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10 Reasons to/NOT to try TDCS – transcranial direct-current stimulation

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Taping some wires to your skull and connecting them to a 9-volt battery sounds kinda wild, right?

But could a couple of milliamps of current from a 9-volt battery actually boost your brain power? Lower your anxiety? Eliminate depression?

Sounds kinda crazy, like some crackpot science, right?

Benefits of tDCS

While it’s still a very experimental strategy, increasing numbers of people are trying transcranial direct-current stimulation, more commonly known as tDCS, to enhance learning, focus, decision-making, creativity and more. I first learned about it through the RadioLab podcast, “9 volt nirvana” which I highly recommend listening to. Amazing stuff.

Meanwhile, doctors are studying the technique as a potential treatment for all kinds of ailments and plenty of people are reporting anecdotal evidence to suggest it has some pretty incredible results.

tDCS for depression

In one study, which described tDCS as a novel non-pharmacological treatment for depression, they found results were mixed. Some participants reported improved mood and relief from depressive symptoms. Others not so much. Still, it appears to be roughly as effective as prescription medication.((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4887722))

Reduced anxiety

One study reported participants had a significant decrease in anxiety, specifically associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29240023))

Treating addiction

One study showed an improvement in the ability to quit tobacco, although they claim the results were mixed, and perhaps the participants who showed favorable results were more inclined to actually want to quit.((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29434547))

Stroke recovery

In one interesting study, researchers found tDCS helped improve the quality of life and significantly lowered depression in stroke patients. They attribute this to “the increase in brain activity in patients with stroke” given that tDCS can help enhance the excitability of the cerebral cortex.((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23340073))

Relief from mental disorders such as schizophrenia

((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3897759))

Help treat alzheimer’s disease

Some studies have shown promising results using tDCS to help alzheimer’s patients, in particular to help them retrieve words and improve communication. In one study they gave six 30-minute sessions over ten days.

Another study in Nature claimed that 40mz light helped clear beta amyloid plaques in mice
((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29658441))

Improved cognitive ability

Maybe instead of cramming for that final test with a caffeine fueled all nighter you should strap on some electrodes. There’s quite a bit of evidence suggesting transcraniel stimulation can help improve cognition in a bunch of ways.

In one study by DARPA (the military Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) they found that tDCS had a significant effect of improving cognition in macaques who were tested to perform certain tasks based on learning associations between visual cues and a location1

So yea, there’s quite a bit of legit research on top of anecdotal evidence suggesting that zapping your brain might have some pretty incredible results.

Is this much different than electroshock therapy?

The idea of using electricity to treat mental illness is nothing new, of course, and despite lingering negative associations with the somewhat barbaric overuse of electroshock therapy in the mid-twentieth century, it’s an idea that makes a lot of sense. Neurons are electrically activated, after all, so it’s inevitable that subjecting them to an electrical field would have some effect, and research has confirmed that the effect is often medically beneficial.

Shock treatment, now rebranded as ECT, continues to be used for major depression and bipolar disorder. Deep brain stimulation (DBS), in which electrodes are actually implanted inside the skull, has received FDA approval for treatment of Parkinson’s disease((http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm451152.htm)) and obsessive–compulsive disorder.((http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm149529.htm))

Obviously, those are both fairly risky procedures, and ECT and DBS are both very different from tDCS. You wouldn’t dream of trying them at home, and even doctors are reluctant to use them except as a last resort against serious illness. That’s pretty much ruled out research into their potential for cognitive enhancement in healthy people (although DBS has shown some promise for improving cognitive function in patients with dementia).((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3850165/))

Less intense, noninvasive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been found to enhance cognitive performance in healthy human subjects,((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4083569/)) but the sophisticated and expensive medical equipment it requires makes it impracticable for home use.

Why tDCS is different

It still supplies neuron-stimulating current straight to the cerebral cortex, but that current’s on the order of 2mA – a mere quarter of a percent of the 800mA used in ECT. Safety has been conclusively established for up to an hour a day of 4mA tDCS,((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28709880)) a generous margin over the most common regimen of 2mA for 20 minutes every two days. And not only is it entirely possible to safely use a tDCS device at home, you can buy one for just $150 – or build one yourself for even less.

That’s made tDCS a darling of a growing DIY brain hacking community over the last decade, and it’s only gained momentum following the October 2017 publication of a DARPA-funded study((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29033331)) crediting the technique with an astonishing 40 percent increase in learning speed.

Aside from more efficient learning (especially of math, music and languages), laypeople are reporting success in using tDCS to overcome eating disorders, improve social skills, alleviate depression, and even get a better night’s sleep – and scientific research is often supporting these firsthand testimonials.((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29308739))((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26014344))

Recommended tDCS Devices

Interested in giving tDCS a try for yourself? With a number of quality devices now on the market, it’s never been easier. It’s hard to pick one single “best tDCS device” but we found a few reputable ones, reviewed below.

