When it comes to memory, focus and concentration, we all seem to have good days and bad days. But when the bad days seem to constantly outnumber the good ones, it might just be a sign that your body is calling out for help.
what is a "nootropic"?
Nootropics are a class of treatments intended to support or enhance cognitive functions including memory, focus, concentration, and learning. In the medical world, these substances are often used adjunctively in the treatment of depression, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and ADHD. Students find them of particular benefit during stressful exam periods when exhaustion and burnout start creeping in.
Many of these nootropic agents also work on a physical level, supporting blood flow and oxygen to the muscles and encouraging efficient energy production within each cell. The best part about these brain-enhancing compounds is that you probably take at least one every day without even knowing! They are much more common than you think and you may already have some of them in your medicine cabinet.
We know it to be a powerful stimulant that reaches the brain within 40 minutes of consumption and helps to reduce fatigue. However, caffeine also has its benefits in the realm of physical fitness, supporting endurance athletes and enhancing athletic performance. Some evidence suggests that caffeine may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease and may be beneficial in lessening depression and stress in certain individuals. But don’t run to Starbucks just yet! Caffeine is found in many more beverages and foods than just coffee, and some alternatives can include yerba mate, certain soft drinks, black tea and dark chocolate. Remember that caffeine is still a drug and should be used within a reasonable limit to avoid irritability, anxiety, insomnia and dehydration.
omega -3 fatty acids
This might be one you take already, and if you don’t you probably have it somewhere in your kitchen. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in many types of seafood, including salmon, herring and mackerel, but are present in smaller amounts in walnuts, soybeans and flaxseeds. To be more specific, EPA (ecosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are the important Omega-3’s to look out for as they have been shown to host a wide array of health benefits. EPA may delay cognitive decline in the elderly and decrease whole body inflammation.
It is an ancient herb in Chinese medicine and today has become one of the most commonly used natural remedies for brain health. It is thought that Gingko works by widening blood vessels, which increases blood flow not only to the brain, but also to all the organs and muscles of the body. This makes Gingko helpful in improving short term memory and cognition
This well-known antioxidant can help increase the energy in the body by supporting the mitochondria, the powerhouses of each cell. Acetyl-l-carnitine is made naturally by the body but is often supplemented in higher doses for those looking to improve memory and attention. For these amazing benefits, it is often a part of the treatment plan for individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Some recent research indicates it might be a suitable prevention strategy for age-related mental decline
alpha lipoic acid
Similar to Acetyl-L-Carnitine, ALA has strong antioxidant actions and improves the efficiency of energy production within the mitochondria. ALA works very well with other nootropic agents and is often given together with Acetyl-L-Carnitine to improve cognitive function and overall energy. When combined with Omega-3 fatty acids, ALA helped to slow cognitive and functional decline in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. You can get ALA from foods such as spinach, broccoli, yams, potatoes and tomatoes, however the amounts are too low to see significant benefits.
This may be the most important vitamin for the nervous system, and is unfortunately the most difficult to find in the average diet. Vitamin B12 can be found in meats and seafood, but is otherwise made by healthy bacteria in the body. It serves as a key ingredient in the production of neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers of the brain), in the formation of myelin sheath (the lining which protects every nerve in the body), and in the development of red blood cells (which carry oxygen to every tissue in the body). Essentially, Vitamin B12 supports rapid nerve signalling in the brain and helps to increase the amount of oxygen to the tissues at any time. Vitamin B12 deficiencies often manifest as fatigue, shortness of breath and can even create symptoms of dementia in the elderly.
This Ayurvedic herb is another ancient medicine that has been used for centuries to enhance learning and cognitive function. There are two important compounds responsible for its effectiveness and both have demonstrated particular effectiveness in elderly populations suffering from amnesia and Alzheimer’s disease. A study of healthy human subjects taking Bacopa showed improvements in visual information processing, learning and memory compared to those who did not take anything. Other than its nootropic effects, Bacopa may help reduce inflammation, support the heart muscle and decrease anxiety.
Dr. DeSouza shares new research and discoveries along her journey.