Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on
August 17, 2021
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on:

Brain fog is a common problem that can affect your daily life.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They are in many different foods. Do amino acids help with brain fog? Yes, they do! Amino acids like L-tyrosine and L-tryptophan (among others) may reduce symptoms of brain fog in some people.

This blog post will go into more detail on what causes brain fog and how amino acid supplementation might be able to help you feel better.

If you’re interested in learning more about the connections between brain fog and amino acids, then keep reading.

Do amino acids help with brain fog?

What is Brain Fog?

Brain fog is a cognitive state characterized by difficulty processing thoughts. Brain fog is a symptom of an exhausted brain. It means you can’t concentrate well and it’s hard to think about something new.

You might not remember what you did minutes ago because it was so recent. Brain fog often occurs among people with underlying chronic health conditions.

What are Amino Acids? 

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein that are in many foods. They come in 22 forms, which are classified as either non-essential or essential amino acids. These foods include meat, fish, eggs, dairy and soybean products. They carry out important tasks for your body including providing energy and maintaining muscle mass. 

Amino acids are important for healthy brains. A high level of amino acid taurine in particular has been shown to help with mental clarity tests. Some amino acids help with making neurotransmitters, like tyrosine and tryptophan. This can help people to feel less tired or foggy in their heads.

They are helpful in brain function, because they help send nerve impulses between cells. This can help you protect yourself from Alzheimer’s Disease by increasing blood flow to your brain. That means your brain has more oxygen than other parts of your body.

Non-essential amino acids can be synthesized by the body, so you don’t have to worry about getting it from your diet.

Amino Acids are important for your health. They help you grow muscle and lose fat. Amino Acids also protect the lining of your stomach, and prevent the liver from damage.

In other words: Your body requires amino acids when you want to mitigate the feeling of brain fog.

The Best Amino Acids For Brain Fog

While there are many amino acids, there are only a handful that are more effective with brain fog. These are Tryptophan, tyrosine, L-Carnitine, L-Tartrate, and the amino acid b-phenylalanine.

  1. Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is commonly required for the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter. It has effects on many parts of your body, one of which is making your brain work well.

Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that can affect your mood and behavior. It makes people feel less excited or less anxious.

  1. Tyrosine

Tyrosine is the amino acid with the highest neurotransmitter activity. It is a precursor to dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. Mushrooms, avocados, bananas, lima beans, soybeans and almonds have tyrosine.

  1. L-Carnitine

L-Carnitine is good for reducing brain fog. It does this by being able to cross the blood-brain barrier. L carnitine is a naturally occurring amino acid that makes fat energy. L carnitine can be found in certain types of meat (red, poultry, and fish). It can also be taken as an oral supplement or applied topically for therapeutic purposes.

  1. L-Tartrate

L-Tartrate is a popular amino acid that can reduce inflammation. L-tartrate can be used in combination with other medicines to treat myasthenia gravis. L-Tartrate is well tolerated with a low risk of adverse effects.

L-tartrate can help people with traumatic brain injury or stroke, and help improve poor memory function.

  1. b-phenylalanine

b-phenylalanine is an essential amino acid, meaning it cannot be synthesized by the body and must come from dietary sources. It is important for how your brain works. It is the precursor for neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine (noradrenaline), epinephrine (adrenalin) and phenylethylamine.

The b-phenylalanine molecule is similar to tyrosine and is a precursor for the synthesis of melanin, which gives skin its pigment. b-phenylalanine supplements may help with brain fog. They help by increasing levels of norepinephrine (noradrenaline) in the brain.

Norepinephrine increases heart rate, blood pressure and dilates the pupils. It is often associated with chronic stress. With brain fog, levels of norepinephrine are lower than normal. This is because of chronic inflammation from conditions like allergies or illnesses. Thus, b-phenylalanine supplements may help to increase the level of norepinephrine. Boosting norepinephrine levels will help relieve symptoms of brain fog.

The Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB): A Key Determinant of Brain Nutritional Status

The blood-Brain Barrier is a membrane barrier that prevents many substances in the blood from entering the brain. The BBB is composed of three different types of cells that form a tight seal around capillaries. The BBB lets only certain molecules go through it and keep the others out. This is important for our brain cells.

The BBB is a special way to get important things like water and amino acids into the brain. This makes it hard for the body to use other things like sugar that are found in other areas of the body. This means that glucose is the main energy source for our brain.

It is important to remember that the brain needs protein and amino acids. This is because many substrates available to other organs are not available to the brain because of the BBB protection of the brain. A key determinant in brain dietary status is the BBB. When your brain does not get enough amino acids, it might affect how you think. This may be important if you are starving or exposed to adverse environmental conditions.

The brain needs some things to work. One of them is amino acids, which are important for making neurotransmitters. These amino acids are delivered by mechanisms to the brain. There are three ways for amino acids to go into the brain. Large amino acids, basic amino acids, and acidic amino acids can all be taken up by a different mechanism across the BBB. Smaller neutral amino acids like glycine and alanine will go out of the brain.

The Gut Brain Connection

Did you know about the gut-brain connection? Think of it as “good food, good mood.” Food you eat goes to feeding the bacteria in your gut and this then plays a direct role in your sense of clarity. Your brain and gut are connected through bacteria and the health of these bacteria is key for well-being. Some people have seen their brain change after eating gluten-free. Some research has shown that proteins can cross into the brain through a process called “prion transport.”

The number of people with Alzheimer’s Disease is on the rise as well– an increase from four million to over five million in just two years.

The gut brain connection is the ability of the bacteria in your gut to affect mood, cognitive function and behavior. Researchers have found that when you take a probiotic supplement it can balance bad bacterial overgrowth. The probiotic could help with mental health problems like anxiety or depression. A healthy gut equates to a happy mind!

Changes in Amino Acids During Field Studies: Undernutrition and Mental Performance

The US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine did a study a few years ago. They looked at how different levels of amino acids affect mental performance. This ration was to be consumed by soldiers operating away from supplies for up to 30 days. The soldier ration was nutritionally balanced but calorically deficient since it provided only 2,000 kcal of energy per day. In this study, conducted in temperate climate conditions, the RLW-30 diet was compared with the standard Army MRE Diet (version VI).

The individuals in the RLW-30 group had a large caloric deficit, while those in the control group did not. At the start and end of the study, two types of tests were given to soldiers. One was a simple test for visual reaction time, and the other a four-choice visual reaction time.

To measure the blood-brain barrier, samples of plasma were taken. The amino acid levels were then determined. There was a large decrease in both tryptophan and tyrosine levels among the soldiers who had been eating RLW-30 rations.

Researchers wanted to find out how amino acids could affect a cognitive function. Scientists found that changes in amino acids, like tryptophan and tyrosine, can affect the brain. They found that the ratio of amino acids in the plasma is better than their individual levels. They looked at how the ratios of LNAAs to tryptophan affected performance. But they did not find that tyrosine had an effect on performance.

This means that if someone is not getting enough food, tryptophan may be a good indicator of how their mental performance changes. So it might be important to keep the tryptophan levels up when you are considering field rations that do not have many amino acids in them. The study shows that a single meal low in tryptophan can cause changes to mood and brain function. Because the study was held in a non-stressful environment, it is not possible to tell if tyrosine has an effect on central catecholamines.

Do episodes of “brain fog” mean that you are at risk for developing dementia?

Worldwide, an estimated 50 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. It is projected that more than 16 million Americans will have the disease by 2050. Poor memory is usually associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

When a person has brain fog, they feel confused and forget things. They might have a hard time thinking clearly. Brain fog does not always mean that the person will develop dementia.

A Healthy Lifestyle Matters More Than Your Family History

Genes on their own do not dictate the development of disease – your environment is key. Science is always evolving and we can use it to find out how to stay young. What you do with your genes ultimately determines their fate. Regardless of which set they come from, the environment in which it resides will determine how the gene is expressed.