TheBrainDriver

TheBrainDriver is a good entry level, consumer grade tDCS device priced at around $150. It fits in your pocket, weighs less than a pound, and runs off a 9-volt battery, so it’s extremely portable. An LCD display and digital controls make it very simple to use, too: all you do is select one of four current levels (0.5mA, 1.0mA, 1.5mA & 2.0mA) and set the timer to either 20 or 30 minutes. That’s about all you can do, but that’s more than enough for most purposes.

ApeX

If you want more flexibility – and more power – you can get an American-made ApeX Type A 18V system for about the same price. Running on two 9-volt batteries, the ApeX is said to produce more reliable stimulation, and it has a built-in current meter to prove it. (While the meter goes up to 5mA, the output is safety-limited to 2mA.) The analog control dial eliminates the interference associated with digital control, resulting in cleaner current, and the progressive adjustment is more comfortable as well.

Downsides? The ApeX isn’t all that portable – if you want to take it on a trip, you’re invited to shell out another hundred bucks for a hard-shell travel pack – and it doesn’t have a timer.

Caputron ActivaDose

A decidedly more advanced – and, at about $400, more expensive – option is the Caputron ActivaDose II. This medical grade device is the one used in many scientific studies of tDCS. It has a high-contrast LCD display, but you control the current, up to a 4mA maximum, with a rotary knob.

There’s another knob that lets you select the total dose (i.e., milliamps × minutes), and the ActivaDose will automatically recalculate the time remaining if you change either dose or current settings during a session. To keep things comfortable, current transitions are also automatic. An alert will sound when the time’s up, or in the event of a low battery or open circuit.

Make your own tDCS

Of course, direct current circuits aren’t all that complicated. If you’re any kind of electronics hobbyist, making your own tDCS device is practically a no-brainer. Youtube is filled with videos explaining how to make your own tDCS device.

Even if you’ve never so much as put together a transistor radio kit, you might want to give it a try – it’s actually even easier, and it’ll save you an awful lot of money.

You’ll only need about an hour of time and 10 to 20 dollars worth of tools and materials:

• Soldering iron
• Hot glue gun
• Multimeter
• Scissors
• Wire stripper
• Perfboard
• Battery
• Switch
• Transistor
• Resistors
• Electrical tape
• Sponges
• Alligator clips
• Wire

Wiring diagrams and detailed instructions are available at places like Instructables, YouTube, and MakeUseOf.

Recommended Placement (aka Montages)

The various benefits of tDCS come from stimulating different areas of the brain. To get the effect you want, you need to position the electrodes so that the current passes through the corresponding part of your cerebral cortex. Fortunately, you don’t have to figure that out yourself.

Medical researchers have developed a number of so called “montages” showing recommended placements for everything from insight to impulse control. They’re described by letters and numbers such as FP1 and T4, which refer to specific places on the skull. For example, the DARPA montage for accelerated learning has the anode at F10 (the right temple) and the cathode on the left arm or shoulder.((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23235272))((http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3387543/)) Another well-documented placement is anode F3 / cathode FP2 for depression and anxiety.((http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1516-44462009000500006&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en))((http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0062219))

You can find many more montages at various tDCS sites, but you’ll also find that the experts don’t always agree on the best positioning for particular purposes. The very active tDCS forum on Reddit is a good place to find anecdotal accounts of what’s worked for individual users.

  1. http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(17)31185-5 []

6 Natural Alternatives to Xanax + Benzos

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Before anything, I want to put a BIG disclaimer and a personal experience.

Xanax is nasty stuff.

I took it on and off for several years from age 21 to 30, and while it helped massively with generalized anxiety disorder, it’s a double edged sword. You get to a place where you can’t function without it, and when you don’t have it, your anxiety levels go through the roof. Stopping abruptly can lead to seizures, and I must stress how important it is to speak with your doctor before you begin to taper or stop taking xanax. Abruptly stopping can have serious consequences.

Few drugs are as addicting as xanax. The initial euphoric carefree lift spirals down into an anxiety triggering dependence. Best thing is to not start in the first place. I still remember the very first 1mg xanax pill I took, simply because of the euphoric and peaceful effect it had. But once you’re in the grips of a full blown addiction, at the mercy of a little pill, trust me, it’s not so great.

In the past few years alprazolam, better known as xanax (bars, xannies) has become hugely popular, especially among teens. That’s partly because it became really easy to get them without a prescription thanks to darkweb marketplaces like the Silk Road and Alphabay that gave rise to xanax kingpins who sell their own mass produced, 2-3mg pressed bars in bulk. Now kids all around the country think it’s cool to get “bartarded”.

When benzos were first created, nobody knew the long term effects. They were meant for short term use, a few weeks at most.

What is Xanax?

