The Aging Brain: Ways to Boost Brain Power

By June Rousso
June Rousso
June Rousso
I am a New York State licensed psychologist and a nutritional consultant with an M.S. degree in holistic nutrition. My interests have expanded over the years to the field of nutrition, which I often integrate in my work as a psychologist. I love to write and educate people about nutrition so that they can make more informed choices about their health. I believe that dietary and lifestyle changes are so important in our lives to support a healthy lifestyle.
August 17, 2014 Updated: August 18, 2014

Many of us, starting in mid-life and accelerating in our sixties and beyond, are stunned at the extent to which we are forgetful. We lose our keys, cannot always retrieve words, especially names or find what we heard a moment ago evaporate into thin air. While many people quietly accept their fate, there are ways to fuel our aging brain and boost brain power.

We need to be aware that with aging, there often is a decrease in the body’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients. Testing hydrochloric acid (HCL) levels is recommended. Marilee Nelson, in her online article, “Ways to Increase Stomach Acid Production”, details the many causes of low stomach acid, some of which include emotional stress, nutrient-depleting foods, low intake of minerals and B-vitamins, excess carbohydrate and sugar consumption, drinking ice water with meals, and overuse of anti-acids. She recommends a good quality sea salt to increase stomach acid production. Unpasteurized, unheated salt-free sauerkraut (one-fourth to a half cup with meals) can raise levels of low acid and decrease high acid levels. Ginger and dandelion root tea also increase the production of HCL. Always chew food well as part of the digestive process. For a fuller discussion of stomach acid production, her article is well-worth reading.

Blood circulation also decreases with aging, resulting in less nutrients being delivered to the brain. Exercise helps to increase blood circulation. Often with age our toxic load increases from bodily, environmental, and emotional toxins, causing inflammation in the brain and other organs. This is where anti-oxidants come in to fight inflammation. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain anti-oxidants and also can boost mood, memory, and sharpen the mind.

While nutrient-dense foods can feed our brain, we cannot always get optimal nutrition from food alone. This is especially true in light of our soil becoming increasing depleted of nutrients. A high quality multi-vitamin/mineral/anti-oxidant formula can serve the body well. Vitamins C, beta-carotene, and vitamin E are especially helpful in boosting memory, and can be found in a high quality anti-oxidant formula.

Patrick Holford, in his book, “New Optimum Nutrition for the Mind”, cites evidence of improvement of mood in elderly people taking a Vitamin B-complex supplement. High quality brain-food formulas are available that increase levels of acetylcholine, thus improving memory. Supplementation with a phospholipid formula also can help to enhance learning and memory. Foods high in the phospholipid, lecithin, include soy, milk, egg yolks, wheat germ, peanuts, liver, and lightly cooked meats.

Consuming foods that lower homocysteine, a by-product of protein metabolism, has been associated with improvements in memory. Nutrients that lower homocysteine levels include vitamins B2, B6, B12, folic acid, and TMG. Green vegetables, orange juice, and beans are rich in folate, the form of folic acid found in food. Reducing the consumption of animal protein also can help to reduce homocysteine levels. Consume no more than three to four grams of protein a day. Additional folic acid can be obtained through supplementation with a B-complex formula.

Consuming foods high in omega-3 fatty acids not only reduce inflammation, but these fats also may be involved in the encoding of our memories. Eating cold-water fish, such as salmon, sardines, cod, and herring, at least three times a week is recommended. Fish is high in Vitamin D, which when levels are low, can negatively affect mood and memory.

And always remember to reduce stress in your life to lower cortisol levels that can impair memory. We need to pay attention to stress triggers and realize that most often our reactions to stress cause more turmoil than the actual events themselves.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine by thy food” – Hippocrates