Why Sleeping in the Woods for 11 Days Improved My Mental Health

You often hear that modern life is making us sick.

It’s true. A lot of people are suffering from diseases of civilization – including neurodegenerative and psychiatric illnesses – because there is a mismatch between our ancient physiology and the western diet and lifestyle (1). 

Most people are aware of some of the causes – poor dietary choices, nutrient deficiencies, excess stress, emotional trauma, lack of exercise, etc. 

But what if there was something in our modern environment that we couldn’t see that was making us sick?

Well, over the past several months, I’ve been learning more and more about the brain and mental health effects of man-made electromagnetic fields (EMFs). 

They’re actually a huge problem.

An increasing amount of scientific research is showing that they can cause widespread neuropsychiatric effects, including depression (2).

Learning about this inspired me to go live in the woods for 11 days. Yes, I’m serious :-) 

Read on to learn more about EMFs and my experience getting completely away from them. 

An illustration demonstrating EMFs in our environment.

Researchers and Doctors Are Sounding the Alarm about the Brain and Mental Health Effects of EMFs

“I have no doubt in my mind that at the present time, the greatest polluting element in the earth’s environment is the proliferation of electromagnetic fields. I consider that to be far greater on a global scale, than warming, and the increase in chemical elements in the environment.” – Dr. Robert Becker, MD, two-time Nobel nominee, and author of The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life

Man-made EMFs emitted by cellphones, Wi-Fi internet, and radio are considered radiofrequency (RF) EMFs. 

People can experience a wide range of brain and mental health symptoms from these EMFs, including EEG changes, sleep disturbance/insomnia, depression, headache, tinnitus, brain fog, dizziness, listlessness, irritability, malaise, restlessness/anxiety, fatigue/tiredness, concentration/attention dysfunction, memory and thinking difficulties

This has been well documented in European countries. The prevalence of EMF sensitivity in Sweden, Switzerland and Austria have been reported to be 1.5%, 3.5% and 5% respectively (2, 3, 7). 

But I suspect the amount of people who are struggling with the negative effects of EMFs is actually higher because most people are simply not aware of the problem. 

As of March 22, 2017, 225 scientists from 42 countries have signed a letter that urges the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and governments around the world to develop stricter controls on devices that emit EMFs. Altogether, these scientists have published more than 2,000 peer-reviewed papers demonstrating the biological and health effects of radiofrequency EMFs.

As a result of the increasing amount of research demonstrating the risk of EMFs, the World Health Organization has now reclassified radiofrequency EMFs as a “class 2B carcinogen”, which places it in the same carcinogenic class as lead and the pesticide DDT (4).

Some European countries have also taken action in response. Switzerland has replaced the wireless internet in schools with wired internet. In Germany, the public health department is recommending their citizens switch off WiFi when they are not using it. And Italy, France, Austria, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Israel, Russia and China all have set limits on radiofrequency exposure that are 100 to 10,000 times lower than US standards (5, 6). 

Meanwhile, the United States rushes forward with the wireless revolution and the looming rollout of 5G

What about in Canada? Not much has been done here either, even though more than 50 Canadian doctors and researchers have demanded that Health Canada raise awareness about EMFs, update their EMF guidelines, and provide resources  to assist Canadian physicians in treating people with EMF sensitivity. 

Dr. Riina Bray, medical director of the Environmental Health Clinic at the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, has even stood in front of Canadian Parliament to bring awareness to this issue. She says:

Individuals who are sensitive to EMF, or those with electromagnetic hypersensitivity, are canaries in a coal mine and lucky enough to have discovered what it is that is making them feel unwell. Many of them find everyday life and work difficult and uncomfortable. Most often we see them with family members who thought the patient had gone mad, but then realized that what they were saying was actually true, through observations.

The question that continues to alarm me is this. What of those who have not yet become sensitized, or those who are unwell but have not realized it is the EMFs provoking the problem and continue to try to function in an environment where the electrical and magnetic fields are high?

As a physician who has specialized in the area of environmental health for over 20 years, I am mortified at the lack of accountability regarding radio and microwave radiation use in the everyday lives of Canadians both young and old. There are no longitudinal studies except the one going on right now on people who did not ask to be subjects, who gave no research ethics board consent, and on whom data is not being collected. That is not a study at all.
— Dr. Riina Bray

I highly recommend you read the full transcript here. It is eye opening.

Dr. Jack Kruse, author of author of the book Epi-Paleo Rx, also talks about the risks of man-made EMFs extensively.

And these three books discuss the issue. I just started reading the first one: 

Lastly, I highly recommend watching this TV special if you're interested in hearing more experts talk about the effects of man-made EMFs:

My Experience

Two functional medicine practitioners have confirmed that I’m particularly sensitive to EMFs. 

I live and work in the city, so I bought this EMF meter to figure out the amount of EMFs I was being exposed to in my environment. 

Pathway leading toward's the cottage property.

Pathway leading toward's the cottage property.

The result? Lots of radiofrequency EMFs where I spend most of my time, including my downtown apartment. 

However, my family has a cottage property about 1.5 hours away from the city. It’s just a cabin in the woods, in the middle of nowhere, away from civilization. 