Xanax is in the class of medication known as benzodiazepines. It works by balancing the chemicals in the brain that are unbalanced in people with anxiety. The medication increases a chemical known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This chemical is made naturally in the brain. It’s the primary “feel good” neurotransmitter.

Alprazolam was developed in the 1960s by Upjohn Laboratories and along with other benzos like valium and klonopin it has remained a fixture in the medical world since being first placed in the U.S. market in 1981. It is a preferred medication because it works immediately and it can be taken for many years without losing its effect.

Risks of Xanax

With Xanax, there is a high risk of dependency. The body becomes used to the effects of the medication and wants them to continue. A new baseline is established, and if you stop taking xanax suddenly, the results can be deadly because your body stops regulating its own GABA. Seizures are fairly common among people who quit without tapering. Even people who taper carefully can experience PAWS (post acute withdrawal symptoms) for months. Along with this comes the withdrawal symptoms of sweating, tremors, increased anxiety, vomiting, and muscle cramps if one stops taking the medication.

In addition, there are many other risks and side-effects of using Xanax. These include: confusion, dizziness, low energy, insomnia, headache, heart palpitations, nasal congestion, weakness, ringing in the ears, chest pain, sweating and slurred speech to name a few.

Another risk is that Xanax has interaction concerns with many other medications and food as well. Possible interactions can occur with grapefruit, certain antibiotics, some heart medications, some blood pressure medications, St. John’s Wort and anti-depressants. Not to mention alcohol, which can lead to utter disaster when combined.

Natural Alternatives to xanax and other benzodiazepenes

Fortunately, there are several natural alternatives that can be used to relieve anxiety without having to rely on Xanax.

L-Theanine

This is derived from the Asian tea Camellia sinensis and two other Camellia species. In other words, tea contains l-theanine. Especially darker black teas.

Studies focusing on recordings of brain activity after consuming L-Theanine show it can have a powerful relaxing effect1. Another study reported that l-theanine “relaxes the mind without inducing drowsiness”2.

It’s worth noting that highest levels of this compound come in black tea, which also has high caffeine. If you are sensitive to caffeine you may consider taking taking an l-theanine supplement.

I’m also fond of yerba mate tea, which contains not only l-theanine but two other compounds, theobromine and theophylline, both of which work as vascodilators which help keep your blood vessel.

GABA

This is Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid. GABA is a neurotransmitter that blocks impulses between nerve cells inside the brain.

Essentially gaba works to calm you down. Low levels of GABA cause anxiety, and your body will essentially stop producing the stuff once you start taking a benzo like xanax. Thus taking GABA increases the amount present in the brain, relieving anxiety.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is by far my favorite “adaptogen”. Adaptogens are described as natural substances that help your body cope with stress and anxiety, typically used in alternative medicine practice. It has many uses, one of which is to calm the brain, which is needed when trying to treat anxiety. One study discovered that ashwagandha is as effective as certain anxiety medications3.

Before you go out and buy some ashwagandha you should know about the different types. There are two specific variations worth trying, both using standardized extraction methods. I prefer the KSM-66 version, which is a standardized extract containing 5% withanolides (the active compound in ashwagandha). I think it’s better for daytime use.

There’s also a version called “sensoril” that has twice the amount of extract, at 10%, and many people report this version makes them sleepier, so if you want something extra calming to take at night, try this one out.

5-HTP

Several studies have found a link between 5-HTP and anxiety. Within the body 5-HTP is produced by L-tryptophan. It is also produced from the seeds of an African plant, Griffonia simplicifolia. It works to produce a calming effect in the body, thereby reducing anxiety.

In one study of young adults dealing with romantic stress, they reported improved levels of both serotonin and brain derived neurotrophic factor after three weeks4.

Another study found people who suffer from chronic anxiety attacks found relief by taking 200mg 5-HTP5.

Finally a third study found 5-HTP supplements increased GABA levels and promoted increased relaxation((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12559480)).

Rhodiola Rosea

This is my second favorite adaptogen. It’s also known by the common name of golden root and it has been used for centuries. This plant is grown at high altitudes of Asia and Europe. Studies have found that this plant has a adaptive effect which is linked to mood stabilization.

Rhodiola rosea actually combines very well with other supplements like 5-HTP and L-tryptophan, both of which work as serotonin precursors. One study found self reported decrease in anxiety and stress6 and while not the most scientifically rigorous it still supports the notion that rhodiola can help reduce anxiety.

While anecdotal, another user on a social anxiety reported that after trying all sorts of supplements and anti-depressants, he finally found rhodiola rosea, saying “It’s awesome. Amazing. Life-changing. I have never before felt so good in my life. Not once. Anxiety, depression, OCD traits, it’s all nearly gone. Anhedonia is gone, I get excited about regular stuff now, which is quite the opposite of how I’ve always been.”7

CBD Oil

CBD oil is extracted from cannabis plants, but it does not contain THC, the component that getsyou high.

