Ruth Yanor-McRae, MH
If you believe memory loss is a natural part of aging, forget that! The ability to remember has nothing to do with age. Everybody forgets things now and then. That's normal.
If you believe memory loss is a natural part of aging, forget that! The ability to remember has nothing to do with age. Everybody forgets things now and then. That's normal. If not related to injury, amnesia or Alzheimer's disease, memory loss is often caused by a variety of other factors.
Consider the condition you're in when trying to memorize or remember something. Being distracted, stressed or intensely emotional can affect the working mechanisms of the brain. Fatigue will also lower your attention span. Low blood sugar, allergies, thyroid imbalance, some medications (Tagamet, Dalmane, Valium, Pepcid and Haldol) and drinking minimal to moderate amounts of alcohol will lessen your ability to recall things.
From research on Alzheimer's disease, low levels of acetylcholine have been associated with memory loss. Choline, which is present in tofu, soy beans, soy milk, miso and eggs, boosts your body's stores of acetylcholine. Eat foods rich in B vitamins (brown rice, dark leafy greens, nutritional yeasts) or take a good B-complex formula. B-vitamin deficiencies lead not only to faulty thinking and poor concentration, but also to depression and lowered immunity.
Linus Pauling's studies on vitamin C have shown that a deficiency in this nutrient will lessen mental alertness and concentration. If you have a sensitive stomach when it comes to taking vitamin C (at least one to three grams a day), ensure that your supplement is buffered. Buffering neutralizes the strong acidity of vitamin C, thus eliminating irritation to your stomach, kidneys and bladder.
Add whole grains and raw pumpkin and sunflower seeds to your daily diet. These supply zinc, which has demonstrated its worth in improving memory. Eat more orange, yellow and green vegetables because they're rich sources of beta-carotene an antioxidant that reduces and repairs free radical damage and increases circulation to your brain.
Nutrients to Remember
Of all the herbs that improve brain function, ginkgo biloba is the best recognized. Ginkgo has repeatedly been shown to increase circulation in areas with impaired blood flow in the brain and other organs. These same studies have also shown that the greater the impairment, the greater the benefits of using this herb. The flip side is that if there is only mild blood flow impairment, don't expect spectacular results. Don't take ginkgo in combination with aspirin or another blood thinner. Taking both can magnify the blood-thinning effect.
Spirulina also yields good results with attention deficit symptoms. This nutrient enhances brain functions such as concentration and focus. In my practice, I combine ginkgo biloba and spirulina for best results.
Gotu kola improves blood flow. Research with developmentally disabled children has revealed that after 12 weeks, gotu kola's anti-anxiety and anti-stress mechanisms had a significant impact on their ability to attend, concentrate and remember tasks.
Siberian ginseng is one of the safest herbs for stressed individuals. This herb improves not only mental alertness and recall, but also stamina and quality of work. It soothes overwrought nerves and boosts the immune system.
Iodine is a nutrient worth serious attention. Without it, the thyroid won't function well. Lowered thyroid function has profound effects on memory, concentration and sleep quality. Conventional medical wisdom suggests that 70 mcg a day is adequate; however, the Japanese traditionally consume about three mg of iodine daily. In addition to iodine, ensure that your diet includes adequate amounts of calcium and magnesium (found in dark green leafy vegetables), as both minerals improve muscle and nerve functioning.
Avoid these dietary thieves: coffee, alcohol, tobacco, fatty animal foods, processed sugar and white flour. All interfere with your body's mineral and vitamin balances--making nasty encroachments on your ability to learn and remember.
Beyond the nutritional and herbal help, there are more things you can do to improve your memory. First, become active. Studies show that aerobic exercise increases oxygen to the brain and produces significant memory improvement. Regular chiropractic care will establish and promote healthy nerve and blood flow throughout your body; focus on the shoulder and neck area for maximum brain benefits. Add massage to your list of regular self-care activities. Working out tensions in your neck and shoulder area improves the brain's functioning abilities.
Focus on being relaxed while absorbing new information. Think of stress overload as a situation that causes you to store information in an extremely haphazard way. Review the information you want to remember. Short-term memory only becomes long-term memory with much repetition!
Eliminate low-priority activities. Simplify your life to reduce what you need to remember. Make lists and write things down. Don't overload your memory when a notepad or calendar will do the job. Here's a thought: not being motivated to remember something will guarantee that you don't!
Doing all the right things can be a lot to remember. So, make a list! Now where did you put your notepad?