Misplaced documents. Forgotten names. Missed appointments. More than two-thirds of people over sixty-ﬁve say that they have trouble recalling old details and absorb- ing new ones. To some people, memory problems are just part of what used to be called “senility,” an unfortunate but natural part of old age. For others, periodic for- getfulness sets off alarm bells: Is this Alzheimer’s? Stroke? Dementia?
Poor memory is a problem but not an inevitable part of the aging process. While it’s true that nerve cells in the brain do shrink a little with advanced age and that it’s harder for them to form connections with one another, most researchers now believe that memory loss is caused mainly by lifestyle factors. Most cases can be prevented or reversed with some simple changes in diet, exercise, and habits.
Many people with memory problems are actually suffering from a malnourished brain. The brain, like the rest of the body, needs to receive its supply of oxygen and nutrients from the blood if it is to function at its best. Chemicals called neurotrans- mitters, which enable the brain cells to communicate and create memory links, are especially dependent on good nutrition. The brain also needs high doses of nutrients to ﬁght damage from free radicals. Of particular importance are essential fatty acids, which are required for the cell walls of brain cells. These essential fatty acids, par- ticularly DHA, impact memory and concentration in a positive fashion. When the cir- culation is sluggish and blood is low in “brain food,” memory disturbances may well be the result.
Other factors can contribute as well. Several medications, alone or in combination, can cause memory loss, as can underlying illnesses like depression, thyroid problems,
and chronic fatigue. Sometimes even allergic reactions to food can impair memory. Poor digestion can be at the root of memory problems, as can a hormone imbalance. In particular, elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol can impair memory. One must also consider hypoglycemia as a possibility of poor memory. This makes sense, considering that glucose is the primary fuel source for the brain. Systemic candidi- asis frequently causes a foggy or poor memory. Also, toxic metals such as lead, mer- cury, and others can impair mental function and should be chelated out, if they’re a problem.
If you try the suggestions here and your problems don’t improve within a couple of weeks, see your doctor.
• Difﬁculty recalling details
Caution: If you have trouble recalling the names of close friends and family mem- bers, or if your memory problems began after a head injury, see your doctor imme- diately.
• A poor diet, especially one that’s high in fat and low in nutrients
• Free radicals
• Inactivity, both physical and mental
• Abuse of alcohol or street drugs
• Underlying disorders, such as can- didiasis, heavy-metal poisoning, depression, dementia, thyroid dis- orders, and hypoglycemia
• Nutritional deﬁciencies (especially of DHA, vitamin B12, folic acid)
A good diet is crucial to brain health.
Eat a wholesome diet of basic, unprocessed foods. Because conventionally grown foods often contain toxins, buy organic whenever possible. If organic food is unavail- able or too expensive, wash your food thoroughly before eating.
The antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E will combat damage from free radicals. Fresh fruits and vegetables are among the best sources of antioxidants, so have a couple of servings at every meal. For vitamin E, add wheat germ to salads, cereals, or juices. Nuts and seeds are other good sources of this vital nutrient.
A deﬁciency of the B-complex vitamins can cause memory problems. Brewer’s yeast is a potent source of B vitamins, as are wheat germ, eggs, and spirulina.
To improve circulation, increase energy levels, and detoxify your body, drink a glass of clean water every two waking hours.
Eat plenty of ﬁber to keep toxins moving through your digestive tract and to pre- vent them from taking up residence in your body. Whole grains, oats, and raw or lightly cooked vegetables are good sources of ﬁber that are also nutritionally dense.
Consume ﬁsh, such as salmon, mackerel, and other clean ﬁsh, three times weekly for their essential fatty acids.
Toxic metal testing—for elements toxic to brain tissue, such as aluminum, mercury, lead, arsenic, and others. The best test is a toxic element challenge urinalysis. The patient takes a chelating agent such as DMSA or DMPS, which pulls toxic metals out of tissue storage. Urine is then collected, usually for twenty-four hours. Hair analysis can also be used as a screening test.
Oxidative stress analysis—urine or blood testing
Antioxidant testing (urine, blood, or skin scanning)
Digestive function and microbe/parasite/candida testing—stool analysis
Anemia—blood test (CBC, iron, ferritin, % saturation)
Hormone analysis by saliva, urine, or blood (estrogens, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, melatonin, IGF-1, thyroid panel)
If you’re older, your digestive system may not be able to absorb nutrients as well as it used to. Fresh fruit and vegetable juices are easily absorbable and packed with the vitamins you need, so have several glasses daily.
Food to Avoid
Determine whether your memory problems are caused or aggravated by food aller- gies. See the Food Allergies section and try the elimination diet on page 253; you may want to focus on cutting out wheat and dairy, as allergic responses to these items are most likely to lead to memory problems. If your memory improves when a food or foods are removed from your diet and worsens when they are reintroduced, banish those products from your diet.
Drastically reduce your intake of foods that are high in cholesterol or saturated fat. They impede blood ﬂow.
Avoid sugar and processed foods, which add nothing or very little in the way of vitamins or minerals and actually deplete much-needed nutrients from your brain cells.
Alcohol destroys brain cells, causes dehydration, and clouds the mind. Stay away from it.
If your memory problems persist, you may want to determine whether you suffer from heavy metal poisoning. Consult an expert for a test.
A three-day juice fast once a month will help ﬂush toxins out of your body. Support your fast with a wide variety of juices so that you get the nutrition you need.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Poor Memory
Super Prescription # 1 Phosphatidylserine
Take 300 mg daily. This naturally occurring phospholipid improves brain cell com- munication and memory.
