The Best BDNF Supplements, Foods, And Lifestyle Hacks

Last Updated:
Medically reviewed by Dr. Saad Ansar
Last Updated:
Medically reviewed by Dr. Saad Ansar
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The Best BDNF Supplements, Foods, And Lifestyle Hacks

Hey there! Welcome to my review of the best BDNF nootropics!

As you probably know, BDNF plays a crucial role in brain optimization.

Whether you’re looking to improve your memory, focus, mood, or neuroprotection from the ravages of age-related cognitive decline, having more BDNF will help you get there.

To learn more I set out to find the best nootropics and supplements capable of raising BDNF and delivering true cognitive enhancement.

I spent over 40 hours researching and personally testing different nootropic compounds clinically proven to raise BDNF and found the best 11 nootropics for increasing BDNF.

These nootropics have been extensively studied for their cognitive enhancing abilities and are regularly recommended by users and physicians to boost different brain functions.

Many people who use the following nootropics regularly report mood boosts, memory improvements, sharper focus, less brain fog, more drive, and generally feeling better overall.

Add to the fact that, unlike prescription drugs, nootropics such as those listed have few if any side effects!

So if you’re ready to discover the best nootropic supplements for raising BDNF, let’s jump into it!

Best BDNF Supplements -Quick Guide-

Mind Lab Pro

Mind Lab Pro

The Ultimate BDNF Nootropic Blend
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High Performance Blend Boosts BDNF
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Magnesium Breakthrough

Magnesium Breakthrough

#1 Mineral Needed For BDNF
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More Choline = BDNF


Bioavailable Choline For BDNF
Lion's Mane - Real Mushroom

Lion’s Mane – Real Mushroom

Clinically Proven BDNF Booster
Learn MoreBest Value, Highest Quality Mushroom
Lipo NAD⁺ Complete – NAD⁺, NMN, & NR

Lipo NAD⁺ Complete – NAD⁺, NMN, & NR

More NAD+ = More BDNF


Better Digestion = BDNF Boost
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Good Gut Bacteria Produce BDNF
Learn MoreFree Shipping Available
Omega 3 DHA - Nootropics Depot

Omega 3 DHA – Nootropics Depot

DHA Proven To Boost BDNF
Curcumin - Nootropics Depot

Curcumin – Nootropics Depot

Natural BDNF Boost + Anti-Inflammatory
Vitamin D + K2

Vitamin D + K2

Top Vitamin For Whole Body Wellness
CZTL Methylene Blue

CZTL Methylene Blue

High-Quality, Low-Cost
Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR)

Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR)

Boost energy levels and athletic performance

Best Nootropics & Supplements For BDNF

Science-backed nutrition for your brain

Mind Lab Pro

Mind Lab Pro
Shop NowBuy 3 bottles, get 1 free with our links
Shop NowBuy 3 bottles, get 1 free with our links
  • Designed to optimize cognitive functions through 11 natural ingredients that work in 6 bio-pathways

  • Boosts serotonin levels which can help improve your mood, sleep quality, appetite control, stress management,

  • Mind Lab Pro helps improve focus, memory, clarity, energy levels without relying on stimulants or artificial additives

  • Contains premium forms of each ingredient for enhanced potency and activity, while avoiding potential side effects associated with lower quality ingredients

Supplementing with Mind Lab Pro Nootropics can increase healthy BDNF levels.

Certain ingredients in the formula are shown to promote nerve growth, improve cognition, and protect against an age-related decrease in cognitive abilities.

Nootropics like Pine Bark Extract and Bacopa Monnieri increase BDNF levels in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex 1David Vauzour The neuroprotective potential of flavonoids: a multiplicity of effectsGenes Nutr. 20082Ritabrata Banerjee, Investig. 2014/mfn]

At the same time, Rhodiola Rosea and L-Theanine manipulate BDNF to induce mood balancing effects and can upregulate BDNF gene expression.2Chanoch Miodownik et al, Serum levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and cortisol to sulfate of dehydroepiandrosterone molar ratio associated with clinical response to L-theanine as augmentation of antipsychotic therapy in schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder patientsClin Neuropharmacol. Jul-Aug 2011
3Enrico Sangiovanni et al, Botanicals as Modulators of Neuroplasticity: Focus on BDNFNeural Plast. 2017

Thus, Mind Lab Pro appears promising for enhancing cognitive function and protecting against age-related decline.

Maximize your mental performance for peak productivity


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  • Improves oxygenation, nutrient absorption and stimulate neurotransmitter production for better cognitive function

  • Stimulates the production of neurotransmitters

  • Supports increases in concentration, learning, short-term memory, and problem-solving

  • Reduce age-related cognitive decline while improving overall mental performance

NooCube is a revolutionary dietary supplement that provides cognitive benefits to help people with their everyday tasks.