So, I recently went there with my meter to measure the levels.

The result? Dead air. Zero radiofrequency EMFs. 

I thought my meter was broken because I’m so used to it displaying a yellow or red warning signal in the city. But at the cottage property, it was green. 

So, for 11 days, I lived at this property. I’ve been very quiet on social media because of this.

I had my phone off, the Wi-Fi was off the entire time, and I connected to the Internet only sparingly using an Ethernet cable

I even went to the electrical panel in the basement and cut the power supply on the circuit breaker sometimes, particularly right before I went to bed. 

What did I experience from this experiment?

  • Deeper, more restful sleep – I usually never dream or remember any dreams. But I had very vivid dreams and remembered them the next morning while in the woods. This rarely happens. The last time this happened, it was when I was doing neurofeedback. I’ve since learned that neurofeedback is protective against EMFs and helps people cope with EMFs [because EMFs alter electrical activity in the brain (18-23)].

  • Complete elimination of coffee

  • Reduction in the amount of supplements I had to take – In the city, I usually need to manage some lingering symptoms with supplements and other therapies. But these symptoms faded when I completely removed myself from EMFs.

  • More mental energy and endurance

  • Increased focus

A deer I saw on my trip away from the city.

A deer I saw on my trip away from the city.

Of course, there could be other factors at play and this could have been placebo, but I really don’t think so considering the huge difference in my sleep quality and the amount of dreams I could vividly recall the next morning.

Some people may be skeptical of all this, so let me lay out some of the research showing that EMFs can affect brain function and impact mental health.

Research in Russia shows that much of the impact from EMFs occurs in the brain and nervous system, and 26 studies have associated EMFs with 13 different neuropsychiatric effects (2). 

Below are 15 specific ways EMFs can affect your brain and mental health. 

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1. EMFs Damage 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. 

Myelin sheath.

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.

This research paper explains that there is an association between EMFs and the deterioration of myelin.

The researchers say there is "an association between RF-EMF exposure and either myelin deterioration or a direct impact on neuronal conduction, which may account for many electro-hypersensitivity symptoms” (9). 

I previously provided 25 proven ways to promote the regeneration of myelin.

My favourite way to regenerate myelin is by taking this lion’s mane mushroom supplement. It’s helped me a lot. You can get it here or here

2. EMFs Reduce Cognitive Function

While I was away from the city, my cognitive function improved. I found that it was easier to read quickly. 

In 2009, researchers looked at whether EMFs emitted by cellphones would affect cognitive function.

They found that the participants that were exposed to cellphone radiation demonstrated slower response times during a working memory task (8). 

3. EMFs Contribute to Bipolar Disorder

Smiley faces. EMFs may contribute to bipolar disorder.

I couldn’t find any scientific research demonstrating that EMFs cause or worsen bipolar disorder.

However, I did find an amazing case study from someone named Carmen in Virginia Beach.

She explains that limiting her exposure to EMFs significantly improved her symptoms of bipolar disorder:

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2003. 

I have always taken my medications and still even with great doctors and family support, I was not able to avoid the mental hospital in 2010. 

In 2014, I started to have some odd health issues that resembled symptoms of a stroke. 

It took many months but I was able to identify the root of my symptoms: fluorescent lights, cell towers, WIFI, my cell phone and other things too. 

Nobody listened because I have a pre-existing mental condition and attributed some of my symptoms to panic attacks and OCD.

I had to stop working in due to the severity of my symptoms and I had to do a lot of changes in my house, changed WIFI for a hardwire connection straight to the router from computer, changed our home cordless phone for old fashion corded one and all my family stopped using cell phones in the house. I also had to change light bulbs and some other things. 

I realized my cell phone on my night table had been keeping me up at night because all of a sudden, I had no trouble sleeping anymore.

Now I can focus on things, I am no longer confused or forgetful, and I am not hyperactive.

Most important of all, I have not had any periods of mania, depression or hypomania since I reduced my exposures to electromagnetic fields.

You can read her entire story here

It's important to note that she mentions that she also experienced symptoms from fluorescent lights and had to change the light bulbs in her home. 

This is likely because of the negative health effects of blue LED lighting, which I previously wrote about here

4. EMFs Alter Brain Proteins

Research shows that long-term exposure to EMFs significantly alters the expression of 143 proteins in the brain. 

What does this mean to us?

Researchers explain that these changes may affect brain plasticity, increase oxidative stress in the nervous system, and may explain conditions such as headaches, sleep disturbance, fatigue, memory deficits, and brain tumors (13). 

5. EMFs Increase Anxiety

Research clearly shows that radiation from wireless technology affects the autonomic nervous system and increases anxiety and stress.

EMFs increase anxiety.

In particular, it can lead to neurotic disturbances by upregulating the sympathetic nervous and downregulating the parasympathetic nervous system (15, 17). 

In other words, it can directly increase your “fight-or-flight” response, making you chronically stressed and anxious. 

And researchers are making it clear that it’s not just “in the person’s head”. One report explains that the response to “electrosmog is physiological and not psychosomatic”. In other words, it’s really affecting the person's body. 

