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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

Head to Toe Health: Support Central Nervous System Protein Levels

May 31, 2022 09:31AM ● By Gary Kracoff
Everyone wants to be happy, healthy and enjoy life as we age. As the years go by, many normal functions in the body seem to slow down. For many, this includes brain function, memory and recall. This can be due to changes in our lifestyle, toxic exposures, amount of exercise, quality and quantity of sleep and general wear and tear on the body leading to inflammation.

A new area that is receiving a lot of attention and research is brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF). BDNF is a protein made in the central nervous system. This protein is a growth factor or, as Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John J. Ratey, MD, coined in his game-changing book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, BDNF is like “Miracle-Gro for your brain.”

BDNF is the key factor in the brain’s ability to change and grow in a process called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity involves the brain’s ability to generate new nerve cells through neurogenesis. In addition to building new brain cells, these cells can also be repaired and change function. BDNF helps the brain strengthen and develop new connections between neurons. By strengthening these connections called synapses, it helps improve neurotransmitter transport between neurons which maximizes their function.

Clinically, higher BDNF levels are associated with improved cognition and better mood. Moreover, a study from 2015 published in the Archives of Medical Science proved BDNF deficiency is associated with increased weight, and BDNF administration can reduce food intake and increase energy expenditure. Thus, BDNF seems to have an important role in several neurological diseases and type 2 diabetes.

BDNF levels can be supported through exercise and targeted supplementation. The benefits of BDNF support and maintaining healthy BDNF levels can include an increase in a person’s ability to learn, focus, remember, tolerate stress, sleep, improve mood and is adversely related to neurogenerative disorders.

BDNF Supplementation

Supporting digestion and elimination is the first area to balance. Next, make sure to stay well-hydrated. Exercise helps produce nitric oxide, which is helpful for circulation, blood pressure, sexual function, immune health, and overall well-being. Decreasing exposure to toxic substances while eating clean healthy food to fuel the body and staying well-hydrated helps keep us healthy and inflammation low.

The following ingredients can have a positive effect on BDNF: a blend of skullcap, ashwagandha, bacopa, lion’s mane and black rice promote healthy BDNF formation, support normal cytokine levels and nurture a healthy mood. Also, a blend of phosphatidylserine and citicoline supports healthy cognition, cellular membrane function and healthy cortisol levels. Pregnant and nursing women should consult a health care professional before use.

As we age, determining what is the proper supplementation to support the body’s needs from head to toe is essential. Working with a health practitioner is the best way to determine what is the best plan at any age.

Dr. Gary Kracoff is a naturopathic doctor and registered pharmacist at the JohnsonCompounding and Wellness Center, located at 577 Main St., Waltham. He can assist people with assessing BDNF levels and recommend support where needed. For more information, call 781-893-3870 ext. 2 or visit

Peak Levels

Proper brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) levels play an important role in maintaining peak physical and mental health, especially as we age. Research suggests:


·         Healthy BDNF levels are critical for cognition, development, sleep, and healthy aging

·         BDNF levels decline with age

·         Patients with psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders have lower BDNF levels

·         BDNF is one of the most important molecules involved in both memory and learning

·         Decreased levels of BDNF have been found in adults and children with ADHD

·         BDNF is critical for healthy neuroplasticity, which is responsible for the brain’s ability to recover from injury

·         BDNF deficiency is associated with increased weight and seems to have an important role in type 2 diabetes


What lowers BDNF levels?


·         Neuroinflammation levels from toxins and infections

·         Elevated cortisol levels from prolonged stress

·         Traumatic brain injury

·         Oxidative stress

·         Sugar

·         Social isolation