Natural Tips For Improving Your Memory

Monday, December 18, 2006 - 10:35am

By Wendy Hodsdon, ND

Almost everyone would like to improve their memory. Memory is associated with the temporal lobes of the brain. This part of the brain is involved with recognizing and naming objects or faces by comparing what we see to an ideal or pattern we store in our brain. It is known as the “what pathway” because it names what something is. The temporal lobes of the brain are associated with short-term memory and transferring memories to long-term storage.

Brief overview of brain anatomy

The temporal lobes of the brain are located behind the eyes and under the temples at the sides of head. In addition to memory, the temporal lobes are involved with language, reading social cues, understanding music and tone of voice, and mood stability. The hippocampus is another part of the brain located closer to the center and next to the temporal lobes. The hippocampus stores new information for several weeks and helps a person learn new skills. It is the first area damaged in Alzheimer’s disease. In front of the hippocampus is the amygdala, which coordinates a person’s emotional response. When an experience has a strong emotional component it is easier to remember because of the way the information is stored in the hippocampus. This is why we often remember details of an event when we were very scared or very happy.

Foods and supplements that support memory

A balanced diet with protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates can balance the activity in the temporal lobes of the brain. Eating protein at every meal can help stabilize blood sugar levels and help prevent the brain fog that sometimes happens after high carbohydrate or high sugar meals.

1.   Omega-3 fatty acids for improved brain activity

Omega-3 fatty acids are a major component of the gray matter of the brain and can also improve brain activity. The fat in the brain is essential to proper nerve function, in nerve membranes, and as a component of brain synapses. People who eat diets high in saturated fats or trans-fatty acids can show signs of dementia earlier than people who eat fish regularly. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in wild-caught, deep sea fish (wild salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring). Using a high-quality fish oil supplement benefits the brain and memory.

2.   Antioxidants for memory improvement

Antioxidants in the diet also can improve memory by decreasing the free radical damage that can occur with age. Foods highest in antioxidants include fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables. Some of the best antioxidants are found in berries (such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries), spinach, Brussel sprouts, plums, broccoli, beets, avocados, oranges, red bell peppers and cherries. Eating many colors of fruits and vegetables ensures a wide variety of antioxidants to nourish and protect the brain.

3.   Supplements can improve memory, learning and verbal skills

Supplements that support memory include antioxidants such as alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin E and vitamin C. Ginkgo biloba is an herb that enhances circulation in the brain, which can improve memory and concentration. Phosphatidylserine is a nutrient that is found in food and in cell membranes in the body. In studies where it is given as a supplement, it increases the metabolic activity in the brain and improves memory, learning and verbal skills.

Conclusion: a healthy diet for a good memory

Memory and concentration do not have to decrease with age. In fact, severe changes in brain function are not a part of healthy aging, but signal a disease process. The brain needs a healthy diet and clean water to function optimally. Supplements and brain exercises are recommended for people who have a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and for people who have had brain injuries in the past. Consult with a doctor for specific recommendations. Start early with healthy brain habits to keep a good memory throughout life.

For more information on diet and the effect on your brain/memory see the following article from TheDietChannel: Food for Thought: 10 Foods to Increase Your Brain Function.

For information on foods recommended for improving your childs school performance see the following article from TheDietChannel: Brain Food for Kids: Feed Your Children so They Excel at School.