It contains a unique blend of natural ingredients such as Lutemax, Bacopa monnieri, Huperzia Serrata, Pterostilbene, Resveratrol, L-theanine, L-tyrosine, Alpha GPC, Oat straw extract, Cat’s claw, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B7, and Vitamin B12.

Lutemax is derived from lutein and zeaxanthin and helps support optimal health by helping the body absorb light better. Bacopa monnieri helps boost memory and concentration by supporting neurotransmitters in the brain.

Huperzia Serrata boosts mental clarity by making it easier for your brain to process information quickly and accurately. Pterostilbene helps preserve healthy brain cells, while Resveratrol promotes overall brain health.

L-theanine works in combination with caffeine to provide more focused alertness without the jittery side effects generally associated with the caffeine alone.

L-Tyrosine aids in reducing mental fatigue, while alpha GPC helps improve memory formation after exercise or physical stress. Oat straw extract helps increase mental energy levels while cat’s claw supports cognitive function through its anti-inflammatory properties. Vitamins B1 (thiamin), B7 (biotin), and B12 (cobalamin) support healthy nervous system functioning crucial for all aspects of neural communication within the brain.

NooCube combines this unique blend of natural ingredients to create an effective solution for people looking to boost their focus and concentration when performing daily tasks or studying for exams or projects.

By providing improved cognitive abilities without the dangerous side effects of other prescription drugs, NooCube is an easy alternative for anyone looking to get ahead in life without risking their long-term health or productivity levels.

As someone who has used NooCube regularly, I can confidently say that it has made an incredible difference in my day-to-day life since taking it regularly over the past few months.

The combination of natural ingredients has allowed me to focus on my tasks throughout the day while providing increased energy levels so I can stay productive longer into the night if needed.

Overall I think NooCube is one of the best supplements out there right now – allowing people to boost their cognitive abilities safely and naturally – which is why I highly recommend it.

#1 Magnesium Product

Magnesium Breakthrough

Magnesium Breakthrough
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  • Magnesium restores balance to the mind and body

  • Improves symptoms of ADHD in some people

  • Triggers relaxation response

  • Steadies the mind for restful sleep

Magnesium is a necessary cofactor for hundreds, possibly thousands of metabolic and cellular processes in the body.

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get adequate levels through diet alone, making it necessary to supplement.

Research suggests magnesium can increase levels of BDNF.4Behnaz Abiri, Effects of vitamin D and/or magnesium supplementation on mood, serum levels of BDNF, inflammatory biomarkers, and SIRT1 in obese women: a study protocol for a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trialTrials. 2020

Results of magnesium supplementation include increased learning capacity, memory, and concentration.

It can also contribute to reducing fatigue symptoms and depressive symptoms.5Behnaz Abiri, Effects of vitamin D and/or magnesium supplementation on mood, serum levels of BDNF, inflammatory biomarkers, and SIRT1 in obese women: a study protocol for a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trialTrials. 2020

Choline on demand

Nootropics Depot Alpha-GPC

  • Powder and Capsule Formulations

  • USA Made

  • Dairy, Gluten, Yeast, and Artificial Additive Free

  • Backed by Research as a Nootropic Supplement

  • Derived from GMO-Free Soy Lecithin

  • Lab Tested and Verified for Product Purity, Potency, and Identity

Alpha GPC is by far the most bioavailable form of choline available today. Choline is a water-soluble nutrient that acts as a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

Its capsules are easily absorbed and quickly acting. It supports brain and nerve health and cognitive functions, including memory, learning, and focus.

Studies show that choline does all this by increasing the levels of BDNF in the hippocampus. 6Nupur Nag et al, Postnatal dietary choline supplementation alters behavior in a mouse model of Rett syndromeNeurobiol Dis. 2007

Pure, bio-available choline


  • Increases attention and focus

  • Improves memory, mood, and dopamine levels

  • Combines well with cholinergic nootropics like racetams

Citicoline is the most bioavailable source of choline for your brain. Getting adequate levels of choline is important for optimizing attention and focus.

Citicoline can also help improve memory and learning, making it a great choice for students or anyone looking to boost their cognitive performance.

It’s best used in combination with a racetam or acetylcholinesterase inhibitor like Huperzine A. Citicoline has also shown benefits for ADHD when used with caffeine. 7Steven E. Bruce, et al. Improvements in Concentration, Working Memory, and Sustained Attention Following Consumption of a Natural Citicoline-Caffeine Beverage, Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2014

Since citicoline has shown the ability to increase dopamine release, it is a prime candidate as a nootropic for ADHD. It can also improve mood and memory, which are both often seen with ADHD.

Some people also find that this nootropic increases their mood.

Citicoline dosage typically ranges from 250-1000 mg per day. When starting out, it’s always best to start with a lower dose and increase as needed.

If you’re looking for a natural way to improve your cognitive function, Citicoline is definitely worth considering.

