Soo people of the blogosphere, first off I thought I’d introduce you to a fairly simple and functional combination of supplements that I also use. This combination is centred around optimising your head and getting some clarity back. Sorry if this sounds vague! Although their are plenty of mega positive side effects of these supplements, this is about getting (ok, this will sound cringe) the “best possible version of you” right on a daily basis. Its not a dip in/dip out, (but by all means do experiment), these are all pretty essential on a daily basis as opposed to other supplements and nootropics we’ll look at later.
This ‘stack’ of supplements was introduced to me via Dr David Perlmutter’s book Grain Brain, (2014). Although the book centres mainly on the impact of gluten on your brain and body, David did pay reference to this recommendation at the end of the book. The book didn’t include a huge deal of detail of the ‘whys’, and so my quest for a little more information began.
I do have to say, this stack/combination has provided me with the first actual noticeable results from supplements, so it really spiked my interest to dig deeper. Firstly, I found a big difference in my head feeling clearer throughout the day. I never really thought I suffered headaches but when comparing my head after a week or so of supplementing, in comparison to my usual foggy head that wouldn’t clear till the afternoon, there was a definite change for the better!
In the below I give a break down of each supplement with a few key notes. Please let me know what you guys think and any tweaks you make to your own supplementing!
So, living in good old Blighty, (or the UK as more commonly known), increasing my uptake or anything associated with the positive effects of sunshine seemed pretty obvious, as anyone who has seen an England ‘summertime’ can surely empathise with.
What I didn’t know was there are two types of vitamin D, (D2 & D3) and they are not interchangeable. So a little look on the old interweb informed me that the commonly consumed Vitamin D2 is a product produced from a substance called Drisdol. Drisdol is a synthetic form of vitamin D2, made by irradiating fungus and plant matter, and is the form of vitamin D that doctors typically prescribe. This is not the type produced by your body in response to sun or safe tanning bed exposure, which is vitamin D3 and as such, not want you want to be spending your hard earned cash money on.
Anyways, apart from the obvious bone, teeth and nails benefit your mum always banged on about while encouraging you to drink more milk, vitamin D can also aid with managing inflammation and fighting infections. It even reportedly helps produce a naturally occurring antibiotic called Cathelicidin which helps fight bacterial infections, sweet!
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Docosahexaenoic acid, or (the little more pronounceable ) DHA, is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid found in the human brain and retina (eye, eye). As a supplement its found in mainly cold water oceanic fish. A lack of healthy DHA levels have been found in patients suffering depression and those with failing eyesight.
It’s important to note that Omega 3 oils are separated into 2 types that play different roles. Aside from DHA, there is also EPA. It seems EPA could be a better reducer of inflammation overall however, but both play a role and are important for balancing your pro-inflammatory Omega 6 and anti inflammatory Omega 3 ratio. Unfortunately the standard ‘western diet’ has excessive amounts of Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids easily found within it, so upping Omega 3s is a must, not just for athletes and gym goers but pretty much everyone. Look for a capsule fish oil supplement or DHA derived from marine algae
There has been a lot said in recent years about the importance of upping your intake of healthy Omega 3 fats for both improving brain functioning and reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, (although cardiovascular tests remain inconclusive). Ultimately though, I’d say a massive bonus from up-taking Omega 3 intake is to reduce inflammation in the body. What is of particular note though when separating these different Omega 3 oils is, as Dr Perlmutter identifies, DHA is one of the most well documented bad boys for protecting the brain, (hence helping you to think about thinking about taking it).
OK, so this one I was sold on straight away. Dr Rhonda Patrick, (www.foundmyfitness.com) first alerted me to the benefits of tumeric primarily as a strong anti-inflammatory. She spoke a lot on Joe Rogan’s podcast (she’s on about three of them and drops some serious knowledge) and I’d advise everyone to give it a listen.
The predominant healing compound within Tumeric is curcumin and they are both associated with a huge amount of healing properties. Much of the research appears to indicate it can not only support with inflammation in the body but also act as an anti depressant and support cancer treatment(!).
