We are lucky to discover an amazing molecule called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. (BDNF)
BDNF protein is found in the brain(especially Hippocampus) and is not only a protein but also a peptide with many functions, such as regulating the growth of neurons and new synapses.
Moreover, this protein can protect against different types of brain injury, including stroke and brain trauma caused by environmental damage.
Plus, this peptide can help treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, as well as Depression.
In this article, we will explain the Relationships between Depression and anxiety and the approaches that elevate BDNF production.
BDNF Can Helps With Depression And Anxiety
Depression and Anxiety have become epidemics, and we don’t know the main cause. It might be the reason you could have Cognitive Distortions, Brain Chemicals Imbalance, or Cronic Inflammation (Specifically Gut and Brain)
However, some research showed that people with BNDF deficiency tend to have an increased risk of Depression and Anxiety.
Another study found that Depression and suicidal behavior are linked to structural and synaptic plasticity abnormalities, as we know that BDNF, one of the key neurotrophic factors, aids in neuron survival and synaptic plasticity. And BDNF formation mostly accumulates in the Brain Areas Called: Hippocampus.
|Substance||Potential Effects on Depression and Anxiety|
|BDNF||BDNF is an important protein for neuron health and development of the new brain cells. Yet, people who have a deficiency of the BDNF tend to have more depression and anxiety. Plus, BDNF helps to the regulation of Emotions. However, it would be best to optimize BDNF levels for preventing depression, and people|
|Antidepressants||As all we know that antidepressants are a class of medications to treat depression and anxiety. How do they work? Simple. These drugs work on the brain chemicals and alter the levels of neurotransmitters. (such as GABA, serotonin, and norepinephrine). Nevertheless, antidepressants may not be effective for everyone and can have serious side effects.|
Hippocampus Size Matters When It Comes To Depression
The Hippocampus has two main roles: short-term memory and spatial navigation, and the hippocampus control emotions by regulating the release of certain hormones, such as cortisol and oxytocin, which are associated with stress levels.
Research showed that people whose hippocampus areas are smaller than normal are at high risk of Alzheimer’s, Depression, and Anxiety disorders.
Animals who have smaller hippocampus areas showed more cortisol response in stressful situations. (also disturbed Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis)
What Can We Do Helps Our Hippocampus Size?
First, we should understand the cause of hippocampus shrinkage and eliminate actions affecting the Hippocampus.
According to a study, people with high cortisol levels cause by Traumatic Experiences, and an overactive Amygdala(fear center) tend to have hippocampus shrinkage. That showed us stress management can directly impact our Hippocampus size.
Certain types of stress are more detrimental such as Chemicals such as methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, and ethanol, and heavy metals such as Aluminum, Mercury, Iron, and Fluoride could be detrimental if it’s accessed.
These chemicals and toxins weaken the Glutathione reserve(Master Antioxidant protects Blood-Brain Barrier). Depleted Glutathio can cause blood-brain barrier permeability and eventually harm the Hippocampus.
Some strategies to protect from Heavy metals toxicity are using high-quality antioxidants and sulfur intake, avoiding fluoride, and donating blood for iron levels.
Mitochondrial Health Influences The BDNF Production.
Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. It produces ATP, a molecule that provides energy for the cell, especially brain cells.
Mitochondria also produce other important molecules like NADH and FADH2. These help slow the aging process and promote certain genes that could help longevity and cell age.
Mitochondria also regulate autophagy; a process cells use to remove harmful proteins and other cellular materials they no longer need. (included heavy metals and dangerous chemicals)
If you think only your muscle use energy ATP, I suppose you might be wrong. Your brain’s highly energy-demand organs consume most of the energy in your body.
The more you have Mitochondria, the better you will produce ATP, and eventually, this ATP can feed the Brain Cells, as well as the Hippocampus area.
When you have better Mitochondrial functions, you tend to have better Cognitive Health and BDNF protein production. As we know, certain things, such as Fasting(ketones), Exercise, and certain supplements, can help with that.
For that, I would strongly recommend reading science-based, comprehensive, and easy to implement for everyone that articles I wrote for optimizing Mitochondrial health.
Related: Free Alternative For Optimizing Mitochondria, And Longevity – 2023 Guide
Fasting For BDNF Production
Fasting is one of the oldest and most universal practices in spiritual traditions. It is also an important part of many secular approaches to weight loss as well as promoting Mitophagy and Autophagy.
However, Studies showed that Fasting could increase the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), especially if combined with Exercise.
Fasting Might Not Work Everyone
Intermittent Fasting can stimulate Ketones production, that’s good because Ketones support “New Brain Cells” production and more promising energy for the brain thanks to Beta-Hydroxybutyric acid.
However, some people report cortisol spikes during Fasting, which hurts BDNF production. For that reason, regular intermittent Fasting does not might works everyone, specifically if you have an Anxiety disorder.
For that reason, I would suggest that 2-3 times a week intermittent Fasting might be better if you have Anxiety or a high-stress history.
Why This is An Important?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of Fasting, but we should make sure we are “happy” while Fasting.
When we fast, it might be possible to get cortisol spike and deplete some of the Vitamins such as B1, B5, Magnesium, and Sodium Amino acids such as tryptophan. Our body uses Minerals and Vitamins to balance Serotonin and Adrenal to handle stress.
If you already have an Anxiety Past and overconsumption of Caffeine, that leads to a deficiency of B vitamins and Tryptophan that cause irritation during Fasting. For that, always start with small, and make sure to eat healthily during feating phare.
How Long To Fast For BDNF Production?