Learn more about Citicoline

Lion’s Mane – Real Mushrooms

Lion’s Mane – Real Mushroom

Lion's Mane - Real Mushroom
Shop NowBest Value, Highest Quality Mushroom
Shop NowBest Value, Highest Quality Mushroom
  • Clinically proven to boost neurogenesis

  • Contains Anti-Inflammatory Compounds

  • Shown to help improve memory, focus, concentration and overall cognitive performance.

  • Can boost immunity in the body

Lion’s Mane Mushroom is a potent nootropic mushroom known for boosting nerve growth factor (NGF), memory, and overall cognitive enhancement.

This mushroom can also be used for the immune system, anxiety, depression, nerve repair, and energy levels. These effects are mediated through a compound called N-de phenylethyl isohericerin.

This compound has a BDNF-like effect and promotes the downstream pathway, improving learning and memory. 8Ramón Martínez-Mármol et al Hericerin derivatives from Hericium erinaceus exert BDNF-like neurotrophic activity in central hippocampal neurons and enhance memorybiorxiv. 2020

Powerful 3-in-1 NAD+ Booster

Lipo NAD⁺ Complete – NAD⁺, NMN, & NR

  • Includes NAD+, NMN & NR via nanoscale liposomes to increase your body’s NAD+ levels.

  • Each ingredient supports optimal cellular health and anti-aging benefits.

  • Formulation features proprietary powder-based liposomes that protect NAD,⁺ NMN & NR from digestive enzymes and carry them into the bloodstream for targeted systemic delivery.

  • Renue By Science offers fast shipping (domestic/int’l) and competitive prices

NAD+, also known as nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, is a molecule found in all cells.

It is essential for metabolism and energy production in the form of ATP within mitochondria. Low NAD+ levels are linked to poor cellular function.9Sofie Lautrup et al, NAD + in Brain Aging and Neurodegenerative DisordersCell Metab. 2019

Supplementation with NAD+ levels leads to better sleep and mood.ATP within mitochondria. Low NAD+ levels are linked to poor cellular function.10Sofie Lautrup et al, NAD + in Brain Aging and Neurodegenerative DisordersCell Metab. 2019 NAD+ may also aid in mental focus and anxiety reduction.

This is because experiments have shown that NAD+ supplementation increase BDNF mRNA, the increased translation of which leads to increased protein levels. 11Tyisha Hathorn et al, Nicotinamide improves motor deficits and upregulates PGC-1α and BDNF gene expression in a mouse model of Huntington’s diseaseNeurobiol Dis. 2011

#1 Recommended Probiotic amongst functional practitioners


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  • Spore-encapsulated probiotics ensure strains colonize your gut.

  • Contains 5 strains of beneficial bacteria clinically proven to boost overall gut function

  • Great for anyone who deals with digestive disorders

  • Does not need refrigeration.

  • Shelf life is much longer than most other probiotics.

Recent studies have shown that the gut microbiome can influence BDNF levels in the brain and indirectly benefit neural connections.12Reza Ranuh et al, Effect of the probiotic Lactobacillus plantarum IS-10506 on BDNF and 5HT stimulation: role of intestinal microbiota on the gut-brain axisIran J Microbiol. 2019

The mechanisms by which the gut microbiome influences BDNF levels are not fully understood but may involve the production of short-chain fatty acids by gut bacteria or other factors that modulate the activity of BDNF.

There is a bidirectional relationship between the gut microbiome and BDNF levels in the brain.

This is known as the gut-brain axis, where your brain communicates with your gut microbiota.

Supplementation using probiotics and prebiotics enhance beneficial bacteria quantity and quality, which can thus help improve memory and cognitive impairment.

Remember that:

  • Probiotics are gut bacteria supplemented for their excellent properties.
  • Prebiotics are substances that promote the growth of indigenous bacteria.
  • Postbiotics include the short-chain fatty acids and other substances made by the bacteria to help aid gut function and, indirectly, brain function.
  • Digestive enzymes and HCl help digest the food to assimilate nutrients like amino acids and fatty acids into the body and blood.
  • HCl also initiates the breakdown and assimilation of protein BDNF supplements and vitamin B.

One study found that probiotic supplementation increased BDNF levels in the hippocampus, a brain region important for learning and memory.13Wen Tang et al, Roles of Gut Microbiota in the Regulation of Hippocampal Plasticity, Inflammation, and Hippocampus-Dependent BehaviorsFront Cell Infect Microbiol. 2021

Another recent evidence suggests that consuming probiotics may help improve your mood and cognition. 14Maria Ines Pinto-Sanchez et al, Probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 Reduces Depression Scores and Alters Brain Activity: A Pilot Study in Patients With Irritable Bowel SyndromeGastroenterology. 2017

High Potency Omega 3-Rich DHA

Omega 3 DHA – Nootropics Depot

  • DHA plays a critical role in the development and functioning of the brain

  • Improved Cognitive Performance: The omega-3 fatty acid DHA found in fish oil has been shown to boost cognitive performance, memory recall and concentration, making it a great nootropic.

