What is BDNF: Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor – Stimulating Neuronal Outgrowth and Connection for Neuroplasticity. 

How to Optimize BDNF for Brain Health

Neurotrophins are a group of compounds that regulate brain growth, development, and repair. One of the most well-researched of these neurotrophins are BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) which many scientists call “Miracle Gro for the brain”.

BDNF regulates the growth, protection, maintenance, and repair of neurons in our brain. It even has an anti-depressant effects according to new research. In this article, we are going to show you how to raise your BDNF naturally!

A Healthy Life Means a Healthy Brain

There are many natural ways to raise BDNF that sound like they came straight out of a personal development book! What amazes me is how many simple things that make us feel alive can also gives us a tangible physiological boost.

It is a no-brainer that doing things that bring us joy, and enhance our brain function are some amazing habits to integrate into our life. Below are just a few examples of what has been shown to boost BDNF.

For example:

  • Getting out in the sun
  • Taking a walk
  • Doing yoga
  • Doing  mental tasks like puzzles
  • Doing physically demanding tasks
  • Doing anything new and/or challenging for you.
  • Frustration while learning something new
  • Reading a book.
  • Learning a new laguage.
  • Traveling somewhere new. 
  • Spending time with loved ones
  • Accomplishing a task.
  • Curcumin (from turmeric)
  • Resveratrol (from red grapes, blueberries, cranberries, or Japanese knotweed)
  • Proanthocyanidins (from blueberries or huckleberries)
  • Intermittent fasting (even with as little as 12 hours of fasting)
  • Avoiding high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and processed foods
  • Eating a diet high in omega-3’s
  • Getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night
  • Reducing stress levels through breathwork and or exercise 

Common Sense Makes Sense

We know intuitively that we feel better when we are around loved ones, and when we get out and get some fresh air. Now we know that many of these activities that “feel good” actually provide tangible biological benefits.

Any time when we are learning something new, or doing something challenging, we are giving our brains a reason to adapt and grow. As such, our brain responds by enhancing its own ability to grow.

Use It Or Lose It

“Use it or lose it” may actually be more true, then we once thought. By simply pushing the limits of what our mind can do, we are giving our brains a reason to become more complex.

Sometimes, the best way to raise BDNF is simply to get your heart rate up with high intensity exercise even for just 30-60 seconds a few times a day, or even a 2 minute breath session. 

Lower levels of BDNF have been associated with dementia, depression, and a shorter life-span. This is important stuff!

Metabolic Implications for BDNF

In addition to exercise, we see that sleep, stress reduction, and cutting out junk food are all great ways to raise BDNF. We all know these are great things to do, but now we have a great reason to do them!

If living a long and healthy life was not a good enough reason to start doing all of these things, we now find that 1 in 3 Americans have a genetic defect that can lower their BDNF!

This means they are more susceptible Alzheimer’s and age-related cognitive decline. If you think that you may have this gene, then these lifestyle changes may help you save your own brain through epigenetics (the alteration of your own genetics through chronic lifestyle modifications- positively or negatively). 

What About Supplements?

There are many supplements that have been shown to raise levels of BDNF in our brains. Many of these supplements simply reduce oxidative stress in our brains like curcumin, spearmint, and reseveratrol.

Some like PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone) are found endogenously in the body, but they can also be taken as supplements. Others are synthetic compounds like the nootropic called Noopept. We recommend starting with diet and lifestyle first before resorting to supplements. The nutrition delivered from what we eat is the most important aspect of brain – gut health. 

Omegas, Choline, Methylene Blue, and Cognizin are some of our favorite supplements to enhance BDNF levels and stimulate overall brain, metabolic, and cognitive health and performance. 

Supplements are to be utilized as supplementals to a sound lifestyle not a bandaid on a metabolic unstable system. 

Antioxidant Helpers

In addition to raising BDNF, there are some other great ways that you can increase your cognitive abilities. Lowering oxidative stress and free radicals with antioxidants like glutathione and NAC can raise BDNF at the same time. 

Synaptic Plasticity

Another great way to boost brain function is consume the nutrients for synaptogenesis like choline, uridine, and omega-3’s like DHA. This starts the Kennedy Cycle which is connected to more neurons, and more synaptic plasticty.

Read our Full Article on Synaptogenesis here to learn how you can enhance your brain plasticity.

Boosting The Energy Output

Raising levels of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production is also a critical step because it gives each neuron the fuel it needs to function. There is no point in having a cool car if it doesn’t have any fuel, right? Our brain is the same way. Breathwork and supplementing with creatine can help create ample stores of oxygen and phosphorus, allowing for optimized cellular energy reactions.

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