Unfortunately, “those who experience prolonged and severe EMF hypersensitivity may end up developing psychological problems”, stress-related behaviours and anxiety disorders due to their inability to work, and the social stigma that their symptoms are imagined rather than real (15, 16). 

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6. EMFs Affect Neurotransmitters

EMFs also affect neurotransmitters, the chemicals that communicate information throughout your brain.

One study found that radiation from cellphones significantly disrupts levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. 

The researchers concluded that this may be why people report that they experience stress, memory problems and learning difficulties from EMF exposure (14). 

7. EMFs Affect Thyroid Function

Your thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck below your Adam’s apple.

An illustration showing the location of the thyroid gland.

As I discussed before, your thyroid gland plays a key role in the optimal health and functioning of your brain. It can impact your cognition, concentration, mood, memory and emotions.

Researchers have found that EMF exposure can affect the structure and functioning of the thyroid gland (10). 

One study found that heavy cellphone users have higher than normal TSH levels, and lower than normal T4 levels. These abnormal levels are linked to thyroid dysfunction and hypothyroidism (low thyroid) (11). 

Here are some of the brain and mental health symptoms of low thyroid that I’ve experienced:

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Brain fog

  • Low mood

  • Forgetfulness

  • Weakness

  • Sluggishness

Not surprisingly, these are also common symptoms of EMF hypersensitivity.

Check out this post for ways to support your thyroid.

My favourite way is by applying this red and infrared light to my thyroid. 

8. EMFs Increase Risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by inattention and hyperactivity.

Yale researchers have determined that cellphone use during pregnancy affects the brain development of offspring, and this can lead to symptoms of ADHD in the children once they are born (12). 

This is the first experimental evidence that fetal exposure to radiofrequency radiation from cellular telephones does in fact affect adult behaviour. The rise in behavioral disorders in human children may be in part due to fetal cellular telephone irradiation exposure.
— Dr. Hugh Taylor, MD

9. EMFs May Worsen Symptoms of Autism

A report published in the journal Pathophysiology points out that autism involves many biological disturbances that are very similar to the physiological impacts of EMFs and radiofrequency radiation.

The researchers even say that reducing EMF exposure might reduce symptoms of autism.

With dramatic increases in reported autism that are coincident in time with the deployment of wireless technologies, we need an aggressive investigation of potential Autism/EMF/RFR links. The evidence is sufficient to warrant new public exposure standards benchmarked to low-intensity (non-thermal) exposure levels now known to be biologically disruptive, and strong, interim precautionary practices are advocated.

10. EMFs Reduce Melatonin and Disrupt Sleep

Melatonin is a hormone released by your pineal gland, a small gland in your brain. It helps control your sleep and wake cycles (circadian rhythm), and adequate levels of melatonin are necessary to fall asleep quickly and sleep deeply throughout the night.

Melatonin acts as a very potent antioxidant in your brain and can protect against a number of neurodegenerative and mental health conditions (26). 

Reduced levels of melatonin are associated with depression and suicide, seasonally affective disorder (SAD), schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease (24). 

Cellphone next to a woman sleeping. EMFs negatively affect sleep.

Unfortunately, 17 independent studies have found that EMFs disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm and natural production of melatonin, leading to sleep difficulties and many adverse health effects (25, 27-31). 

Researchers say that the evidence is “substantial and robust” and “there is a sound scientific basis for concluding that” acute and chronic EMF exposure lowers melatonin production, leading to very serious health effects, including depression (25, 32). 

That’s why you should turn off all Wi-Fi before bed. I live in a downtown apartment with lots of radiation coming from all the apartments around me, which likely explains why I slept so much better in the woods.

Other than supplementing with melatonin, here are some actions you can take to naturally produce more melatonin and improve the quality of your sleep:

  • Expose your eyes to sun in the morning

  • Supplement with magnesium and collagen before bed. This pre-made bone broth is a really good source of collagen.

  • Lie on this acupressure mat for 10 minutes before bed

  • Turn off household lights or get red light bulbs, install Iris on your computer and/or wear blue blocking glasses as soon as it's dark outside. These glasses block out blue light in your environment. Blue light suppresses your body’s production of melatonin. You can read more about the problem with blue light here.

  • Go to bed at the same time every night

  • Don’t eat for 3 hours before bed

  • Completely black out room with curtains and wear sleep mask.

  • Take this sleep supplement, which contains magnesium and a number of other natural compounds that I’ve used over the years to promote the production of melatonin. You can use the coupon code FIVE$45496275 for a 5% discount.

Click here to subscribe

11. EMFs Increase Brain Tumors

The National Toxicology Program conducted a large, complex, two-year study on the potential health hazards of cellphone use. They found that RF and EMF exposure increases brain tumors in rats, mice, and humans (50-51). 

Sweden researchers have also published a meta-analysis showing a significant association between long-term cellphone use and both malignant and benign brain tumors (52). 

12. EMFs Disrupt the Blood-Brain Barrier

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

A leaky brain. EMFs disrupt the blood-brain barrier.

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

A number of factors contribute to “leaky brain”, including electromagnetic fields. 