Obviously there’s plenty more that could be said on this one, especially when linking it to cancer treatment. But one thing that Rhonda highlighted that resonated for me, was the potentially counter productive effects of over the counter anti-inflammatory medication. The details of Rhonda’s insights are beyond the scope of this post, but well worth a look. Subsequently though, and in relation to turmeric supplementation, upping any natural form of anti-inflammatory medication that helps the healing process from exercise, sport or general wear and tear is a big win.
It’s of note that a typical turmeric root contains about 2-5% curcumin, so taking a powdered turmeric root product would mean that very large amounts would be required to get a beneficial amount of curcumin. Additionally, curcumin is poorly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. While turmeric is excellent when used as a spice, a curcumin extract is a better choice as a supplement. However as curcumin is so poorly absorbed there is one form, which has been shown to be absorbed 29 times better than a standard curcumin extract. This is called the phytosome form. However again! A bit of digging revealed a great bit of research done on superfoodly.com showing maybe its not the best choice (http://superfoodly.com/best-turmeric-curcumin-supplement/). Resulting from that article, and from a cost perspective, I buy Theracurmin.
So, this one is a tad controversial, (more adult scooters controversial than Donald Trump controversial though, probably). Resveratrol is commonly known as the active compound in red wine which is associated to various health benefits and anti-ageing effects. It is found in the skin of grapes and reported to be a powerful anti-oxidant.
Early research indicated Resveratrol as having healing properties linked to reducing inflammation leading to heart disease (by reducing LDL or “bad cholesterol”); limiting the spread of cancer cells, protecting nerve cells from damage and the buildup of plaque that can lead to Alzheimer’s. Furthermore it reportidly helps prevent insulin resistance, thus lowering risk of diabetes. WOAH. Big claims!
Grain Brain does pay reference to two legit studies which both indicate resveratrol can optimise brain function and for this reason Doc P advocates its inclusion in the daily supplements. For me the jury is still out though. The research seems to be primarily around rodent studies and the amounts used don’t really correspond with the average recommended dose. However, Dr David Perlmutter certainly knows his stuff so if I’m in for a penny, I’m in for a pound! (AKA; I’m giving it a go).
Alpha-lipoic Acid (ALA)
Alpha-lipoic acid, or ALA, is a naturally occurring compound that’s made in the human body. ALA is an antioxidant and as such, protects against damage to the body’s cells. It can in fact be found in each and every cell, where it reportedly helps turn glucose into energy. Furthermore, Because ALA can pass easily into the brain, it may help protect the brain and nerve tissue in your noggin.
Other antioxidants work only in water (such as vitamin C) or fatty tissues (such as vitamin E) but ALA is both fat and water-soluble. That means it can work throughout the body. Antioxidants in the body are used up as they attack free radicals (basically badness flowing through your body) but there is evidence that suggests ALA may help regenerate these other antioxidants and make them active again (nicely done ALA my son!). This made it appear a very attractive option to include as a daily supplement.
There are food sources of ALA such as yeast, organ meats like liver and heart, spinach, broccoli, and potatoes. However, ALA from food however does not appear to produce a noticeable increase in the level of free ALA available in the body, hence the need for supplementation. Interestingly though studies show that only about 30% to 40% (http://www.webmd.com/diet/alpha-lipoic-acid-ala#1) of the oral dose of an ALA supplement is absorbed. So therefore ALA may be better absorbed if it is taken on an empty tummy.
Several studies suggest ALA helps lower blood sugar levels and helps improve insulin sensitivity, which is obviously a big win in our sugar-saturated world. Furthermore, researchers are investigating it as a potential treatment for stroke and other brain problems such as dementia. Preliminary studies suggest ALA may also help treat glaucoma, aging skin and even play a role in managing weight loss and other conditions including erectile dysfunction and cancer!
It is important though to note that scientific evidence for the health benefit of supplemental ALA has been inconclusive. Positive effects that have seen the Germans use it regularly as a treatment method for a condition called peripheral neuropatin, by way of intravenous (IV) methods. There are at least two descent studies that have also shown orally taken ALA was better at managing diabetic related conditions compared to a placebo.
In conclusion I’d say it looks an exciting (well, as exciting as any supplement can be!) addition but is def early days in terms of conclusive evidence of its potentially far reaching benefits.
