What if there was a simple substance that could sharpen your thinking and increase productivity… improve your sleep… boost your mood… balance your hormones… reduce inflammation… increase detoxification… and even reverse existing damage to brain cells caused by trauma, substance abuse or simply the hands of time?
The good news is that there is a substance that can do all of this and more. It is called phosphatidylserine (PS). As we discussed in my previous article, PS is found in every cell of your body. And considering that it is primarily located in the cell membranes and the neurons that make up your brain and nervous system, it is no surprise that PS can have such profound and wide ranging effects.
Unfortunately, however, the the average daily intake of PS for most people is well below healthy levels. And because this compound are easily depleted by stress, exposure to chemicals and poor dietary choices, most of us simply do not have enough for optimal health.
Today, I want to share how phosphatidylserine can improve your ability to focus… lift your mood… and dramatically improve your sleep. I’ll also cover the best food sources, plus a supplement regimen you might consider if you truly want to optimize your levels.
Phosphatidylserine Benefits Focus
There are nearly six million children under the age of 17 in the U.S. diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). And while the validity of this “disorder” is questionable, what is not up for debate is that the prevailing “treatments” are psychostimulant drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin.
More than 17 million kids are currently taking these drugs worldwide. And with a laundry list of side effects – ranging from dizziness, anxiety and sleeping issues to serious heart problems – these drugs are not safe for adults, let alone children.
Fortunately, for those seeking safer, natural solutions, hundreds of studies have been performed on phosphatidylserine for ADHD, focus and attention. Time and time again, PS has been shown to increase attention span, boost focus, sharpen mental acuity and enhance memory. It can also help alleviate the anxiety and stress which also contribute to behavioral problems.[i][ii]
And best of all, phosphatidylserine does all of this without side effects!
Phosphatidylserine Benefits Mood
Thanks to its effects on the neurotransmitters related to mood – including dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, adrenaline, and melatonin – PS has been found to promote feelings of well-being.
In a one study, older women suffering from depression were given 300 milligrams of PS every day for 30 days. Compared to a similar group of women who received a placebo, those taking the PS experienced an average 70 percent reduction in the severity of their depression![iii]
Another study, published in the journal Aging, evaluated the effect of PS supplementation on 494 elderly patients with cognitive impairment. Researchers found that the PS produced significant improvements in both behavioral and cognitive parameters.[iv]
Phosphatidylserine can also help to reduce symptoms of anxiety by reducing what are known as “High Beta Waves” in the brain. These waves are in the 18 – 40 Hz range and contribute to anxiety, paranoia, high energy, and stress. By shifting the brain frequency to the lower beta range (12 – 15 Hz), our mind is able to enjoy quiet focused concentration.[v]
And there is probably no time when it is more important to calm the mind than at night…
Phosphatidylserine Benefits Sleep & Alleviates Insomnia
Unfortunately, many of us are unable to mentally “power down” at night. We continue ruminating about the day or thinking about what must be done tomorrow and our sleep suffers. Or we experience high cortisol levels that make a good night’s sleep next to impossible to achieve.
And because sleep deprivation has been related to an early death, increased disease risk (including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease), weight gain and more – getting a “solid eight” is vital to your health.[vi]
PS can help here too… and the best part is that it does not work as a sedative. Instead, it supports your own healthy sleep cycles by modulating cortisol (the “stress hormone”) and reducing the high beta waves that keep the mind alert and active. This one-two punch makes it a highly valuable sleep supplement for those who have difficulties falling or staying asleep.
Food Sources of Phosphatidylserine
Your body produces some phosphatidylserine, but most of what you need comes from your food. And like many vital nutrients, the richest sources of PS are animal products – in particular, organ meats like brain, heart and liver. That means vegetarians (and especially vegans) face much greater risk of deficiency.