CBD effects the CB1 brain receptor and alters the signal related to serotonin. By increasing serotonin, one is decreasing anxiety. This was researched by the National Institute on Drug Abuse8.

N-A-C (N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine)

This is an antioxidant amino acid supplement. NAC works by detoxifying your body, especially through the liver. As it balances out your neurotransmitter activity it reduces oxidative stress, thus reducing anxiety.

  1. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0924-2244(99)00044-8 []
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18296328 []
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11194174 []
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21178946 []
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12559480 []
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26502953 []
  7. http://www.socialanxietysupport.com/forum/f30/could-be-goodbye-found-my-solution-95739/ []
  8. https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2016/biology-potential-therapeutic-effects-cannabidiol []

7 Proven Ways Magnesium Improves Sleep + Anxiety

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Has someone ever told you to “just calm down”?

Sure they have. Has it ever worked?

Nope!

We’ve all said that to other people and hear it from friends, family, coworkers. And the reaction, not great!

When anxiety or stress creeps in, what really works to calm those tense mental and physical effects? Plenty of things, actually. You could take benzodiazepenes like xanax and valium (very addictive). Do some meditation. Smoke a joint or kick back with a glass of red wine. What works for you might not work for others. Plus it might bring a host of other unwanted side effects.

Maybe there are simpler ways. Healthier, safer options.

For example, there’s one basic nutritional supplement that might work wonders to reduce stress, help you sleep better, and just make your body function better overall.

Magnesium!

What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is an element and a mineral, and it’s essential to so many mechanisms in the body, from the production of hundreds of enzymes to supporting physiological pathways that signal energy production and protein synthesis. Though the body only needs tiny amounts of magnesium, these amounts are absolutely necessary for nearly every bodily system to function well.

It is unusual for a healthy person to have a true magnesium deficiency (2), though people very often have lower levels of magnesium than they should – especially thanks to the typical American diet (hint: Pringles do NOT have much magnesium). Unless you’re eating a healthy dose of spinach, kale and other leafy greens every day, you’re probably deficient.

Your body stores most of its magnesium in its bones along with phosphorus and calcium, two other vital minerals that magnesium helps the body absorb. Besides this, magnesium helps the body metabolize potassium, the B vitamins and vitamins C and E which are both antioxidants. It regulates blood glucose, cholesterol levels and body temperature as well. And it works in conjuction with zinc, calcium and potassium.

Far and away one of the best reasons to take magnesium is to reduce anxiety and get a restful sleep sleep.

Three Ways Magnesium Helps With Sleep

So many people have reported firsthand how taking some magnesium helped them finally get a good night’s sleep.

One Reddit user submitted a post titled “My 18ish years of insomnia cured by a simple supplement” where she explained how taking magnesium aspartate along with ZMA, zinc, and vitamin b6 made a huge difference in her quality of sleep (and in turn, her quality of life). Your mileage may vary, and maybe you’ll need to adjust the dose or try a different variation of magnesium, but if such a basic supplement can bring relief, lower anxiety and help get a restful sleep, it’s worth a shot.

Here’s why magnesium might help with those things.

Engaging GABA receptors

One way magnesium helps with sleep (3) is to attach to receptors in the central nervous system that also attach to a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. GABA is an inhibitory chemical that slows down a racing mind and allows a person to relax into sleep. One study showed “that magnesium, an NMDA receptor inhibitor, exhibited anxiolytic-like activity” in mice – meaning it significantly calmed them down in a similar way that benzodiazepenes might work.

Allowing muscles to relax

The second way that magnesium helps with sleep is its ability to allow the muscles to relax. People who are low on magnesium may find that their muscles are always tense, even when it’s time for them to sleep. People who are low in magnesium may also not feel very well in ways they can’t quite put their finger on. Raising their magnesium level makes them feel better physically, which eases whatever vague, insomnia-inducing worries they have about their physical health.

Reducing stress hormones

This is a big one.

Seriously, just read the reviews on this magnesium glycinate supplement. At least half of them mention sleep benefits. You know what affects sleep? Anxiety!

While anxiety comes from many different sources, the body’s internal stress signals serve as a primary source.

Magnesium helps a person get a good night’s sleep is through inhibiting stress hormones. Stress hormones such as adrenaline eat up the body’s stores of magnesium, and if the levels of this essential mineral are low in the first place, it exacerbates stress reactions in the body, like inflammation, which can cascade into a number of other problems such as insomnia. These stress reactions also keep people up from falling asleep.

How Magnesium Helps with Anxiety

Anxiety and insomnia are closely linked (4). A person who is anxious often finds it hard to go to sleep. The mind races. You end up staring at the ceiling for hours before you (hopefully) fall asleep.

