Brain fog?  Feeling down?  Are there any supplements that can help with these?

The number-one search topic that brings visitors to our website is "supplements for the brain."

Our modern life is stressful and hectic, and it is easy to be overwhelmed by the day-to-day demands of life, both emotionally and cognitively.

What can we do to reduce this stress, and to better cope with and handle it? 

The first thing is to recognize that our mind and body are one being, interconnected and inseparable.  How well we take care of our physical being will directly impact how well we can navigate the world and its challenges, cognitively and emotionally. 

By the same token, the attitude and outlook that we bring to the world directly impacts our physical health.  Do we believe that we can learn from our mistakes, and that every setback is an opportunity to learn to do and to be better next time?  Or do we believe that a mistake is just a reflection of who we are essentially -- that of course we made that mistake, because we're so stupid? 

Mind influences matter, and matter is the physical substrate of which mind is an emergent property.

What are some concrete steps that we can take to improve the physical substrate of the mental and emotional aspects of ourselves?

If you've read our other protocols, you will not be surprised when we say that the number one thing to do is to eat real food -- fresh vegetables and fruits, responsibly and humanely raised meat, and limited amounts of refined carbohydrates -- and to exercise regularly, at least four times a week for at least 30 minutes a session, to the point that you break a sweat. 

What about nutritional supplements?  Are there any that can help us maintain the mental and emotional aspects of ourselves in their optimal state? 

There are, because there are widespread nutritional deficiencies due to our modern way of living, despite our best efforts to eat healthily.

Studies have shown that these nutrients may play a role in preventing and treating neurodegenerative, cognitive and mood disorders:

Glutathione, the master antioxidant

Glutathione is the body's 'master antioxidant' and detoxifying agent.  It is a tri-peptide (three amino acid) compound that is produced in the cytoplasm of every cell in the body, with a high concentration in the liver.  Although glutathione is made by the body, it is critical that our diet provide either glutathione precursors, or glutathione itself, in order to maintain adequate levels of glutathione.  Modern diets, because of the high prevalence of processed foods, provide only negligible amounts of glutathione.

Clinical studies have shown that a multitude of neuro-degenerative and psychiatric disorders are characterized by impaired glutathione levels:

  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  • Huntington's Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar Disorder

For decades, research scientists and clinical doctors had believed that glutathione taken orally has low, or no, bioavailability.  Thus when restoring a patient's glutathione levels, the strategy has been to provide glutathione precursors or cofactors, like N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC).  Under stress or in disease, however, a person's ability to synthesize glutathione may be compromised, so pre-formed, whole glutathione would be preferable, if only it could be absorbed when taken orally.  But that was thought to be impossible.

In 2015, however, a clinical trial demonstrated that it is possible.  Setria® glutathione, a patented, reduced form of glutathione made by Kyowa Hakko, was shown conclusively to increase systemic levels of glutathione when taken orally.  For this reason, we carry only the Setria® brand of glutathione, rather than NAC or other precursors.  We believe that it is superior to take whole, pre-formed glutathione, rather than a precursor, when trying to correct impaired glutathione levels in a stressed or diseased state.

Probiotics and the gut-brain connection

Of all of the medical research done in recent years, among the most intriguing is that exploring the connection between the gut and the brain. 

For example, there is evidence that our gut bacteria also reside in our brain while we are alive.  And there have been a multitude of studies suggesting that gut dysbiosis is linked to neurological and mood disorders such as:

While it is still early days in this research regarding the gut-central nervous system axis, probiotics seem to be a promising mode of treatment, both as an adjunct to pharmaceuticals and as a standalone treatment.  There is strong evidence to suggest that the modern diet decimates the gut microbiome, so it stands to reason that restoring the microbiome may have a beneficial effect on many chronic illnesses, including those involving mood and the brain.


Choline is an often overlooked, but essential, nutrient that must be obtained from the diet, and one that is involved in many critical functions in the human body: 

  • Choline is the precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is essential for the proper functioning of the brain and both the somatic and autonomic nervous systems;
  • Choline is also the precursor for the methyl-group donor betaine, and so is essential for the methylation and de-methylation reactions in the liver that regulate gene expression;
  • Every cell membrane in the body requires choline.  In the liver, in particular, a deficiency of choline will cause triglycerides to accumulate in it, resulting in fatty liver disease and, if left uncorrected, cirrhosis.  In muscle cells, a deficiency of choline will cause damage and eventually cell death.

