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

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

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

The blood-brain barrier is a protective shield that surrounds your brain.

It acts as a gatekeeper and filter, allowing beneficial nutrients to cross over into your brain, and keeping unwanted molecules out of your brain.  

But in his book Why Isn’t My Brain Working, Dr. Datis Kharrazian explains that the blood-brain barrier can break down and become “leaky”.

This allows harmful substances to enter your brain, contributing to brain inflammation, which has been shown to cause cognitive problems and mental illness (92, 110-111).

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

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

A leaky brain leaking.

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

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

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

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

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

Here are 23 strategies that have been shown to support and repair the blood brain barrier.

Many of them have helped me.

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

 

1. Avoid Gluten

Avoiding gluten is necessary for optimal brain and mental health.

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

You'll likely feel better.

Man with headache and inflammation in the brain because of gluten.

There’s one main reason I recommend this…

Gluten has been shown to elevate “zonulin”.

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

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

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

Yet unfortunately, the myth continues to spread that only people with celiac disease need to avoid gluten-containing food.

That’s simply not true.  

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

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

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

 

2. Heal Your Gut (and Increase the Good Bacteria Within It)

There is a clear connection between your brain and digestive system.

I’ve discussed this before.

Whatever happens in your gut directly impacts your brain function.

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

Researchers have studied mice that are “germ free”.

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

And what did the researchers find?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I take Optimal Biotics every day.

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

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

 

3. Drink Coffee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Usually, coffee beans are extracted from the whole coffee fruit for roasting. And then the surrounding coffee fruit is then thrown away. 

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

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

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

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4. Sulforaphane

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

It has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions.

It’s quite similar to curcumin.

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

You can take sulforaphane in supplement form.

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

Myrosinase is the enzyme in broccoli that helps metabolize sulforaphane.

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

 

5. Avoid Alcohol

Glass of alcohol. Alcohol disrupts the blood-brain barrier.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 6. Resveratrol or Pterostilbene

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

It’s known to help prevent the development of neurodegenerative diseases.

And scientists are starting to understand why.

Resveratrol can increase BDNF and support your mitochondria.

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

In a recent study, researchers gave resveratrol to Alzheimer’s patients and it restored the integrity of their blood-brain barriers.

Because of this, there was a reduction in brain inflammation, which slowed down cognitive decline in the patients (38, 39). 

Numerous other studies have found that resveratrol:

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

  • Defends and protects the blood-brain barrier; and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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7. Reduce Stress

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

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

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

But normalizing your stress levels can help the blood-brain barrier repair itself.

Person holding stress ball. Reducing stress can help repair the blood-brain barrier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

8. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that your body cannot produce itself. So you need to get them from diet or supplements, as they are absolutely necessary for the normal functioning of your brain and nervous system.

Omega-3 fatty acids can support your mitochondria, increase your BDNF levels, and help you overcome addiction and withdrawal.

But they can also support your blood-brain barrier.

Researchers have found that omega-3 fatty acids can: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

9. Sleep and Melatonin

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

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

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

Young child sleeping in bed. Sleep can help fix the blood-brain barrier when it becomes leaky.

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

Supplementing with melatonin can also help.

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

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

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

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

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

 

10. Berberine

Berberine is an alkaloid extracted from various plants. 

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

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

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

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11. Avoid Environmental Mold and Mycotoxins

Environmental mold can be a serious problem for some people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moldy roof. Mold can damage the blood-brain barrier and make it permeable and leaky.

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

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

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

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

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

 

12. B Vitamins

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

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

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

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

 

13. Magnesium

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

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

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

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

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

Magnesium and magnesium rich foods. Magnesium can help the blood-brain barrier heal.

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

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

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

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

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

I take this magnesium supplement

 

14. Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is an antioxidant produced by your body.

It can also be taken as a supplement.

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

Human brain and blood flow.

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

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

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

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

ALA is included in the Optimal Antiox supplement.