Fortunately, magnesium can help with anxiety. Numerous studies have shown this to be the case (5,6) Here’s how.

Stopping panic attacks

Magnesium can lower the risk of panic attacks. These are very distressing episodes where the person is gripped by terror and a belief that they are going to die.

Some medical researchers believe that panic attacks come about when glucose, or blood sugar levels are unstable. When blood sugar crashes, the brain does not receive the nutrients it needs to work optimally. This produces a rush of stress hormones to try to keep the glucose levels stable. One of magnesium’s jobs in the body is to regulate blood sugar levels, and many people have found relief from their panic attacks through increasing their daily intake of magnesium.

Promoting neural  plasticity

Other researchers believe that magnesium has the ability to rewire a brain that is beset with anxiety. This is called neural, or brain plasticity. Magnesium can help the brain make new connections between its nerve cells and therefore lower instances of anxiety.

Reducing inflammation

Though people may not think that there is a link between inflammation and anxiety, one does seem to exist. The more we learn about inflammation’s effect on the body, the more we understand how it contributes to feelings of anxiety and depression. Its anti-inflammatory properties are another way that magnesium reduces anxiety that is the result of chronic inflammation of the brain.

How much should I be taking?

The recommended daily intake is 400mg.

What foods have magnesium?

It should go without saying that you should eat a well balanced diet to get most of your nutrients. In the case of magnesium, you can rely on a few different kinds. Magnesium is found in small concentrations in many foods, but especially leafy greens like kale, spinach and chard. Vegetarians should not worry about being magnesium deficient, for vegetables use magnesium to synthesize chlorophyll.

  • Whole wheat
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Cashews

Common Types of Magnesium

If you start looking around for magnesium supplements you’ll probably notice a few different types. They all have unique but slightly different benefits, and one might be better for your needs than another.

Magnesium oxide – One of the cheapest options, but has a strong laxative effect. Generally not recommended for supplementation, especially if you have IBS or just don’t enjoy having to run to the bathroom suddenly.

Magnesium citrate – Also a cheap option, and also comes with the heavy laxative effect.

Magnesium sulfate – Also known as epsom salts and not suitable for ingestion, but they nicely in a hot bath to relieve tired muscles.

Magnesium glycinate – This is the most widely preferred supplement for most people. It has excellent bioavailability and also doesn’t come with the unwelcome laxative effects.

Magnesium-L-threonate – Arguably the best form. This newer type of magnesium is rapidly absorbed in the body and may cross the blood brain barrier more effectively than other types. It’s more expensive, but the increased effectiveness is worth it. In one study, men and women between 50 and 70 were given this supplement and after several weeks they showed significant improvements in problem solving, reasoning, and overall cognitive performance

Stress, anxiety and depression have become standard issue for people in America. Sometimes the most effective solutions are also the most obvious – eating healthier, exercising, and getting a balance of essential vitamins and nutrients. Magnesium has plenty of evidence supporting its use as a way to relieve anxiety and help with depression.

10 Potent Healing Properties of Sulforaphane

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What if I told you there was a 100% natural substance with the astonishing power to kill cancer cells, clear brain fog, prevent alzheimer’s, and help with depression?

You might think that’s preposterous. But that’s not all. It can also help with obesity, build stronger bones, and even, perhaps, dramatically improve symptoms of autism.

You might scoff at the idea. Claim it a stretch at the very best, and a straight up lie at the worst.

There is such a thing. It’s called sulforaphane, and it’s backed by heaps of authoritative scientific studies. If there was an MVP award for the most powerful natural substance on earth you can bet sulforaphane would be sitting on the podium.

What is sulforaphane?

Most people haven’t even heard of the stuff. And that’s a shame, really. Because it has immense anti-cancer and antioxidant abilities.

We’ve long known it’s healthy to eat things like broccoli, brussell sprouts, bok choy and arugula. That’s because contain the precurser known as glucoraphanin. It wasn’t until the 90’s that we understood better why these things are so healthy. That’s because they contain an important compound known as glucoraphanin. The body converts glucoraphanin into sulforaphane, which then goes to work as a powerful anti-cancer and antioxidant.

Sulforaphane is part of the isothiocyanate class of phytochemicals and brings with it a massive range of benefits for your body. Let’s learn more about this super powerful substance.

Fact: Broccoli sprouts contain about 10x the amount of sulforaphane as broccoli. 100g of broccoli has around 44-150mg and 100g of broccoli sprouts has 1100+mg!

A number of prominent health figures, including Dr. Rhonda Patrick, see incredible potential in sulforaphane.

“I usually throw my sprouts in with a couple of ice cubes and some water, blend it, and then just slam a glass full of the stuff. It’s not as bad as it sounds, but also not delicious. If I was going to try to mix it with other things I would blend the sprouts first and let them sit for a few minutes to let the glucoraphanin -> sulforaphane conversion occur.”

