Memory - use it or lose it

Memory Loss is preventable, especially at an  early age

When our hormones are out of balance, when we are tired, malnourished and suffering from the ravages of stress our memory is not at its best. We all forget things, at any age when the brain is not able to gain access to our memory banks. The facts are there but cannot be efficiently retrieved as and when we want them. Under hypnosis people can recall childhood memories and things long forgotten about. But that is not how we write exams!

1. What causes a loss of memory. Is it mainly because we get older?

In some cases there is a simple cause, usually a drop in blood sugar and this affects the brain. We get brain fog, feel fuzzy and can’t pay attention or remember. The remedy is to eat regular meals with enough protein, vitamins and essential fatty acids to supply enough brain fuel.

Memory shut downCredit: Sue Visser

Stress is the main culprit - it blocks MSG activity

Stress and sleep deprivation also affect brain function, including memory. With stress, cortisol floods the brain cell receptors, especially in the area responsible for memory. The neurotransmitter that is used to retrieve information from the “memory banks” is called MSG – the one they tell you is a “dangerous toxin”. The truth is that cortisol blocks the MSG receptor for glutamate and this adversely affects your memory. Monosodium glutamate is a natural substance and we make 10 grams of it every day out of glutamime, an amino acid. (So it is a man-made chemical.) It is transported as glutamine, the inactive form and converts to glutamate for uptake  from intercellular fluids into the brain. As a primary neurotransmitter, this chemical is essential to brain functioning. This has been known since the early 1960's but seems to have been forgotten. Taking L-glutamine to thus avoid MSG is pointless. Glutamine also helps to control pH, detoxify harmful substances, maintain brain health and activate our memory! So watch out for cortisol, especially the stress of trying to remember and panicking about it. Chinese food is full of MSG - and it prevents flatulence!

Does Chinese food cause headaches?Credit: Sue Visser

Dementia and Alzheimer's disease

Dementia and  Alzheimer’s disease directly interfere with the brain and are associated with memory loss as well. For people who are affected, the condition needs to be treated – if not prevented in the first place. Age related memory loss usually begins with short-term memory failure. The long-term memory persists for longer and that is why you hear the same story being told, in great detail over and over by older people thus affected. They can’t remember what they have just said!

Side effects of medications can affect your memory

Taking medications, especially statin drugs can lead to memory loss and dementia. This is because the drug destroys co-enzyme Q 10 in our bodies. Depression too, affects memory and PMS and a lack of sleep don’t help. When one is preoccupied or emotionally disturbed the brain is flooded with hormone driven impulses at the cost of clear thinking, concentrating and remembering.

Plaque on the brain will inhibit it in many ways

People with high blood sugar are already accumulating a lot of plaque in their brains. It takes many years to develop Alzheimer’s disease or dementia but when the blood sugar is out of control (above 4.5) plaque will accumulate on blood vessels as well as in brain tissue where it is called Amyloid plaque. Insulin resistance needs to be treated with diet and exercise if brain damage that includes memory loss is to be prevented. A magnesium deficiency is often the cause of the insulin resistance because without it, the glucose cannot be channelled into the cell via the insulin receptor. With insulin resistance the excessive glucose blocks the cAMP energy receptors for brain cells and thus starves them of energy.

Heavy metal detoxCredit: Sue Visser

2. How can we improve our memory or treat memory loss?

Sometimes all it takes is a decision to make a habit of remembering instead of forgetting. Can we remember to do that? Be firm with yourself and repeat the names of people when you are introduced to them. Try to make associations with words and objects or pictures to help your recall. By doing this, you add file tags to things that must be remembered. If you can’t remember a minute ago such as, if you locked the house (my problem) then stand in front of the locked door and tell yourself what you just did before driving away still worrying about if you switched off the stove, the iron, the TV and so on.

Make notes, write things down on a list and read them before bedtime 

Check through the list again when you wake up. It is amazing what you can remember when relaxed and sleepy! This is a great way to learn languages, names, dates and boring stuff. Post sticky notes everywhere, especially on the mirror. Collect the facts you know and post up new ones. Keep them all and review them from time to time. Train and challenge the brain especially as you get a few decades older with daily crossword puzzles or similar brain teasers. Line dancing is said to be more effective in this respect and you get more exercise and have fun. Playing cards, bridge or chess, even with a cyber opponent improves both short and long-term memory and teaches one to be 10 moves ahead.

Take more supplements to help the brain.

We all know about the importance of Omega 3 oil for the brain. Water is the most important brain activator and to the degree you dehydrate, the memory gets fuzzy. So keep some icy cold water next to you during study time. Glucose is the only brain fuel that passes the blood brain barrier and the best way to maintain blood sugar is with sensible eating habits. A few spoons of glucose will have an instant effect but will drop the blood sugar down further when insulin is released by the pancreas. Sugar is not the solution to low blood sugar.

Avoid the regular use of stimulants 

like coffee, caffeine, Ritalin and drugs that override fatigue because they are only temporary fixes. To the degree you depend on them, you stop making the proper neuro chemistry yourself and thus become addicted to stimulants and “upper” drugs. In emergencies they can help, especially for overnight study sessions but they will not improve your memory. Without a daily fix your brain and nervous system begin to deteriorate. Rather take more vitamins, minerals and natural herbs. Exercise more, detoxify and drink lots of water – the memory will improve.

Overexposure to ITCredit: Sue Visser

Watch out for overexposure to cellphones and computers 

The radio waves can “fry” your brain. They also violate the blood brain barrier and allow infections and toxic substances to infiltrate the inner brain tissue and destroy neurons. A damaged brain will not be able to remember, let alone function at its best. Heavy metals like mercury, cadmium and lead also accumulate in the brain when the blood brain barrier is breached. Heavy metals, including the amalgam in your mouth need to be removed and detoxification protocols,  especially chelation will help to remove embedded particles from your cells. Otherwise chronic inflammation sets in and many toxic chemicals creep into the system. Some chemicals as a side effect of poor glucose control can damage brain cells.

Tissue salt Kali Phos

Homeopathic remedies and tissue salts can help

Consider Homeopathy and the use of biochemical tissue salts. Remedies such as KALI PHOS D6 are cheap, safe and an excellent way to keep the brain and nerves in peak condition. A Homeopath can help you find a constitutional remedy that will help to balance out your physical and mental problems. It is the most comprehensive way to keep in touch with the brain and how it interacts with the nervous system.The symptom picture will change in response to remedies given at a very high potency. Remedies for heavy metal poisoning like MERC SOL,  CUPRUM, PLUMBUM and so on can help with detoxification. 

Homeopath testing food sensitivityCredit: Sue Visser

3 How can we prevent the gradual memory decline associated with old age?

Vitamins and minerals are important. B vitamins especially B12 are a tonic for the brain and the memory. They are available in special formulations that include ginseng, ginkgo biloba and other memory boosters like Bacopa Monnieri. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that it helped improve word recall memory and decrease depression and anxiety. The study was conducted on healthy people aged 65 and older.


An in-depth discussion of mine on Info Barrel on brain function 

Herbs mentioned in an Info Barrel article I wrote on brain and nerve disorders:

Coleus Forskolin

Olive leaf

Centella (Gotu Kola


Bacopa Monnieri

You may enjoy reading another Info Barrel article I wrote for people with ADD ADHD