9 Nutrient Deficiencies That Can Make You More Anxious

When I first started looking for ways to overcome my chronic anxiety, I originally didn’t think nutrition had anything to do with it. 

But I was wrong.

Being deficient in certain nutrients can actually cause or worsen anxiety.

And getting more of the right vitamins and minerals can increase your ability to properly manage stress.

Anxiety itself can also deplete nutrient levels. 

So the more anxious you are, the faster your body will burn through its vitamins and minerals. 

And the lower your nutrient levels, the more anxiety you’ll have.

It can become a never-ending cycle, eventually leading you to a psychiatrist’s office.

But instead of checking your nutrient levels, your psychiatrist is likely to prescribe you anti-anxiety medication.

And what most people don’t realize – including most psychiatrists – is that anti-anxiety medications can further deplete your nutrient levels.

This all might sound like a disaster, but I promise you – it’s not.

It doesn’t have to be this way. 

You can nip the problem in the bud. 

This article lays out nine nutrient deficiencies that can contribute to anxiety.

Making sure you get enough of these vitamins and minerals through food or supplementation can make a profound difference. 

All of them have really helped me at one point or another.  

Note: If you also have depression, check out my other post, 20 Nutrient Deficiencies That Can Make You Depressed

A cartoon little boy looks stressed and anxious.

1. Magnesium

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body, and it’s absolutely essential for optimal brain and mental health.

Unfortunately, many people don’t get enough of it, even if they eat a healthy diet.

In fact, research shows that many people are deficient in magnesium nowadays (1-3). 

This is a big problem because magnesium is needed for the proper functioning of your nervous system and optimal neurotransmitter activity.

Researchers have found that low magnesium levels contribute and worsen many neuropsychiatric problems, including anxiety (18). 

In one study, it was shown that not getting enough magnesium can significantly increase your anxiety (19). 

Magnesium-rich foods on a table, including avocados, bananas, almonds, spinach, dark chocolate, etc. A magnesium deficiency can make you more anxious.

And another study found that a magnesium deficiency can increase anxiety by changing the composition of gut bacteria (23). 

The good news is that nine different studies have concluded that magnesium supplementation can reduce anxiety in humans and improve anxiety-related disorders (20-22, 24-25). 

Plenty of researchers have also found that magnesium has a calming effect in animals by activating GABA (A) receptors. These are the same receptors activated by anti-anxiety medication (26-30). 

So if you have anxiety, it’s clearly important to make sure you’re getting enough magnesium so that you don’t have a deficiency.

Luckily, there are a number of ways to do this. 

First, you should try to eat magnesium-rich foods on a regular basis.

Magnesium-rich foods include spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocado, dark chocolate and bananas.

These foods are included in my Free Grocery Shopping Guide for Optimal Mental Health.

Epsom salt baths are another source of magnesium and an excellent way to increase your levels. You can simply throw the salts in your bathtub and take a nice relaxing bed at night before bed.

I also recommend a high-quality magnesium supplement so that you know you’re covering all your bases.

I personally take this magnesium supplement

Magnesium is one of the three supplements that I think everyone should be taking

Correcting a magnesium deficiency can also help you overcome trauma, depression, addiction and withdrawal

2. Zinc

Zinc is another important mineral for mental health, and you want to avoid a deficiency at all costs.

Like magnesium, it supports neurotransmitter production and nervous system functioning, and research shows that having a deficiency can worsen your anxiety

More than one study has found that individuals with anxiety have significantly lower levels of zinc (31, 35-36). 

But supplementing with zinc can effectively increase zinc levels and reduce symptoms of anxiety (31).

Zinc-rich foods on a table, including salmon, red meat, nuts and seeds. A zinc deficiency can increase anxiety and make you more anxious.

Other studies have also revealed a link between zinc deficiency and anxiety (32, 34).

And when animals are fed a zinc-deficient diet, they display increased anxiety-like behaviour (33). 

Unfortunately, researchers estimate that there are more than 2 billion people in the world that are deficient in zinc. And studies have shown that even a minor deficiency of zinc impairs brain function in children and adults (4-6). 

