The Best Brain Supplements For Social Distancing
Social distancing may be a necessary measure, but it can still take its toll on mental health
Nootropics may help ease anxiety of dealing with difficult circumstances
Certain supplements, such as NAC and ashwagandha, can help your body and mind react to stress more positively
We’re living through an unprecedented event. The entire world is shut down as a precautionary measure to save people from contracting the COVID-19 virus.
This ancient practice that was originally meant for ships carrying cargo into Venice from infected ports has now been applied to our 21st century way of life, and needless to say, it has been quite the disruption.
Daily, routine activities now seem nostalgic.
Going out to eat, going to the movies, grabbing a drink with friends.. or dare I say.. even going to work!
Don’t get me wrong, the situation could certainly be worse, as anyone who has ever lived through a natural disaster can attest.
Locking down in our comfy homes with all of our electricity, modern appliances, stocked fridges, WiFi, and of course, Tiger King may not seem that bad at first.
But with the outside world being made to seem like a giant infectious viral breeding ground and no end in sight, this whole situation may be taking a toll on a lot of people’s mental well-being.
Even with every piece of modern technology and palate-pleasing food at our fingertips, social isolation is not natural.
Humans are social creatures and need the companionship that comes from being around other humans.
Social media and video chats can only fill that void so much.
But this is the reality, at least until the end of April. Even then there is no guarantee that life will go back to normal, and there is a lot of talk that we may have to do this again until a more permanent solution is discovered.
Social Distancing and Mental Health
While the physical complications from the COVID-19 virus can be devastating, the mental health consequences of social distancing can be just as profound.
Stress, anxiety, fear, worry, depression, and panic are just some of the emotions many people are feeling locked down in isolation.
While the current situation at hand is unprecedented, there is quite a bit of data on the detrimental psychological effects on people who have been quarantined.
We know past instances of quarantines have lead to high levels of stress, exhaustion, irritability, insomnia, poor concentration and indecisiveness, deteriorating work performance, and anxiety 2Bai Y, Lin CC, Lin CY, Chen JY, Chue CM, Chou P. Survey of stress reactions among health care workers involved with the SARS outbreak., Psychiatric Services. 2004
Even years after the quarantines, subjects experienced bouts of PTSD and depression
3Samantha K Brooks, PhD Rebecca K Webster, PhD Louise E Smith, PhD Lisa Woodland, MSc Prof Simon Wessely, FMedSci Prof Neil Greenberg, FRCPsych Gideon James Rubin, PhD. The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence
, The Lancet. 2020
How To Keep Cool In Isolation
The psychological impacts of social distancing are real. The big question then is, how do you protect your mental health?
There are plenty of mood-boosting activities you can do to keep your spirits up like exercising, meditating, watching uplifting videos and movies, keeping in touch with loved ones on the phone or online and of course eating a healthy diet.
This includes supplementation.
While our bodies are vulnerable to a potentially lethal virus, our minds are just as vulnerable to the ills of isolation, and there’s no better way to physically protect your mental health than with brain-boosting nutrients.
One of the best ways to get these nutrients is with Nootropics.
Nootropics are a class of nutritional supplements designed for mental optimization.
Below are my 5 recommendations for surviving social distancing and thriving under quarantine.
Nootropics For Thriving Under Quarantine
NAC is one of the most effective supplements you can take to for both mental and physical benefits during a viral pandemic.
The World Health Organization considers it an “essential medicine.” In your body, it works as an antioxidant and is the precursor to glutathione.
It is one of the most studied supplements on the market with over 300 clinical trials.
In the brain, NAC has been shown to lower anxiety, OCD, and depression.5Berk M1, Malhi GS, Gray LJ, Dean OM. The promise of N-acetylcysteine in neuropsychiatry, Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2013
One of its main modes of action is to inhibit the flow of glutamate in the NMDA receptor.
Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that can lead to feelings of instability along with a number of neurological disorders.6Y. Zhou and N. C. Danbolt. Glutamate as a neurotransmitter in the healthy brain
, J Neural Transm. 2014
Its antioxidant effects are also very beneficial as it lowers oxidative stress that underlies inflammation which leads to depression and mental distress.
Gotu Kola is a powerful Ayurvedic herbal medicine that has been used for thousands of years. In China, it is considered one of the “miracle elixirs of life”.
There are a number of mental benefits to using Gotu Kola including lowering anxiety and depression.7Chen Y1, Han T, Qin L, Rui Y, Zheng H. Effect of total triterpenes from Centella asiatica on the depression behavior and concentration of amino acid in forced swimming mice, Zhong Yao Cai. 2003
It’s been shown to increase neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin which should naturally lower feelings of depression.