10 incredible benefits of sulforaphane

Slow and prevent alzheimers

There is limited research concerning the positive attributes of sulforaphane, but there is evidence to suggest that it protects the brain and can reduce symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is closely linked to the accumulation of amyloid beta in the brain. In carefully administered tests, sulforaphane slows the accumulation of this debilitating compound.1

Sulforaphane has been classified by some doctors as a panacea, which means it can help to treat or prevent almost any chronic disease. The molecule is also known for killing cancer cells, and can help people with underactive or overactive thyroids to balance thyroid gland activity.

Slows arthritis

If preventing cancer and alzheimer’s wasn’t enough, there’s sufficient evidence that sulforaphane can help slow and prevent the onset of arthritis. It works to block the expression of genes that promote degradation of muscle and bone tissue.2

Treats depression

As we learn more about depression and anxiety it seems like the immune system plays a key role.

Sulforaphane regulates the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines like IL-1, IL-6, Corticosterone and Tumor-Necrosis-Factor (TNF) alpha. When people were given higher levels of these cytokines, they reported feeling more depressed.3

Think about when you get a cold or flu. It’s hard to sleep well. You’re agitated. Can’t think straight. That’s in part because your brain is in an inflammatory state. Now lower that a bit, and imagine you still can’t sleep that well, you wake up feeling a bit foggy, go throughout the day unproductive, and feeling tired. Maybe those symptoms are a result of inflammation. And maybe that’s contributing to your depression.

So it makes sense that sulforaphane could help regulate your immune system, which in turn lets you sleep better, think better, and perform at a higher level.

Detoxifies the liver

In one study, researchers found significant improvment in biomarkers related to liver function when male patients were treated with glucoraphanin supplements.4 They concluded that daily supplementation “highly effective in improving liver function through reduction of oxidative stress.”

Cleans toxins from the body

In one study, titled “Rapid and sustainable detoxication of airborn pollutants by broccoli sprouts” patients who took a sulforaphane supplement saw a massive 60% reduction in benzene from their body in just 24 hours5. It’s not just benzene either, as the work concluded that sulforaphane likely purges the body from other toxins in the air. I like this study in particular because we know they used the broccoli sprout extract made under the supervision of Jed Fahey at Johns Hopkins University.

Remember, it works as one of the single most effective activators of Nrf2 pathways,which play a huge role in protecting our body against toxins.

Why is this so cool?

Well, so far there are NO, as in ZERO pharmaceutical therapies that work as well as sulforaphane to activate the nrf2 pathways. Not one. In other words, sulforaphane (and broccoli sprouts in particular) offers an unparalleled natural source of cancer/toxin fighting fuel!

A Natural Preventative Treatment for Cancer

This is the big one.

Perhaps the most important and impressive benefit of sulforaphane comes from the many studies suggesting its strong anti cancer properties. There are MANY studies supporting this claim67.

Some researches claim it can lower the risk of cancer by 30 to 40% and prevent it from coming back after remission. Individuals who consumed at least one serving of cruciferous vegetables each week had a lower risk of developing cancer of the breast, kidney, oral cavity, esophagus and pharnyx as well. For best results, you should eat three to five servings of broccoli every week, broccoli sprouts, or take a daily supplement of sulforaphane.

Even Cancer.gov extols the promise of sulforaphane and related isothiocynates on cancer:

“Indoles and isothiocyanates have been found to inhibit the development of cancer in several organs in rats and mice, including the bladder, breast, colon, liver, lung, and stomach. Studies in animals and experiments with cells grown in the laboratory have identified several potential ways in which these compounds may help prevent cancer…”

Improves + strengthens bones

Osteoporosis is a serious problem in our ever aging population and there’s solid evidence suggesting sulforaphane is a powerful way to slow the degradation of bones, and even promote new cartilage and bone growth. useful in reducing the degradation of cartilage, but also might influence bone metabolism and protect against osteoporosis.

As cells responsible for promoting bone growth die, your bones grow weaker, and researchers think sulforaphane’s ability to trigger the nrf2 pathway might be why it works to stop these important bone cells from dying7.

Sulforaphane may help treat autism

There are many theories about what causes autism. Some people have noticed that when an autistic person gets a fever, their symptoms often reduce.

One study stated, “we observed consistent and large improvements in behavior in the majority of sulforaphane-treated ASD” ((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4217462/))

Another study wrote “The effects of SF supplementation appear clear and powerful to many caregivers. Their reports are striking.” ((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5672987/)) In this study they remarked that 65% of participants given sulforaphane “improved significantly” while those on the placebo showed little change.

Sulforaphane may help with obesity through increased energy

Improvement of inflammation of the liver or adipose tissues and insulin resistance. In other words it helped boost metabolism by affecting the composition of the gut, and showed increased fat burning ability. While this study was done in rats, an not humans, it underscores a possible biological connection that might very well carry into humans. ((https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170307100402.ht))

What foods contain sulforaphane?

