Nootropics is the name given to a certain category of cognitive enhancers (brain boosters) that is gaining popularity.
In these busy times, it can be difficult to keep up with the demands of a hectic daily schedule. Many of us are looking for ways to improve our motivation and productivity at home and at the office, and we find that we are dealing with high levels of stress.
Unfortunately, too much stress can wreak havoc on our bodies, affecting our concentration, mood, sleep, and even our immune system. Managing our stress levels is important to prevent stress-related health problems.
Maybe you, like many others, are looking for a way to manage your stress that doesn’t involve the use of pharmaceutical medications. In addition to addressing diet, exercise, and proper rest, there are natural alternatives available to support proper functioning of overall body and brain health and to assist in the overall management of stress.
Also known as ‘smart drugs’, nootropics are those supplements that target brain health with particular emphasis on cognition, attention, focus, and memory. According to some experts, additional support for nootropics includes their ability to increase motivation and productivity, to decrease anxiety and stress, and to improve mood.
While the mainstream concurs that there is inconclusive evidence for the overall effectiveness of nootropics, some studies have noted their effectiveness in improving cognitive function. In a world where medication is being prescribed at a high rate to manage stress-related conditions, it is promising to know that there are alternative therapies aimed at enhancing brain health without producing negative side effects.
How Nootropics Work to Support the Brain
Nootropics are thought to enhance brain function by targeting specific pathways involved in improving nutritional or metabolic support. Just like pharmaceuticals are utilized to target specific brain function, dietary supplements, too, are being shown to affect brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters and to support specific aspects of healthy brain function.
As science continues to better understand the brain, these nutrients are gaining increased recognition for their role in overall brain balance that in turn supports cognitive enhancement.
Quality is Important
With the increased consumer interest in cognitive enhancers and the competitive market for manufacturers, it is a good idea to always do your research. Some products may contain unnecessary fillers or additives or include specific ingredients that may be allergenic. Be sure to take a look at the quality control practices followed by each company to gain information on product purity. As always, check with your doctor before beginning any new supplement or medication.
Kinds of Nootropics
There are now many supplements on the market that are being categorized as nootropics, and here is a small handful of some popular ones that you may recognize or be interested in investigating further.
Fish oils provide essential omega-3 fatty acids including DHA and EPA. The body can’t make these important fats so it is important to get them from our food supply. Due to often high levels of contaminants in fish, some experts instead recommend taking fish oil supplements that have been batch-tested for heavy metals and contaminants.
Many people are deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids because of the highly processed foods in the Standard American Diet (SAD) that are void of this essential nutrient. Omega-3 fats play a significant role in supporting brain function by assisting with proper nerve cell function and minimizing inflammation that plays a key role in disease. There is significant research to support the effectiveness of fish oils in conditions like ADHD and depression.
This important vitamin plays a strong role in supporting a healthy nervous system. It is a necessary nutrient for proper development and overall function of the brain and body. Vitamin B12 is often used to improve energy levels and concentration and has also been used to treat memory loss. It has a wide variety of other uses including the management of sleep and mood disorders.
Vitamin B12 is most readily absorbed and utilized by the body in the form of methylcobalamin. Food sources containing higher levels of Vitamin B12 include meat, dairy, and fish. Those who are at risk of being deficient in this important vitamin include vegans and older adults.
Ginkgo Biloba is an herb that has long been used as a cognitive enhancing supplement and is often taken in cases of decline in cognitive function such as Alzheimer’s disease.
It appears to work by improving overall circulation of blood, which helps to address problems with the brain. Because of its ability to support proper blood flow, it is also useful in treating eye conditions such as macular degeneration.
It has been used to treat hearing problems and various other conditions, including chronic leg pain. As with all supplements, it is important to talk with your doctor before taking Ginkgo Biloba as it has been known to interact with the function of other medications.
Creatine is an amino acid produced in the body that helps to convert food into energy. It is frequently used by the athletic population to improve performance. It is also thought to help with increasing muscle mass although its use for athletic performance, in general, remains somewhat controversial among experts.
Creatine’s use as a cognitive enhancer comes from its ability to release energy in the body (as phosphocreatine) to support proper function of bodily cells. Some researchers believe this mechanism can help to provide a boost, even if temporary, to overall brain function.
Creatine has also been researched for its usefulness in a variety of medical conditions, including heart health, and diseases related to bone health.
Another dietary supplement that has gained a lot of recognition for its role in brain health is the amino acid L-theanine. It is primarily found in green tea and some mushrooms. The body cannot make this amino acid and in times of stress, L-theanine levels are quickly depleted. L-theanine is known to promote attention and relaxation (without having a sedative effect).
Because of its ability to target anxiety, it may also help with difficulties related to sleep. L-theanine is additionally known for its ability to counteract the side effects of caffeine, without decreasing the positive impact that the stimulant caffeine has on the brain.
These are just a few of the vast number of supplements associated with an improved cognitive function. The growing field of natural medicine continues to provide consumers with new information about alternative therapies. It is likely that nootropics will continue to gain more attention in their use for supporting healthy brain function.
It is important to point out that it is always good to keep the emphasis on healthy ways of managing stress and avoiding overuse of alcohol, drugs, or other unhealthy means of self-medicating. When you feel like you are trying hard to do all the right things to manage your stress, you may want to consider nootropics.
This natural approach for enhancing cognitive abilities might just likely be a helpful part of your overall plan to effectively manage stress and promote general well-being.