So, if you struggle with anxiety, it’s quite possible that you’re deficient.

And you’ll definitely want to take steps to optimize your zinc levels

Eat zinc-rich foods is a good start.

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

However, if you’re deficient like I was, I recommend taking a high-quality zinc supplement, at least for a short period of time. 

I created and take the Optimal Zinc supplement to make sure my zinc levels are optimal. 

Check out my previous post all about zinc, copper and anxiety if you want to learn more about how zinc impacts your mental health and can contribute to your anxiety.

The article also includes other steps you can taken to increase your zinc levels and lower your anxiety.

Zinc can also stimulate your vagus nerve, which reduces anxiety. 

3. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is a key nutrient that supports your entire nervous system. 

It accomplishes this by playing a key role in the production of calming neurotransmitters in your brain, including serotonin and GABA.

So having a deficiency in Vitamin B6 can definitely increase your anxiety.  

Vitamin B6 levels have been shown to be significantly lower in individuals who have anxiety and panic attacks (37). 

Foods on a table that contain Vitamin B6, including pistachios, chicken, beef, bananas, potatoes, etc. A deficiency in Vitamin B6 can make anxiety worse and make you more anxious.

Some of the best food sources of Vitamin B6 include potatoes, bananas and chicken.

But if you want to see quick improvements, you may want to try supplementing.

Studies have found that Vitamin B6 supplements reduce anxiety (38-40).

When I took antidepressants and benzodiazepines for my chronic anxiety, multiple functional and integrative doctors suggested I supplement with vitamin B6.

This is because psychiatric medication can actually further deplete Vitamin B6, increasing anxiety in the long run. 

If you take a medication to manage your anxiety, or simply have anxiety and want to manage it better, I highly recommend supplementing with Vitamin B6

That’s why I included it in the Optimal Zinc supplement.

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4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats, meaning your body cannot produce them itself.

They are also necessary for the normal functioning of your brain and nervous system.

So not surprisingly, not eating enough omega-3 fatty acids can increase anxiety. 

Researchers have found low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in anxious individuals (41-42). 

Salmon, avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds on a picnic table. Salmon is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. A deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids can make you more anxious.

In fact, people with the lowest levels of omega-3 fatty acids tend to have most severe anxiety (46-47).

Omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in cold water fish such as salmon, black cod, sablefish, sardines and herring.

Unfortunately, most people don't consume enough omega-3 fatty acids through their diet.

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

I take this one

I feel more anxious when I stop taking it. I actually notice the difference.

Researchers have also noticed this, as numerous studies show that supplementing with fish oil can lower inflammation and reduce symptoms of anxiety (43-46, 48). 

Other than reducing anxiety, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to stimulate your endocannabinoid system and lower cortisol.

You can read more about the importance of omega-3 fatty acids here.

5. Choline

Choline is an essential nutrient that was only discovered in 1998.

So it’s fairly new.

Your body makes a small amount of choline, but you still need to eat enough of it through your diet.

Otherwise, you can develop a deficiency.

And many people do.

Most people don’t meet the recommended intake for choline because very few foods in the Western diet contain it.

And researchers have found that adults with low levels of choline are more likely to have anxiety (49-50). 

A broken egg and egg yolk. Egg yolks contain choline. A deficiency in choline can increase anxiety and make your anxiety worse.

Animal studies have also shown that choline supplementation during pregnancy can prevent or dramatically reduce the chance of offspring developing anxiety disorders (51). 

The best food sources of choline include grass-fed beef liver and egg yolks, and I definitely recommend eating those foods regularly.

But taking a high-quality choline supplement can have a more noticeable and immediate effect on stress levels. 

Citicoline (also known as CDP-Choline) is my favourite choline supplement. 

I find that it reduces my racing thoughts when I’m stressed or anxious. 

Another good source of choline is Alpha GPC. 

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

Choline can also promote the regeneration of myelin

6. Selenium

Selenium is an essential trace mineral that is important for many bodily processes that affect your brain and mental health.

Research shows that being low or deficient in selenium is associated with a significantly greater incidence of anxiety, and selenium supplementation diminishes anxiety (54). 