Radiofrequency EMFs emitted from cellphones have been shown to increase the permeability of the brain-blood barrier in several studies (33-34). 

And this increased permeability may lead to the accumulation of brain tissue damage and cognitive impairment (33, 35). 

I previously provided ways to support and repair the blood-brain barrier in this post

My favourite way is by drinking this high-quality coffee

13. EMFs Increase Risk of Depression and Suicide

About 10 studies have reported an association between exposure to EMFs and depression (36, 37). 

A woman with depression. EMFs contribute to the rising rates of depression.

In a few of those studies, researchers found a specific correlation between living near a cellphone base station and severity of depressive symptoms (38-40). 

In another study, researchers looked at personnel at the U.S. embassy in Moscow who were exposed to EMFs, and they found that there was a statistically significant increase in depression (41). 

People working around radiofrequency EMFs are also more likely to suffer from depression and commit suicide (42-45). 

A good way to combat this is by supplementing with rhodiola. I previously wrote about how it’s a good antidepressant, but it’s been shown to be radioprotective as well (60-62). 

14. EMFs Increase Free Radicals and Oxidative Stress  

Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage cells and contribute to brain damage, aging and mental disease (46-47). 

Oxidative stress is when there is an altered balance between free radicals and their elimination by antioxidants.

After an extensive literature review, researchers have concluded that EMF exposure increases levels of free radicals and oxidative stress in the body, leading to acute and chronic health effects (49). 

In another study, researchers found that EMFs are an “oxidative stressor and DNA damage inducer” (48). 

Long-term EMF exposure has also been shown to lead to a chronically increased level of free radicals, reducing the effects of melatonin in the brain (49).

15. EMFs Linked to Dementia

Dementia is 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.

Unfortunately, there are more than 70 studies linking EMFs to dementia, and this number is likely to rise as time goes on, along with the number of diagnoses (53). 

The research also includes several epidemiological studies and meta-analyses that link exposure to EMFs and Alzheimer’s onset (55). 

An elderly man sitting and thinking. EMFs contribute to dementia and cognitive decline.

Researchers have found that overnight exposure to EMFs significantly increases the secretion of amyloid-beta, a peptide that is involved in the development of Alzheimer's disease (54). 

EMF exposure also negatively affects the “entorhinal cortex”, the area of the brain that is first affected by Alzheimer's disease (56-57). 

Lastly, animal studies show that EMFs decrease learning and memory and cause cognitive deficits (58-59). 

I previously wrote a post with some ways to reverse cognitive decline and dementia. You can check that out here

Conclusion

If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.
— Omar N. Bradley
What EMFs would look like if you could see them.

What EMFs would look like if you could see them.

My vacation in the woods is now over, and I’m currently back in the city. 

I’m certain I’m sensitive to EMFs now, and it’s definitely impacting the quality of my life.

I really hope I don’t scare people with this post. But I do think it’s something that should be on your radar. 

At this point, I still don’t have too many recommendations to combat EMFs, other than the ones I already mentioned in my previous post about myelin (see step #25 in that post). 

But I plan on researching more and putting together a complete protocol that I’ve personally tested myself, so that you can also protect and shield yourself from EMFs!

So, stay tuned for that in an upcoming article.
 

 

 

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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References:

(1) https://www.dovepress.com/the-western-diet-and-lifestyle-and-diseases-of-civilization-peer-reviewed-article-RRCC

(2) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0891061815000599

(3) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0928468012000442

(4) http://www.magdahavas.com/whos-new-classification-of-rfr-what-does-this-mean-for-canada/

(5) http://www.magdahavas.com/free-internet-access-in-swiss-schools-no-wifi/

(6) http://www.parentsforsafetechnology.org/worldwide-countries-taking-action.html

(7) https://openparliament.ca/committees/health/41-2/58/dr-riina-bray-1/only/

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19194860

(9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/25205214/

(10) http://jeb.biologists.org/content/209/17/3322.long

(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3243874/

(12) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120315110138.htm

(13) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/15368378.2011.631068

(14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23852905

(15) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24192494

(16) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25359903

(17) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/9501332/

(18) https://www.rfsafe.com/study-shows-30-mins-exposure-4g-lte-cell-phone-radiation-alters-brain-activity/

(19) http://www.ewg.org/cell-phone-radiation-affects-brain-function

(20) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12881192

(21) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20001702

(22) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14995060

(23) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4459698/

(24) http://www.neilcherry.nz/documents/90_b1_EMR_Reduces_Melatonin_in_Animals_and_People.pdf

(25) http://www.neilcherry.nz/documents/90_b1_EMR_Reduces_Melatonin_in_Animals_and_People.pdf

(26) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1262766/

(27) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23051584

(28) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1519707/

(29) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4207748/

(30) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4207748/

(31) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3062017/

(32) http://www.saludgeoambiental.org/sites/saludgeoambiental.org/files/docs/cem_baja_frec_y_depresion_canada.pdf

(33) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12076339

(34) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19345073

(35) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25598203

(36) http://www.saludgeoambiental.org/sites/saludgeoambiental.org/files/docs/cem_baja_frec_y_depresion_canada.pdf