 

15. Acetyl-Carnitine (ALCAR)

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

It’s been shown to have neuroprotective and cognitive-enhancing effects. It’s often used as a natural brain booster because it increases alertness and provides support to brain cells.  

ALCAR has also been shown to be very effective at alleviating chronic fatigue and improving mood. It helps reverse neurological decline and supports mitochondria function as well. 

It does so much, so not surprisingly, researchers have also found that ALCAR helps repair the blood-brain barrier by reversing mitochondria decay caused by oxidative damage (122).

I find that ALCAR personally gives me a big boost in mental energy and cognitive function.  

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

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16. Curcumin

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

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

Turmeric spice. Curcumin is a compound in turmeric that can reduce inflammation and support the blood-brain barrier.

But it can also:

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

  • Reverse blood-brain barrier dysfunction; and

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

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

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

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

 

17. Vitamin D

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

18. Citicoline or Alpha GPC

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

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

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

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

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

I personally take Citicoline every day.

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

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

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

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

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

Egg yolks. Egg yolks contain choline, which can help repair a leaky blood-brain barrier.
 

19. Reduce Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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20. Lower Homocysteine

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

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

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

And that’s when homocysteine becomes dangerous and unhealthy. 

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

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

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

 

21. Progesterone

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

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

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

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

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

 

22. Increase Brain Blood Flow

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

23. Other Nutrients, Antioxidants and Herbs

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

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

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

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

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

I hope they help you too!

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

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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References

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

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

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

(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8958163

(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19823933

(6) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/26240443_The_protective_effect_of_alpha_lipoic_acid_against_traumatic_brain_injury_in_rats

(7) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6898853_Lipoic_Acid_Affects_Cellular_Migration_into_the_Central_Nervous_System_and_Stabilizes_Blood-Brain_Barrier_Integrity

(8) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16888025

(9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25714975

(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10561698

(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12691414

(12) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10701532

(13) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022480416303638

(14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26686249

(15) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/307999386_Curcumin_attenuates_blood-brain_barrier_disruption_after_subarachnoid_hemorrhage_in_mice

(16) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23494637

(17) http://www.fasebj.org/content/28/1_Supplement/1120.9

(18) http://search.bvsalud.org/ghl/resource/en/wpro-668812

(19) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26708209

(20) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17303117

(21) http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12031-013-9989-4

(22) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23494637

(23) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20976070

(24) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25546475

(25) https://figshare.com/articles/_Post_injury_berberine_treatment_attenuated_brain_edema_blood_brain_barrier_BBB_permeability_matrix_metalloproteinase_MMP_9_enzymatic_activity_neutrophil_infiltration_and_ICAM_expression_after_TBI_/1324009

(26) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22560097

(27) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1065104/

(28) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15519365

(29) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17933863

(30) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12657997

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

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3 Foods That Make Your Brain Work Remarkably Better

Certain foods are so nutrient dense and have remarkable therapeutic qualities.

Introducing them into your diet can have a profound impact on your brain and overall health. 

Today I’m going to share with you my three of my favourites. 

When I started consuming these regularly, I saw improvements in my physical health, which moved the needle in the right direction towards optimal brain and mental health. 

An illustration of two brain - one full of fruits and vegetables, the other full of candy and junk food.

1. Turmeric (Curcumin)

Turmeric – the spice that gives curry its yellow colour – may be one of the most powerful foods. 

For thousands of years, turmeric has been used medicinally in India. And now today, thousands of high-quality scientific studies have been published, looking into the hundreds of active compounds within turmeric that benefit the body and brain (24). 

One of these compounds is curcumin. 

Curcumin is the most heavily researched compound within turmeric.

It’s been shown to have a many medicinal properties, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

If you take a high-quality, concentrated source of curcumin, it is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and act as a neuroprotective agent, helping to prevent and treat a wide range of neurological and mental disorders. 

A number of studies show that curcumin is a natural antidepressant, working significantly better than placebo and working just as well as Prozac in the treatment of “several mood-related symptoms” – but without the severe side effects that come along with medication.