The length of time varies from person to person, but it usually takes between 18-24 hours to fast for BDNF production(Related to Ketones). It is important to note that you need to have enough calories and proteins in your diet daily to maintain your health and keep your body functioning properly.
Melatonin Elevates Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland. It regulates sleep and wake cycles, known as circadian rhythm.
Melatonin has strong antioxidant properties, which help to protect Brain cells from oxidative damage and amyloid protein builds in the brain. (Amyloids Building could cause Alzheimer’s Disease)
A study was done on mice, where they found that Melatonin boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) as well as reduces cortisol, further supporting BDNF production.
You can check comprehensive articles about Melatonin, Anxiety, and well-being here:
Related: Why Is Melatonin Important For Well-Being, Anxiety, And Depression?
What Other Things Stimulates BDNF Production?
There are other strategies available for optimizing BDNF levels, and these are interconnected with each other.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Did you know that omega-3 fatty acids may encourage the growth of new brain cells? Yes. Omega-3 has anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to promote hippocampal neurogenesis and eventually promote BDNF.
- Avoid Sugar: If you consume sugary foods- sweet drinks and processed foods, which leads to an insulin spike and eventually suppresses the Hippocampus. Too much sugar causes inflammation and damages the brain cells by causing oxidative stress.
- Limit Your Blue Light: Blue light from your phone, computer, or tablet is short-wavelength, and it is more intense than other colors of the spectrum. This light can cause your eyes to suppress the production of the hormone “Melatonin,” which directly impacts your brain health.
- Black Tea: Black Tea promote a healthy amount of Caffeine, and researchers have found that a healthy dosage of caffeine can help protect against cognitive decline and dementia by increasing levels of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). Black tea is also good at certain Polyphenols that support Gut Bacteria and reduce inflammations.
Note: High Caffeine Intake can lead to GABA deficiency and Anxious behavior and affect Sleep Quality by inhibiting Melatonin production. However, Black Tea has L-Theanine Amino Acids, which help to increase GABA production to the opposite effect of Caffeine. For that reason, a small amount of Black Tea can be tolerable by most people.
Stress Management Is The Key
Stress is a part of life, but Chronic Stress does not have to be a part of your life. When it comes to stress, we should implement those things:
- Adaptation To Stress
- Managing To Stress
We should teach our nervous system to handle stressful situations through biohacks such as Cold Showers, Wim Hof Breathing, and Intermittent Fasting.
Besides, it would be good to teach our body to manage everyday stressors through regular Meditation, Stress Reduction Techniques, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Adaptogens, and Better sleep by optimizing Melatonin.
Can Increasing BDNF Levels Through Exercise Help Improve Mental Health?
Yes, regular exercise can increase BDNF levels in the brain and stimulate the new brain cells in the hippocampus. Studies show that Dysfunction or a low amount of BDNF leads to synaptic plasticity failure, decreased excitatory neurons and glutamate, and finally, you will tend to have depression and anxiety.
Combining fasting and exercise can be more beneficial when it comes to stimulating BDNF levels.
|Chronic Stress||Stress can cause the suppression of BDNF production which makes you more depressed. Excessive Stress also counteracts Melatonin synthesis.|
|Lack of social support||Lack of social support is also another reason why you might feel depressed. There are some research showed that being social can increase positive chemicals and stimulate BDNF production.|
|Substance abuse||Bad habits such as alcohol, marijuana, or drug abuse, can worsen symptoms of depression and may lead to the development of a co-occurring disorder.|
|Poor sleep quality||Sleep deprivation cause Melatonin deficiency, which leads to reduced BDNF production and activation of the Prefrontal cortex.|
|Chronic illness||Chronic illness can cause the secretion of Proinflammatory cytokines eventually leading to inhibiting BDNF.|
|Hormonal changes||Hormonal imbalances or changes(estrogen, testosterone), such as those that occur during menopause or pregnancy, can trigger or worsen depression.|
Bonus Tips For BDNF Production Is The Curcumin.
Curcumin is an extract found in turmeric that has been studied for its potential effects on Depression and Anxiety by inhibiting the inflammatory response in the brain and promoting neurogenesis.
The research found that Curcumin can increase BDNF production in the brain, and this might be the reason why Curcumin has anti-depressive effects.
However, Curcumin could also support Dopaminergic and Serotonergic synapsis which helps mood-boosting effects.
Curcumin supplementation dose and duration ranged from 200 to 1820 mg/d and 8 to 12 weeks, and Curcumin supplementation significantly increased serum BDNF levels with significant heterogeneity among the studies.
Zinc For BDNF Production And Mood
Zinc is a mineral necessary for the production of BDNF because Zinc primarily concentrates the Hippocampus areas.
Plus, the minerals in the zinc family (Copper, nickel, manganese) are also essential for BDNF production.
The study results suggest that Zinc plays an important role in hippocampus-dependent learning and memory as well as Zinc deficiency might impair proper BDNF production in the Hippocampus area.
Make sure properly optimize your Zinc level with Diet, and test your Zinc level with a blood test.
Note: if you decide to use a high dosage of Zinc, make sure to balance it with Copper because they work together, and too much Zinc might cause a Copper deficiency that negatively impacts our Mitochondrial Health.
You can also boost your Copper and BNDF intake by consuming Bitter Chocolate; that high amount of Copper, Magnesium, and Polyphenol can stimulate BDNF production.
BDNF productions are crucial for Mood and Nootropics effects for those who research to improve their ability to learn things easily.
Plus, BDNF can help to protect against neurogenerative illnesses such s Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
Evidence is clear that people with low BDNF production levels tend to have Depression and Anxiety.