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Nootropics for Stress (Is It Effective or Not?)

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Methodology
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Many fitness clients talk to me about how their busy jobs and crazy schedules lead to stress, impacting every aspect of life, including finding the time to hit the gym.

One of the routine questions I get asked is whether taking a nootropic supplement will help bring their stress level down a notch or two and get them back to the gym.

I researched several common nootropics ingredients and sat with our dietician to discuss those related to stress.

Are you feeling stressed? Read on to find out if you should try a nootropic.

Quick Summary

  • Many nootropics come with big promises, but there are some ingredients to look for that will effectively reduce stress.
  • Stress has a sweeping effect on the body, and alleviating it can have multiple benefits for overall health.
  • Nootropic supplements can bridge the nutrient gap to benefit stress levels.

Can Nootropics Help With Stress?

A person with a headache from stress holding nootropic pills

Nootropics can help with stress by affecting brain chemistry and disrupting the chain of physiological responses put into motion by acute or chronic stress.

More on the mechanisms later on. For now, let’s look at what happens to the body when we are stressed.

How Stress Affects the Body

The body’s response to stress is complex, affecting many systems and functions [1].

These reactions include:

  • Musculoskeletal system: the muscles tense up
  • Respiratory system: rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • Cardiovascular system: increased heart rate
  • Endocrine system: increased cortisol levels, adverse effect on the immune system
  • Gastrointestinal system: heartburn, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Central nervous system: “fight or flight” response
  • Reproductive system (female): decreased sexual desire, irregular menstruation, difficulty conceiving
  • Reproductive system (male): decreased sexual desire, sexual dysfunction, reduced sperm production

The body responds to both chronic and acute stress.

Chronic stress can be mentally and physically devastating and lead to a condition called Chronic Stress Syndrome, which significantly impacts cognitive ability [2].

Nootropics for Stress

A person holding a bunch of nootropic pills for stress

Nootropics are natural or synthetic substances that enhance cognitive functions and are also known as smart drugs, brain boosters, and smart pills.

They often have ingredients that can help alleviate stress or moderate the stress response and its negative effect on the body.

There are countless nootropic supplements on the market with big promises so let’s look at what ingredients should be on the label for an effective cognitive enhancer that can help with stress.

Ingredients to Look For

I found some research-supported ingredients that you should look for in a nootropic supplement.

B Vitamins

Vitamins B6 and B12 are common additions to nootropic supplements, and studies support their efficacy in improving cognitive function [3].

One meta-analysis of a dozen articles finds that vitamin B supplementation, either as a stand-alone vitamin or as part of a multivitamin, positively impacts mood, including stress reduction [4].

L-Theanine

The chemical graphic for L-Theanine with green tea at the background

L-theanine is an amino acid abundant in the leaves of green tea and is known as an organic nootropic.

One four-week study shows administration of L-theanine decreased symptoms of stress like anxiety and sleep disturbances and increased cognitive function [5].

Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa monnieri is an herb that has adaptogenic properties, meaning it improves the body’s stress response [6].

Interestingly, one rodent study shows Bacopa monnieri has powerful anti-anxiety effects similar to that of the prescription drug lorazepam [7].

"Bacopa monnieri may help reduce stress and anxiety by elevating mood and reducing cortisol levels."
- Ryan Raman, M.S., R.D.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub native to Asia and Africa, traditionally used as a stress reliever.

One double-blind, placebo-controlled study determined that supplementation with Ashwagandha significantly improved stress and overall quality of life [8].

4 Ways to Reduce Stress

A person meditating at the office because of stress

There are several things you can do to reduce stress naturally.

1. Eat a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is one of the best ways to care for ourselves physically and mentally.

Eating plenty of healthy protein, fruits, and vegetables ensures our body gets the nutrients it needs, like B vitamins, to help combat the effects of stress.

Many foods contain B vitamins, like leafy greens, salmon, eggs, poultry, and legumes.

2. Get Plenty of Rest

Sleep is critical to the body and helps the brain recharge.

When we are the least bit sleep deprived, our moods, ability to respond to stress, judgment, and cognition are all adversely affected.

3. Be More Active

You don’t need to be an all-star athlete to benefit from exercise.

Any form of physical movement can get those feel-good chemicals in the brain flowing, helping to reduce stress.

4. Nootropic Supplements

Nootropics with proven ingredients that support healthy brain function are a great addition to your overall well-being regimen.

Be sure to read the label and look for the ingredients we discussed here.

So, Do Nootropics Help With Stress?

Nootropics are a great way to reduce stress alongside a healthy diet, exercise routine, and sleep schedule.

We’ve tested numerous solid nootropics with science-backed ingredients like Bacopa monnieri that reduce stress and improve cognitive function.

We put all these nootropics through our stringent testing process here at TotalShape, to vie for Editor’s Choice commendation, so check out the link to see which one gets the top spot.


References:

  1. https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15925030/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4772032/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770181/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6836118/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12957224/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23195757/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6979308/
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