(37) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0891061815000599

(38) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15620045

(39) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22219055

(40) https://www.emf-portal.org/en/article/18762

(41) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9814721

(42) https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/nioshtic-2/00080942.html

(43) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1071010/

(44) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7275611

(45) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13102818.1994.10818812

(46) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2701375

(47) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15182885

(48) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22535669

(49) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15352165

(50) https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/results/areas/cellphones/index.html

(51) https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/do-cell-phones-cause-cancer-probably-but-it-s-complicated/

(52) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2569116/

(53) http://www.emfresearch.com/emfs-dementia/

(54) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304394007002480

(55) https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijcb/2012/683897/

(56) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25462671

(57) https://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v17/n2/full/nn.3606.html

(58) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25359903

(59) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25542888

(60) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16822199

(61) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3148626/

(62) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16013456

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

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27 Proven Ways to Promote the Regeneration of Myelin

Myelin is critical for optimal brain function and mental health.

What is myelin?

Myelin sheath.

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 (39, 40). 

So not surprisingly, myelin sheath plays a key role in determining intelligence and improving cognitive performance (41, 42). 

The production of myelin throughout the nervous system is called myelination or myelinogenesis.

But demyelination can also happen. 

This happens when the myelin that insulates your nerves is destroyed or deteriorates, leading to mental health symptoms and neurodegenerative diseases (44). 

Multiple sclerosis is one of the more common demyelinating condition, but a number of neurological and psychiatric illnesses have been linked to demyelination, including (45):

Myelin sheath.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

  • Depression

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Dyslexia

  • Language disorders

  • Stuttering

  • Autism

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

  • Cognitive decline

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Tourette’s syndrome

  • Schizophrenia

  • Tone deafness

  • Pathological lying

If you have one of these conditions and suspect you might have symptoms of demyelination, don’t worry.

There are dietary and lifestyle modifications that can help your body repair and re-manufacture myelin. Studies show that oligodendrocyte cells are responsible for the formation of new myelin in both the injured and normal adult brains (43).

Here are 27 holistic ways to increase oligodendrocyte cells, promote myelin production and myelin sheath repair, and increase the regeneration of myelin. 

Click here to subscribe

1. Deep Sleep and Melatonin

Research has found that sleep increases myelination and increases the production of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs).

One study found that production of OPCs doubled in mice while they slept. The mice that were forced to stay awake had higher levels of stress hormones and higher rates of brain cell death (1-2). 

Researchers believe this means that sleep loss can aggravate symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Baby sleeping. Sleep and melatonin help regenerate myelin.

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

But it’s not just the amount of sleep you get that’s important. It’s also the quality of your sleep. 

The researchers found that the production of the myelin-forming cells increased the most during deep, rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep. 

Melatonin, your body’s sleep hormone, has also been shown to promote myelination and increase myelin production by significantly reducing inflammation in the brain (46).

Here are some actions you can take to naturally produce more melatonin, maximize the quality of your sleep, and make sure you get deeper sleep:

Deep sleep can also improve your brain’s growth hormone, lower your stress hormone, and slow down the onset of dementia

2. Iodine and Thyroid Hormones

Iodine is a key mineral that is required to produce thyroid hormones. Without enough iodine, you may end up with symptoms of hypothyroidism

Research shows that a deficiency in iodine and lack of thyroid hormones can impair myelination (7).

The process of myelination is known to depend on the thyroid hormone. The myelinating cells are the oligodendroglia which appear to stop functioning in MS (and sometimes to a milder degree in Alzheimer’s disease, and other conditions). The cells’ absorption of thyroid hormone is influenced by dietary factors.
— Ray Peat

Other studies show that thyroid hormones stimulate the expression of myelin protein genes, and promote remyelination in the brain by enhancing oligodendrocyte maturation (8, 9). 

So supporting your thyroid and getting enough iodine are key steps towards increasing myelin and optimizing the formation of new myelin. 

I make sure I get enough iodine by taking this multimineral

And you can read more about how to support your thyroid and enhance the production of thyroid hormones here.  

3. Vitamin C

Oranges. The Vitamin C in oranges help regenerate myelin.

Vitamin C is known to participate in myelin formation (10, 11). 

Collagen synthesis, which is dependent on Vitamin C, has also been linked to the formation of myelin sheath (12, 13). 

Vitamin C can be found in foods such as peppers, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, tomatoes, and berries. 

You can also take it in supplement form
 

4. Zinc

As I’ve discussed before, zinc is an essential trace mineral that activates several hundred enzymatic reactions, including neurotransmission.

It’s estimated that 2 billion people in the world are deficient in zinc, and six different studies show that subclinical deficiency of zinc impairs brain function in children and adults (14-16).

Oysters. The zinc in oysters help regenerate myelin.

So, if you struggle with a brain or mental health disorder, it’s quite possible that you’re deficient.  

Zinc also affects myelination.

The mineral is needed for myelin proteins to work properly, and research shows that a deficiency in zinc leads to a reduction in myelin formation and myelin recovery (17). 

