Health & Wellness: Cognitive health issues, by Amber Embers

Has cognitive health been on your mind lately? If so, you may have discovered that the search for brain-boosting supplements can be overwhelming. Powders, capsules, beverages, gummies and foods are readily available on the market, but with limited research and resources, many people simply do not know where to begin.
Memory and cognition issues affect people of all ages, both in the classroom and throughout life. Fortunately, there are natural supplements that can help improve the brain’s ability to work, regardless of age.
As summer comes to an end, many individuals will begin preparing for the busy “back-to-school” season. Regardless of age or grade level, notebooks, pens, pencils, markers and other productivity supplies are needed to help support and facilitate classroom activities, but what about support for the brain? If the brain is not performing at its best, the learning experience may be a challenge at any age. Rather than medicating to address cognitive issues, there are several natural kid and adult-safe supplements available over the counter, such as Omega 3 Fish Oil, Vitamin C, Turmeric, and mushrooms.
Mushrooms have been gaining popularity in mainstream media, research, and medical use, but why? What makes this fungi so unique is its ability to reduce inflammation, provide antioxidants, and fight certain forms of cancer with minimal effort. They have been shown to improve short and long term memory, motor functionality, emotional stability, and other imbalances in the body. Mushrooms can be cooked, made into tea, added to chocolate, dried and encapsulated, and prepared in countless other ways. If administered to children, it is highly recommended to cook or saute mushrooms to reduce possible digestive upset. Oyster, Portobello, and Button mushrooms are popular varieties for children.
According to a study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic, mushrooms contain protein, fiber and vitamins that can prevent cellular damage, support nervous and immune systems, maintain healthy blood pressure, boost energy, and improve cognitive function. The mushrooms administered during this study were classified as “functional” or “nootropic”, meaning they did not contain the psychedelic substance psilocybin and did not elicit the “trip” experience often associated with mushroom use. These mushrooms included White Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, Chaga, and Reishi varieties. Special mushroom blends can be found in coffee and other consumable forms available to the general public.
Speaking of coffee, caffeine (especially when paired with L-theanine) is another powerful brain booster. Caffeine promotes brain function and physical energy by blocking the brain’s receptors for a chemical called adenosine. Adenosine regulates the sleep/wake function within the brain. If the body is low on energy, the brain can not function properly.
Although coffee is often the first choice when a bit more energy is required to make it through the day, drinking green tea can actually provide more health benefits because it contains an amino acid not found in coffee called L-theanine. In addition to an increase in mental stamina and physical energy from caffeine, green tea’s L-theanine helps promote a state of calm while maintaining alertness.
Omega-3 fish oil and B vitamins such as B6, B9 (folic acid), and B12, play a role in brain health as well. Foods such as meat (especially liver), seafood (sardines, trout, salmon), poultry, eggs, dairy products, legumes, leafy greens, seeds, and fortified foods, such as breakfast cereal and nutritional yeast are all excellent sources of these important vitamins. Bananas, grapes, and peaches also contain B vitamins.
Originally used as an exercise supplement, creatine has been shown to improve brain health in recent studies. According to a 2022 study published in Nutrients, results reported that creatine may improve cognition, help protect against neurodegenerative diseases, reduce depression, and aid recovery from concussion and mild traumatic brain injuries. Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in muscle tissue and the brain responsible for energy production, especially during times of increased metabolic demand, such as sleep deprivation. It is often taken as a powder that is mixed into a smoothie, but it is also available as a capsule.
Many people are shifting to plant-based diets in an effort to improve their overall physical and mental health. Though this lifestyle is not for everyone, adopting a few ideas may help increase focus, improve memory and provide mental clarity. Foods rich in Omega-3, B vitamins, and L- theanine help keep the brain energized, while mushrooms such as White Lion’s Mane improve its functionality. Incorporating brain-boosting foods and supplements into your daily routine may help improve other bodily functions, such as digestion, as well.