- Nootropics - how do they work on the brain?
- Nootropics - division
- How to test the level of neurotransmitters?
- Safety of nootropics
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Nootropics are natural or synthetic substances whose purpose is to increase the cognitive functions of the brain: concentration, perception, memory. Thanks to them, the brain works more efficiently and the nervous system regenerates. Their use, however, requires prudence and knowledge, because improper or too long dosing may be toxic for the body.
Nootropicsare used primarily to balance the level of neurotransmitters and maintain the balance between them. Only then does our body function properly and our mood and behavior are stable. First of all, they improve the work and performance of the brain. They are also responsible for memory, concentration and learning ability.
Nootropics - how do they work on the brain?
To understand how nootropics affect the brain, you need to understand the structure of the nervous system and how it works. The basic unit of the nervous system is the neuron, i.e. the nerve cell and the glial cells that nourish it.
Nerve cells send each other signals in the form of electrical impulses, thanks to which our body reacts to various types.
They can receive impulses from the outside and then, for example, we feel pain under the influence of some stimulus or they give an internal signal that we need to produce, for example, certain hormones.
The transmission of impulses is possible thanks to synapses, which are the connection of the end (axon) of one neuron with the beginning (dendrite) of the next neuron.
When the nerve impulse reaches the axon, ion channels open, causing an influx of calcium ions, and this leads to the release of neurotransmitters from the synapse.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that allow a signal to pass between synapses. It is thanks to them that the nerve impulse goes on to the next neuron until it finally reaches the target cell. The most important for the work of the brain are such neurotransmitters as:
Action of nootropics
Knowing how important neurotransmitters are for the functioning of the brain (without them, the brain will not receive the appropriate signals), we can realize how important a role nootropics can play in our lives.
They allow you to increase the level of someneurotransmitters (e.g. serotonin and make us feel more happy) or make them have a stronger effect (e.g. a stronger action of GABA will make us more calm).
In addition, nootropics can provide the necessary cofactors for the synthesis of new neurotransmitters or block the reuptake of some of them.
They can also support the work of the brain by improving the work of neurons and inhibiting the factors responsible for neurodegradation. They also improve cerebral circulation.
Nootropics - division
Undisturbed signal transmission between synapses of nerve cells is possible only in a he althy nervous system. However, more and more people have disrupted this transmission and the right amount of neurotransmitters does not reach the brain, which affects our well-being and he alth.
Therefore, it happens that we are, for example :
- over-excited (GABA deficiency),
- lack of motivation (dopamine deficiency),
- or we do not want to live (serotonin deficiency)
- or we are distracted and disordered (acetylcholine deficiency).
In such cases, the use of nootropics can bring us the desired benefits in the form of a balance of mood and behavior. However, it is important that the dosing of these substances is always under the supervision of a specialist.
Nootropics used in serotonin deficiency
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for our well-being, happiness and fulfillment. When we miss it, we have trouble getting enough sleep, we get angry a lot, and we don't feel like doing something we used to enjoy.
This shortage may be due to many reasons, e.g. :
- circulation problems,
- estrogen deficiency,
- or staying on a low-protein diet.
To support the body in the production of serotonin and increase its level in our body, it is worth using Rhodiola Rosea, Hordein or L-theanine.
A he althy diet containing vitamins B3, B6 and B12, which are cofactors necessary for the synthesis of tryptophan (from which serotonin is produced), will also be useful.
Tryptophan is an amino acid (protein molecule) the best source of which is meat. So it's worth eating them to maintain an adequate level of serotonin in the body.
Nootropics used in dopamine deficiency
Dopamine is responsible for remembering, learning, as well as for interpreting emotional stimuli and maintaining a proper body posture. It also gives the life drive and is responsible for libido. Thanks to her, we are motivatedto act and we feel that we want to.
Dopamine deficiency causes:
- reluctance to act,
- difficulties in organizing,
- no feeling of pleasure (reward system is stimulated by dopamine),
- increases anxiety
- and increases the risk of Parkinson's disease.
