7 Ways to Improve Memory
As a society, we have a quest for increased performance, learning and memory. In fact, our ability to remember and use the information we are learning is a powerful form of currency. This article will dive into the major neurotransmitter responsible for memory and highlight 7 ways to improve your levels.
Most people are doing things every day that negatively impact their memory and performance. From eating poorly to staying up too late at night, our societal habits are anything but performance enhancing.
If we want to improve our memory, we need to focus on lifestyle habits that will improve the levels of a key neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. This could be due to poor lifestyle or a diet that is deficient in the key building blocks to produce this compound.
What is Acetylcholine?
If you are having trouble with your memory, you may very well have weak acetylcholine production (1). This neurotransmitter is found throughout the brain, but in particular, it is in the hippocampus and temporal lobes of the brain where memories are stored. Additionally, it is an important activator of gut motility.
Acetylcholine acts both in the memory centers of the brain as well as major parts of the peripheral nervous system such as in the smooth muscles of the digestive tract (2). It is a parasympathetic neurotransmitter that reduces the sympathetic fight or flight response and helps to lower heart rate and breathing rates and promotes rest, regeneration, reproduction and digestive health
Often times, low acetylcholine levels will manifest in both memory issues and sluggish digestive function. Here are the major symptoms and helpful strategies to naturally boost up your acetylcholine levels.
Biggest Factors In Reducing Acetylcholine
There are many factors that can block your hippocampus and temporal lobes from producing and utilizing the right amount of acetylcholine for good short term and long-term memory formation. The vast majority of these factors can be reduced through healthy lifestyle pursuits.
Our society is chronically stressed, toxic and sleeps and eats poorly which results in brain inflammation and nutrient deficiencies. In this section, I go over the main things that are destroying your memory that you can do something about!
1. Chronic Stress
One of the major ways we impact overall neurotransmitter production in the brain is through chronic stress. In periods of acute stress, we release a lot of acetylcholine because we need our brain firing quickly and sharply in order to perform well and survive.
If we have a lot of repeated stressors without enough rest in between, we call this chronic stress. Research has shown that chronic stress causes genetic changes in the brain that lead to reduce acetylcholine production and increases acetylcholinesterases, which are the enzymes that metabolize acetylcholine (3).
This leads to reduced acetylcholine activity in the brain, which leads to worsening memory and cognitive acceleration. This same change will take place in the gut, causing constipation (4). If you have a stressful life, you will need to find strategies (which I discuss in this article) to reduce stress and improve your body’s ability to adapt to stress.
2. Inadequate or Ineffective Sleep
Poor sleep with increase excitatory stress hormone activity in the brain and create the same physiological changes in genetic expression as described in the chronic stress section above.
Sleep is essential for the regulation of neurotransmitter levels and the overall cleansing and detoxification of the brain. The brain’s immune/lymphatic system, called glial cells and glial network, become active and work to scrub the brain, flushing electrolytes and recycling old neurotransmitters and regenerating brain tissue centers for the formation of new neurotransmitters (5).
3. Poor Blood Sugar Stability
The brain depends upon steady level of sugar or ketones in the blood in order to function effectively. When sugar levels get too high, the sugar molecules bind to proteins in the body and create advanced glycolytic enzymes (AGE’s) (6).
These AGE’s damage tissue, in particular nerve tissue, and you see this commonly in individuals with uncontrolled diabetes where they develop dementia, optic neuritis and peripheral neuropathy because the AGE’s destroy the nerves in the brain, eyes and extremities.
Alzheimer’s and dementia are now considered type III diabetes because of the impact of high blood sugar and insulin resistance on the brain (7). The hormone insulin itself helps with the development of the neurons and the production of acetylcholine itself.
When the cells are inflamed and unable to respond to insulin, called insulin resistance, then they will produce inadequate levels of acetylcholine, leading to brain fog and slow thinking for younger individuals and full blown cognitive impairment for older individuals.
4. Environmental Toxins
Toxins in the environment include heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, disinfectant byproducts, smoke, electromagnetic frequencies and many others. These toxins increase inflammatory processes in the brain and disrupt neurotransmitter function.
