form New Synapses in the Brain

Over the years, I’ve taken several psychiatric drugs, drank too much alcohol, and had numerous concussions – sometimes, all at once. 

In other words, my brain has taken quite the beating. 

Researchers used to think that if you damaged your brain like I did, you simply had to live with it.

But that’s no longer true. 

They now know the brain is plastic and flexible, and it can heal and recover.

You’re not stuck with the brain you have. 

You can actually change and improve it.

One way your brain repairs itself is through a process called synaptogenesis.

Synaptogenesis is the formation of new synapses in the brain.

Synapses are the connecting points between your 100 billion brain cells. You have trillions of synapses in your brain, and your brain cells communicate with one another across them (79). 

The deterioration and loss of synapses is linked to a number of neurodegenerative diseases and mental health disorders, including Alzheimer's disease, depression, poor learning and memory, intellectual impairment and other cognitive deficits (83-87). 

The good news is that researchers now know that synaptogenesis occurs in the brain throughout our entire lives (81-82). 

And there are a number of ways you can support synaptogenesis, promote the formation of new brain synapses and increase brain synapses. 

Below are 15 ways to do that.

Following these strategies can improve your mood, learning, memory and cognition.

Picture of brain and synapses.

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Uridine and Choline

The formation of synapses depends on sufficient brain levels of three key nutrients – uridine, omega-3 fatty acids, and choline. These nutrients are synergistic, and if you take them taken together, they accelerate the formation of new synapses in the brain (66-67, 75-78). 

Unfortunately, most people nowadays don’t get enough of these essential nutrients through their diet because very few foods in the Western diet actually contain them.

In fact, the uridine in food is not bioavailable, and no food has been shown to increase plasma levels of uridine (1).

Picture of salmon and walnuts. Salmon and walnuts and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to form new brain synapses.

That’s why I now take this uridine monophosphate supplement sublingually to support the long-term health of my brain. 

At the same time, I take this krill oil supplement and the Optimal Brain supplement, which includes CDP-Choline and Alpha GPC (two high-quality sources of choline). This ensures my brain is getting enough of omega-3 fatty acids and choline.

Several researchers have concluded that supplementing with all three nutrients can increase synaptic formation, increase brain synapses, and improve cognition, learning and memory, particularly in people with Alzheimer's disease (68-74). 

Besides supplementation, I still encourage people to eat foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids and choline. 

The best way to get omega-3 fatty acids from food is by eating more cold-water fish such as salmon, black cod, sablefish, sardines and herring. And the best food sources of choline include grass-fed beef liver and egg yolks. These foods are included in my Free Grocery Shopping Guide for Optimal Brain Health.

Taking uridine, choline and omega-3 fatty acids together can also promote the regeneration of myelin.

2. Low Level Laser Therapy

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

Most doctors don't know about LLLT; but not every doctor.

Man wearing LLLT helmet and using the Vielight device. LLLT and Vielight devices can help form new synapses in the brain.

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

One way that LLLT may help the brain is by encouraging synaptogenesis (12-15). 

Researchers have found that LLLT treatment significantly stimulates the synthesis of synapsin-1 (a marker for synaptogenesis) and increases synaptogenesis in the cortex (16-17). 

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

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

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

LLLT can also support mitochondria function, reduce brain fog, and increase blood flow to the brain

3. Bacopa

Bacopa monniera is an adaptogenic herb with cognitive-enhancing effects.

Several studies show that it improves cognition, learning and memory by strengthening communications between brain cells. Both healthy and elderly people who take the herb experience improved attention, learning and memory (2-5). 

Researchers believe these improvements are because bacopa increases brain synapses and increases specific neuromolecular mechanisms that encourage and enhance synaptogenesis (18). 

You can get bacopa through Amazon.

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4. Exercise

Exercise is one of the best ways to promote the formation of new synapses.

Researchers have found repeatedly that physical activity encourages synaptogenesis and increases brain synapses (32-33). 

Exercise also increases blood flow to the brain, promotes the regeneration of myelin, and can help reverse brain damage and cognitive decline

So not surprisingly, many brain health experts recommend exercise as their number one piece of advice for optimal brain health.

