Stress Series: How Stress Affects Memory & Taking a Natural Approach

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memoryIn this installment of our series on stress, we are going to look at how stress affects memory, and a natural approach to supporting memory.

Memory processing allows us to acquire, retain, and recall information and/or experiences. We have short-term memory and long-term memory. Information goes first into our short-term memory (also called working memory) and it then gets processed and stored in our long-term memory.

There are three stages of memory processing:

– Encoding – like listening to music
– Consolidation – like recording songs (or burning a CD)
– Retrieval – like playing back the songs

When you are stressed by something, the stressor takes a lot of resources from your brain and interferes with your capacity to encode new information.

What are the Effects of Stress on Memory?

Healthy brain function requires many important nutrients as well as an active, social lifestyle. Factors such as aging, emotional stress, and exposure to free radicals affect cognitive health and memory function.

Increase in Cortisol

During stress, adrenal glands pump out cortisol. Although a certain amount of cortisol is normal, too much cortisol due to too much stress can prevent the formation of new memories or the retrieval of old ones. Cortisol also interferes with your brain’s neurotransmitters, preventing communication between brain cells. 

Memory Loss

Stress hormones can divert mass amounts of energy to the exercising muscles, which means less energy is available to the brain’s memory. Without enough energy, the brain has trouble forming new memories, or can’t recall the event.

The effect of stress on memory can be temporary or long term. The high levels of cortisol simply make memories inaccessible for a short period of time, but long-term stress can damages the hippocampus, which is responsible for telling the hypothalamus to stop releasing cortisol when it reaches a certain level. If it can’t tell when to stop producing cortisol, it will again interfere with the brain’s neurotransmitters and cause long-term memory loss.

Holistic Treatment for Memory Loss

A diet rich in antioxidants and essential fatty acids is very important to enhancing memory, cognitive skills, learning ability, mood, and stress tolerance. At Village Green Apothecary, we believe in using natural treatments to improve memory loss, and in finding the cause of the symptoms. Holistic support for memory loss includes…

Reduce Stress and Fatigue

Stress affects brain function and memory. Practice stress reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), yoga, journaling or music. Prevent the little things from getting to you, because when they get to you, they also get to your memory.

Improve Your Diet

A healthy diet can often make the difference between health and wellness or illness and disease. A first step in the healing process is to limit all high sugar, highly processed, nutrient void “sub-food,” and replace those choices with whole, nutrient dense, real, and quality food.

Increase Exercise for Increased Memory

If you’re exhausted, exercising may be low on the list of priorities. Exercise has so many benefits, however, that even a little bit is a great place to start. If you were doing long cardio routines however, you may want to reconsider. Studies have found that long cardio routines actually increase cortisol levels, exhausting you and your adrenals, and affecting memory loss.

Get Quality Sleep

During sleep, the body has an opportunity to heal and repair. If you’re waking up a few times during the night or getting fewer hours than what your body needs, it’s impacting how you feel as well as how much cortisol and other hormones you’re secreting. Get quality sleep by creating a relaxing sleep routine, as well as creating an environment conducive to restful sleep.

Take Natural Supplements

Taking the right supplements and herbs can help heal, repair, improve energy, regulate blood sugar, and reduce sugar cravings. Check with a health expert at Village Green Apothecary to determine what is the best supplement plan for you.

Pathway Brain Support is a complete formula that offers a combination of scientifically documented ingredients to support healthy brain function. Key ingredients include European standardized ginkgo biloba, and trademarked ingredients Neuromins DHA, which is a necessary essential fat used in the brain and nervous system, Leci-PS (phosphatidylserine) which supports mental concentration and other mental functions, and Acetyl L-Carnitine from Lonza, which particularly supports brain cell receptors.  

If you would like more information how a holistic/natural approach may help with memory, 
schedule a consultation
 with one of Village Green’s naturopathic doctors or certified nutritionists for a personal assessment of your situation. 

Photo from here, with thanks.

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