Some of the best food sources of zinc include oysters, grass-fed beef, pumpkin seeds, cashews, mushrooms and spinach.

But I still recommend at least short-term supplementation to ensure you get enough to increase myelination.

I created and take the Optimal Zinc supplement

Check out my previous post about zinc and copper if you’re interested in discovering more steps you can take to increase your zinc levels. You can also check your levels here

5. Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all cells of the body.

Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones and vitamin D.

And it’s an indispensable component of myelin. 

Butter. The cholesterol in butter helps regenerate myelin.

Without it, myelin membrane growth is “severely perturbed” (18). 

So just like you shouldn’t be afraid of saturated fat, you shouldn’t be afraid of eating cholesterol-rich foods.

Some of the best sources of cholesterol include grass-fed butter or ghee, beef liver and pastured egg yolks.

I take these beef liver capsules and eat at least 3 egg yolks every day, as recommended in the Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet.

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6. Lithium 

Lithium is predominantly known as a medication given to bipolar patients to manage their symptoms. 

However, it’s also an essential mineral.

Bipolar patients are often given high doses of lithium carbonate.

But low doses of lithium orotate can be safely supplemented to support the brain and improve mental health. I’ve taken this one before. 

Research shows that lithium stimulates the expression of myelin genes, restores the myelin structure, and promotes remyelination (19). 

As I discussed before, lithium orotate can also increase your brain’s growth hormone (BDNF)

So it’s definitely something you want to consider taking if you want to increase myelin in the brain.

You can get lithium here.

7. Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a treatment that enhances healing and recovery after injury to the central nervous system.

Patients inhale 100% oxygen in a total body chamber. 

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

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

Researchers have found that HBOT can cause "significant remyelination" (83-84). 

Other studies show that it can alleviate myelin damage (85). 

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

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

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

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

8. Ketogenic Dieting

A ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet – less than 50 grams of carbs per day.

When you restrict carbohydrate-rich foods – such as grains, sugar, and even potatoes, legumes and fruit – your body enters ketosis, a metabolic state in which your body and brain run on fatty acids and “ketones” instead of glucose.

Foods incorporated in a ketogenic diet. A ketogenic diet and ketones can help repair myelin.

Ketones are an alternative source of energy for your brain cells. And several studies show that when you increase the production of ketones, you improve myelination and increase myelin production (3-6). 

So if you’re trying to rebuild myelin sheath, you should consider a cyclic ketogenic diet. 

I follow a ketogenic diet every so often.

I also take Optimal Ketones

Optimal Ketones are exogenous ketones that help my body get into a state of ketosis more quickly. They immediately increase my mental clarity.

As I’ve discussed before, ketones can also increase your brain’s growth hormone, help you overcome brain fog, support your brain’s mitochondria, and slow down cognitive decline

9. Iron

Iron is an essential mineral that is present in all cells and plays a role in several vital functions, including oxygen consumption and ATP production.

It’s also important for myelin production.

Studies show that low iron levels lead to a reduction in myelination, and normal iron levels support the formation of myelin and increase myelin (20). 

In most cases, I don’t recommend supplementing with iron. Instead, get it from food.

Beef liver is the best source. I take these beef liver capsules
 

10. 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.

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.

Researchers have found that LLLT can increase myelination and increase the total number of myelinated axons (79-81). 

LLLT has also been shown to restore normal levels of myelin in animals (81-82). 

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

I use this device and shine the 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 also supports mitochondria function, reduces brain fog, promotes synaptogenesis, and increases blood flow to the brain

I encourage you to check out my full article about it for more information.

11. Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine is a fat-soluble amino acid compound that plays a key role in optimal cognitive function. High amounts of phosphatidylserine can be found within the brain, and supplementation has been shown to improve attention and memory, especially in the elderly (21-23).

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

Researchers have also concluded that phosphatidylserine is required for healthy nerve cell membranes and myelin in the brain (24). 

I take phosphatidylserine every day. It's part of the Optimal Brain supplement

12. Pregnenolone

Pregnenolone is a steroidal hormone manufactured by the body, but it can also be taken as a supplement.

Picture of a human brain.

It’s been shown to enhance memory and reduce stress-induced fatigue.

It’s the precursor to almost all other steroid hormones, including DHEA, progesterone, testosterone, estrogens, and cortisol.

Pregnenolone and other steroid hormones regulate, repair, rebuild, and increase the production of myelin (25-28). 

I personally tried this pregnenolone. It did give me a boost in brain function and mental energy. However, it also made me angry and irritable so I stopped taking it. This happens to some people, but a lot of people don't experience this. It's worth trying to see how you react. You can get it here.
 

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13. Uridine 

Uridine is a nucleotide base found in beer.

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

It’s been proven to help treat “myelin sheath lesion” in several experimental and clinical studies (29, 30). 

I take this uridine. You can get it here or here

It’s synergistic with krill oil and citicoline

14. Herbs That Increase Myelin

Ashwagandha helps regenerate myelin.

Ashwagandha is a popular Indian herb commonly used to prevent anxiety.

“Withanoside IV” is one of the main therapeutic compounds in ashwagandha and research shows that it can increase myelin levels in the nervous system (31).