  • Neuroprotection: DHA can help protect the brain from age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia

  • Anti-inflammatory properties of DHA help boost your overall memory by improving formation of new memories

  • Optimized Learning & Attention Span: Supplementing with DHA may also help optimize learning abilities by improving attention span and focus, allowing you to get more done in less time.

  • Reduced Stress and Anxiety: Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to lower levels of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, helping reduce feelings of anxiety and improving your mood.

DHA is necessary for brain health and learning functions. It influences the signaling systems, neurotransmitters, memory, focus, and attention of your brain.

Also, it aids in the prevention and even repair of impaired thinking ability.

Reduction of inflammation in the brain, nerve growth stimulation, and brain cell repair are all influenced by DHA. However, your body does not produce DHA on its own, and you must obtain it through food or a supplement.

Using the DHA in alpha-linolenic acid can increase your BDNF expression and reap these beneficial health effects. 15Mahmoudreza Hadjighassem et al, Oral consumption of α-linolenic acid increases serum BDNF levels in healthy adult humansNutrition Journal. 2015

Nature’s Tylenol

Curcumin – Nootropics Depot

  • Nature’s powerful anti-inflammatory compound

  • Delivers potent physical and cognitive benefits

  • Lower body inflammation = Stronger brain

  • Cognitive benefits include neuroprotection, better memory, faster brain processing speed, reduced brain fog

Curcumin is a compound found in turmeric that has many potential health benefits. A curcumin supplement can provide physical and cognitive benefits due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties16Susan J. Hewlings and Douglas S. Kalman. Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health
Foods. 2017


The exact mechanism of how curcumin works in the body is still not fully understood. Still, research has shown that it affects various pathways and processes related to inflammation and oxidative stress.

Curcumin modulates the activity of certain enzymes involved in the inflammatory response, such as cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and lipoxygenase (LOX).

It also binds to cell receptors that control inflammation, including nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB).

Furthermore, curcumin acts as an antioxidant by scavenging damaging molecules known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) which cause oxidative damage.

These anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects are thought to be responsible for the potential physical and cognitive benefits of taking a curcumin supplement, such as the reduced risk of heart disease or improved brain function.

Numerous studies have confirmed curcumin’s cognitive benefits ranging from neuroprotection to improvements in memory and brain processing speed.17I-Chen Tsai, et al. The Effect of Curcumin Differs on Individual Cognitive Domains across Different Patient Populations: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Pharmaceuticals (Basel)
. 2021

However, further research is needed to understand how curcumin works in the body and its potential therapeutic applications

Top Vitamin For Whole Body Wellness

Vitamin D + K2


Through detoxification pathways and neurotrophin synthesis, vitamin D3 may protect the structure and integrity of neurons.18Jennifer S Buell , Vitamin D and neurocognitive dysfunction: preventing “D”ecline?Mol Aspects Med. 2008

In experimental studies of brain function, increased BDNF expression has been reported, in addition to Vitamin Ds antioxidant effects.19Hoda Nadimi et al, Effect of vitamin D supplementation on CREB-TrkB-BDNF pathway in the hippocampus of diabetic ratsIran J Basic Med Sci. 2020

High-Quality, Low-Cost

CZTL Methylene Blue

  • Pure Methylene Blue

  • No fillers, preservatives, or sweeteners

  • CZTL is the most cost-effective methylene blue option. Bulk orders are available

  • Fast delivery, with good customer support on all orders

  • Every order comes with a certificate of analysis of lab testing for purity

  • Each order includes instructions on how to prepare and dose

CZTL is high-quality, USP-grade methylene blue.

Every batch is purity tested for heavy metals, and each order includes a certificate of analysis confirming its purity.

What I love most about CZTL is that it is the most cost-effective methylene blue on the market.

You can buy a bulk load of pure methylene blue and be set for a long time.

They also ship internationally to over 75 countries.

Boost energy levels and athletic performance

Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR)

  • Improve cognitive function

  • Protect the brain from damage

  • Boost energy levels

  • Enhance athletic performance

Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR) is a supplement that has many potential benefits. It is most commonly known for its nootropic effects, which means that it can help to improve cognitive function.

ALCAR is thought to work by increasing levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is essential for memory and learning.

ALCAR has been shown to protect the brain from damage caused by free radicals, and it may even help to reverse some of the cognitive declines that occurs with age.

In addition to its nootropic effects, ALCAR has also been shown to boost energy levels and athletic performance. This is thought to be due to its ability to increase levels of carnitine, an amino acid that helps the body to burn fat for fuel.

Additionally, ALCAR has been shown to improve heart health by reducing oxidative stress and improving blood flow.