Do your best to avoid exposure to these by avoiding vaccines, amalgam fillings, processed foods, conventional meat products, conventional cleaning and hygiene products and keep your cell phone away from your head as much as possible.
Get a good water filter and shower filter, buy organic as much as possible (both meat and produce…but especially meat which has way more toxic material in the conventionally raised animals). Get organic hygiene products and use natural cleaning agents.
5. Vitamin B1, B5 and Choline Deficiencies
The critical co-factors involved with the production of acetylcholine include vitamin B1 (thiamine), B5 (pantothenic acid) and choline. These nutrients can be depleted in the body due to poor dietary intake or a high intake of sugar and processed foods as well as malabsorption (8).
In addition, chronic stress increases the utilization of these nutrients and if they aren’t adequately replenished than you will end up with a deficiency. Additionally, acetyl-L-carnitine is critical for moving the acetylcholine out of the mitochondria and into the neuronal ending where it can be used (9).
The best food sources of these nutrients include grass-fed beef liver, pastured poultry liver, pasture-raised egg yolk, wild-caught salmon and grass-fed beef. Vegans or individuals with low stomach acid and malabsorption are the most at risk for deficiencies in these nutrients.
6. Medication Usage
Medications will often interfere with brain neurotransmitter levels and this is especially the case with acetycholine. Many drugs have what is called an anticholinergic effect on the body. These drugs destroy acetylcholine levels. This includes the majority of the medications that begin with “anti” such as antibiotics, antihistamines and anti-depressants (10).
In addition, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) like Tylenol and acid reflux medications deplete acetylcholine levels as well. Other drugs that have a negative impact would be birth control pills, corticosteroids like prednisone and proton pump inhibiting or acid blocking medications.
Lifestyle Strategies to Improve Acetylcholine
Now that we know what causes a reduced production and/or sensitivity to acetylcholine in the hippocampus and temporal lobes of the brain, we can do something about it!! This section is all about how to take back control of our lifestyle and dramatically improve our memory.
These strategies are foundational to having a healthy brain that is clear and super sharp. Incorporate these strategies and you will see a huge difference in your energy, cognitive processing speed, ideas and creativity and overall performance.
1. Adapt to Stress Better: Take time each day to rest, relax your mind and take deep breaths. Follow the 25 lifestyle strategies in this article to heal adrenal fatigue and improve your daily resistance to stress.
2. Sleep Better: It is key for you to prioritize sleep if you are going to improve your acetylcholine levels. Follow the advanced strategies in this article for more effective sleep.
3. Balance Your Blood Sugar Levels: Follow a low-carb, high good fat and nutrient dense diet and take blood sugar regulating multi-vitamin that is rich in chromium, vanadium and B vitamins. If you follow this and focus on good sleep and stress management, overtime you will maintain healthy blood sugar levels that will improve overall neurotransmitter production and utilization.
4. Cleanse Your Body: Drink clean, filtered water and follow our super hydrating principles to flush your body of toxic debris. Practice intermittent fasting and liquid nutrition throughout the day for more effective cleansing.
5. Use Caffeine Strategically: Caffeine increases the amount of acetylcholine usage. Best to use caffeine strategically for high performance, but be sure not to overuse it. The best way to use caffeine is with nutrient support in the form of choline and B vitamins along with healthy fats. I like using our Turmeric Fat Burning coffee or our Energy Charge which has all the key nutrients needed to support acetylcholine production and utilization.
6. Practice Neurobic Exercises: Neurobics refers to the physiological impact of unique and non-routine ways of thinking and moving and how that effects the brain. Practicing neurobic exercises on a regular basis can strengthen the brain and improve your mood, memory and mindset. Read this article on how to apply neurobic exercises on a regular basis.
7. Eat Nutrient Dense, Choline Rich Foods: These foods are rich in choline, which is the major precursor to acetylcholine. Additionally, they contain omega 3 fatty acids, saturated fats, zinc and B12, which are all essential nutrients for healthy acetylcholine levels.
Best Supplements For Acetylcholine
There are some really great supplements for boosting up acetylcholine levels and improving your memory. The lifestyle principles you should begin applying first and then add in these supplements and you will see a difference in your brain function and overall memory formation.
