Top 55 Ways to Increase Myelin Naturally (and surprising facts)

In my last post about child abuse ( I reported that there was decreased myelination in parts of the brain and I wondered if you could do something to increase it. Well there ways to increase myelination of your neurons. Below the link to the articles is an excerpt from the article which lists some of those ways. Very excited that one of them is Lithium!

Oligodendrocytes vs Schwann Cells

Oligodendrocytes and Schwann cells are types of cells that produce myelin.

Schwann cells produce myelin in the body (outside the brain), while oligodendrocytes are found solely in the brain.

Oligodendrocytes are responsible for the formation of new myelin in both the injured and normal adult brains.

Lifestyle to Increase Myelin

1) Sleep (brain)

Sleep increases the amount of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) in the body, which in turn increase myelin formation.

Sleep is associated with higher expression of genes coding for myelination (R).

Researchers found that the production rate of the myelin making cells (oligodendrocytes), doubled as mice slept (R).

The increase was most marked during the type of sleep that is associated with dreaming (REM sleep) (R).

In contrast, the genes involved in cell death and stress responses were turned on when the mice were forced to stay awake (R).

2) Ketosis (brain)

Ketones (3-hydroxybutyrate) may help support myelin growth by being a source of energy and also a fuel for lipids (R).

The ketogenic diet can improve myelination by compensating for a deficiency in a certain enzyme (AGC1, which helps make N-acetylaspartate  in oligodendrocyte).  This was tested an individual deficient in this enzyme (R).

Ketones work as precursors for fat synthesis in a developing brain, especially phosphatidylcholine and cholesterol in neurons and myelin cells (oligodendrocytes)  (R).

There is a preferential utilization of ketones for the synthesis of myelin cholesterol (R).

High cholesterol in the brain is essential for myelin membrane growth (R).

Oligodendrocytes also use lactate in part to produce membrane lipids presumably for myelin (RR).

3) Exercise (brain)

Exercise can increase myelin after an injury (R) and also increase it in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s (R).

Exercise can also increase mitochondrial function, which increases myelin when consuming a high-fat diet (R).

4) Socializing and New Experiences (brain)

Stress during late pregnancy causes increased myelination in the offspring of rats (R).

The number of myelin-forming oligodendrocytes increases 27–33% in the visual cortex of rats raised in environments that are enriched by additional play objects and social interaction (R).

Enriched environments increase the number of myelinated axons in the corpus callosum of monkeys and rats (R).

Early experience increases white matter structure in human infants (internal capsule and frontal lobes) in parallel with improved performance in behavioral tests (R).

Children suffering severe childhood neglect have a 17% reduction in the corpus callosum area (R).

5) Learning an Instrument and Complex Skills

Learning complex skills, such as playing the piano, are accompanied by increased white matter in brain areas involved in musical performance (R).

White matter increased proportionately to the number of hours each subject had practiced the instrument, indicating white matter increases when acquiring certain skills (R).

Nutrition to Increase Myelin

1) Fish/DHA (brain)

DHA is deposited within the cerebral cortex at an accelerated rate during the last trimester of pregnancy and during the first two years after birth (R).

This early accelerated rate of DHA deposition coincides with the onset of myelination, a process that is sensitive to DHA accumulation and stores  (RR).

A reduction of DHA in the diet negatively affects DHA concentrations within the brain (RRR). Animal models provide solid evidence that the consequences of dietary DHA deficiency are a high

Animal models provide solid evidence that the consequences of dietary DHA deficiency are a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in brain fatty acid composition and deficiencies in learning and memory (RR)

This is possibly due, in part, to negative impacts on neurite outgrowth and myelination (R).

2) Vitamin D (brain, body)

Studies show that vitamin D3 induced a functional recovery and increased myelination in a rat model of facial nerve injury (R).

The vitamin D receptor can increase the production of oligodendrocytes (R).

3) Vitamin C (body)

Vitamin C helps with myelin formation (R).

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbate, is important as a co-factor in several enzyme reactions. Ascorbate-dependent collagen synthesis helps with myelination. Ascorbate added to rat Schwann cells and neurons promoted myelin formation (R).

