A Steppingstone to a Clear Head

posted by on August 10th, 2021

Often, individuals look for “brain hacks”, “shortcuts”, or a “quick fix” simply to gain a few more hours of daily productivity.  While understandable in our fast-paced, hyper-stimulated world, this regularly comes at the expense of sleep, personal time and ultimately our health.  While there is no real shortcut that can produce health in the same way the consistent habit of good sleep, a balanced diet and physical fitness can, there are steppingstones that will get you there.

One such steppingstone is something called a nootropic.  Nootropics are drugs, nutrients, botanicals, and even amino acids that can improve blood flow to the brain; support the production of neurotransmitters; or promote neuroplasticity to optimize brain productivity, cognitive function and memory.

Natural nootropics have been around for millennia – think of Pycnogenol, Omega III fatty acids and ginkgo biloba for their capacity to promote blood flow to the brain.  The use of botanicals and amino acids was once considered esoteric and only accepted by the herbalist for their inherent benefit.  Today, they are widely used by practitioners of many disciplines as our day-to-day lives become more demanding, and the research behind them continues to support their use in areas of mental well-being and metabolic fitness.

These compounds have confirmed cognitive benefits in such areas as memory and focus.  They are additionally useful to support executive functions like math, multitasking and critical thinking when we find ourselves overwhelmed with work or increasing requirements to meet the needs of both our family and surrounding community – not to mention the escalating stimulation from our digital devices invading all aspects of our lives.

It makes you wonder why such ingredients are often limited to use in those experiencing declining function instead of as a first-line approach to maintaining healthy brains for all of us.  Once you know where to start, we can initiate a “prevention rather than intervention” approach to aging and well-being.

Dr. Mason’s Cognitive Health Pro-Tips

  • Make sure you are getting a good night’s sleep.  Even if you have limited hours to achieve a restful night sleep, things like melatonin, L-tryptophan and magnesium can support the restorative sleep you are needing to stay productive the next day.
  • Pay attention to your physical activity.  Many people do not feel they have time in their day to commit to a regular fitness regimen.  Instead of thinking fitness as “time spent,” think about how to maximize movement in the way you spend your time.  Implement a standing or walking desk.  Add 15 to 30 body weight squats periodically as you walk your dog.  Get up and take a lap around the office.
  • Consider adding botanicals like green oat extract (for its anti-stress and cognitive benefits) to your supplement regimen.  Green oat extract contains flavonoids that have the potential to promote improvements in cognitive performance and memory.  A study on green oat extract reveals it can support an increase in neurological brain activity and memory.1   In fact, another study demonstrates that 800 mg is an optimal amount of increased performance on cognitive tasks.2
  • Amino acids like acetyl L-carnitine, glutamine, glycine and tyrosine all have a particular benefit in the realm of nootropics.  L-tyrosine has received recent acclaim for those in front of computers for long periods of time – be it for gaming or online video conferencing.  It’s a go-to amino acid because L-tyrosine is critical in the production of dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine, thyroid hormones, and melanin.  These all play a role in cognitive flexibility (our ability to switch between different mental sets, tasks, or strategies).

Nootropic ingredients can profoundly improve human cognition, productivity gains and overall well-being in a world of excess stimulation and mental demands.

1 David O. Kennedy, Philippa A. Jackson, Joanne Forster, Julie Khan, Torsten Grothe, Tania Perrinjaquet-Moccetti & Crystal F. Haskell-Ramsay (2017) Acute effects of a wild green-oat (Avena sativa) extract on cognitive function in middle-aged adults: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subjects trial, Nutritional Neuroscience, 20:2, 135-151, DOI: 10.1080/1028415X.2015.1101304 2 Berry NM, Robinson MJ, Bryan J, Buckley JD, Murphy KJ, Howe PR. Acute effects of an Avena sativa herb extract on responses to the Stroop Color-Word test. J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Jul;17(7):635-7. DOI: 10.1089/acm.2010.0450. PMID: 21711204