Selected Podcast

Ask Dr. Mike: Supplements for Anesthesia-Induced Memory Loss

Here you'll find the answers to a wealth of health and wellness questions posed by Healthy Talk fans.

Listen in because what you know helps ensure healthy choices you can live with. Today on Healthy Talk, you wanted to know:

My Aunt underwent surgery and had had a hard time waking up from the anesthesia. It's been months, but there are still times when she will have bouts of no recollection of the surgery. Are there any supplements she can take?

This phenomenon -- when you're unable to recall any events that took place before your surgery -- is known as retrograde amnesia. Before suggesting any supplements, Dr. Mike suggests getting an MRI or speaking to a neurologist to make sure there's not a bigger health risk at hand. That being said, Dr. Mike says that supplements like fish oil, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, ashwagandha, blueberry extract, phosphatidylserine, DHEA, and choline can help. 

If you have a health question or concern, Dr. Mike encourages you to write him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call in, toll-free, to the LIVE radio show (1.844.305.7800) so he can provide you with support and helpful advice.


RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: May 11, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

You're listening to RadioMD. It's time to ask Dr. Mike. Do you have a question about your health? Dr. Mike can answer your questions. Just email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call now: 877-711-5211. The lines are open.

DR MIKE: So, remember when you send me your questions, or you want to call in, you can be as specific or vague as you want and you can ask about really anything. I always try and answer right off the cuff. If not, I'll do some research beforehand. I have a whole staff here at Life Extensions that can help me with that. They're awesome at research.

That's This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Alright, so here's the next one. This is about amnesia. This is an interesting scenario here.

"My aunt underwent surgery." It doesn't say what for. "And she had a hard time coming out of anesthesia. Even though it's been several months, she still has bouts of amnesia where she can't remember things from before the surgery. Her doctors have nothing to offer but 'time' " and she puts that in quotations. "Are there any supplements she can take?"

So, this type of amnesia is called retrograde amnesia. It's where there was an event that happened, in this case surgery, anesthesia, and when you can't remember things that happened before that event, in this case surgery, that's retrograde amnesia.

The other type of amnesia is ante grade, where you just can't remember something you were just told. "Here put the pen behind the phone" and then you forget that. You can't remember where you just literally were told to put the pen. So, this is retrograde amnesia. I find this interesting because although we know anesthesia is associated with different types of types of amnesia, really, but to be several months out, that's something I find interesting. I would first suggest having a neurological work up.

Maybe even a brain MRI looking for some small little areas of what we might call infarct. The anesthesia can actually cause some cells in the brain to die off a little bit, so you would want to look for that. So, I might actually suggest an MRI looking for any sort of changes in the white matter of that brain.

That would, I think, be important here because several months? That's concerning. Most cases...I mean, I'm not a surgeon so I can't get into top many specifics here, but most cases of post-anesthesia problems, whatever they may be, drowsiness, even some cases weird pain, things can happen. In this case amnesia, usually in a couple weeks it clears up. So, this is concerning that it's going on this long.

So, with that said, what are some of the things that we can do? I want to take this to more of a general question about amnesia, whether it's retrograde or whether it's anterograde or whether it's from surgery, anesthesia, trauma, whatever it may be, what are some of the things we can do supplement wise to improve memory and recall and specifically how those things relate to amnesia from a specific event. So, fish oil, very important .1400 mg of EPA about 1000 mg of DHEA, very important.

\Anything that is a choline-based supplement, choline, C-H-O-L-I-N-E-, choline-based supplements. You can do, there is choline just by itself, but often it comes in the form of Phosphorylcholine. That's fine--about 250 mg of those types of choline-based supplements. Phosphatidylserine, it's a fat soluble form of the amino acid serene.

In the industry, it's usually just called PS, but the full name is phosphatidylserine, about 100 mg a day. Methylfolate, about 1 mg a day; vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, very important to anyone dealing with amnesia. By the way, vitamin B6 comes in different forms. The best form here is pyridoxal 5 phosphate, P5P, about 100 mg a day; vitamin B12, you want to do a methylcobalamin form.