My usual advice is to find a sport or exercise routine that you enjoy, so that you’ll stick with it consistently.

5. Magnesium Threonate

Magnesium is a vital mineral that participates in more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body, including neurotransmitter and hormonal activity, which can have a huge effect on your brain function.

Researchers have found that increasing magnesium levels in the brain improves learning and memory by promoting synaptogenesis and increasing brain synapses (25-26). 

One study concluded that magnesium threonate increases the number of synaptic connections between brain cells and boosts the density of synapses (27). 

Magnesium rich foods, including spinach, avocados, bananas, almonds. Magnesium helps the brain form new synapses.

Unfortunately, lot of people are deficient in magnesium today (6-8).

But there are a number of ways you can make sure you’re consuming enough. 

First, make sure you’re eating magnesium-rich foods on a regular basis, including spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocado, dark chocolate and bananas. These foods are included in my Free Grocery Shopping Guide for Optimal Brain Health.

Epsom salt baths are another great way to increase your body’s intake of magnesium. 

But I also recommend a high-quality magnesium supplement. 

Magnesium threonate is the best form of magnesium for increasing brain magnesium levels and forming new synapses. 

I currently take this magnesium threonate supplement before bed.

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

Magnesium can also help repair a leaky blood-brain barrier.

6. Intermittent Fasting

Fasting allows your digestive system to take a break and triggers a number of hormones that boost your body’s ability to repair itself.

On most days, I don’t eat breakfast at all, and then "break my fast" by eating my first meal of the day around 2 or 3 p.m. That means I eat all my food for the day within an 8-hour window.

There are many health benefits to doing this.

It can improve mitochondrial function, reduce brain fog, and help protect you from dementia

And researchers have also found that fasting can trigger and enhance synaptogenesis (28-31). 

The best way to start fasting is simply by eating dinner around 6, not eating anything after that before bed, and then eating a regular breakfast the next day. That should give you about 12-14 hours of fasting time. 

7. Ginkgo Biloba

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

It’s most commonly used to improve brain health because it’s been shown to increase brain blood flow and improve memory and attention in both healthy and unhealthy individuals. It even reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and may also improve mood and mental energy (34).

Researchers have also discovered that it stimulates synaptogenesis and increases brain synapses (35). 

Ginkgo Biloba is included in the Optimal Brain supplement.

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8. Motor Learning

Motor learning is essentially when you learn something new that involves movement.

Complex processes occur in the brain in response to practicing or experiencing the new motor skill.

This results in changes to the central nervous system, which allows you to produce the movement again in the future.

Researchers have found that motor learning triggers synaptogenesis and generates new synapses in the cerebellar cortex of the brain (36-39). 

Some activities that involve motor learning include learning how to play the piano, climbing trees, juggling, and playing table tennis. 

When you engage in these activities, motor learning occurs, and you form new synapses in order to learn and solidify the new skill. 

9. Resveratrol

Picture of grapes. Grapes are rich in resveratrol, an antioxidant than help you form new synapses in your brain.

Resveratrol is a beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound found in grapes, red wine, raspberries and dark chocolate.

Resveratrol is known to help prevent the development of neurodegenerative diseases.

And researchers are starting to understand why.

Resveratrol can help restore the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, support your mitochondria, and increase blood flow to the brain. But it can also increase synaptogenesis.

Research shows the resveratrol promotes and enhances synaptogenesis (23-24). 

I take this resveratrol supplement to support the long-term health of my brain. I don't take it every day, just every so often. You can get it here or here.

10. Piracetam

Piracetam is a nootropic (cognitive-enhancing) supplement. It provides a mild boost to brain function and has a long history of being used to treat cognitive impairment in Europe, Asia and South America. 

According to researchers, one way it improves cognition is by enhancing synaptogenesis and increasing brain synapses (9-10). 

One study found that rats treated with piracetam had a higher number of synapses than rats not treated with piracetam (11). 

Here is a good piracetam supplement from a reliable brand. I used to take it regularly but not anymore.

