Why Everyone Over 45 Should Know about BDNF
A 4-letter acronym for one of the most important genes in the human body.
BDNF stands for brain-derived neurotrophic factor.
Harvard psychiatrist John Ratey describes brain-derived neurotrophic factor as a compound that is like “miracle-grow for your brain”.
And like a plant, if you want your brain to remain healthy and function at maximum capacity, then you’d be wise to do all you can to increase the release of BDNF inside your brain.
BDNF is a series of chemical agents that help your brain operate at its highest capacity.
The way it influences your brain’s power is by affecting a series of genes already present in your brain to promote the growth of new brain cells and to help grow new pathways in the brain too.
If you have high BDNF levels it means you will learn as fast as your brain will allow… your memory will be crystal clear thanks to the expanded pathways and your brain will effortlessly make new connections so it’s at the peak of health.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
It is that good.
Best of all is while BDNF is naturally occurring inside of your brain already, you have the power to make your brain release more BDNF than it may currently do.
Even if your brain is already making high amounts of BDNF and you’re not exhibiting the smallest sign of mental decline there’s still a lot you can do to increase BDNF release.
And none of these require a visit to your doctor’s office.
5 Easy Ways to Encourage An Increase In BDNF Release
Every single person’s natural production of BDNF is different.
Age plays a role in BDNF release and so do genetic types.
In fact, two people born of the same parents raised in the same house eating the same diet may have wildly different levels of BDNF production based solely on their unique genetic profile.
And while everyone’s BDNF level production levels may vary based on individual differences, there are uniform and predictable ways to increase BDNF production.
Many of these methods don’t cost a dime, and all of them are shown not just to increase BDNF production but will also help to maintain high levels of health across the board.
1 – Exercise:
We’ve long known exercise keeps the brain in top form. There are many theories about how exercise influences brain health.
Some have to do with how exercise promotes increased oxygen flow to the brain, whereas others show how exercise keeps the heart healthy which is essential for brain health. But when it comes to brain function and BDNF production things are a bit different.
Endurance exercise (running, swimming, biking etc.) is believed to cause your body to release a protein called FNDC5 (fibronectin type III domain-containing protein 5).
When FNDC5 is released it helps your body manufacture BDNF. In fact, studies show endurance exercise magnifies BDNF anywhere from 200-300%.
Even better is exercise-related BDNF production isn’t temporary. Men who exercised and saw their BDNF production rise also had 400% higher resting BDNF levels 3 months later.
There is some merit in using strength training and an uptick in BDNF production, but the effects seem to be less intense.
In fact, the studies on strength training and BDNF production show the results only last a few minutes after the exercise ended.
2 – Meditation:
Research on how meditation influences brain health seems to support the notion that meditation and finding “the flow” are directly related to enhanced brain function.
Doing little more than learning how to breathe properly and quiet the mind has been shown to increase productivity, improve memory, and inspire new levels of productivity.
In addition to that, meditation helps to calm the mind and reduce stress. Some studies show meditation can release stress levels by as much as 70%!
Well, it just so happens that stress is an arch-enemy to BDNF.
Studies show that meditation can increase how much BDNF is released. These same studies indicated certain styles of meditation are more beneficial to BDNF than others. Meditation focusing on strengthening areas of the brain that correlate with pain tolerance, body awareness, meta-thinking (awareness of how you think), memory, emotional control, happiness, and attention are the ones believed to specifically help form extra BDNF.
There aren’t clear conclusions on how much meditation is necessary for increased BDNF manufacture, but from what I’ve seen some is better than none.
Aim for 10-15 minutes if possible.
The most important aspect to meditation-induced BDNF production is that you give your brain a chance to “go still.”
How well you perform in your mediation is of less consequence than how often you’re able to meditate.
3 – Getting deep and restful sleep:
Sleep is one of the best and most dependable activities needed to maintain perfect health. If you’re not sleeping well and aren’t falling into deep, restorative sleep, it sabotages how well you sleep.
BDNF is manufactured during your deepest levels of sleep, so if you’re not getting that kind of sleep it may restrict how much BDNF you’re creating.
There are 4 stages of sleep, each one lasts around 90 minutes.
Stages 3 and 4 are the ones where the most BDNF is made. If you’re not entering stages 3 and 4 with any amount of frequency then it will hijack your BDNF production cycle.
Dr. Dave Asprey has a guide that you can use to help induce deep and restful sleep that you can find here.
4 – Taking turmeric:
Turmeric is often believed to be one of the best foods for helping you maintain maximal levels of great health.
It turns out turmeric may also be one of the best agents at inducing BDNF release. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric that influences cellular health has been shown to significantly increase BDNF.
As the Australian Spinal Research Institute noted, “In mouse studies it’s believed that curcumin elevated BDNF production in the hippocampal region… [which was shown to exhibit] improved cognitive function. Another study showed that curcumin supplementation increased levels of BDNF.
It’s thought that curcumin may increase BDNF production in the hippocampus…”
5 – Other plant polyphenols:
Polyphenols are plant-based antioxidants that help to keep you healthy by reducing the negative affect rogue oxygen molecules may have on your cells.
Some of the ones that’ve been shown to help increase BDNF are green-tea extract, green tea, dark chocolate, blueberries, and colorful veggies.
Two Of My Favorite Supplements For Improved BDNF
Here at the office I have two specific supplements for brain health and BDNF support.
As I noted in point #4, turmeric is one of the best natural sources for BDNF support and manufacture.
That’s obviously one great reason to take turmeric, but as you likely know taking turmeric daily is one of the smartest things you could ever do to experience normal, wonderful levels of health.
Brain Save is a mixture of 12 different plant polyphenols and antioxidants that I recommend specifically for brain function.