Brazil nuts. Brazil nuts are the best course of selenium. A selenium deficiency can increase anxiety and make you more anxious.

In one study, researchers found that individuals with the lowest levels of selenium reported they had increased anxiety (52). 

But then after five weeks of supplementing with selenium, their anxiety decreased (52).

Another study found that selenium supplementation reduced anxiety in HIV+ drug users (53). 

Brazil nuts are the richest dietary source of selenium, but it can also be found in wild-caught seafood, pastured eggs and grass-fed meat.

I also make sure I’m not deficient by supplementing with it.

Selenomethionine is a highly-absorbable form of selenium.

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7. Iron

Iron is a trace mineral found in every living cell in our bodies.

It carries oxygen to all parts of your body, and low levels can leave you feeling tired, pale and irritable.

But research also shows that iron is an important cofactor in the synthesis of serotonin, and an iron deficiency can increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder (57). 

In fact, iron levels are significantly lower in individuals with panic disorder (58). 

A spoonful of spirulina. Spirulina is an excellent source of iron. An iron deficiency can increase anxiety and make you more anxious.

And other studies have found that iron-deficient individuals have increased anxiety and increased fearfulness (55-56). 

Animal research also supports the idea that iron deficiency increases anxiety, and normalizing iron levels can reverse anxiety-like behaviour (56). 

Despite all this, I don’t actually recommend supplementing with iron because some research suggests that too much iron can cause health problems and actually increase anxiety (56). 

It’s definitely a much better idea to test your iron levels and naturally get your iron from food. 

I make sure I get enough simply by taking these grass-fed beef liver capsules.

Beef liver is one of the best sources of iron.

But I don’t like the taste of cooked beef liver, so I go with the capsules instead. 

Some other good sources of iron include spirulina, dark chocolate, spinach, sardines, pistachios and raisons

8. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin.

It’s actually more accurate to describe it as a hormone because your skins synthesizes it when it’s exposed to sunlight.

Every tissue in your body has Vitamin D receptors, including the brain.

So developing a deficiency can lead to a number of costly physiological and psychological problems, including anxiety.

And this is backed up by research.

Researchers have discovered significantly lower levels of Vitamin D in individuals with anxiety (60, 62). 

An illustration of the sun. It says Vitamin D in the middle of the sun. Humans get Vitamin D from sunlight. A deficiency in Vitamin D can make you more anxious.

And two studies found that fibromyalgia patients and pregnant women with Vitamin D deficiency have higher levels of anxiety (59, 61). 

Unfortunately, reports indicate that Vitamin D deficiency is very common and a major health problem across the globe (11).

Researchers estimate that 50 percent of the general population is at risk of Vitamin D deficiency (12).

It’s best to get your Vitamin D by going outside and getting sunlight, but some people can’t get enough, especially during the winter.

That’s why I recommend using a Vitamin D lamp. I use this one.

Or you can take a Vitamin D supplement

Increasing your Vitamin D levels can also help with depression, addiction and withdrawal

9. Antioxidant Nutrients (Vitamins A, C, and E)

Lastly, some nutrients have antioxidant effects in the body, and being deficient in them can increase your anxiety. 

One study found that people with generalized anxiety disorder have significantly lower levels of Vitamin A (beta carotene), Vitamin C and Vitamin E, all of which have antioxidant properties (68). 

But after six weeks of supplementing with these vitamins, researchers observed a significant increase in the blood levels of these nutrients, and the anxious patients experienced a significantly reduction in their anxiety (68). 

An image of fruits rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants can reduce anxiety.

Researchers have also found that taking both Vitamin C and Vitamin E together reduces anxiety (15-17).

And several other studies show that high dose Vitamin C decreases anxiety (14, 69-71).

In addiction to getting Vitamin C from fruits and vegetables, I take at least 500 mg of Vitamin C every day.

I’ve tried taking up to 10 grams of Vitamin C daily, and it helped me manage anxiety. But you don’t need to do that regularly unless you find it really helps you.