4) Iodine

Iodine is essential for many bodily functions. Iodine deficiency can impair myelination. Supplementation with iodine can help improve myelin formation in nerve cells (R).

5) Zinc

Zinc is needed for myelin proteins to function correctly. Zinc deficiency can cause problems with myelin formation and can cause defective sheaths to form (R).

6) Choline and Lecithin (brain)

In animal models of multiple sclerosis, the choline pathway can help with remyelination of myelin sheaths. It enhances myelin repair (R).

CDP-choline has beneficial effects on myelin in animal models of multiple sclerosis (R).

After drug-induced demyelination, CDP-choline effectively enhanced myelin regeneration and reversed motor coordination deficits (R).

The increased remyelination arose from an increase in the numbers of proliferating oligodendrocytes and oligodendrocyte precursor cells (R).

Lecithin is a component of myelin (R).

7) Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause demyelination and problems with early brain development. Therefore Vitamin B12 supplementation may help with sheath formation (R).

8) Cholesterol

Cholesterol is an essential constituent of myelin. The dry mass of myelin is about 70–85% lipids.

Cholesterol is needed for myelin membrane growth. Its presence is needed in the membranes in order for the sheath to function normally (R).

9) Iron (brain)

Iron plays a key role in normal cell functions. Normal iron levels are needed for myelin formation. Iron deficiency will lead to less myelination. Therefore, iron increases myelination in the body (oligodendrocytes) (R).

10) Lithium

Owing to its GSK3b inhibitory effect, Lithium can help increase myelin (R).

Treatment of adult mice with Lithium after facial nerve crush injury stimulated the expression of myelin genes, restored the myelin structure, and accelerated the recovery of whisker movements (R).

Lithium treatment also promoted remyelination of the sciatic nerve after crush (R).

11) Vitamin K2 (brain)

Myelin membranes are particularly enriched with glycolipids, including galactosylceramide (GalCer) and its sulfated form, sulfatide (R).

Concentrations of sulfatides increase during brain development, parallel to an increase in brain myelination (R).

Decreases in myelin sulfatides content and/or changes in their molecule structure have been implicated as important factors in the disruption of myelin structure, with a subsequent attenuation of myelin efficiency as an axonal insulator (R).

Decreases in the content of myelin sulfatides with age has been implicated as a significant risk factor for behavioral deficits observed in normal aging, and age-associated neurological disorders (R).

Vitamin K has been implicated in increasing sulfatides and there is a positive correlation between sulfatides and vitamin K, which is present almost exclusively in the form of Vitamin K2 or menaquinone-4 (MK-4) in the brain (R).

12) Biotin (brain, body)

Biotin activates enzymes involved in energy production and myelin synthesis (R).

91.3% of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) improved clinically with high doses of biotin (R).

In all cases, improvement was delayed from 2 to 8 months following treatment׳s onset (R).

Two multi-centric double-blind placebo-controlled trials are currently underway (R).

13) Folate/Vitamin B9 (brain)

A folate deficiency during pregnancy can also cause lower myelination in rat offspring (R, R).

14) Pantothenic Acid/Vitamin B5

Pantothenic acid indirectly helps with myelin formation by helping fatty acid synthesis (myelin is rich in lipids) (R).

Chickens deficient in pantothenic acid developed skin irritation, feather abnormalities, and spinal nerve damage associated with the degeneration of the myelin sheath (R).

15) Copper (brain)

Copper is important for myelination (oligodendrocytes).  When animals are given a drug that binds to copper, demyelination results (R).

16) Phosphatidylserine

A large body of scientific evidence describes the interactions among Phosphatidylserine, cognitive activity, cognitive aging, and retention of cognitive functioning ability (R).

Phosphatidylserine is required for healthy nerve cell membranes and myelin (R).

Aging of the human brain is associated with biochemical alterations and structural deterioration that impair neurotransmission (R).

Supplemental Phosphatidylserine (300-800 mg/d) is absorbed efficiently in humans, crosses the blood-brain barrier, and safely slows, halts, or reverses biochemical alterations and structural deterioration in nerve cells (R).