Phenylpiracetam is an advanced version of piracetam and I found it to be more effective. It also has impressive anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects. You can get it here.

Both piracetam and phenylpiracetam work best if you take them with a source of choline, either CDP-Choline or Alpha GPC.

Both CDP-Choline and Alpha GPC are included in the Optimal Brain supplement

11. Quercetin

Quercetin is a bioflavonoid found in fruits and vegetables. It is one of the most widely consumed flavonoids in the human diet. 

Quercetin has potent antioxidant action and is “neuroactive”, meaning it can affect brain function. 

As a result, it can protect brain cells from oxidative stress and inhibit the pro-inflammatory molecules that are associated with many progressive brain disorders (45-46). 

Researchers have also found that it stimulates synaptogenesis (48). 

Red apples, onions and tomatoes have the high levels of quercetin. But you can also supplement with it if you want. 

It’s interesting to note that quercetin increases the absorption of resveratrol, so it’s a good idea to take them both together if you want to increase synaptogenesis and form new brain synapses (47). 

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12. Intranasal Insulin

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

It has a number of important functions in the central nervous system, and researchers have found that it passes the blood-brain barrier and acts on insulin receptors directly within the brain.

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

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

One possible mechanism is by increasing synaptogenesis.

Brain insulin receptors are found primarily in synapses, and insulin signaling contributes to synaptogenesis (19-21). 

And the disruption of insulin action in the brain leads to impairment of synaptogenesis (22). 

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

13. Progesterone

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

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

Research shows that progesterone supports the normal development of brain cells and protects them from damage (40).

But many researchers have also found that progesterone promotes synaptogenesis (41-43). 

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

14. Antioxidant Nutrients

Some nutrients have antioxidant effects in the body, and not consuming enough of them can reduce your rate of synaptogenesis. 

Research shows that “synaptic membrane synthesis” depends on sufficient dietary intake of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and the mineral selenium (64). 

A bunch of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables in heart-shaped bowls. Antioxidants can helps the brain form new synaptic connections.

One study found that synaptogenesis was significantly enhanced by supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids, uridine, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and selenium. But it wasn’t enhanced as much with omega-3 fatty acids and uridine alone, suggesting that Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and selenium play a key role in synaptogenesis (65). 

I get these antioxidant nutrients from a number of sources. 

In addition to getting Vitamin C from fruits and vegetables, I take at least 500 mg of supplemental Vitamin C every day. At one point, I was actually taking up to 10 grams of Vitamin C every day as an experiment, but that’s not necessary unless you find it really helps you.

For selenium, I make sure I eat brazil nuts regularly, as they are the richest source. But I also take some extra selenomethionine, which is the most absorbable form of selenium. 

For Vitamin E, good food sources include almonds, spinach, sweet potatoes, avocados, olive oil, sunflower seeds and butternut squash. It’s also included in the Optimal Antiox supplement.

Besides increasing synaptogenesis, antioxidants can also protect your brain from alcohol and help reverse brain damage

15. BONUS: 4 Things to Avoid

It’s not just what you do, but also what you avoid that can impact your rate of synaptogenesis. 

Researchers have found that certain compounds can impair synaptogenesis and inhibit the formation of new synapses in the brain. 

So besides trying to implement the 14 steps above, you should also try to avoid:

  • Bisphenol A – This compound is found in plastic bottles and containers, food and beverage cans, and other common consumer products, such as CDs, DVDs and sales receipts. Researchers have found that it impairs synaptogenesis in the brain (49). That’s why I recommend you only eat and drink out of glass, ceramic and stainless steel. Avoid all canned food and plastic containers. BPA-free plastic isn’t much better for you and can still disrupt hormonal health.

  • Lead – Lead is a heavy metal that can accumulate in the body and negatively affect brain function. Research shows that lead exposure can interfere with the formation of brain synapses (55-59). So it’s definitely a good idea to reduce your exposure to sources of lead. One way is by using an infrared sauna regularly.

  • Gabapentin – Gabapentin is a medication used to treat epilepsy, neuropathic pain, hot flashes, and restless legs syndrome. Researchers have found that it halts the formation of new synapses (80).