Good food sources of Vitamin E include almonds, spinach, sweet potatoes, avocados, olive oil, sunflower seeds and butternut squash.

Vitamin E is also included in the Optimal Antiox supplement, along with Vitamin C.

For Vitamin A, I don’t typically recommend supplementing with it. Instead, you should get enough from food, such as grass-fed beef liver, pastured egg yolks, grass-fed butter/ghee, carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach and broccoli. 

Cod liver oil is also a very good source of Vitamin A, and it includes Vitamin D as well. I take cod liver oil throughout the winter. 

Antioxidants can also reduce your body’s main stress hormone

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Bringing It All Together: Why You Should Take Them in Combination

The mainstream approach to treating anxiety is through talk therapy and medication.

But you can’t treat a nutrient deficiency with counselling and prescriptions.

And it’s important to note that taking all the above nutrients in combination will provide the greatest relief from anxiety.

Together, they have a synergistic effect.

For example, numerous researchers have found that taking Vitamin B6 and magnesium together is more likely to reduce your anxiety than simply taking a magnesium supplement by itself (64, 66-67). 

At this point, you may be thinking that you could just take a daily multivitamin, and that would cover your bases. 

But I wouldn’t recommend it.

Why? 

Because one-a-day multivitamins often contain too much of the nutrients you don’t need (synthetic folic acid), and not enough of the nutrients you do need (magnesium, Vitamin D). 

Overall, if you have anxiety, I would recommend:

If you need additional support, I also recommend this anti-anxiety supplement. It contains a number of natural compounds that I’ve used over the years to manage my anxiety. You can use the coupon code FIVE$45496275 for a 5% discount.

And don’t forget to stimulate your vagus nerve regularly and process any emotionally traumatic experiences from your past. 

Nutrition is just one piece of the puzzle. 

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

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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References:

(1) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00048670802534408

(2) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10746516

(3) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9861593

(4) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22664333

(5) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21939673

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(7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12493090

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/5314166

(9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14769778

(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17522618

(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19543765

(12) http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/05/28/vitamin-d-deficiency-signs-symptoms.aspx

(13) https://goo.gl/sK35dL

(14) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12208645

(15) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21036190

(16) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3560823/

(17) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21839761

(18) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3198864/

(19) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452159/

(20) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452159/

(21) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2959081/

(22) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27869100

(23) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25773775

(24) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26591563

(25) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20305593

(26) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15159129

(27) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18799816

(28) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28389335

(29) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21835188

(30) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25773775

(31) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3738454/

(32) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20689416

(33) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3868572/

(34) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2954453/

(35) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23754591

(36) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27825785

(37) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23603926

(38) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2572855/

(39) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10746516/

(40) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4161081/

(41) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16243493

(42) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25591045

(43) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2275606/

(44) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21784145

(45) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3191260/

(46) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19906519

(47) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23945451

(48) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17110827

(49) http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/90/4/1056.full

(50) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19656836/

(51) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25300468

(52) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1873372

(53) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12906343

(54) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4884624/

(55) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10742372/

(56) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4253901/

(57) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3680022/

(58) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23603926

(59) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16850115

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(62) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27827293

(63) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3759100/

(64) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3208934/

(65) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23738221

(66) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26978056

(67) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18825946

(68) http://pubmedcentralcanada.ca/pmcc/articles/PMC3512361/

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

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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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A Powerful Protocol Proven to Help Reverse Brain Damage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why This Research Study Is So Important

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Improve Your Diet and Exercise Regularly

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

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

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

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

Group of people running. Exercise helps reverse brain damage.

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)

  • Run for 20-30 minutes before lifting weights

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

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2. Eliminate Alcohol

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

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

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

There are ways to protect your brain from alcohol, but you’re better off avoiding it completely or significantly reducing your consumption if you’re trying to heal from brain damage. I personally don’t drink alcohol at all anymore.

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

3. Get Enough Sleep

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Expose your eyes to sun in the morning

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

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

  • Avoid stimulating movies and TV before bed.

  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon. Most people should completely avoid it after 2 pm. Some may have to cut it out even earlier. I can’t have any after 12 noon, otherwise the quality of my sleep suffers.

