by: Dr. Craig A. Maxwell
Do you feel like you can’t remember anything? Memory loss is a common problem and not just among the elderly. If your memory loss is affecting your daily life, you may wonder if this indicates a serious medical condition. Not necessarily. Sometimes memory loss is a simple matter of dietary and lifestyle choices. Let’s take a look at the common causes of memory loss and what you can do to treat it naturally.
Why You Can’t Remember Anything
From my research, I’ve come up with the 10 most common causes of memory loss.
1. Neurotoxic Chemicals in Food
Our food supply has changed quite drastically over the past 50 years. There are more chemically-derived food-like-products on your grocery store shelves than the wholesome, nutritious food your grandparents used to eat. As a result, more people are suffering from unusual health problems than ever before. One of these problems is memory loss.
Many of the chemicals in highly-processed foods are considered neurotoxic. This means they cause premature brain cell death, which can affect memory, cognition, and even behavior. One of the alarming facts about neurotoxins is that much of your brain cells have been damaged or destroyed before serious side effects are ever felt.
Here are some of the neurotoxic chemicals in food you should avoid:
Aspartame is a synthetic sweetener derived from genetically modified E. coli bacteria. It is highly toxic to the brain and has been linked to the development of seizures, migraine headaches, memory loss, sensory processing disorders, personality changes, and autoimmune disease, among others. Common food sources of this memory-sapping sweetener include diet soda, gum, some artificially sweetened yogurt, and processed snack foods.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a savory-tasting synthetic flavor enhancer that is often found in Asian cuisine and processed snack food. It is an excitotoxin that over-stimulates your brain cells into an early death. MSG is also highly-addictive because it stimulates your brain’s reward centers each time you eat a food containing it. Over time, your brain gets used to this stimulation and you need more to get the same result. Meanwhile, your brain cells are being killed off, which affects memory, reasoning, and cognition.
- Food Dyes
Clinical research over the past 30 years has shown conclusive evidence that food dyes such as Red Dye 40 and Yellow #5 can do serious damage to the brain, especially that of a developing child. CT imaging scans done of hyperactive children who consumed Red Dye 40 showed hot spots in the upper-right quadrant of the brain; the part that processes emotion. Children (and adults) who are sensitive to these dyes experience brain inflammation and excitotoxicity, which can result in memory loss, sensory processing difficulties, and personality changes.
Pesticides are designed to be neurotoxic to insects but they have the exact same effect on human beings and animals when consumed. According to a study published by Occupational and Environmental Medicine, those in their 40s and 50s who had worked in the modern agricultural industry for at least 20 years had marked brain impairment and an increased risk for the development of dementia.
If you’ve switched to Splenda (sucralose) because you believe it’s healthier for you than table sugar, you’ve been fooled by a clever marketing scam. Splenda is chlorinated sugar and neurotoxic to humans. It can result in memory loss, brain fog, agitation, headaches, depression, and impaired concentration.
2. Nutritional Deficiencies
Nutritional deficiencies are one of the most commonly-overlooked causes of chronic physical and mental health problems. Even those who eat a relatively-healthy diet experience nutritional deficiencies due to poor soil quality, low probiotic count, low stomach acid, and malabsorption of nutrients due to chronic digestive disease.
One of the most common nutritional deficiencies linked to memory loss is vitamin B12 deficiency. As you age, your ability to absorb this nutrient greatly decreases and you may need to begin a supplement to keep your levels in a healthy range. B12 can only be derived from animal foods so strict vegetarians and vegans can be at risk for developing this nutritional deficiency.
Magnesium deficiency is a common mineral deficiency linked to memory loss and impaired cognitive function. Without this essential nutrient, memory loss, concentration problems, insomnia, and even mental health symptoms can result.
No matter how healthy your diet, nutritional deficiencies can still cause chronic health problems. This is why I recommend each of my patients invest in a high-quality multivitamin supplement to fill in any nutritional gaps. Even if you’re already taking a multivitamin supplement, I would strongly suggest stopping.
In my opinion, many store-bought vitamins are often poorly absorbed and contain food dyes and other additives that can contribute to some of the health problems you’re trying to avoid.
3. Gluten Intolerance
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye and millions are unable to digest it. In addition to causing chronic digestive complaints such as bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, and constipation, gluten also has a negative effect on the brain of those who are intolerant to it. In the gluten intolerant person, gliadin (wheat protein) is turned into a morphine-like substance that acts as an opiate to the brain. This can affect memory, cognition, sensory processing, and behavior.
4. Autoimmune Disease
Those with autoimmune disease often experience problems with memory and cognition. Multiple sclerosis, Grave’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, and Sjögren’s syndrome are all often associated with neurological dysfunction.