Nootropics that help us raise dopamine levels include N-acetylcysteine (NAC), which increases the release of dopamine and prevents the destruction of dopamine transporters that transport it through the synaptic cleft.
Other nootropics include: L-Dopa, which is a direct precursor of dopamine, or NALT (N-acetyl L-tyrosine), which is a modification of natural tyrosine (an amino acid that is part of proteins) - supporting the synthesis of dopamine.
Acetylcholine increases concentration, the ability to organize, is responsible for creativity, and speeds up the reaction time (thanks to the effect on muscle contractility).
Deficiency of this neurotransmitter causes:
- memory problems,
- poorer quality of sleep (impaired REM phase) - which affects concentration, as well as difficulty recognizing faces.
Acetylcholine deficiencies may occur as a result of:
- chronic stress,
- or diseases of the digestive system.
Nootropics that help to get the right level of this neurotransmitter are:
- Huperzyna A, which favors the catching of acetylcholine from the synaptic cleft,
- or also Cytokoline (CDP).
Nootropics that increase GABA levels
GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps us cope with stress better and be more relaxed. In addition, it allows us to concentrate better and prevents distraction. When we lack it, we are constantly worried, we have panic attacks, we are over-aroused.
There can be many reasons for the shortage, they include, among others :
- insulin resistance,
- genetic GABA conversion disorder,
- disturbances in circadian rhythm.
Nootropics that increase this neurotransmitter include, for example, l-theanine, which is the most common amino acid in green tea. It has the ability to easily cross the blood-brain barrier, thanks to which it has a neuroprotective effect. It stimulates GABA synthesis, and at the same time has a calming effect.
Taurine works in a similar way. It also contributes to the better synthesis of this neurotransmitter, andthrough this to his height.
In turn, the popular valerian stimulates the release of GABA and inhibits its breakdown, and Bakopa monnieri, being an adaptogen, increases the activity of GABA-binding receptors.
How to test the level of neurotransmitters?
Researching the concentration of neurotransmitters acting on the brain is not easy. One way to determine an excess or deficiency of serotonin, GABA, or acetylcholine is by observing your own behavior.
We can tell by ourselves if we lack motivation, if we have panic attacks, or if we are distracted. These are invaluable tips that will help us intuitively detect what neurotransmitter we are deficient in.
Another way is to solve theBraverman test , which is a multiple-choice test. Filling it in takes a long time, about 20 minutes. The questions are detailed and cover both worldview and well-being.
Thanks to it, we learn what the relationship between individual neurotransmitters looks like and what is our guiding nature, e.g. dopamine, or with a predominance of GABA.
Another tool is theOATtest used by psychiatrists or nutritionists. It is used to diagnose people with mental disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder.
This is an organic acid profiling test that shows the metabolism of neurotransmitters and allows you to catch possible neurotransmitter deficiencies.
Safety of nootropics
The danger of using nootropics on our own is that we can overdose a given substance or use it for too long, which will make the receptors insensitive to it.
In the first case, the use of nootropics may become toxic to our body, in the second - it may not be effective. Because if our receptors stop responding to a given neurotransmitter, even after discontinuing nootropics and taking a longer break, they will not respond to it later. This happens, for example, when using substances that increase the level of serotonin for too long.
Another type of danger is addiction to nootropics, which will be linked to the placebo effect. If we believe that only thanks to nootropics we have better memory or concentration, we will not be able to function without them.
It should therefore be remembered that the basis for concentration, memory and a stable mood are not external means, but good-quality sleep, a he althy diet, living in accordance with the circadian rhythm.
Of course, in sick people, in whom nootropics act as a drug, taking substances that support the work of the brain (e.g. in Alzheimer's disease) will be the basis of he alth.
However, in he althy people who only want to support their cognitive or intellectual abilities, reaching for nootropics on their own can be a dangerous game. Before taking them, you should always consult a doctor.