What Are The Best Ways to Prevent Cognitive Decline and Reverse Brain Fog?

Manage your stress, exercise and get good quality sleep: These are always the first steps to a healthier lifestyle. Many of the things that may help to improve your cognitive capacity can be found in food. For most adults, supplementation may also be necessary to get the adequate amounts required.

Also, eating a healthy diet is always crucial in maintaining fitness and optimal brain function. To help with brain function, certain foods and supplements can provide nutrients that support the brain. To keep your brain healthy, you need a high dose of nutrients. Many foods don’t have enough essential amino acids needed for improving cognitive function. It is helpful to eat high-protein foods such as meat, dairy, legumes, and nuts because these foods contain a lot of essential amino acids.

There are many options to improve brain function when it comes to your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be an essential part of a healthy brain. Studies have shown that even parts of the brain not directly affected by the omega 3s could still benefit from them.

Other ways to improve brain function through dietary sources:

  1. Filtered Water

Drinking filtered water is a great way to improve cognitive functioning. Filtered water is better for the brain because it has less chlorine, aluminum, and other organic materials. Exposure to trace amounts of water contaminants can make people sick. The illness can be slow and usually starts when people are young. It gets worse as they get older. You can prevent this by eating healthy and exercising, or by not being around toxins.

If you are suffering from brain fog, drinking plenty of water is a measure that can help. Dehydrating your brain can impair mental performance, such as short-term memory and attention. Lack of water can lead to fatigue and reduced alertness in as little as 24 hours.

  1. Antioxidant Rich Foods

Antioxidant rich foods help by improving cognition of the brain in a couple of ways. Antioxidants help to remove free radicals from our bodies and prevent damage. These antioxidants also play a role in the brain’s inflammatory response. Anti-inflammatory foods promote good function and protect against inflammation.

Dark leafy green vegetables, blueberries and broccoli are a few examples of antioxidant rich foods. These foods can help improve brain cognition.

  1. Lean Protein

Lean protein is an abundant form of energy and contains all essential amino acids. It is also easy to digest and lacks the unhealthy saturated fats. But maybe most importantly, lean protein helps your body maintain a favorable balance of amino acids such as tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted to serotonin which in turn results in improved moods.

Clearer thinking can be achieved if the diet consists of high quality protein. When we consume ketones, it forces our brain into using more ketones for fuel. This reduces the reliance on sugar and instead uses ketones for energy. Eating a low carb/high fat/high-quality protein diet may reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and brain fog.

  1. Calories Count

Eating enough calories for healthy brain cognition is important. The best way to make sure your brain does not feel foggy is to make sure you get enough food so that it can get the resources it needs. This includes following a balanced diet that includes healthy sources of protein, carbs and fat.

Altering the caloric content of a person’s diet is a potential way to affect their cognitive function. New research shows that metabolic processes in the brain may contribute to cognitive changes. As a result, it is important to make sure that you are getting enough calories from all three food groups for healthy cognition. For example, eating enough protein can help with muscle development and repair. This might contribute to better mental clarity.

Eating foods that contain healthy fats, such as nuts and avocado, can help your body create more tryptophan and boost your mood!

Fats are metabolized by the body to produce a molecule called acetyl Co-A, which in turn feeds into the Krebs cycle. Acetyl Co-A is also used to make Tryptophan.

An example of a diet is the ketogenic diet. To do this, you eat healthy fats and get about 75% to 90% of your calories from them. You also need to restrict carbohydrates (less than 10%) and eat moderate amounts of protein (10%).

The Bottom Line

Do amino acids help with brain fog? The short answer is yes. Amino acids may fight inflammation in the body, which can lead to improved cognitive function. If you are experiencing symptoms of fatigue and brain fog that interfere with your day-to-day life, mood or overall health let us know. Our medical staff will assess your needs, and provide personalized care options for your situation. We offer complimentary consultations so don’t hesitate to get in touch! We care about your brain health!

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