Here is the list of supplements that are key for optimizing your acetylcholine levels.
- Choline Bitartrate: This is the most basic form of choline and it will boost up acetylcholine levels. Recommended dosage is 50-100 mg, 1-2x daily. I will use our Gut Healing Protein to support the gut microbiome and provide key nutrients such as choline and B vitamins necessary for acetylcholine production.
- Huperzine A: This molecule is made from the firmoss plant and quickly penetrates the blood barrier. It is most known for its inhibition of acetylcholinesterases, which increases acetylcholine at the synapse. The supplement I use for this is Memory Charge which has key B vitamins, acetyl-L carnitine and compounds such as vinpocetine and ginko which improve circulation to the brain.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Omega 3 fatty acids are important for the formation of healthy neuronal cells. In addition, they help to reduce inflammation in the brain. I like to use our Pro Omega CRP which has clinical doses of liposomal glutathione and curcumin to downregulate inflammation and build healthy neurons.
- Glutathione: Boosting glutathione in the brain can be very important for reducing inflammation and improving neurotransmitter production. Doing a glutathione precursor such as N-Acetyl Cysteine or Alpha Lipoic acid can be very helpful. For some individuals, they need a acetylated or liposomal form of glutathione due to genetic problems with converting cysteine to glutathione.
- Mitochondrial Support: Mitochondria are the engines that produce energy within every cell of the body. The brain is the densest area for mitochondria in the body.
Many individuals have poor mitochondrial function and are in need of mitochondrial support nutrients such as Coenzyme Q10, N-Acetyl Cysteine, Acetyl-L Carnitine and Alpha lipoic acid. Taking mitochondrial support can have a dramatic benefit for overall neurotransmitter production and especially for acetylcholine levels.
I use our Brain Supercharge, which has a full array of mitochondrial support nutrients such as CoQ10, Acetyl L-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid along with phosphatydlserine, which promotes healthy neurons and neurotransmitters.
Dr Jockers Tips
I begin with all the basics and in particular, will focus on balancing blood sugar levels, improving stress adaptation and sleep patterns.
We will also focus on getting high quality nutrients from pasture-raised eggs, wild caught salmon and grass-fed meats. We will also use high quality fish oil supplements, which improve all around neurotransmitter production.
In addition, I will use our Pro Omega CRP for individuals battling chronic inflammation. I use our Brain Calm Magnesium for those struggling with adrenal fatigue and HPA axis dysfunction. Those with mitochondrial dysfunction, as seen on an organic acid lab, I will use Brain Supercharge with.
Here is the Main Supplement that I use if you are looking for just one thing to take to improve your memory.
Memory Charge: This is a supplement full of herbs and nutrients that enhance blood flow to the brain. It also contains 100 mg of high potency huperzine A to boost acetylcholine levels in the synapse and enhance memory and cognitive acceleration.
Normal Protocol: Take 1 cap – 2x daily with or without food
Advanced Protocol: Take 2 caps – 2x daily with or without food
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- Shimizu F, Sano Y, Tominaga O, Maeda T, Abe MA, Kanda T. Advanced glycation end-products disrupt the blood-brain barrier by stimulating the release of transforming growth factor-β by pericytes and vascular endothelial growth factor and matrix metalloproteinase-2 by endothelial cells in vitro. Neurobiol Aging. 2013 Jul;34(7):1902-12
- De la Monte SM, Wands JR. Alzheimer’s Disease Is Type 3 Diabetes–Evidence Reviewed. Journal of diabetes science and technology (Online). 2008;2(6):1101-1113
- Hartmann J, Kiewert C, Duysen EG, Lockridge O, Klein J. Choline availability and acetylcholine synthesis in the hippocampus of acetylcholinesterase-deficient mice. Neurochem Int. 2008 May;52(6):972-8. PMID: 18023504
- White HL, Scates PW. Acetyl-L-carnitine as a precursor of acetylcholine. Neurochem Res. 1990 Jun;15(6):597-601. PMID: 2215852
- Čolović MB, Krstić DZ, Lazarević-Pašti TD, Bondžić AM, Vasić VM. Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitors: Pharmacology and Toxicology. Current Neuropharmacology. 2013;11(3):315-335