It’s fair to say that after the recommendation of DHA (AKA the Omega 3 supplement) by Doc Perlmutter, the probiotic was probably a supplement that most would have given an immediate thumbs up to. Gut health is something that has been given a (rightly) progressively increasing media spotlight. Whether it’s the Yukult probiotic yogurt drinks popularised on TV or the growing craze of fermented food and drinks such as sauerkraut, kimchee and kabucha, the gut health movement is strong!
Although nothing short of bold to declare, research suggests the impact on weight loss, disease, mental health and overall functioning can be determined by the health of your gut, (word!). The gut is home to literally millions of bacteria/microbes, which are essential to our existence. This bacteria is known as the Gut flora ( or gut microbiota, or gastrointestinal microbiota) and is the complex community of mico-organisms that live in our digestive tracks. The Enteric Nervous System, or ENS, is the 100 million or so nerve cells that line the entirety of digestive (or gastrointestinal) tracts. The main role of the ENS is to control digestion, but in doing so, it communicates back and forth with the brain as to the overall health of the body’s gut, and in turn, the body’s whole immune system.
So, in terms of the Probiotics themselves, they are live bacteria and yeasts that are especially good for your digestive system by helping move food through your gut. Probiotics are naturally found in your body but you can also find them in some foods and supplements. When you lose “good” bacteria in your body (like after you take antibiotics, for example), probiotics can help replace them.
The two groups that most probiotics strains within the supplement will fall into two groups; Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Do check the label though as some products wont have both. Dr Perlmutter recommends looking for a probiotic with at least 10 billion active cultures (bacteria).
My further research for this post has however highlighted that its not just the number of strains, but rather the number of different strains of bacteria that the probiotic contains, that is important. Because the different strains of probiotic bacteria have slightly different functions and are concentrated in various places along the digestive tract, probiotic supplements that contain multiple strains tend to be more effective overall than products containing an extremely high concentration of just one or two strains. This is because many strains work synergistically to influence our health. Look for your probiotic to contain at least these three strains; L. acidophilus; B. longum; and B. bifidum.
I won’t bang on to much (more) about the importance of gut health and will save how to boost the gut flora through fermented products for another post. I will however sign post you all to both Tim Spector’s The Diet Myth, Dr David Perlmutter’s book Brain Maker . Both these books look at the impact and importance of boosting and preserving gut microbes to improve health.
Lastly, look out for an expiration date on the product and, as recommended by some experts, switch supplements every month or two. This could likely help with the diversity of the bacteria colonies in your gut.
Ah, last but by no means least, the staple of any health conscious chef’s cooking cupboard. The doc recommends at least one teaspoon daily either straight down the hatch, or, in cooking. Coconut oil is often used by athletes, body builders and by those who are dieting. The reason being that it contains less calories than other oils, its fat content is easily converted into energy, and it does not lead to accumulation of fat in the heart and arteries.
What the common banded around facts are is that Coconut oil is it is high in natural saturated fats which increase the healthy cholesterol (known as HDL) in your body. It also helps to convert the LDL “bad” cholesterol into good cholesterols. By Increasing the HDL’s in the body, it helps promote heart health, and lower the risk of heart disease.
Coconut oil can also boost immunity as it contains antimicrobial lipids, lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, which have anti-fungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. The human body converts lauric acid into monolaurin (still with me?) which research has suggested can be effective in dealing with viruses and (bad) bacteria. It is also said to aid digestion by helping the body by absorbing other essential nutrients. The saturated fats present in coconut oil have antimicrobial properties and help in dealing with various bacteria, fungi, and parasites that can cause indigestion.
What isn’t as well advertised is that coconut oil not only reduces inflammation but also acts as a super fuel to your swede, although there isn’t significant research backing this. One final fact about coconut oil is however its use of controlling blood sugar and improving the secretion of insulin. It also promotes the effective utilisation of blood glucose by the body. This is obviously pretty essential and probably a good reason for seeking to get coconut oil into your breaky routine.
So, in the words of a once famous UK garage collective member, we’re Romeo Done. Big thanks especially to anyone whose read this and is not my mum, dad, sister or wife, (although big love to you guys!). Please do write a comment and let me know your thoughts..