It supports human cognitive functions, including the formation of short-term memory, the consolidation of long-term memory, the ability to create new memories, the ability to retrieve memories, the ability to learn and recall information, the ability to focus attention and concentrate, the ability to reason and solve problems, language skills, and the ability to communicate. It also supports rapid reactions and reflexes (R).

Hormones to Increase Myelin

1) Pregnenolone (body)

The nervous system can synthesize steroids that are known as neurosteroids. They regulate the synthesis of myelin proteins and also help with its repair.

Pregnenolone is a precursor of other steroid hormones that can regulate myelin formation. An increase of pregnenolone can cause an increase of myelin formation (Schwann cells) (R).

2) Melatonin (brain)

In rats that had a stroke, melatonin helps promote myelination. It decreased white matter inflammation and increased myelination in nerve cells (R).

3) Progesterone (brain)

Progesterone can promote the formation, repair and regeneration of myelin sheaths (in animal models) (R, R, R).

The delivery of progesterone, however, represents a challenge because of its metabolism in digestive tract and liver (R).

Recently, the intranasal route of progesterone administration has received attention for easy and efficient targeting of the brain (R).

Progesterone in the brain is derived from glands or from local synthesis by neural cells. Stimulating the natural formation of progesterone is currently explored as an alternative strategy for neuroprotection, axonal regeneration, and myelin repair (R).

4) IGF-1 (brain, body)

Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) has been identified as a growth factor that promotes myelination by stimulating the early events of myelination in Schwann Cells and oligodendrocytes (R).  IGF-1 stimulates two key fatty acid synthesizing enzymes via the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway (R, R).

5) Thyroid Hormones (brain)

Triiodothyronin (T3) stimulated many myelin protein genes (R) and enhances remyelination in the adult brain by making myelin cells (oligodendrocytes) mature faster (R).

6) Testosterone (brain)

Males are less likely to develop multiple sclerosis than females (R).

Testosterone treatment efficiently stimulates the formation of new myelin and reverses myelin damage in chronic demyelinated brain lesions (oligodendrocytes, working via the androgen receptor) (R).

Clinical trials (phase II) have found treatment with testosterone can increase gray matter in males with multiple sclerosis (R).

The researchers concluded:

These observations support the potential of testosterone treatment to stall (and perhaps even reverse) neurodegeneration associated with MS….This is the first report of gray matter increase as the result of treatment in MS…. (R)

7) Prolactin (brain)

Prolactin during pregnancy is necessary for the increase of myelin cells (R).

8) VIP

VIP (and PACAP) contribute to the myelinating process, including myelin maturation and synthesis, and help regulate the expression of myelin proteins (R).

9) Erythropoietin (EPO) (brain)

Erythropoietin (EPO) induces the expression of myelin genes in oligodendrocytes. They promote neuron repair by inducing remyelination after myelin damage. However, this only happens in erythropoietic EPO receptor (EPOR)-expressing CG4 cells (R).

Supplements to Increase Myelin

1) Gotu Kola

Gotu kola helps rats make a more rapid functional recovery and a greater numbers of myelinated axons following nerve damage (R).

2) Uridine

Uridine can help treat myelin sheath lesions (R).

3) Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has an active component called withanoside IV. In mice, withanoside IV treatment increased myelin levels (R).

4) SAMe and Methylation

S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) helps regulate DNA methylation. DNA methylation plays a key role in myelin development. Hence, SAMe increases myelination in neurons (R).

A folate and B12 deficiency during pregnancy can also cause lower myelination in rat offspring (R, R).

5) Myoinositol

Chronic low blood sodium levels can cause the destruction of myelin. Myoinositol can normalize blood sodium levels, which can help keep myelin normal (R).

6) Ozone Treatment (body)

Ozone treatment can improve nerve health and result in thicker myelin sheaths (outside brain) (R).

7) Grape Seed Extract (body)

In diabetic rats, grape seed extract protects against demyelination (Schwann cells) (R).