Technically none.

Sulforaphane is actually a byproduct of glucoraphanin, which is found in cruciferous vegetables. Those include broccoli, cabbage and broccoli sprouts.

However, the broccoli sprouts contain by far the highest concentration of this powerful compound. Actually 10x the amount in the same size of broccoli. These baby sprouts are jam packed with sulforaphane, which is why you may hear people like Rhonda Patrick singing their praises.

How much do I need to take?

Although sulforaphane is in cruciferous vegetables, it is most concentrated in broccoli sprouts. So the question is, how much broccoli sprouts do you need to eat to get enough sulforaphane?

The right broccoli extract dosage is dependent upon weight. Each sulforaphane dosage will be dependent on weight, but follows ranges that are between 0.1 – 0.5 mg / kg of bodyweight. A good marker to go by is:

  • 7 – 34 mg for a 150 lb. person
  • 9 – 45 mg for a 200 lb person

So let’s say somewhere around 30-50mg per person. If not every day, supplementing this much at least a few times per week is ideal.

Keep in mind, not everyone’s body converts sulforaphane at the same rate. Your body might convert 75% of glucoraphanin into sulforaphane, and your neighbor might only manage 15%. Some researchers believe the ability to process sulforaphane might be directly related to the gut flora, so supplementing with probiotics and eating a higher fiber diet might help increase your ability to soak up as much as possible.

Raw broccoli has on average 39% glucoraphanin bioavailability. Cooked broccoli has MUCH less, around 3-4%. So if you prefer cooked broccoli, just do what Rhonda Patrick does and sprinkle a teaspoon or so of mustard powder on it, which contains the necessary myrosinase to make the conversion happen.

This depends on your weight. In general somewhere between 7-34 grams for a 150lb person should do the trick, and you should consume that at least a few days per week. Dr. Rhonda Patrick keeps an array of seven jars of sprouts growing, so she can harvest around 200+ grams every day, in perpetuity. That may be a bit ambitious, so aim for a few doses per week. Anything helps though!

How to grow broccoli sprouts

Supplements are totally fine, but there’s a more economical way to get your dose of sulforaphane if you’re willing to put in a little effort.

Just grow your own broccoli sprouts! It’s actually very easy. Rhonda Patrick’s diet includes a rotation of seven jars, which she harvests and then freezes to use in smoothies.

How to grow your own broccoli sprouts at home

First you’ll need to load up on broccoli seeds. Amazon is your best bet, and they sell it by the pound for cheap.

Let’s break down the economics of growing at home versus buying at the store.

In the store a small container of sprouts costs $3.99. How much will a pound of broccoli seeds yield in sprouts?

  1. Get yourself a wide mouth Ball jar (or you can use these stackable sprout growing containers)
  2. and add 2 tablespoons of broccoli sprout seeds
  3. Cover the seeds with a few inches of filtered water.
  4. Place the jar somewhere dark and cool, like a cabinet and wait a day.
  5. Drain the water carefully, rinse the seeds, and add another few inches.
  6. Repeat this process for a few days and soon you’ll see the sprouts popping up.

Dr. Michael Greger said “growing your own broccoli sprouts is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve one’s diet.” and I think that’s a pretty good endorsement!

Alternative method

Get yourself a big bag of broccoli seeds and one of these nifty growing kits, with tiered that allow multiple stages of growing. That way you’ll have sprouts to harvest every few days without as much effort as the jar method.

Recommended sulforaphane/glucoraphanin supplements

There’s one big thing you should know when taking a broccoli or sulforaphane supplement.

They probably won’t

In Rhonda Patrick’s interview with Jed Fahey, arguably the leader in sulforaphane research, he warned listeners about the ineffectiveness of many supplements. First, most of the supplements don’t actually have sulforaphane in them. They have glucoraphanin.

Remember, that’s the precursor to sulforaphane. In order for the body to convert it into sulforaphane, you need a middle man, aka, the myrosinase enzyme.

Here’s a breakdown of how much sulforaphane your body gets from various sources:

  • Raw broccoli sprouts: up to 70%
  • Glucoraphanin + myrosinase: up to 35%
  • Glucoraphanin supplements without myrosinase: around 10%

That being said, if growing your own broccoli sprouts seems like too much work, there are some reputable supplements to try.

Thorne Research Crucera SGS

As one of two brands vetted by Johns Hopkins, where Jed Fahey works, this is a solid choice.

Nutramax Avmocal

This is the other supplement mentioned by Rhonda Patrick in her interview with Dr. Fahey. It’s not as readily available, probably due to the difficulty in finding enough suppliers of broccoli sprouts, but when it’s in stock it’s the top choice.