Here’s a list of PS-rich foods with amounts per 100 grams:[vii]
- Bovine Brain: 713 mg
- Atlantic Mackerel: 480 mg
- Chicken Heart: 414 mg
- Atlantic Herring: 360 mg
- Tuna: 194 mg
- Chicken Leg, with skin: 134 mg
- Chicken Liver: 123 mg
- White Beans: 107 mg
- Chicken Breast (with skin): 85 mg
- Beef: 69 mg
- Turkey Leg (without skin or bone): 50 mg
- Turkey Breast (without skin): 45 mg
- Atlantic Cod: 28 mg
- Anchovy: 25 mg
While getting PS from foods is essential for your overall health, to address specific concerns or a gross deficiency a supplement is typically needed.
Phosphatidylserine: Supplement and Dosage
The recommended adult dosage range for phosphatidylserine is between 100 and 500 mg per day. For children, three divided doses of 20 mg is often recommended.
Most PS supplements are derived from soy or sunflower lecithin. Because of the estrogenic effect of soy, not to mention genetic modification and pesticide residues, choosing a sunflower-based PS is advisable.
I take a PS supplement at night to promote deep sleep. I have found this to be particularly effective. I also enjoy foods that are naturally high in PS and occasionally, I also like to make what I call “The Brain Shake”.
This shake contains a healthy serving of sunflower lecithin (a rich source of PS). I also add other brain-boosting foods including MCT oil, dark organic berries (rich in brain-boosting antioxidants) and raw potato starch.
Why potato starch? Because the health of your gut microbiome has a huge impact on your brain health. And optimizing your beneficial bacteria with this rich source of resistant starch can have a beneficial impact on the long term health of your brain.
Here’s the recipe…
The Brain Shake
- 1 Tbsp. MCT oil
- 1 Tbsp. sunflower lecithin
- ½ cup organic berries
- 1 Tbsp. raw organic potato starch or green banana flour (prebiotic/resistant starch)
- 1 cup water, coconut milk, cultured dairy
- Stevia to taste
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
There is a good chance you’ve never thought much about phosphatidylserine. But there’s also a good chance that you’re deficient in this critical compound, found in the membranes of every cell in your body. By optimizing your levels of this critical nutrient, you could experience better sleep, improved mood, clearer thinking, a sharper brain and a better ability to detoxify.
ED NOTE: Kelley Herring is the co-founder of Wellness Bakeries, makers of grain-free, gluten-free, low-glycemic baking mixes for cakes, cookies, breads, pizza and much more.
Kelley’s academic background is in biology and chemistry and for the last 15+ years, she has focused on the study of nutritional biochemistry…and the proven powers of compounds in foods to heal the body.
[i] I. Manor, A. Magen , D. Keidar , S. Rosen , H. Tasker , T. Cohen ,Y. Richter, D. Zaaroor-Regev, Y. Manor, A. Weizman. The effect of phosphatidylserine containing Omega3 fatty-acids on attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms in children: A double-blind placebo-controlled trial, followed by an open-label extension. Eurpoean Psychiatry. Volume 27, Issue 5, July 2012, Pages 335-342
[ii] Hirayama S, Terasawa K, Rabeler R, et al. The effect of phosphatidylserine administration on memory and symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2013 Mar 17. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12090.
[iii] Maggioni M1, Picotti GB, Bondiolotti GP, Panerai A, Cenacchi T, Nobile P, Brambilla F.Effects of phosphatidylserine therapy in geriatric patients with depressive disorders.Acta Psychiatr Scand. 1990 Mar;81(3):265-70.
[iv] Cenacchi T1, Bertoldin T, Farina C, Fiori MG, Crepaldi G.Cognitive decline in the elderly: a double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter study on efficacy of phosphatidylserine administration.Aging (Milano). 1993 Apr;5(2):123-33.
[v] Baumeister, Jochen & Barthel, T & Geiss, Kurt-Reiner & Weiss, M. (2008). Influence of phosphatidylserine on cognitive performance and cortical activity after induced stress. Nutritional neuroscience. 11. 103-10. 10.1179/147683008X301478.
[vii] Souci SW, Fachmann E, Kraut H. Food Composition and Nutrition Tables. Medpharm Scientific Pub. Stuttgart, 2014.