8) Lion’s Mane

The mushroom Lion’s Mane (Hericium Erinaceus extract) quickens the process of myelination. It promoted normal development of myelin sheaths (R).

9) Forskolin/Cyclic AMP (body)

Cyclic AMP helps increase myelin, especially in the presence of NRG1 (Schwann cells) (R).

10) PQQ (body)

PQQ increases myelin in the body (Schwann cells) (R).

11) Ginkgo (body)

After an injury, Ginkgo increased myelination in animals (Schwann cells) (R)

12) Quercetin (brain)

After an injury, quercetin increased myelin producing cells (oligodendrocytes) (R).

13-14) Flavonoids: Luteolin and Fisetin

The flavonoids luteolin, quercetin and fisetin most significantly decreased the amount of myelin that were consumed (phagocytosis) by a macrophage (R).

The mechanism is through their antioxidant effects, free radicals are required for the phagocytosis of myelin by macrophages. The flavonoid structure appeared to be essential for these effects (R).

The study concludes:

Our results implicate that flavonoids may be able to limit the demyelination process during multiple sclerosis (R).

Pathways to Increase Myelin

1) Acetylcholine and Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitors (brain)

Cholinergic treatments, such as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AChEIs), may have beneficial effects on myelination, myelin repair, and myelin integrity (R).

Increasing cholinergic stimulation helps the myelination process (R).

Cholinergic treatments, such as Nicotine, Huperzine A and Galantamine could help promote myelination during development and myelin repair in older age (R).

The acetylcholine muscarinic receptors can increase the survival of precursor cells that increase myelin (R).

2)  Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) (brain)

The neurotrophin brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) helps regulate myelin formation in the nervous system. An increase of BFNF levels causes an increase in the rate of myelination. This causes an increase in myelin content and thickness (R).

3) Nerve growth factor (NGF) (brain)

Nerve growth factor (NGF) can help repair myelin damage. It also induces the production of another substance that can help increase myelination (R).

NGF promotes axonal regeneration, survival, protection and production of oligodendrocytes and facilitates their migration to the sites of myelin damage (R).

4) CB1 Cannabinoid Receptor (brain)

The CB1cannabinoid receptor, which is activated by cannabis, can increase myelin formation in oligodendrocytes (via mTOR and AKT) (R).

5) GSK3b Inhibitors (brain)

GSK3b inhibits myelin-dependent axon outgrowth and inhibition of GSK3b helps increase myelin (R).

GSK3β inhibition stimulates the regeneration of myelin-forming cells and remyelination following chemically induced demyelination (oligodendrocytes) (R).

6) N-acetylaspartate (NAA) (brain)

N-acetylaspartate (NAA) supplies acetyl groups for myelin synthesis. It is essential for the formation and maintenance of myelin.

7) RXRgamma (brain)

A protein called retinoid X receptor gamma (RXRgamma) is known to promote oligodendrocyte precursor cells (R).

RXRgamma must combine with the Vitamin D Receptor to induce gene expression and create these myelin producing cells (R).

8-9) PPAR delta and PPAR gamma (brain)

PPAR delta is a protein that causes energy expenditure and weight loss and also causes myelin cells to multiply (R).

PPAR gamma is a protein that causes a host of anti-inflammatory effects.  It promotes myelin formation and growth (oligodendrocyte) (R).

These are proteins that can cause big effects on gene expression, and a variety of supplements increase/decrease their function.

10) Neuregulin 1 (body)

NRG1 is a protein that helps increase Schwann Cells (R).

Neuregulin 1 is important for synaptic plasticity, inhibiting the amygdala (to shut down anxiety), myelination (Schwann cell maturation, survival, and motility), heart function (cardiac growth factor) and tumor suppression.

11) GDNF (brain)

Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) is capable of increasing axonal regeneration myelin (R).


Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) and ErbB3 receptor tyrosine kinase:

Epidermal growth factor receptor plays and important role in myelination and remyelination. EGFR signaling increases myelin repair and myelination (R).

ErbB3 receptor tyrosine kinase is a receptor located on Schwann cells. An inhibition of its expression will result in reduced myelination (R).

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