Overall, ALCAR is a safe and effective supplement that offers many potential benefits.

Best Lifestyle Hacks For Boosting BDNF Levels

Research suggests that certain lifestyle habits are one of the main contributors to BDNF production.

It’s important to understand that as much as nootropics and certain supplements can promote neurogenesis, lack of brain stimulation, diets high in sugar, chronic stress, and poor food choices can all lead to a decline in brain BDNF.1Isabel López-Taboada et al, Western Diet: Implications for Brain Function and BehaviorFront Psychol. 2020

Fortunately, there are lifestyle choices that can help to boost BDNF levels.

Below are some of the best lifestyle hacks that promote neural growth factor

Learn to master psychedelic therapy

Third Wave Microdosing Course

  • Third Wave Offers professional guidance on proper micro-dosing for optimal cognitive enhancement

  • Offer psilocybin mushroom growing kits with instructions

  • Easy to get started with many resources

Psychedelic therapy is a potent (maybe the most potent) method for boosting BDNF.

Third Wave is a highly reputable organization of psychedelic enthusiasts and researchers offering guided courses to help users through proper micro-dosing usage guides, personal coaching, and even mushroom growing kits.

Human and animal trials continue to demonstrate specific psychedelic treatments like psilocybin, ketamine, and lsd dosed under proper supervision are capable of demonstrating many nootropic benefits such as mood enhancement, healing of brain injuries, neuroprotection, and boosts in memory and learning capabilities.

Research into acute and chronic administration of various psychedelic compounds shows increased BDNF production and neurogenesis, which is a main driver of cognitive enhancement. 20 Nadia R P W Hutten, Low Doses of LSD Acutely Increase BDNF Blood Plasma Levels in Healthy Volunteers ACS Pharmacol Transl Sci. 2020

After a single dose of psychedelics, the expression of plasticity-related genes and proteins, including BDNF, changes, resulting in altered neuroplasticity.21 Nadia R P W Hutten, Low Doses of LSD Acutely Increase BDNF Blood Plasma Levels in Healthy Volunteers ACS Pharmacol Transl Sci. 2020

According to Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), Ketamines and other psychedelics increase BDNF, which repairs the brain by making new synapses.22MAPS, Thrillest: Coming Soon: Prescriptions for LSD and Magic Mushrooms?MAPS. 2016


#1 Red Light Sauna


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  • Get all the benefits of sauna use in the comfort of your own home

  • Full-spectrum incandescent bulbs mimic the sun’s natural light waves for more mitochondrial benefits

  • Relieve pain, reduce stress, and strengthens your immune system

  • Handcrafted in the USA

  • 100-day money-back guarantee

  • EMF-Free

Red light sauna is one of the top lifestyle hacks for boosting BDNF in the brain.

Heat and near-infrared light from the sauna are each proven boost BDNF production.23Adi Katz et al, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is critically involved in thermal-experience-dependent developmental plasticityJ Neurosci. 200624 Jin-Chul Heo et al, Photobiomodulation (660 nm) therapy reduces oxidative stress and induces BDNF expression in the hippocampusscientific reports. 2019

Sauna Space is my top pick for red light therapy.

Each Sauna Space red light sauna includes hand-crafted, incandescent red light bulbs that deliver full-spectrum red light with additional sauna heating benefits.

These particular bulbs mimic the sun’s natural red-light spectrum, delivering more mitochondrial enhancing benefits than the typical EMF-emitting LED bulb found in most standard red light panels.
You also get the added sauna component for enhanced detox and immunity benefits without the harmful EMFs.

Sauna Space offers something for everyone from a simple spot-therapy photon light, all the way up to an all-inclusive Farady sauna that’s like having a fancy spa right in your living room.
These saunas are American-made and come with a 100-day money-back guarantee.


Convenient, Affordable Cold Plunge


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  • Full-sized cold therapy tub that functions much like a hot tub—but with temps that’ll chill you to the bone instead of warm you up.

  • Best Ice Bath Ever: The Cold Plunge eliminates the hassle of traditional ice baths and provides full-body immersion for most body sizes and heights.

  • The Cold Plunge is a full-sized cold therapy tub that uses continuous cooling to get water down to temps of 39 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • It hooks up to a GFCI outlet and can continuously cool water down to temperatures of 39 degrees.

  • The Cold Plunge is a cold-water immersion tub that replaces the need for ice and hours spent going to the store, buying ice, and dumping it into a tub.

Cold plunges are a relatively new form of cognitive enhancement that have become increasingly popular in recent years.

This method is based on the concept of cold-induced stress, which has been clinically proven to improve cognitive function and mental alertness.

Studies have indicated that cold plunges can reduce stress hormones while increasing alertness, focus, and creativity.

Additionally, these treatments benefit those with chronic pain issues and individuals seeking improved sleep quality.