Broccomax

This seems to be a popular supplement and it’s fairly affordable, usually available for under $20. It actually contains the myrosinase enzyme, so it should convert into sulforaphane pretty well. The reviews are great, with people claiming it helped everything from COPD, to cancer to asperger’s.

Prostaphane

This is probably the best and only supplement that contains actual sulforaphane. Sadly, it’s only available in France.

Each tablet contains 10mg sulforaphane. We hope they will bring this to the US sometime soon and will updated if/when that happens.

If you do choose a supplement, consider eating something like mustard seeds, arugula, daikon radish, or wasabi along with it, all of which have myrosinase to help the conversion.

Rhonda Patrick on Sulforaphane

Interestingly, studies have concluded that sulforaphane doesn’t have much effect on cells that are healthy. Treatment with sulforapane reduces the damage done to DNA and slows the rate of mutation of chemicals that bind to DNA to cause cancer.

When you were a kid, you probably turned your nose at broccoli despite the constant prodding from your mother. Turns out mother really does know best — eating your veggies really is good for you.

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5410605/ []
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23983046 []
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2680424/ []
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4649129/ []
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4125483/ []
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4432495/ []
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28735362 [] []

Rhonda Patrick’s Pregnancy Food Guide

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Having recently listened to Rhonda speak with Joe Rogan about her diet during pregnancy, it was obvious she knows a thing or two about how to optimize her body to support a strong, healthy developing baby.

Here are a few tips I thought were especially helpful.

Supplements

First and Second Trimester

Rhonda switched things up a bit from her normal supplement and diet regimin (see here) and cut a few things out that she deemed non-essential or even possibly dangerous for her unborn son.

Thorne Research Prenatal Multivitamin

She’s a huge fan of Thorne, mostly because they are known to use some of the highest standards in the supplement industry. Basically, she trusts them, and that’s reason enough for me to trust her. This multivitamin is great because it contains methylated folates instead of folic acid. Methylated folate is much easier for your body to absorb.

Thorne Research Vitamin D-1000

The multivitamin she takes contains 1,000ug already, but she supplements with an additional 1-2,000ug.

Third Trimester

VSL #3 High Potency Probiotics

As you may already know, Rhonda is a huge fan of VSL probiotics. They have more published research than any other probiotic supplement and while expensive, they pack a punch! Your average probiotic pill has somewhere between 10 billion and 50 billion live bacteria. These have around 112 billion!

Thorne Research Iron Bisglycinate

Rhonda needed to add extra iron during her last trimester, but this was something she needed based on having a low red blood cell count. Certainly not required, and is something you should ask your doctor about.

Breastfeeding Supplements

Rhonda is a huge advocate of breastfeeding, and for good reason. It might be the single best thing you can do for a developing newborn.

Mother’s milk has some unique compounds that you can’t find anywhere else. Specifically, it contains human milk oligoaccharides (HMOs) which are basically unique sugars that the infant can’t digest. Instead, they pass through the stomach and into the newborn’s gut, where they help build a strong microbiome. Many studies have shown that breastfed infants have significantly lower rates of asthma, allergies, and learning disabilities.

So yea, you’ll want to do whatever possible to help your body produce some super powered breast milk!

Thorne Research Multivitamin

As mentioned above, Rhonda continued taking this throughout the time she was breastfeeding.

Norweigian Pure 3 Fish Oil

You could probably supplement something like these from Nordic Naturals, which are similar, and a bit cheaper, or even a high quality krill oil. Both are better than regular fish oil supplements, which are not as bioavailable.

Rhonda’s Pregnancy Powerhouse – Salmon Roe

In her interview with Joe Rogan she talks extensively about the diet she followed while pregnant.

Specifically, she talks at length about one particular thing she ate. Something she seemed to think was hugely important.

What was it? Salmon roe!

Why salmon roe?

A post shared by Dr. Rhonda Patrick (@foundmyfitness) on

The stuff is jam packed with brain nurturing nutrients EPA and DHA. But that’s not the only reason.

The roe in salmon contains 38-75% omega-3 fatty acids in phospholipid form. That’s important. Regular salmon that we eat has only 1% omega-3 in phospholipid form. The phospholipids (basically fats) help make it MUCH more bioavailable, especially to the developing fetus.

She buys it by the kilogram, which is shipped with dry ice overnight.

Another thing found in salmon roe is astaxanthin, which was found to increase the longevity gene Foxo3 by 90% in mice. This gene is associated with a ton of other genes responsible for managing the body’s stress response, and could play an important role in making you more resilient to aging.

Recommended baby products

Once the baby comes into the world, you’ll want to make sure it has a safe environment where he/she can thrive.

Stem cell banking

There’s a lot of research suggesting the stem cells found in the baby’s cord blood and placenta blood have immense healing power. An increasing number of new parents decide to “bank” or keep the placenta in case they need to use it later in life.

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