  • Stress – Chronic stress decreases synaptogenesis and decreases the number of synapse connections (88-89). Here are 20 ways to lower cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone. These two biofeedback devices are my favourite ways to reduce stress.

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Jordan Fallis

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References

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4011061/

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20590480

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(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12093601

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(11) https://goo.gl/cq2MxB

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(18) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27692172

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

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

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13 Proven Ways Saunas Can Improve Your Mental Health

When it comes to improving your mental health, some of the simplest strategies can have a huge impact.

Using a sauna regularly is one of them.

Infrared saunas in particular are becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason. 

They have a number of brain and mental health benefits, as discussed in the book Sauna Therapy by Dr. Lawrence Wilson.

However, you don’t necessarily need an infrared sauna to experience health benefits. Even traditional saunas – available at most public gyms, spas and health centres – have a number of beneficial cognitive and psychological effects. 

Once you start using a sauna, you should listen to your body to determine how much time you should spend in it. Start out slowly and increase the length of your sessions over time. Also make sure to drink lots of water before and after each session, and never consume alcohol in combination.

Read on to learn about the 13 ways traditional and infrared saunas can improve your brain and mental health.

Illustration of man sitting in a sauna, improving his mental health one minute at a time.

1. Saunas Improve Mood and Reduce Depression

Saunas can really help people that struggle with depression.

Lots of research shows that they can make you feel euphoric. Saunas are somewhat stressful on the body, so your brain produces and releases more euphoric hormones to deal with it (53-55).

And these changes appear to be semi-permanent (56). 

So if you use a sauna regularly, you'll end up being consistently happy. 

Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, MD, has completed two studies in which he had people with major depression sit in an infrared sauna.

Woman with hands up in the air, sun setting in the background.

In his first study, the participants had just one infrared sauna treatment and it reduced their symptoms by about 50%.

In his follow-up study, he found that a single session caused a rapid and powerful antidepressant effect, and the benefits continued for six weeks, which was unexpected. 

He concluded that whole-body hyperthermia holds promise as a safe, rapid-acting, antidepressant treatment with a prolonged therapeutic benefit (57-58). 

Other researchers have looked at the effects of infrared sauna therapy on mildly depressed patients with fatigue, appetite loss, and mental complaints. They found that sauna treatment significantly increased their appetite and reduced their mental complaints (59). 

Whole-body heat therapy has also been shown to reduce depression in cancer patients (60-61).

And other research shows that sweating increases mental satisfaction and energy (62). 

2. Saunas Reduce Anxiety and Stress

Not surprisingly, saunas can also reduce stress and anxiety.

Several studies have shown that regular sauna use lowers levels of cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone (49-52). 

In one study, researchers found that using a sauna can reduce both state and trait anxiety (48).

And other research shows that sweating increases relaxation, and reduces feelings of frustration and anxiety (62). 

Here are 21 other ways to reduce cortisol and increase your resilience to stress.

3. Saunas Increase Beta-Endorphins, Relieve Pain and Help Treat Fibromyalgia

Beta-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.

Since saunas are a stressor, the release of endorphins are increased when you spend time in one.

Illustration of person in pain. Saunas can help reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Several studies have shown that heat stress and heat exposure in a dry sauna cause a significant increase in beta-endorphin levels (28-32). 

This may explain why research shows that sauna therapy can lessen the pain experienced by patients with fibromyalgia, a chronic syndrome characterized by widespread pain with tenderness in specific areas.

In one study, people with fibromyalgia experienced a 33 to 77 per cent reduction in pain after using an infrared sauna regularly. Six months after the study was done, the participants still reported a 28 to 66 per cent reduction in pain (35). 

Other researchers have found the same thing and concluded that infrared sauna therapy is effective for the treatment of fibromyalgia (33-34). 

Another way to relieve pain is by taking DL-Phenylalanine. It’s an amino acid that inhibits the breakdown of endorphins. I previously wrote about it here, and you can get it here.