Other research shows that curcumin is effective at fighting major depression by reducing stress hormones and increasing serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for emotional wellbeing (26-30, 59-62). 

Curcumin has also been shown to help people manage stress and anxiety and overcome trauma. In one study, the curcumin reduced "stress-related depressive symptoms" in animals exposed to chronic stress. In other words, it made them more resilient (31). 

And a ground-breaking 2015 study demonstrated that curcumin can prevent new traumatic memories from being stored in the brain, and can remove “fear memories” already existing in the brain. The researchers suggested that curcumin should be seriously considered as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (32). 

This suggests that people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological disorders that are characterized by fearful memories may benefit substantially from curcumin.
— Dr. Glenn Schafe, PhD, Hunter College

Lastly, curcumin powerfully protects the aging brain, improves attention and memory in older individuals, and prevents and delays the development of Alzheimer’s.

In fact, seniors in India who eat turmeric regularly have the lowest rate of rate of Alzheimer’s in the world (33, 34, 58, 66). 

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How Can A Spice Possibly Treat Mental Illness?

Almost every chronic disease – including depression, anxiety, PTSD and Alzheimer’s – has been linked to chronic, low-level inflammation. People with clinical depression in particular have been shown to have 30 percent more brain inflammation than the general population (35-38). 

And curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory effects. Many researchers point to this as the main reason why the compound is so beneficial for people suffering from these diseases (39- 45).

Despite what has been previously believed, depression is not all about brain chemicals such as serotonin. Our findings support consistent research that depression is associated with increased inflammation and oxidative stress and it can be treated with an agent that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. There is now increasing support for the antidepressant effects of curcumin, with a previous study demonstrating curcumin to be as effective as a pharmaceutical antidepressant for the treatment of depression.
— Dr. Adrian Lopresti, PhD, Clinical Psychologist and senior researcher at Murdoch University

Curcumin also increases the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the brain. It does this by increasing enzymes that enhance the synthesis of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from its precursor alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) (56). 

And as I’ve discussed before, ALA is usually poorly converted into DHA, and DHA deficiency is linked to several brain and mental health disorders. So taking both krill oil and curcumin can support the fatty acid composition of your brain. Both of them played a significant role in my recovery.

Another possible explanation is that curcumin boosts Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a protein in the brain that increases the growth of new brain cells, and is linked to improved brain function and a lower risk of mental disease. It's been shown that people with depression and Alzheimer’s have reduced levels of BNDF in their brain (46-50, 31). 

Curcumin definitely helped me overcome post-concussion syndrome, and this makes sense considering the research showing that it counteracts cognitive impairment caused by traumatic brain injury. It can also delay and even reverse general deterioration of cognitive function, and may even improve memory and make you smarter (51, 52, 57). 

But before you go and start eating lots of turmeric and curcumin, it’s important to know how to take it and in what form

The Best Form of Curcumin For Your Brain

It is difficult to experience the full therapeutic effects of curcumin by simply eating turmeric. This is because the curcumin content of turmeric is low - only about 3% of turmeric is made up of curcumin (52). 

Most of the studies I have referenced use turmeric extracts that contain large amounts of curcumin – more than what you’d be able to consume simply by adding turmeric to your meals. On top of this, curcumin is very inefficient at absorbing into the bloodstream and reaching the brain. Luckily, science and technology has been able to concentrate significant amounts of curcumin into supplement form and increase its bioavailibility (54, 55). 

There are several different patented forms of “bioavailable” curcumin and I’ve tried most of them. But I didn’t notice a significant effect from most of them, making me think that they are not actually “bioavailable”, or at the very least, they aren’t able to cross the blood-brain barrier effectively and reach the brain.

But I did notice a difference from the "Longvida" form of curcumin

Based on my experience and research, it is the most effective form of curcumin for the treatment of brain and mental disorders, as it’s formulated in a way that enables the active ingredients to cross the blood-brain barrier. Other “bioavailable” forms of curcumin will likely still affect the rest of the body, but not the brain.