The Plunge is a safe, convenient way to experience the benefits of cold plunging without having to keep hundreds of pounds of ice on hand.

This unit utilizes a patented cooling system to chill water to temperatures between 39 – 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Users can program their Plunge session’s desired temperature and duration directly from their smartphone.

It also features an LCD display with temperature and time readouts and an auto-shutoff feature for safety.

Regular Exercise

Exercise is one of the best ways to increase BDNF.

According to research, the most effective physical activity for increasing BDNF levels is intense aerobic exercise.2Matthew T Schmolesky et al, The effects of aerobic exercise intensity and duration on levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in healthy menJ Sports Sci Med. 2013

BDNF may be released during a solid exercise routine from the brain, skeletal muscle, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), vascular endothelial cells, and platelets, according to a 2018 review.3Jeremy J Walsh et al, Exercise and circulating BDNF: Mechanisms of release and implications for the design of exercise interventionsAppl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2018

In short those who exercise regularly will experience higher levels of bdnf.


Getting adequate sleep is essential to boost BDNF levels and all-around positive mental health.

Sleep disturbances lower BDNF levels, and sleep deprivation makes you more vulnerable to stress, which lowers BDNF levels. This can also lead to a higher incidence of mental health problems.4Karen Schmitt et al, BDNF in sleep, insomnia, and sleep deprivationAnn Med. 2016

Getting deep sleep is necessary for a healthy brain and BDNF levels. Deep sleep is when the body naturally produces and releases more BDNF.5Karen Schmitt et al, BDNF in sleep, insomnia, and sleep deprivationAnn Med. 2016

Stress reduction

Stress management is essential because increased stress levels are related to decreased BDNF levels. Therefore using methods to reduce stress may increase BDNF and brain health.6B Vollmayr Brain-derived-neurotrophic-factor (BDNF) stress response in rats bred for learned helplessnessMol Psychiatry. 2001

Sun Light Exposure:

Spending time outside in the sunlight can also stimulate BDNF expression. People with seasonal affective disorder, a form of winter blues, have low levels of BDNF.

Therefore spending time in the sun could be beneficial for brain health.7Marc L Molendijk Serum BDNF concentrations show strong seasonal variation and correlations with the amount of ambient sunlightPLoS One. 2012

Healthy Diet:

Dietary habits greatly influence BDNF levels, as obesity negatively affects BDNF levels and cognitive health.

A healthy diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and B-vitamins can also help to increase BDNF levels.

A very low-carb diet may also be beneficial.

By making healthy lifestyle choices, you can help to keep your BDNF levels high and support cognitive health.8Elske Gravesteijn et al, Effects of nutritional interventions on BDNF concentrations in humans: a systematic reviewNutr Neurosci. 2022

Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting (restricting your food intake to a smaller window of time each day rather than grazing from morning to night) lowers the production of inflammatory molecules that lower your BDNF levels.

You can improve your cognitive function by allowing your body to rest and repair rather than working all day to digest food. This fact has been experimentally confirmed.9Basem H Elesawy et al, The Impact of Intermittent Fasting on Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, Neurotrophin 3, and Rat Behavior in a Rat Model of Type 2 Diabetes MellitusBrain Sci. 2021

Mild Stress:

We put our brains under good stress when challenging our body and brain by regularly exercising, meditating, and learning new things.

This stress increases BDNF levels.

Foods and Diets For Boosting BDNF

Certain nutrients can help increase BDNF levels, protecting against reduced learning and apprehension capacity.

Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and B-vitamins are all known to raise BDNF levels.

Therefore, including these nutrients in your diet may help to keep your brain healthy as you age.

High Protein Foods:

Foods rich in protein, including fish, beef, and eggs, can increase BDNF levels.

Fish with fat (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring) also contain DHA, a type of Omega-3 fat responsible for increased BDNF.10Cook, Michelle Schoffro, Boost Your Brain Power in 60 Seconds: The 4-week Plan for a Sharper Mind, Better Memory, and Healthier BrainRodale, 2016

Look for “wild-caught” on the label to get fish with the highest fat content and the least amount of toxins.

Eggs also contain DHA, which has also been linked to higher BDNF levels. 11Cook, Michelle Schoffro, Boost Your Brain Power in 60 Seconds: The 4-week Plan for a Sharper Mind, Better Memory, and Healthier BrainRodale, 2016The eggs with the highest fat content come from pasture-raised chickens.


Fatty foods are specifically containing omega-3 fatty acids that increase BDNF. Make sure to use original foods. Use only the true extra virgin olive oil.12Cook, Michelle Schoffro, Boost Your Brain Power in 60 Seconds: The 4-week Plan for a Sharper Mind, Better Memory, and Healthier BrainRodale, 2016

Avoid foods with high omega-six fat, such as seed oils, canola oils, and fried foods.