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4. Saunas Increase Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF)

A cartoon brain with arms and legs, lifting weights over its head. Saunas increase BDNF.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a naturally-occurring protein in the brain that lowers your risk of mental disease and improves your mood. It does this by protecting and repairing your brain cells and increasing the growth of new brain cells. Many researchers consider it a natural antidepressant because it can reduce anxiety and depression (5-13, 15).

Research suggests that if you struggle with mental illness, you likely have reduced levels of BDNF. But luckily, there are ways to boost it.

Using a sauna is one of the ways. 

Research shows that heat exposure increases the expression of BDNF (14). 

I previously provided 21 other ways to boost BDNF in this post

5. Saunas Increase Norepinephrine Levels and May Help Treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Norepinephrine, also called noradrenaline, is a hormone and neurotransmitter in the brain that can help with focus and attention.

An illustration of a man’s mind being open with lots of arrows. Saunas can help reduce symptoms of ADHD.

Numerous studies have found that sauna use significantly increases norepinepherine levels (39-42). 

In one study, women spent 20 minutes in a sauna, two times each week, and researchers witnessed an 86% increase in norepinephrine (43). 

In another study, men that stayed in a sauna until exhaustion increased their norepinephrine levels by 310% (44-45). 

Besides increasing norepinephrine, heat stress also increases your body’s ability to store norepinephrine for later release (46). 

Medications that increase the reuptake norepinephrine are often prescribed to people with ADHD, so researchers believe that sauna therapy should be considered as an alternative treatment (47). 

6. Saunas Encourage the Growth of Myelin

Myelin is a fatty, white substance that wraps around the end of many nerve cells. It forms an electrically insulating sheath that increases nerve condition speeds.

In other words, it allows your brain to send information faster and more efficiently, making it absolutely essential for the optimal functioning of your nervous system.

Illustration of myelin sheath.

Heat stress increases prolactin, a hormone that promotes the production of myelin (16-19). 

In one study, researchers had healthy young men stay in a sauna until they were exhausted, and they reported a 10-fold increase in prolactin (20-11). 

In another study, women spent 20 minutes sauna, two times each week, and researchers witnessed a 510% increase in prolactin (22). 

I previously provided 25 other ways to promote the growth of myelin in this post

Other than using a sauna, my favourite way to increase myelin is by taking this lion’s mane mushroom supplement. It’s helped me a lot. You can get it here or here

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7. Saunas Reduce the Risk of Dementia

Dementia is obviously a major concern today. 

It’s the third leading cause of death in the United States behind cardiovascular disease and cancer, and by 2050, it’s estimated that 13 million Americans and 160 million people globally will be affected by the disease (63).

There is currently a lack of effective treatment options, so simple tools to help with prevention are crucial.

A young woman and elderly woman laughing and smiling. Saunas can help reduce the risk of dementia.

It turns out that sauna therapy may be one of these tools.

Researchers tracked the health of more than 2,300 men in Finland for about 20 years. The men who used a sauna four to seven times each week had a 66 percent lower chance of developing dementia than men who used a sauna just once a week (64-68). 

We have taken into account other lifestyle factors, like physical activity and socioeconomic factors. There is an independent effect of sauna.
— Dr. Jari Laukkanen, Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Eastern Finland

I previously provided some other ways to reverse cognitive decline and dementia in this post

Intranasal insulin can also help. 

8. Saunas Reduce Psychological Symptoms of Anorexia

Anorexia nervosa, or simply known as anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by a low weight, fear of gaining weight, a strong desire to be thin, and food restriction.

Researchers have examined the effects of sweating on anorexia and reported positive effects on hyperactivity, depression, and stress levels (27). 

9. Saunas Reduce Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex, incapacitating illness. It affects millions of people around the world and may affect up to 4 million people in the United States alone. 

People struggling with this disorder not only have unrelenting fatigue lasting for 6 months or more, but also memory and concentration deficits, sleep disturbances, headaches, joint and muscle pain, and gastrointestinal and immune system dysfunction.

A woman holds her forehead, struggling with fatigue. Saunas can help reduce symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.

One study found that infrared sauna sessions significantly reduce fatigue in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. It also significantly reduced their anxiety and depression (23). 

