Welcome to another edition of the Doctor’s Note where we talk about what’s on our minds when it comes to your health. This week we’re going to talk about BRAIN FOG and the supplements and/or medications you can take that will help.
A huge study has just confirmed that there is a loss of Grey matter in your brain as a result of Covid-19, especially if you experienced loss of smell.
In my opinion, we’re going to see fallout from Covid-19 due to the months and years of neurological damage it has caused. In addition to emotional stress, disruption of sleep patterns and general fatigue, we are also going to see a lot of neurological disorders in the future, including Alzheimer’s. We need to do everything we can to prevent this.
Brain fog is hard to describe, but everyone that has it knows they have it. My common sense definition is a “tired” brain. Here are a few symptoms:
- Cognition is bad
- Memory gets bad
- Can’t put thoughts together
- Not as sharp mentally as you used to be
Some of the forms of brain fog that I have treated include:
- Shift Workers Syndrome
- Jet Lag
- Chronic Fatigue
- Long Covid
When we talk about brain fog, we’re talking about inflammation. Just like when you talk about IBS, gut dysfunction, and Fibromyalgia. It’s all inflammation. Any acute or chronic disease has its basis in inflammation. As functional medicine doctors, we are actually inflammatologists because inflammation is what we look at.
Over any supplement, the most important things you can do for brain fog are actually the four tenets of my practice.
- Exercise (best thing you can do for your overall health)
- Sleep (and stress reduction)
- Hormone Balance
There are a few supplements I want to talk about in this Note that focus on helping your neurotransmitters. The first is L-Tyrosine, an amino acid that you get from protein foods like meat, fish, and eggs. It’s required to make Dopamine.
Note: you need to think about neurotransmitters when talking about your cognition and brain health.
Dopamine is an essential neurotransmitter that has to do with happiness, mood, and movement (think Parkinson’s Disease). Everyone needs Dopamine to feel good. I always tell my new patients that life isn’t fair. Why are some people naturally depressed and others happy all the time? A lot of times it’s how much Dopamine is in your brain. Your brain may not be making enough Dopamine, or some of the other neurotransmitters like Serotonin, Epinephrine or Norepinephrine.
L-Tyrosine has been used to treat ADD for a long time, both by itself and with stimulants like Adderall. It’s important to understand how it works. L-Tyrosine has to do with how much Dopamine is active in your brain. It is required to make neurotransmitters, even Serotonin. Think of Serotonin as the neurotransmitter that you don’t have enough of when you get depressed. This is why there are so many medications that are made to raise your Serotonin levels.
Besides raising Dopamine levels, L-Tyrosine does many other things. It helps to make your thyroid hormones, increase your energy levels, memory, cognition, and even helps your muscle memory. Your body also uses L-Tyrosine to make Melatonin and CoQ10. It’s a precursor to a lot of essential compounds in your body.
- Reduce alcohol cravings and addiction
- Helpful for controlling appetite
- Helps hair growth (it can even help turn hair that’s graying to normal pigment in some cases)
Important Note: Remember the brain-gut connection. Mental health is connected to gut health. This is why the first question I ask patients is: “How is your gut?”. If you have some imbalances these supplements may not work as well.
Supplementing with L-Tyrosine
Question: Why can’t your body get enough L-Tyrosine from food?
Answer: When protein is eaten, the Tyrosine can get bound up to other amino acids, meaning it may not make Dopamine in that case. Your body needs the B Vitamins, Vitamin C, and enough Iron stores to make Tyrosine from phenylalanine.
One supplement I like to combine with L-Tyrosine is L-Tryptophan (mostly in the form of 5HTP). The reason I like 5HTP is that it enters the blood brain barrier. It’s the active form of Tryptophan called HydroxyTryptophan. Sometimes at night to help you sleep you can use 5HTP in combination with Melatonin and even GABA. L-Tryptophan can also help you calm down.
As I mentioned earlier in this Note, I’ve used L-Tyrosine for years for my patients with ADD. People tend to feel more creative, energetic, and happier.
Dosing and Side Effects
Take L-Tyrosine in the morning on an empty stomach.
Dose: Between 500mg and 1000mg. I always like to start slow and go from there.
Take L-Tryptophan at night on an empty stomach.
Dose: 50mg- 100mg for 5HTP (my favorite form)
I like about a 10:1 ratio of L-Tyrosine to L-Tryptophan. Remember to take with B-Complex, Vitamin C, and address any iron deficiency you may have as well.
Side effects of L-Tyrosine (when you take too high of a dose):
Note: watch out if you have uncontrolled hypertension. If you’re on medications for Parkinson’s Disease, ADHD, or Antidepressants, you want to check with your medical provider first before you start it.
Take breaks from L-Tyrosine. Long term use of this supplement can deplete some of your other neurotransmitters. With any vitamins you need to take an occasional break, especially this one.
Final thoughts: If you think you have ADD, brain fog or depression, L-Tyrosine is something you should think about taking. I like the combination of L-Tyrosine and L-Tryptophan a lot.
If you have brain fog make sure you get a complete neurologic workup by a functional medicine doctor.