Super Prescription #2 Bacopa (Bacopa monniera)
This nutrient has been shown to improve memory and recall. Take 300 mg daily.
Super Prescription #3 Ginkgo biloba (24 percent)
Take 120 mg two to three times daily. It improves circulation to the brain, improves memory, and has antioxidant beneﬁts.
Super Prescription #4 Vitamin B12
Take 800 to 1600 mcg daily. Consider using a sublingual form at 400 mcg. A vita- min B12 deﬁciency contributes to poor memory.
Super Prescription #5 Club moss (Huperzia serrata)
Take a product standardized to contain 0.2 mg of huperizine A daily. This com- pound has been shown to increase acetylcholine levels in the brain and to improve memory in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Super Prescription #6 Essential fatty acids
Take 1 to 2 tablespoons of ﬂaxseed oil or 2 to 5 grams of ﬁsh oil daily. It supplies essential fatty acids for proper brain function.
Super Prescription #7 Acetyl-L-carnitine
Take 500 mg three times daily. It improves brain cell communication and memory.
Ashwagandha (Withania somniferum) is used as a brain tonic in Ayurvedic medicine. It reduces stress hormone levels. Take 100 to 3,000 mg daily.
Phosphatidylcholine is a nutrient that increases acetylcholine levels to improve memory. Take 1,000 to 1,500 mg daily.
Panax ginseng improves memory and balances stress hormone levels. Take a stan- dardized product containing 4 to 7 percent ginsenosides at 100 to 250 mg twice daily. Do not use it if you have high blood pressure.
DHEA is an important hormone for cognitive function. If your level of DHEA is low, talk with your doctor about starting at a dosage of 15 mg.
Cordyceps sinensis is used in Chinese medicine for poor memory. Take 2 to 4 cap- sules daily.
DMAE helps the body produce acetylcholine for memory and has antioxidant prop- erties. Take 100 mg daily.
Gotu kola is an Ayurvedic herb that historically has been used as a brain tonic. Take
120 mg daily.
B-complex contains the B vitamins that are involved with brain function. Take 100 mg daily.
Antioxidant formula: choose a formula that contains a wide range of antioxidants, such as selenium, carotenoids, vitamin C, and others.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) extract improves mental alertness. Take 800 mg twice daily.
Chlorella improves the detoxiﬁcation of toxic metals that may be causing free rad- ical damage. Take as directed on the container.
A high-potency multivitamin supplies most of the vitamins and the minerals involved with memory. Take as directed on the container.
Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms in this section. Take a 6x, 12x, 6C,
12C, or 30C potency twice daily for two weeks to see if there are any positive results. After you notice improvement, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms return. Con- sultation with a homeopathic practitioner is advised.
Alumina can clear confusion and reduce memory impairment. Constipation is often present in people who can beneﬁt from Alumina.
Calcarea Carbonica is for a shortened attention span, confusion, childish behav- ior, and difﬁculty recalling words (not just names). The person tends to be ﬂabby and chilly and perspires easily on the back of the head and the feet.
Kali Phosphoricum is for poor memory and mental fatigue.
Lycopodium (Lycopodium clavatum) is helpful if you’re fearful and have trouble recalling words. You often have digestive problems, such as gas and bloating.
Sulfur will help people who have problems remembering names and who gener- ally have better recall after resting during the day. They tend to be very warm and crave spicy foods and ice-cold drinks.
See pages 668–675 for information about pressure points and administering treatment.
• If you’re getting older and need an all-around tune-up, set aside a few minutes each day to work Stomach 36. It beneﬁts all the systems of the body and also helps you absorb nutrients from your food.
• If you’re under stress, work Lung 1 to encourage deep, calming breaths.
• Work Large Intestine 4 to encourage circulation to the brain.
An all-over massage will stimulate blood ﬂow to each part of the body, including the brain. Add one of the essential oils listed under Aromatherapy in this section for an even more potent effect.
To clear out mental cobwebs and stimulate brain function, work the areas corre- sponding to the head and the neck.
The liver point will aid in detoxiﬁcation of the blood.
Constitutional hydrotherapy is effective in promoting circulation to the brain. See pages 676–677 for directions.
Basil promotes mental clarity and concentration. In addition, it has an uplifting effect. Use it in a diffuser, a steam inhalation, a bath, or a massage.
Rosemary is refreshing to both the brain and the body. It increases alertness and improves circulation; try it in any preparation you like.
Add juniper oil to a massage to encourage the breakdown of fatty deposits and other toxins.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
Set aside time every morning to meditate. Meditation helps you weed out mental dis- tractions so that you begin your day with focus and clarity.
Bach Flower Remedies
Consult the chart on pages 648–650 to determine the best remedy for your particu- lar needs. Following are some suggestions. Once you’ve chosen a remedy, place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
If you have difﬁculty learning or concentrating, try Chestnut Bud to improve your memory skills.
When memory problems are caused by a lack of attention, Impatiens will help. Clematis is for people who are dreamy, absent-minded, and unable to concentrate.
They may also have a strong desire to nap or sleep.
• When it comes to brain function, more and more evidence shows that the old adage “Use it or lose it” is good advice. If you don’t work your brain, it will grow lazy and bored. By contrast, people who continue to engage in intellec- tual and social activities throughout old age retain their brain power and gen- eral health much longer than people who retire to the easy chair. Crosswords, chess, checkers, and reading are all examples of daily mind-exercising events.
• Regular, moderate exercise will keep the blood circulating to your brain. Con- sider taking up a sport, such as tennis or golf, that has a social component; that way, you’ll stimulate your mind as well as your body.