Although choline is an essential dietary nutrient, at least 75% of U.S. adults consume less than the Adequate Intake (AI) levels of 7.5 mg of choline per kg of body weight (the AI level is higher during pregnancy and lactation).  In those over the age of 71, only 4% of men and 2% of women are getting the recommended AI levels.  Note that the AI levels of choline are minimum levels that were set by the U.S. Institute of Medicine to avoid impaired liver function.  The AI levels are not optimal levels.

Human and animal studies have shown that choline has numerous neuroprotective effects, both in adults and in newborns and young children:

  • In children, perinatal maternal choline supplementation protects from congenital central nervous system defects and is associated with improved cognitive development and functioning of the child;
  • In adults, choline intake levels are positively correlated with performance on verbal and visual memory tests, and inversely correlated with brain physiology biomarkers of Alzheimer's Disease, the most common form of dementia associated with aging;
  • A possible explanation for this protective effect of choline intake on cognitive functioning is that choline is a precursor of phosphatidylcholine, which is a major component of every cell membrane, including neurons and glial cells.  There is strong evidence to suggest that metabolism of phophatidylcholine and other phospholipids such as omega-3 fatty acids is impaired in Alzheimer's disease.

DHA and EPA (Omega 3 fatty acids)

The omega-3 fatty acids (FA) are another essential group of nutrients that must be obtained from the diet.  The liver can convert the omega-3 FA alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) -- found in seeds, nuts and vegetable oils -- into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and from EPA into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), but only very inefficiently

The best dietary sources of EPA and DHA are oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, or algae and plankton.  In the US and in many parts of the EU, however, the most prevalent dietary form of omega-3 FAs is ALA; DHA and EPA are consumed in insufficient amounts.  Thus it may be beneficial to take DHA and EPA in purified supplemental forms, such as the ones by Support Protocols.

DHA and EPA have been shown in studies to have numerous beneficial effects with regard to cognitive and visual function, and in depression:

  • DHA is a primary structural component of the brain's neuronal membranes and the retina's outer rod membranes.
  • A deficiency of DHA reduces the optimal function of these cell membranes, resulting in a loss of neurotransmitter signals between these cells.
  • In addition, the brain is an extremely energy-intensive organ in the body, relying entirely on glucose for energy, unlike other tissues.  The brain, even at rest, uses 20% of the body's daily energy intake, despite only accounting for 2% of the body's weight.  The brain's ability to intake glucose is significantly reduced with DHA deficiency, via impairment of the GLUT-1 glucose transporter, and this contributes to the loss of neurotransmitter efficiency.
  • Such a loss of neurotransmitter signal efficiency between neurons and retinal cells leads to deficits in brain and visual function, such as the ability to learn, cope with stress, control aggressive behavior, and loss of visual acuity.
  • In individuals with Alzheimer's Disease and even in those with mild cognitive impairment, DHA levels are significantly lower than in normal control individuals.
  • For depression, the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry has found that omega-3 supplements in a ratio of 2:1 EPA to DHA is the most effective in treating depression.
  • As we age, ensuring adequate intake of omega-3 FAs, along with exercise, may be a safe, low-cost way to prevent the onset of cognitive decline and depression that is often associated with aging, but should not be considered a normal part of it.

Ubiquinol (CoQ10)

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a co-factor molecule found in every cell of animal tissue that performs aerobic respiration.  It is an integral component of the Electron Transport Chain found in mitochondria, the parts of cells that convert food and oxygen into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the form of energy that cells require to function.  Although CoQ10 is found in all organs of the human body, it is most densely concentrated in tissue that has the highest energy requirements:  the brain, heart, liver and kidneys.

CoQ10 is synthesized by the body and can be gotten in small amounts from food, primarily from fatty fish and meat.  The human body synthesizes less and less CoQ10 as it ages, in particular after the age of 40.

In addition to its function as an electron carrier in the Electron Transport Chain in mitochondria, CoQ10 is a potent antioxidant in the reduced and oxidized forms in which it exists within cells:  ubiquinone is the oxidized form; ubiquinol the reduced form.  The ability of CoQ10 to exchange electrons with other molecules as it converts between its reduced and oxidized forms enables its antioxidant properties.