Low Carb Diet:

A very low carb diet or a ketogenic diet combined with regular exercise and intermittent fasting as well as a Paleo Diet raises BDNF levels.13Cook, Michelle Schoffro, Boost Your Brain Power in 60 Seconds: The 4-week Plan for a Sharper Mind, Better Memory, and Healthier BrainRodale, 2016

Begin by incorporating healthy fats such as avocado oil, nut, and seed butter.


Fasting is also a type of stress that causes BDNF secretion to increase. It stimulates a growth factor that mediates changes and allows the brain to adapt to stress.14Siresha Bathina et al, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor and its clinical implicationsArch Med Sci. 2015

The duration of the fasting period, on the other hand, is critical to the timing of its induction.

Polyphenol-rich foods:

Eating blueberries, colorful vegetables, dark chocolate, and cocoa-containing foods are also beneficial and increase BDNF.

Using spices such as turmeric can also increase BDNF levels. All these are excellent polyphenol sources.15Gómez-Pinilla, Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function.Nature reviews. Neuroscience. 2008

Fasting Mimicking Diet:

Using a low-carb diet or a diet mimicking fasting can also increase brain BDNF levels. ProLon fasting-mimicking technology is one way you can do this diet.16Jan Johansson et al, Choline up-regulates BDNF and down-regulates TrkB neurotrophin receptor in rat cortical cell cultureNeuroreport. 2009

It is a 5-day fasting nutrition program that makes your body think it’s in a fasting state, although you get to eat real food.

Breathing Exercises, Meditation

Breathing exercises and meditation contribute to the increase of peripheral BDNF.

In addition, they also help to control stress.

Learning something new can also increase BDNF.17Patama Gomutbutra et al, The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Intervention on Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF): A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled TrialsFront Psychol. 2020

What Is Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF)

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein essential for the growth and maintenance of neurons and is produced in large amounts in the central nervous system.18Siresha Bathina , Undurti N Das, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor and its clinical implicationsArch Med Sci. 2015

It is a member of the neurotrophin family of growth factors that support the adult brain in reorganizing its neural network by forming new connections.

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BDNF is produced by neurons and secreted into the brain, where it binds to receptors on other neurons and promotes the growth and survival of these cells. The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex are the primary brain areas involved.19Magdalena Miranda , Juan Facundo Morici , María Belén Zanoni, Pedro Bekinschtein Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor: A Key Molecule for Memory in the Healthy and the Pathological BrainFront Cell Neurosci. 2019


BDNF protein is also essential for memory and learning, as it helps to strengthen synaptic connections between neurons.20Siresha Bathina , Undurti N Das, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor and its clinical implicationsArch Med Sci. 2015

Additionally, BDNF has been shown to protect against cell death and improve cognitive function in animal models of neurological disease.21Magdalena Miranda , Juan Facundo Morici , María Belén Zanoni, Pedro Bekinschtein Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor: A Key Molecule for Memory in the Healthy and the Pathological BrainFront Cell Neurosci. 2019

The protein also plays a role in the development and plasticity of the brain, and it has been implicated in various neurological disorders.

Thus, this protein represents a potential target for treating neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Further research is necessary to understand the precise role of BDNF in the brain cells and to determine whether or not it can be harnessed to treat all neurological diseases in humans.

The BDNF Gene

A gene called BDNF encodes the protein.

Different BDNF genetic variants can make people more or less likely to have low BDNF levels.

The main variant, known as the Val66Met variant, decreases BDNF levels significantly. 22Hui Yu , Dong-Dong Wang, Yue Wang, Ting Liu, Francis S Lee, Zhe-Yu Chen, Variant brain-derived neurotrophic factor Val66Met polymorphism alters vulnerability to stress and response to antidepressantsJ Neurosci. 2012

While all people experience lower levels of BDNF as they age, people with Alzheimer’s disease have significantly lower levels than healthy people.23Galit Weinstein et al, Serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor and the risk for dementia: the Framingham Heart StudyJAMA Neurol. 2014

If you are concerned about your cognitive health, you should be aware of BDNF.

Fortunately, you can naturally increase your BDNF production through diet and lifestyle choices.

Read on to learn more about these methods!

BDNF and Brain Health

As stated above, the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is essential for proper brain function.

When your brain cells are damaged or subjected to a stressful situation, BDNF protects them and helps them recover, relieving depression.24Siresha Bathina , Undurti N Das, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor and its clinical implicationsArch Med Sci. 2015

Your neural pathways become more flexible rather than shutting down, which may explain why higher BDNF levels are linked to depression prevention.25Siresha Bathina , Undurti N Das, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor and its clinical implicationsArch Med Sci. 2015

BDNF levels are also lower in people with depression who failed to respond to treatment.