That’s why I recommend Curcubrain Longvida . You can get it through AmazonIt is one of my favourite supplements and since it is a fat soluble, I take it every day with a fatty meal. 

2. Coconut Oil (MCTs and Ketones)

Coconuts are largely made up of saturated fat, and since the 1950s, there has been a war on saturated fat (5). 

As a result, coconut oil has been vilified and blamed for clogging arteries and causing heart disease.

But, as I’ve discussed before, saturated fat is actually harmless. It appears to be “common knowledge” that it's bad for us and should be avoided, but this is a myth that has been disproven over and over (3, 4, 6, 7). 

In fact, when people make coconut a big part of their diet, they have lower rates of heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases (1, 2, 9). 

And fats, particularly the ones from coconut oil, are crucial for optimal brain and mental health. The brain is 60% fat and the integrity of your brain cell membranes depend on high-quality dietary fat (8). 

The low-fat approach to eating hasn’t helped us control weight or become healthier. Detailed research — much of it done at Harvard — shows that the total amount of fat in the diet isn’t really linked with weight or disease.
— Harvard School of Public Health

I used to eat this coconut oil every day. But I actually don’t eat as much anymore because I got sick of its taste. Knowing it was healthy for me, I actually ate way too much that I actually started to despise the taste of coconut.

But coconut oil also contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). MCTs are fatty acids of a smaller length that are easily digested in the body, and quickly metabolized into ketones by the liver. Ketones are an alternative source of fuel, which can quickly recharge the brain’s malfunctioning cells and improve cognitive function in susceptible individuals. The ketones that result from supplementing with pure MCT oil readily cross the blood-brain barrier and provides instant energy to brain cells (10, 21). 

Coconuts and glass of coconut oil.

I used to supplement with 1-2 tablespoons of this pure MCT oil every morning.

I now take Optimal Ketones, which is an exogenous ketone supplement that quickly put me into a ketogenic state and immediately increases my mental clarity. It works better than coconut oil and MCT oil.

Optimal Ketones gives my brain a steady supply of ketones and energy to start my day. 

Research is accumulating in support of ketonescoconut oil and its MCTs

Researchers have labelled coconut oil an “anti-stress and antidepressant nutritional oil” after finding that it can reduce stress and depression by increasing antioxidants in the brain (11). 

And high-fat diets and ketones can help slow down aging in the brain by repairing cell damage, which can help treat memory loss, dementia, mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury (12, 16-20). 

And you don’t have to wait days or months to witness the neuroprotective benefits.

One study in the journal Neurobiology of Aging showed significant cognitive and memory improvements within 90 minutes of taking MCT oil (13). 

It’s quite possible that these brain and mental health benefits may stem from ketone production, the MCTs within coconut oil, and/or coconut oil’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (14, 15). 

Bacteria, viruses, inflammation and our immune system also impact the health of our brains, and lauric acid, one of the saturated fatty acids found in coconut oil, has antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and immune-boosting properties (22). 

Caprylic acid, another main fatty acid in coconut oil and MCT oil, improves circulation, has anti-aging properties and can help treat Alzheimer's (23).

And you don’t need to stick with coconut oil.

Coconut milk, water and meat are other ways to get the benefits of coconut and MCT oil

Or you can simply take Optimal Ketones to experience the fastest and most powerful beneficial effects.

3. Organ Meats (Beef Liver)

You’re going to eat my what?

You’re going to eat my what?

Organ meats are nutritional powerhouses.

Traditional cultures recognized this and have consumed them for thousands of years.

Unfortunately, we hardly we eat them today.

In some traditional cultures, they only ate the organ meats. They threw away muscle meat or gave it to the dogs. And that's obviously the opposite of what we do today. The thought of throwing away a lean piece of steak to your dog seem insane. But muscle meat just isn't as nutritious as the rest of the animal.