I take this ashwagandha during periods of high stress.

Ginkgo Biloba is another common herb, which is taken for cognitive enhancement or to alleviate cognitive decline.

It’s beneficial effects of cognition may be because it significantly increases the number of myelinated axons (34).  

Ginkgo Biloba is included in the Optimal Brain supplement

15. Inositol

Inositol is a small molecule structurally similar to glucose that is involved in cellular signalling. 

At high doses, it reduces anxiety. 

Research shows that animals treated with inositol have significantly fewer demyelinating lesions (32). 

I took high doses of this inositol powder when weening off psychiatric medication.

I now take a normal amount found in this B complex

I previously wrote a full article about inositol here

16. Lion’s Mane

Lion’s mane mushroom helps regenerate myelin.

Hericium Erinaceus – better known as Lion’s mane mushroom – might be my favourite way to regenerate myelin. 

Research shows that lion’s mane increases the rate of myelination production, and the process of myelination begins earlier in the presence of the mushroom (33). 

I take this lion’s mane mushroom. It’s one of the highest-quality lion’s mane mushroom supplements that I could find from a reputable brand. I spent a lot of time researching and looking into different sources because not all lion's mane supplements are high-quality and effective, and I settled on this one. You can get it here or here

17. Consume Flavonoids

There are several flavonoids, a diverse group of phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables, that have been demonstrated to promote myelination. 

Research shows that the flavonoids luteolin, quercetin and fisetin significantly decrease myelin phagocytosis and may be able to limit the demyelination process during multiple sclerosis (35). 

Quercetin, one plant flavonoid in particular with potent antioxidant action, has been shown to increase the number of oligodendrocyte precursor cells and myelin basic protein cells (36). 

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18. Learn or Experience Something New

You can also generate new myelin by learning something new and exposing yourself to novel life experiences.

Guitar. Learning the guitar can help you form new myelin.

For example, one report showed that learning a new instrument leads to increased myelin in areas of the brain involved with musical performance. 

The researchers explain that myelin increased proportionately to the number of hours each person had practiced the instrument (38).

So the more you practice and try to learn something, the more myelin you generate.

19. Exercise

I’ve already discussed how exercise increases your brain’s growth hormone, supports your brain’s mitochondria, helps reverse cognitive decline, and stimulates your vagus nerve.

It clearly does so much good, so it’s not too surprising that it also supports myelin formation. 

Woman lifting weights. Exercise can help with the regeneration of myelin.

Research shows that long-term exercise improves memory by increasing and restoring myelin (47). 

Running has also been shown to increase myelination and delay the progression of demyelination, and therefore delays the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (48). 

Lastly, researchers have found that exercise increases mitochondrial activity, which then increases myelination in the brain (49). 

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

This is exercise routine I try to follow consistently:

  • Lift heavy weights 1-4 times per week

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

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

  • Walking, weightlifting and sprinting are the best forms of exercise, but you should choose a sport or exercise routine that you enjoy, so that you’ll stick with it consistently

20. Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF)

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, also known as BDNF, is a naturally-occurring hormone in the brain that improves brain function and lowers your risk of mental disease. 

It also regulates the myelination process. 

Research shows that BDNF produces a long-term increase in both the rate and extent of myelination, and enhances and accelerates myelin formation (50). 

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

21. Testosterone

When I lived in a moldy home, suffered multiple concussions and was placed on antidepressants, my testosterone plummeted. 

Very muscular man looking angry. Testosterone can increase myelin formation.

No conventional doctor tested my testosterone because they assumed every a man in his 20s would have healthy levels. 

But they were wrong. 

Eventually I saw a functional medicine doctor and he found out that I had the testosterone levels of an old man.

I was put on testosterone replacement therapy for almost one year to get my levels back to normal. And over that time, I saw a huge increase in my brain and mental health.

This may be because testosterone has been shown to stimulate the formation of new myelin and reverse myelin damage (51). 

Researchers have also concluded that hormone replacement should be a considered treatment for males who have multiple sclerosis, as it can stall (and perhaps even reverse) the neurodegeneration associated with MS (52). 

That's why it's so important to test. Make sure you check both total testosterone and free testosterone

22. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that your body cannot produce itself. They are found primarily in fish and are necessary for the normal electrical functioning of your brain and nervous system.

Cooked piece of salmon. The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon can help with the regeneration of myelin.

They appear in most of my posts because they are so critical for brain and mental health and affect so many aspects of wellness.

They’ve been shown to help people overcome addiction, repair the blood-brain barrier, stimulate the vagus nerve, and even reverse cognitive decline.

And now researchers have found that they also increase myelin production, helping your body produce more myelin (53, 54). 

According to Judy Graham, author of the book Managing Multiple Sclerosis Naturally: A Self-Help Guide to Living with MS, myelin cell membranes that contain omega-3 fatty acids are more fluid, which improves the efficiency of nerve impulse conduction. 

She also points out in her book that rates of multiple sclerosis are lower in areas of high fish consumption. 

