In the world of nootropics, you will come across the term BDNF often. Why? Because boosting BDNF has desirable benefits for your brain health.
Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
BDNF is short for brain-derived neurotrophic factor. It is one of the most abundant nerve growth factors found in the brain and nervous system. Neurotrophic factors are proteins that facilitate the growth, survival and maintenance of healthy nerve cells and play a key role in neuroplasticity, memory and learning.
Benefits of Boosting BDNF
BDNF is involved in protecting and growing new nerve cells and is also involved in regulating many ancillary functions that indirectly benefit brain health. By supporting BDNF production, we are supporting the body to;
- Support neurogenesis (ie. new nerve growth)
- Support neuroplasticity
- Facilitate improved memory and learning
- Support healthy nerve cellular communication
- Modulate neurotransmitters
- Support endothelial function in the cardiovascular system
- Modulate neuroinflammation
- Support brain energy metabolism balance (homeostasis)
Leading functional medicine expert and author Dr Mark Hymen describes BDNF as “miracle grow for the brain“.
Low levels of BDNF are associated with many neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s Disease(s) and Multiple Sclerosis. Low levels of BDNF may account for the lack of protection for nerve structures in these diseases, which leads to degeneration and damage.
Boosting BDNF has been explored as supportive therapy for many chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes, schizophrenia, autism and bipolar disorders. Rebalancing BDNF may also have benefits following traumatic brain injury. BDNF is also typically lower in people suffering from depression and under ongoing stress.
How To Boost BDNF Naturally
Exercise – Movement is Medicine
Research clearly shows that regular exercise is one of the best ways to facilitate BDNF production. Mild, moderate and intense physical activity all build BDNF levels and these increases are detectable immediately following exercise. This may account for why many people report better productivity in the hours following exercise.
Conversely, being sedentary is one of the fastest ways to squash BDNF levels.
A Daily Dose of Sunshine
Research has shown that BDNF concentrations have seasonal variations and that the sunniest months of the year yield the highest BDNF levels. This may form one mechanism by which mood and behaviour is noticeably affected in seasonal affective disorder.
Nootropic compounds are substances that enhance or support cognitive function. Given the importance of BDNF to brain and nerve health, it should come as no surprise that many nootropic substances have demonstrated the ability to support BDNF production.
The beauty of many nootropic substances is that they will deliver much more than just BDNF-building activity. Nootropics exert a range of actions that, in turn, support BDNF and other aspects of nerve growth, protection and health. The actions might include; blood sugar regulation, metabolic activity, energy support, stress modulation, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, to name a few. The broad actions of nootropic substances make them well-rounded guardians of neurological well-being.
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