Gotu Kola has also been shown to modulate certain stress pathways and increase GABA levels which are calming in the brain.8Awad R, Levac D, Cybulska P, Merali Z, Trudeau VL, Arnason JT. Effects of traditionally used anxiolytic botanicals on enzymes of the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system, Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2007
L-Theanine is a calming amino acid that is known for its ability to modulate brain waves and promote relaxation.
It’s naturally found in green tea and pairs well with coffee to help lower the stimulation of caffeine.
One of L-Theanine’s many modes of action is to increase alpha brain waves and lower beta waves.9Anna Christina Nobre, Anling Rao, Gail Owen. L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state
, Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008
Alpha waves promote relaxation and lower stress, while beta waves can be stimulating.
This is why as a nootropic L-theanine is effective at lowering stress and managing anxiety which comes in handy during these uncertain times.
Where To Buy L-Theanine:
Ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogenic herb used for over 3,000 years in traditional Ayurvedic medicine.
As an adaptogen, it works with your body’s natural circadian rhythm to give you energy when you need it earlier in the day and helps you relax later at night.
This also helps modulate the HPA axis which controls the output of stress hormones in the body.10Cooley K, Szczurko O, Perri D, Mills EJ, Bernhardt B, Zhou Q, Seely D. Naturopathic care for anxiety: a randomized controlled trial ISRCTN78958974, PLoS One. 2009
A number of studies have confirmed this beneficial activity which leads to lower stress and lower anxiety.
Along with its nootropic effects, Ashwagandha can help increase sex hormone production which will also work to stabilize your mood.11Ambiye VR, Langade D, Dongre S, Aptikar P, Kulkarni M, Dongre A. Clinical Evaluation of the Spermatogenic Activity of the Root Extract of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in Oligospermic Males: A Pilot Study.
, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013
Where To Buy Ashwagandha:
Like Ashwagandha, Rhodiola is also an adaptogenic herb that modulates the HPA axis according to your body’s circadian rhythm.12Panossian A, Wikman G. Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity.
, Curr Clin Pharmacol. 2009
Rhodiola tends to be more stimulating than other adaptogenic herbs and is known for its ability to increase mood-lifting neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and endorphins.
In fact, Rhodiola has been clinically shown to be as or more effective at uplifting mood than some popular anti-depressant drugs.13Mao JJ, Xie SX, Zee J, Soeller I, Li QS, Rockwell K, Amsterdam JD. Rhodiola rosea versus sertraline for major depressive disorder: A randomized placebo-controlled trial.
, Phytomedicine. 2015
Rhodiola also has anti-oxidant properties which lead to its physical abilities to promote mental well-being.
Where To Buy Rhodiola Rosea:
Phosphatidylserine is a naturally occurring phospholipid that permeates your brain and is present in every single cell in your body.14Glade MJ, Smith K. Phosphatidylserine and the human brain.
, Nutrition. 2015
Its main job is regulating the flow of nutrients and oxygen in and out of each cell.
Like adaptogenic herbs, phosphatidylserine can modulate the action of your HPA axis and relax the flow of stress hormones in the body. This helps all facets of mental health including lowering anxiety and depression.15Benton D, Donohoe RT, Sillance B, Nabb S. The influence of phosphatidylserine supplementation on mood and heart rate when faced with an acute stressor.
, Nutr Neurosci. 2001
Phosphatidylserine has also been shown to be effective at lowering ADHD, improving focus and improving sleep.
Where To Buy Phosphatidylserine:
All great for not just coping with lockdown, but even knocking out some productive work, committing to a new hobby, or completing an online course.
These nootropics are some of my personal faves, but there are dozens more that can be used to better cope with social distancing.
No matter what you choose, always remember that there are ways to come of this on top, and nootropics are just one of the many tools to help.
About the author:
Erik Levi is a co-founder of HolisticNootropics.com and a certified holistic nutritional therapy practitioner.
As an NTP Erik takes a nutrition first approach to health. He has worked with many different people to help them use nutrition to optimize their quality of life.
Erik believes that mental health is a physiological process and cognitive enhancement is not something that can be achieved by just taking some pills with good Amazon reviews.
Instead, true cognitive enhancement comes with the right balance of nutrients, movement, and gratitude. Erik continues to stay up to date with the most current nootropic and holistic health research and promises to deliver the best solutions possible.
You can check out his personal health blog/podcast/YouTube Channel all under the name Holistic A-Hole.