Increased oxidative stress has been found in numerous studies to be a hallmark of the 'normal' cognitive decline that occurs as we age.  This is due in part to the established fact that we produce less and less CoQ10 as we age.  Increased oxidative stress is also found in neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, Huntington's Disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.  Additionally, mitochondrial dysfunction seems to represent a common pathophysiological mechanism in all of these neurological diseases.

Thus CoQ10, because of its essential role in mitochondrial function, and its potent antioxidant activity, is a promising therapy in both the 'normal' cognitive decline that accompanies aging, and in neurological diseases:

The form of CoQ10 that we carry is the patented Kaneka QH Ubiquinol™, which is a fully reduced form of CoQ10 that is much more bioavailable than the cheaper, more commonly available ubiquinone form of CoQ10.


Curcumin is the most prevalent active compound derived from the roots of the turmeric plant (curcuma longa), and is commonly used as a spice, food coloring and in ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for inflammatory diseases.  Curcumin has been shown in numerous studies to have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties

  • It down-regulates several transcription factors, such as nuclear factor kappa beta (NF-kB), and protein kinases, such as mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), involved in pro-inflammatory pathways such as those in the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (e.g. IL-6), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a) and signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) proteins;
  • Its chemical structure acts as an electron trap, preventing the formation of pro-oxidant reactive oxygen species (ROS);
  • Its chemical structure also enables it to chelate heavy metals, thus protecting against metal-induced toxicity;
  • It is ten times more powerful than vitamin E as a free-radical scavenger;
  • In addition to acting as a direct scavenger of ROS, it increases levels of gluthatione, the body's master antioxidant;
  • It is able to cross the blood-brain barrier, and is thus able to protect the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation;
  • Epidemiological studies have shown that populations that consume curcumin regularly have far lower incidence of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's Disease, than populations that do not.

Thus curcumin is a very promising candidate as a potential treatment for age related cognitive decline, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's Disease.

However, one challenge that must be overcome with curcumin is that its bioavailability is very low, perhaps as low as 1% for unformulated curcumin.  Support Protocols Turmeric Curcumin Phytosome, however, uses Meriva®, a patented formulation of curcumin that uses phosphatidylcholine to increase its bioavailability 29-fold compared to unformulated curcumin.

Vitamin D and two neglected minerals, Magnesium and Boron

In recent years there has been increased awareness of the critical importance of vitamin D to not only skeletal, but extra-skeletal, health -- in particular proper immune system function and the controlling of inflammation.  Most cells in the human body have vitamin D receptors, including the neuronal and glial cells of the brain and nervous system.  And so vitamin D deficiency has been found to play a role in multiple cognitive, neurodegenerative and mood disorders:


Magnesium is an often-overlooked mineral, despite its importance to human health.  It is involved in over 600 enzymatic reactions in the body, and is critical for the proper functioning of every organ.  An estimated 60% of adults in the developed world are deficient in magnesium.

Within cells, magnesium acts as a calcium antagonist.  A deficiency of magnesium resulting in excessive calcium in neuronal cells may lead to the production of toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS) and eventually to neuronal cell death.

Magnesium deficiency is present in a multitude of neurological and mood disorders, and is being studied as a treatment for them:

  • Migraine
  • Depression
  • Epilepsy
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Neuroses
  • Addiction
  • Stress
  • Alzheimer's Disease


Boron is another mineral that is essential to human health but is overlooked.  It can be gotten from fruits and vegetables, but because of modern agriculture and its dependence on chemical fertilizers, we are getting much less boron (and other essential trace minerals) from food than we were 50 or 100 years ago.  The estimated average intake of boron in the European Union is only 0.8 to 1.9 mg per day.

Within cells, boron works together with magnesium to remove calcifications from soft tissue, where they do not belong, and to redeposit calcium to bones and joints.

In relation to brain and nervous system health, boron has numerous salient effects:

  • It increases the level of vitamin D
  • It increases the absorption of magnesium
  • It reduces biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress such as C-reactive Protein and TNF-a
  • It increases the level of glutathione, the body's master antioxidant
  • Boron deficiency results in reduced brain electrical activity, and poorer performance in tests of motor speed, dexterity, attention and short-term memory
  • Experiments where adults were deprived of boron led to reduced brain function and cognitive performance, with an effect similar to that found in malnutrition and heavy-metal toxicity