5. Chronic Candida Infection
Candida is a type of yeast that grows naturally in your intestines and genital region. Kept in check, this yeast is actually beneficial to your health. When it grows out of control, however, it can become systemic, entering the bloodstream and causing a host of unusual and seemingly-unconnected symptoms.
Chronic candida yeast overgrowth often occurs as a result of poor diet, excessive antibiotic use, birth control pills, prolonged use of NSAID pain relievers, mercury toxicity, and excessive alcohol consumption. When your digestive system does not have enough healthy, active cultures (probiotics), it can lead to an overgrowth of candida yeast.
Symptoms of candida yeast syndrome include brain fog, memory loss, learning impairment, chronic yeast infections, frequent colds and flu, abdominal discomfort, bloating, flatulence, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
6. Excessive Stress
What you’ve heard is true: stress kills. It can also do serious damage to your memory. A recent laboratory study revealed that mice exposed to repeated stress presented with impaired temporal order recognition memory, a cognitive process governed by the prefrontal cortex.
7. Lack of Sleep
Chronic sleep deprivation impairs your ability to process information and consolidate new memories. Just 1.5 hours of missed sleep each night can reduce daytime alertness by 32%. If you don’t get enough deep, uninterrupted rest each night, you may be tempted to pound down energy drinks but that can be counterproductive. They only offer you temporarily relief and are loaded with unhealthy chemicals that can cause unwanted side effects.
8. Alcohol Consumption
A drink or two won’t harm your health but excessive alcohol consumption can lead to permanent memory loss. Alcohol disrupts the activity of the hippocampus, which is responsible for the formation of autobiographical and explicit memories.
9. Developmental Disorders
People with autism, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, and pervasive development disorder often have difficulty with short-term memory.
A child with PPD, for example, may be told to do two chores but only get one done because the child simply cannot remember the second task long enough to complete it. Other symptoms of developmental disorder include inability to concentrate, attention problems, sensory processing difficulties, inability to read social cues, repetitive behaviors, and mental agitation due to frustration.
Age-related memory loss often occurs as a result of a combination of B12 deficiency, insulin resistance, poor diet, and lack of exercise.
Natural Treatments for Memory Loss
- Identify the Cause
The first thing to do in the case of memory loss is to identify the cause. Do any of the above-mentioned causes seem familiar to you? If so, that’s the place to start. Knowing the cause of your memory loss will help direct you to your best treatment options.
- Reduce Food and Environmental Toxins
Food and environmental toxins can lead to chronic neurological disturbances that could cause an otherwise healthy brain to malfunction. Teenagers and young adults are now experiencing the type of cognitive decline once reserved for unhealthy senior citizens who lived a hard and fast life. There’s no natural reason for this to happen.
The best thing you can do for your memory and your health is to reduce as many food and environmental toxins as possible. This means slowly weaning off highly-processed foods and trading them in for whole-food fare.
It also means taking a close look at your cosmetics and cleaning products, many of which contain neurotoxic chemicals such as acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. There are plenty of natural, organic cleaners and cosmetics on the market to replace the products you’re currently using.
- Eat a Brain-Building Diet
A brain-building diet includes foods rich in antioxidants and inflammation-fighting omega 3 fatty acids. These foods include blackberries, coffee, apples, organic chocolate (rich in polyphenols), wild-caught fish, turmeric, coconut oil, butter, and extra virgin olive oil.
- Get Regular Exercise
The hippocampus is crucial in the formation of new memories, connecting emotions to memories, navigation and spatial relations. Studies have shown that regular exercise improves the size and function of the hippocampus, leading to better brain function.
- Use Supplements to Address Nutritional Deficiencies
For my patients struggling with memory problems not associated with a developmental disorder or alcohol consumption, I recommend Diamond Nutritional’s Memory Support Formula. It contains a synergistic blend of ingredients designed to improve your memory without the side effects associated with prescription drugs.
These ingredients include:
- Gingko Biloba – Ginkgo biloba is a medicinal herb that has been used successfully for centuries to treat memory loss and the symptoms of cognitive decline. It works by increasing blood flow to the brain and promoting healthy nerve conductivity.
- Vinpocetine – Vinpocetine is an alkaloid derivative of vincamine, an extract from the periwinkle plant. It has shown powerful neuroprotective properties and been found to increase cerebral blood flow.
- Huperzine – Huperzine works as a potent, selective and long-term protector of the naturally occurring neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is essential for the enhancement of memory and learning. Huperzine is extracted from Chinese club moss.
It can be very frustrating to feel as though you can’t remember anything no matter what you do. This is especially true for younger people. Short-term memory loss and cognitive impairment can put a damper on your academic, personal, and social life but it doesn’t have to. Once you know what’s causing your memory loss, you’ll be better equipped to treat it naturally.