  • Blue light significantly suppresses your body’s production of melatonin, leading to disrupted sleep patterns and abnormal functioning of your nervous system. You can read more about the problem with blue light here. As soon as it’s dark outside, you should avoid sources of blue light. Turn off household lights, get red light bulbs, install Iris on your computer and/or wear blue blocking glasses. These glasses block out blue light in your environment.

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

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

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

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

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

4. Reduce Brain Inflammation with Omega-3 Fatty Acids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unfortunately, most people don't consume enough omega-3 fatty acids through their diet.

That’s why I recommend people supplement with krill oil, a special kind of fish oil that contains the essential omega-3 fatty acids. I take this one. I don’t feel as well when I stop taking it. I actually notice the difference.

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

5. Get Enough of These Vitamins and Minerals

Research shows that supplementing with a high-dose vitamin B complex, vitamin C and minerals reduces stress, improves mental health, and increases cognitive performance (13). 

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

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

Instead, I separately take this mineral complex, this B complex, and this supplement with Vitamin C.

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6. Enhance Brain Blood Flow

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

He enhanced brain blood flow by giving them Ginkgo Biloba and Vinpocetine.

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

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

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

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

Ginkgo biloba extract is included in the Optimal brain supplement

Ginkgo biloba extract goes well with Vinpocetine, which is a compound from the Periwinkle plant used for cognitive decline.

Like Ginkgo biloba, it enhances blood flow to the brain, leading to improved reaction time, reduced neuroinflammation. In Eastern Europe, it’s used for memory impairment (28-31). 

Check out this article for 19 other ways to increase blood flow to the brain. 

7. Increase Acetylcholine

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

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

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

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

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

Illustration of a body.

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

ALCAR can be found in the Optimal Brain supplement

8. Increase Antioxidants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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9. Reduce Cortisol with Phosphatidylserine

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

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

High amounts of phosphatidylserine are in the brain, and supplementation has been shown to improve attention, learning and memory.

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

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

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

10. Optimize Important Health Markers

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

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

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

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

Picture of blood in blood containers after being drawn.

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

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

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

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

11. Reduce Homocysteine with SAM-e and Methylated B Vitamins

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

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

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

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

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

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

I take this B complex regularly. It contains the bioactive forms of all the B vitamins, including methyl-B12, methyl-folate and P-5-P. 

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

I personally prefer SAM-e since it is the most powerful and noticeable. I take this one, which you can get here or here

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

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

A number of our players also opted to do hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), which we have seen improve blood flow to the brain. Over the years I have been impressed with HBOT’s ability to increase blood flow to damaged brains.
— Dr. Amen

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

Woman lying in hyperbaric oxygen tank. Male doctor sitting beside her. HBOt helps reverse brain damage.

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

Patients inhale 100% oxygen in a total body chamber. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I did a lot of my own research before buying my own and got this one instead. 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. 

13. Neurofeedback

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

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

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

Dr. Amen uses it with his NFL patients.

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

It’s best to work with a qualified practitioner.

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Illustration of person holding a blue brain in their hands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read more about his protocol here.

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

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

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Jordan Fallis

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References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medically reviewed by Dr. Daniel Amen, MD

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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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Jordan Fallis

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References:

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2618948

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22315626/

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3312275/

(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3218899/

(5) http://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2009/624894/abs/

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(12) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC23964/

(13) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC23964/

(14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21385602

(15) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20594764

(16) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2830109

(17) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15234248

(18) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17314279

(19) https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF00691246

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(21) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2759081

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(23) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25748743

(24) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15992574/

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(65) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161216114143.htm

(66) http://www.foxnews.com/health/2017/01/20/sweating-in-sauna-might-help-keep-brain-healthy-finnish-study.html

(67) http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/studies-show-saunas-can-protect-against-heart-brain-diseases-1.3232765

(68) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201612/frequent-sauna-use-may-reduce-risk-dementia-study-finds

(69) http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2016/09/09/sauna-bathing.aspx

(70) http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/05/04/detoxification-program.aspx

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

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