And if you look at predatory animals, after they kill their prey, they instinctively start eating the organs first, saving the muscle meat for later.

In one of my favourite books called Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, Dr. Catherine Shanahan recommends the consumption of organ meats for optimal gene function.

Beef liver in particular is incredibly nutrient dense. It’s nature multivitamin, containing more nutrients, gram for gram, than any other food. It’s actually a superfood. And I don’t like using the word "superfood". But beef liver actually fits the definition of a superfood, especially if it’s coming from grass-fed cows.

We hear over and over that fruits and vegetables are so nutritious. And they are. They should definitely make up a large part of your diet, as they include higher amounts of phytonutrients compared to animal foods. But when it comes to vitamins and minerals, fruit and veggies pale in comparison to organ meats such as liver.

Liver has almost everything in it that you need for optimal brain and mental health (63):

  • An excellent source of high-quality protein and amino acids

  • Omega 3 fatty acids

  • Vitamin C

  • Minerals such as zinc, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, iron and chromium, some of which are very important for cognitive function and overall brain health.

  • Fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, K. Liver is the most concentrated source of retinol (preformed vitamin A) found in nature.

  • All of the B vitamins, including choline, B12 and folate, which support methylation, a biochemical process that is very important for robust and vibrant brain and mental health. Liver has 17 times more vitamin B12 than regular ground beef (64).

The nutrients found in beef liver.

That’s why I recommend people throw away their multivitamin and eat liver instead. You can search for high-quality pastured meat at EatWild.com, and if you live in the United States, you can order high-quality, grass-fed beef liver through US Wellness Meats and get shipped right to your house. And the great thing about organ meats such as liver is that they're much cheaper than muscle meat. So you actually save money by purchasing the healthiest part of the animal.

And if you can’t find high-quality grass-fed liver in your area or don’t like the taste of liver, I recommend raw beef liver powder in capsule form by Perfect Supplements. Their supplement contains organic beef liver from free range cows that feed exclusively on grass. You can get it through their website or Amazon. I can’t stand the taste of liver, so I take 4 capsules every day. I’ve seen an increase in my energy levels since I started taking them. 

Some people object to eating liver, as they believe the liver filters and stores toxins in the body. But the liver doesn't store toxins. It neutralizes them, and then they are flushed out of the body. Toxins that the body can't eliminate often accumulate in the fat of the animal, not the liver. That's why I recommend eating lean meats if you aren't eating organic, grass-fed meats. You don't really want to be eating the fat (or organs) of sick, conventional animals.

Another objection is that it contains animal fat and cholesterol. But as I've discussed before, saturated fat and cholesterol are not bad for your health. This is a huge myth.

Other than liver, you can also try incorporating other organs into your diet, including beef kidney, tongue, heart and even brain into your diet. 

That's right, brain.

Some traditional cultures believe “like supports like” and eating the organs of a healthy animals supports the organs of the eater. So it’s possible that eating the brains of healthy animals could support the health of your own brain. And this would make sense since cow brain is full of healthy omega-3 fats and B12, which help fight depression, fatigue and cognitive decline. 

Conclusion

Nutrient-based medical treatments used to be the norm.

Unfortunately, the general public is now convinced that pharmaceutical medicine is their only option.

But it’s not.

Food-based interventions work and they helped me get better.

And despite all the research demonstrating the powerful medicinal properties of these foods, the pharmaceutical industry and conventional medicine seem to ignore them. 

They’re found in millions of kitchens around the world, so they lack exclusivity and therefore profitability. 

They threaten the status quo and pharmaceutical industry revenue.  

Unless they can be transformed into patented substances, the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t have a financial incentive to research and promote them to physicians.

Unless an investor is willing to pay millions of dollars upfront to pay for multi-phased, double-blind, randomized control trials, they will never be approved for clinical practice and prescribed by your doctor. 

You don’t have to wait around for all of this to happen.

You can take control of your own brain health and try them yourself:

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. Fred Hui, MD, CCFP, CAFC

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