Many people just assume that age and memory loss have to go together. I disagree. They may be correlated (the longer you live, the more likely you will incur some damage that will need to be identified and repaired), but I do not believe in accepting symptoms just because they are common. (After all, if everybody else was jumping off a bridge… :))
But first things first. Before we start treating symptoms, my first question is always, why is the symptom there in the first place?
Possible causes for “brain fog,” poor word recall, mental confusion, and sluggish thinking:
- Candida overgrowth: this is a fungus in the gut, perpetuated by antibiotics, birth control, and a high sugar diet. I see it all the time.
- Blood sugar regulation issues: candida can cause this, but it can also be due to metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, or diabetes
- Hormone imbalance: usually this has to do with low testosterone and/or low DHEA.
- Adrenal fatigue
- Electrolyte disturbances: among other things, poor kidney function can lead to an imbalance in potassium, magnesium, chlorine, and sodium. Your diet can also set you up for this.
- Anemia: deficiency in iron, B12, or folate can have many consequences.
- Anxiety, depression, or emotional issues
- Insomnia (or just lack of sleep)
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Toxicity (from heavy metals or certain pharmaceuticals)
- ADD/ADHD: very often associated with a diet of high refined sugars, additives, heavy metals, and/or food sensitivities
- High cholesterol (especially if on statins)
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease: I know sometimes we’re trained to think of the worst case scenario first, but please don’t leap to this one. First of all, the above conditions are actually the causes of several kinds of dementia. And second, even if it isn’t this, the fear that it might be will almost certainly worsen the symptom. Fear can be paralyzing!
Once you’ve identified and addressed the cause, symptom treatment may be appropriate. Here’s some of my favorites for memory.
- Ginkgo biloba: increases blood flow to the brain. Also has been shown to increase the neurotransmitter associated with memory (acetylcholine).
- Rosmarinus/Rosemary: also increases blood flow to the brain, thereby increasing memory and mental clarity. It is also a mild anti-depressant (and bonus: it tastes better than ginkgo.)
- Rhodiola: great to improve physical stamina (because it helps your muscles utilize oxygen) and adapt to stress. It is also a mild antidepressant, and can improve sleep over time – but don’t take it after 2 pm because it can be stimulating.
- Centella/Gotu Kola: enhances mental clarity and calmness, especially in the face of long-term stress. (Centella means one hundred. Coincidence? :))
- Bacopa monniera: improves memory and helps build new neurons in brain. (This one always got me through finals weeks and boards in med school, but I would only use it then, because it’s also thyroid stimulant. Too much thyroid hormone can be dangerous!)
If you’re having trouble with memory, I suggest you first make an appointment to determine the cause. Then, if necessary, feel free to try some of the botanicals above!