It was only in the late 1990’s when researchers figured out that we don’t actually stop producing brain cells, a process called neurogenesis. Prior to that, the scientific view was that we stopped making new brain cells in our early twenties.
This is really exciting news! We can actually continue produce new brain cells over our lifetimes through things that increase Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).
BDNF is a protein that helps promote the survival of neurons and allows for neuroplasticity, basically the brain rewiring itself and making new connections. It’s also been called a “natural anti-depressant”.
While much of your brain structure was determined by your genes even before you were born, neuroplasticity is super important to learn new skills, languages and activities and can even help delay neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
So how do I increase BDNF?
Aerobic exercise appears to be the best way to boost BDNF levels. BDNF gets released during aerobic exercise and acts like a “neuron fertilizer.” It promotes the growth of new neurons as well as helps with neuroplasticity. At least 20 minutes of a brisk cardio workout daily is a good start. Exercise can even reverse the cognitive decline related to age.
Eating the right foods is also critical to boosting BDNF levels. Eating the Standard American Diet can actually have a negative effect on your BDNF levels. The obvious things to avoid are sugar, processed foods and anything with high fructose corn syrup.
Sleeping at least 7 hours every day is also important to not hurt BDNF levels and increase inflammation. And, sleep helps the brain wash out toxins in the brain.
Taking CBD oil is also a good way to increase BDNF. A recent study showed that cannabidiol induces rapid and sustained anti-depressant-like effects through increases in BDNF.
There are other ways to increase BDNF through reducing stress, intermittent fasting, sun exposure and more. Learn more here.
Turn your brain into a younger one! Help stave off Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative conditions, increase your memory and ability to learn new things. Start increasing your BDNF levels and keep your brain healthy.