I eat lots of wild salmon and supplement with this krill oil daily. You can get it here or here

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23. Vitamin D and Vitamin K2

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

Sun shining through the clouds. Vitamin D from the sun can help repair myelin.

Research shows that the Vitamin D receptor boosts the regeneration of myelin (55). 

Vitamin D also significantly increases myelination in rats (56). 

It’s best to get your Vitamin D from sunlight, but most people can’t get enough, especially during the winter. 

That’s why I use this Vitamin D lamp.

If you do decide to supplement, it’s a good idea to take Vitamin K2 along with Vitamin D3, as it has also been shown to support myelin (57). 

I also highly recommend checking your Vitamin D levels. It's one of the most important tests you can take for your health.

24. Choline

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

It’s also a component of myelin and supports myelin production.

Research shows that the choline pathway promotes remyelination, and enhances the repairing and rebuilding of myelin sheath (64). 

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

One study found that citicoline enhances myelin regeneration and increases remyelination in the central nervous system. The researchers concluded that citicoline could become a promising substance for patients with multiple sclerosis because of its regenerative action combined with its excellent safety profile (63). 

That’s why I recommend supplementing with it. It’s one of my favourite supplements for optimal brain and mental health. I personally take citicoline every day now, and I find it improves my focus and mental energy. It's included in the Optimal Brain supplement

You can also find some choline in beef liver and egg yolks, but citicoline is more impactful. 

And as I’ve discussed before, citicoline can also help you overcome brain fog and support the blood brain-barrier.

25. Reduce Inflammation 

Reducing inflammation throughout your entire body is a key step towards protecting and regenerating myelin. 

Man experiencing inflammation in the brain. Reducing inflammation can increase myelin formation.

Researchers have found that inflammatory cytokines reduce myelination, and high levels of inflammation are often found in people with multiple sclerosis (65). 

The best way to reduce inflammation is by following an anti-inflammatory diet.

You should strive to eliminate all gluten, refined carbohydrates (particularly flour), and processed food from your diet, and increase your intake of vegetables, fruits, wild fish, grass-fed beef and pastured chicken.

My free Grocery Shopping Guide for Optimal Brain Health contains a bunch of healthy low-inflammatory foods that you can eat on a regular basis. 

Taking curcumin and krill oil supplements can also significantly reduce inflammation in the body and brain. 

I also recommend testing for C-Reactive Protein, which is a general marker of inflammation. That way you'll know if it's one of your problems. 

26. B Vitamins and Methylation

A number of different B vitamins can increase myelin and help your body regenerate myelin. 

Vitamin B12 plays a key role in the generation and function of myelin.

Researchers have found that low vitamin B12 levels are significantly associated with myelin degeneration (66, 68). 

Other studies have also shown that people with multiple sclerosis often have abnormally low levels of vitamin B12, and vitamin B12 injections significantly improve their symptoms (67). 

The B Vitamins, including B1, B2, B5, B6 and B12. B Vitamins can help the body form new myelin sheath.

According to Dr. Perlmutter, author of Brain Maker and Grain Brain, vitamin B12 deficiency enhances the destruction of myelin and compromises the ability of the body to repair and rebuild damaged myelin sheath. 

Folate is another B vitamin that plays an important role in the maintenance of myelin. Studies have shown that a deficiency can lead to reduced levels of myelin (69-70). 

S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) isn’t a B vitamin, but along with folate and B12, it is involved with methylation, and has been shown to increase the development of myelin (71). 

One amazing study found that biotin (Vitamin B7) activates enzymes involved in myelin synthesis and 91% of patients with multiple sclerosis improved with high doses of biotin. Two multi-centric double-blind placebo-controlled trials are currently underway (72). 

Lastly, pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5) can indirectly help with myelin formation because it helps with the synthesis of fatty acids and myelin is mostly made up of fat. Myelin has been shown to degenerate in chickens that are deficient in B5 (73). 

27. Reduce Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs)

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

You won't hear many people talk about this but it needs to be acknowledged.

An increasing amount of research is showing that electromagnetic frequencies emitted from Wi-Fi, laptops, and cellphones can negatively affect the brain and produce widespread neuropsychiatric effects including depression (59). 

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

Image of EMFs surrounding a home. EMFs can reduce myelin formation, so you are best to avoid them or limit your exposure to them.

Some people are more sensitive to them than others. I’m one of them. 

Two environmental doctors have told me that I’m sensitive to environmental radiation, and some of my symptoms can be traced back to EMF hypersensitivity. It's likely why I benefited so much from neurofeedback, as EMFs can affect brainwaves (74-78). 

I suspect a lot of people are dealing with the same problem. 

This research paper explains that there is an association between EMF exposure and myelin deterioration, which may account for many of the symptoms that people with EMF hypersensitivity experience (58).

So if you’re trying to rebuild myelin, it’s a good idea to limit your exposure to EMFs.

How do you that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

You don’t have to let your brain deteriorate over time. 

You have the power to maintain it and rebuild the myelin within it. 

Overall, the above 27 steps can help your body regenerate myelin. They have really helped me.

I hope you implement some of them into your daily life and you notice your brain functions more optimally. 

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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Medically reviewed by Dr. Terry Wahls, MD

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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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