feed your head
Because so many moms have been asking me advice on this, I finally did some research on supplements you can take to potentially boost your brainpower.
I had another motive -- the paperback edition of The Mommy Brain is coming out in May 2006, and I wanted to beef up the concluding "10 Tips to Make the Most of Your Mommy Brain." So I did some research to track down one of the most respected members of the parade of health experts now giving advice on this topic, and called David Perlmutter, M.D., author of the best-selling The Better Brain Book, at his Florida clinic. (Of course he's already been on Oprah .)
Pelmutter recommends two daily supplements for the average hard-thinking mommy:
1. DHA (docosahexanenoic acid), from omega 3 fatty acids, a raw material for well-functioning cell membranes. (Healthy brains contain high amounts of DHA, says Perlmutter, but maintaining the optimal level can be tricky, especially for people who eat too many saturated fats and trans fats and consume too much alcohol.)
DHA appears to help mood as well as mental clarity. Studies have found that depressed people have low levels of DHA, and that low levels of DHA in new mothers’ blood increase the risk of post-partum depression.
You can supplement your DHA by eating more fish or Omega-3 eggs – or you can make it even easier by taking a teaspoon per day of fish oil. I like Nordic Naturals Complete Omega-3.6.9 liquid, which does a fairly good job of disguising the coddish taste with lemon, and which is reputedly free of PCBs and heavy metals you can get from simply eating fish. Perlmutter goes farther and recommends supplements derived from marine algae, which he says is even more pure because it’s cultured in a lab. He recommends that you get 400 mg. per day of DHA (check the label of whatever you buy: DHA is just one component of most oils on the market.)
This is a supplement marketed by Perlmutter himself, and on the website of iNutritionals, which sells it, he supplies clinical studies attesting to the ingredients’ effectiveness in supporting brain health. These ingredients include many you’ve probably heard of, such as antioxidants, Gingko Biloba and coenzyme Q-10.
Important note: make sure you’re not overdoing it with any of these supplements. Consult your doctor. Both gingko and fish oil, for instance, are blood-thinners, which can be harmful if taken in excess.
I know many "geriatric mothers" like me are also interested in whether estrogen can make a difference in their mental performance, and am following up on this one. Meanwhile, if any of you readers want to share tips for my list, I'd love to hear them!