Usually, it's going to be a lozenge under the tongue. The dose range there can be anywhere from 1 to 5 mg. Acetyl L-carnitine, very important, it crosses the blood brain barrier and helps brain cells to improve energy production, about 1000 mg, even upwards of 2000 mg a day. CoQ10, pyrroloquinoline, PQQ, acetyl L-carnitine, the coenzyme Q10, the PQQ, all that's about brain cell energy, very important in amnesia. Pregnenolone is another important nutrient.

It's a hormone. It's the mother hormone. Pregnenolone eventually becomes all the other steroid hormones, progesterone, DHEA, testosterone, estrogen, but just as important, it's a brain steroid. Pregnenolone does get into the brain and it helps to support brain cell structure, which is going to help the brain cell to function better. There's a definite structure/function relationship in brain cells, so if I improve structure, I improve function and that's what pregnenolone does. Same thing with DHEA. DHEA is very important for neurotransmitter production and how brain cells communicate.

So, I actually like the combination of 25-50mg of pregnenolone and 25-50 mg of DHEA. So you have the pregnenolone supporting brain cell structure, which helps function and then you have DHEA coming along that improves how that brain cell, that is now structured better, communicates with other brain cells. Listen, how brain cells communicate, those pathways of how they connect together and talk to each other, that's memory, that's recall. We have to improve that. So, pregnenolone and DHEA. Get your blood tested first, though.

I'm a hormone specialist and I'll tell you, don't take hormones without getting a good baseline. Know where you're at, know what the appropriate dose is. Magnesium, very important for amnesia. About 500mg a day. You can even go up to about 1000 mg a day. There's a special form of magnesium that's important here called magnesium L-threonate. I think I've talked about that on the show before.

But, magnesium L-threonate is form of magnesium that crosses into the brain. Other forms of magnesium--magnesium citrate, magnesium oxide, magnesium bisglycinate--these are common forms like in bone formulas and stuff.

They don't cross into the brain very well. So, the brain, even if you're taking those forms of magnesium and you're improving your overall body level of magnesium, the brain can still be very deficient and that's where magnesium threonate comes into play. That's a form that gets into the brain. It doesn't really go to the muscle, doesn't really go to the bone, it goes into the brain and just like DHEA, it's very important for how those brain cells communicate together. Magnesium is a mineral that's required for a brain cell to make what is called dendrite. A brain cell at the end of it has these finger-like projections called dendrites or neurites and the growth of those dendrites or neurites, is based on magnesium. It needs magnesium.

So, magnesium threonate, very important here, about 140 mg a day. Ginkgo, ashwagandha, these are good adaptogens that might help decrease the stress response in the brain; that might help amnesia a little bit. Vinpocetine, periwinkle, that's what it is. Vinpocetine's a compound from periwinkle, helps blood flow, 10-20mg a day and then, blueberry extract is just great. Antioxidants for the brain, blueberries. Eat them, supplement with them, just a bunch of blueberries. So, know that was long list, but I think that we covered a lot of the big components there for brain health, right? You've got the fish oils, the choline, the phosphatidylserine. Those were the very important fats for brain cells.

You've got the B vitamins in there. You've got the energizers, the carnitine, the CoQ10, the PQQ. You've got hormones like DHEA and pregnenolone, very important to brain cell structure, function and neurotransmitters. You've got the magnesium threonate, which helps the communication of the brain cells.

Do you need to do all of these if you have amnesia? No, I'm not saying that, but I just wanted to give you a nice comprehensive list here. You might want to take this kind of list into your doctor's office and say "Okay, can we do some of these things to improve the memory and recall of my aunt?" In this case, get that neurological work up first, though. I think that's really important.

This is Healthy Talk on Radio MD.

I'm Dr. Mike. Stay well.