I've had some clients with chronic fatigue say that their doctor recommended they stay out of the sun and avoid exposing themselves to too much heat. But the above study didn't find any negative effects in chronic fatigue patients from regular infrared sauna sessions (23). 

Another study found that daily infrared sauna sessions dramatically improved symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, including fatigue, pain and sleep disturbances. The patients in the study didn’t improve with prednisolone, a steroid medication, but did improve with sauna therapy (24).

So if you struggle with chronic fatigue, infrared sauna therapy is definitely worth looking into. 

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10. Saunas Reduce Tension Headaches

"Chronic tension-type headache" is a syndrome characterized by frequent headaches that occur more than 15 days every month. 

The intensity and duration of the headaches can be very distressing and disabling and affect a person's well-being.

But research shows that regular sauna use is a simple, self-directed treatment that is effective for reducing headache pain intensity (26). 

11. Saunas Help Eliminate Heavy Metals

Some of the benefits of sauna usage occur because of increased sweating. 

Many people don’t sweat very much, and this can cause problems because your skin acts as an important route of detoxification and helps you excrete heavy metals that are so prevalent in your modern environment. Common heavy metals in our environment include cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury (36, 37). 

A diagram demonstrating the negative effects of heavy metals on the body. Regular sauna use can help your body excrete heavy metals.

Lack of sweating may actually result in increased toxic load over time, which can negatively affect your brain and mental health.

Research shows that mercury poisoning from dental amalgam affects the mind and emotions and plays a role in the development of mental illness (1). 

But by sweating frequently in a sauna, you can enhance your detoxification pathways and help your body remove mercury (2, 4). 

In fact, studies show that high mercury levels can be reduced to normal levels by using a sauna repeatedly (3). 

Researchers have concluded that “sweat-inducing sauna use can provide a therapeutic method to increase elimination of toxic trace metals and should be the initial and preferred treatment of patients with elevated mercury levels” (38). 

Sweating offers potential and deserves consideration to assist with removal of toxic elements from the body.
— Researchers writing in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health

12. Saunas Increase Deep Sleep

Getting high-quality deep sleep is critical for optimal brain function and mental health. 

And using a sauna regularly is one way to improve it. 

Researchers in Finland report that sauna use is one of the factors that can result in deeper, more restful sleep (25). 

Some other ways to promote sleep include blocking out blue light before bed, taking this sleep supplement, lying on an acupressure mat, supplementing with magnesium, collagen and melatonin if necessary, and blacking  out your room with curtains or wearing a sleep mask.

13. Saunas Support Thyroid Function

Your thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck below your Adam’s apple, and lots of research shows that thyroid dysfunction can contribute to mental health problems

One of the main threats to the health of your thyroid is non-biological halogens. These include bromine, fluorine, chlorine, and perchlorate, which are often found in tap water.

An illustration showing the thyroid gland.

Your thyroid doesn’t know the difference these halogens and iodine, a trace mineral necessary for proper thyroid function.

Your thyroid soaks up the halogens and uses them like iodine. By occupying iodine receptors, they inhibit the production of your thyroid hormones, and contribute to thyroid dysfunction.

But don’t worry – sauna use can help your body excrete halogens (69). 

The more you can excrete the halogens, the more your body will be able to use iodine to produce thyroid hormones.

I also recommend reducing your exposure by filtering your drinking and shower water. Brita filters aren't enough because they don’t remove fluoride. I use this Berkey water filter to make sure I’m drinking the purest water available. It filters everything out of the water. I also use this filter to remove chlorine from my shower water. 

Check out this post for more ways to support your thyroid. 

Conclusion

As you can see, saunas have a number of beneficial effects on the brain and can help you manage and overcome your mental health challenges. 

I’ve been doing a lot of research into saunas recently and have concluded that infrared saunas have additional benefits and are much more gentle and effective than the traditional “hot rock” saunas.

Unfortunately, most infrared saunas emit unsafe levels of electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

However, I did find a company that has a patent on low-EMF infrared saunas. Their saunas are also very well built and have a lifetime warranty. So I'm going to go with one of their saunas. You can get one here

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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

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