Antidepressants have been shown to increase BDNF expression.26Galit Weinstein et alSerum brain-derived neurotrophic factor and the risk for dementia: the Framingham Heart StudyJAMA Neurol. 2014

Decreased BDNF levels have been linked to neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s.27Anita E Autry , Lisa M Monteggia Brain-derived neurotrophic factor and neuropsychiatric disordersPharmacol Rev. 2012

Additionally, people with schizophrenia have been found to have lower BDNF levels than healthy controls.

BDNF can play a vital role in synaptic plasticity and neurogenesis in such patients and has been shown to protect neurons from damage.28Siresha Bathina , Undurti N Das, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor and its clinical implicationsArch Med Sci. 2015

Animal studies have also proved that BDNF plays a role in improving cognition.29Magdalena Miranda , Juan Facundo Morici , María Belén Zanoni, Pedro Bekinschtein Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor: A Key Molecule for Memory in the Healthy and the Pathological BrainFront Cell Neurosci. 2019

While further research is needed to confirm these findings, they suggest that BDNF may play a role in developing and treating neuropsychiatric disorders and contribute to the optimal health of the brain in the future, paving the way for new drug development.

BDNF and Brain Aging

Brain aging is when the neurons lose their ability to make synaptic connections.

The process was once thought to be irreversible but now new studies show that neurogenesis is a lifelong process.30Przemysław Kowiański et al, BDNF: A Key Factor with Multipotent Impact on Brain Signaling and Synaptic PlasticityCell Mol Neurobiol. 2018

Specific molecules, including BDNF, also play a role in neurogenesis.

This is how new neurons and new brain cells are generated in the brain.31Veronica Galvan , Kunlin Jin, Neurogenesis in the aging brainClin Interv Aging. 2007

Neurogenesis declines with age, which is thought to contribute to the cognitive decline that occurs during aging.

BDNF also increases brain plasticity and acts as a natural antidepressant.

Simply put, brain plasticity is the ability of the brain cells to rewire after a traumatic brain injury.32Veronica Galvan , Kunlin Jin, Neurogenesis in the aging brainClin Interv Aging. 2007

The effects of BDNF on brain aging are thus thought to be mediated by its impact on neuronal development and survival.

The fact that BDNF levels decline with age has been subjected to extensive research.

In animal studies, BDNF levels decreased with age, associated with impaired memory and learning.33Kirk I Erickson, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is associated with age-related decline in hippocampal volumeJ Neurosci. 2010

Aging and exercise are somehow also related.

As BDNF levels can be increased by exercise, exercise can improve the thinking function in older adults.

Exercise also increases neurogenesis in the brain, which may contribute to exercise’s cognitive benefits.34Sama F Sleiman Exercise promotes the expression of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) through the action of the ketone body β-hydroxybutyrateElife. 2016

Therefore, increasing BDNF levels through exercise may be a promising approach for reversing or delaying the cognitive decline that occurs with aging.

Brain Repair

Brain repair is essential for survival because any traumatic injury to the brain would otherwise lead to permanent mental impairment.

Many studies show that BDNF is involved in the process of brain repair.35Magdalena Miranda et al, Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor: A Key Molecule for Memory in the Healthy and the Pathological BrainFront Cell Neurosci. 2019

In addition, BDNF has been shown to promote the growth of new blood vessels and the regeneration of nerve cells following injury.36Guiting Lin et al, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor promotes nerve regeneration by activating the JAK/STAT pathway in Schwann cellsTransl Androl Urol. 2016

The rise in BDNF associated with exercise has also been shown to improve and increase the number of new neurons in the hippocampus.37Sama F Sleiman et alExercise promotes the expression of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) through the action of the ketone body β-hydroxybutyrateElife. 2016

Therefore, increasing BDNF levels may be an effective strategy for treating neurodegenerative diseases and promoting brain repair.

Can You Measure BDNF Levels?

BDNF levels can be measured using several techniques, including ELISA, qPCR, and western blotting.38Yvonne Naegelin et al Measuring and Validating the Levels of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor in Human SerumeNeuro. 201839Quézia Silva Anders BDNF mRNA Expression in Leukocytes and Frontal Cortex Function in Drug Use DisorderFront Psychiatry. 2020

ELISA is the most commonly used method, as it is relatively simple and quick to perform.

However, qPCR and western blotting can provide more accurate measurements of BDNF levels.

Regardless of the method used, it is essential to ensure that samples are collected and stored correctly to prevent protein degradation.


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is essential in promoting optimal brain health. Various methods like exercise, meditation, and certain healthy foods like fats and low card diets can raise BDNF levels and thus improve your brain functioning.

Supplementing with Mind Lab Pro, Magnesium, and other supplements can help your neurogenesis and plasticity.

Thus incorporating a healthy lifestyle is crucial to optimal brain performance.

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Erik Abramowitz is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP), Naturopathic Doctoral student, health coach, and father. He is the primary content creator for and the host of the Holistic Nootropics Podcast.

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