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You may have heard of or read the terms “adaptogens” and “nootropics” online, on social media, or on food packaging and supplements. If you’re not sure what they mean, I’m here to clear some things up for you and to help you understand how they help with hormone health!

First of all, when it comes to supplements, I’m a less is more type of girlie. I used to fall into the trap of trying every supplement under the sun and have to admit that all those green powders that influencers and fitness professionals used seemed really attractive and made me feel really good too….for a little while. I then spent a few hours with my functional medicine doc to figure out exactly what MY body needs (something I highly recommend and is well worth the investment) and it turns out, I don’t need 20 different synthetic vitamins to feel great. For optimal hormone balance, my best advice is to figure out what exactly your body needs to be supplemented with instead of blindly consuming what’s trending on TikTok. Remember, many supplements companies have large marketing budgets, which is why you see ads for them and notice so many influencers touting them. Checking (added) ingredients is key as well and something we review in my 3 month Hormone Health Reset program.

So why am I so excited about adaptogens and nootropics?

With the exception of synthetic nootropics (which I stay away from), these substances are found in nature and can make a huge, positive difference when we’re in our hormonal shift phases: postpartum, perimenopause, menopause, and beyond. Let’s define what adaptogens and nootropics are:

Adaptogens

Adaptogens are plant-derived substances that help the body adapt to stress and restore balance. They work by increasing the body’s resistance to stressors. Since immune health, cortisol, stress levels, and quality sleep are closely tied to optimal hormone health, adaptogens can make a difference in all these areas. They have been used for centuries in traditional medicine systems such as Ayurveda Traditional Chinese Medicine. Adaptogens can be stimulatory, calming, or mushroom based. They work with the HPA (hypothalamic, pituitary, adrenal) axis to reduce cortisol and help modulate the nervous system. Here are my favorite adaptogens:

Maca – Helps with mood, energy levels, libido, and may help with fertility as well. Maca has helped me with relieving PMS symptoms (moodiness and cramps) and is believed to help balance hormones and  alleviate menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. 

Reishi mushroom – May possess anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation in the body. Reishi is also amazing for soothing stress and calming the nervous system, modulating cortisol, boosting testosterone, and helping to relieve many perimenopausal symptoms. It’s one of the more common adaptogens and I love that’s in my favorite protein powder, Tejari

Shatavari: A lesser known adaptogen that helps with estrogen balance / modulation, fertility, and PMS. A study* has shown that women who received shatavari extract experienced significant improvements in menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness, compared to those who received a placebo.

Ashwagandha: A restorative adaptogens that both relaxes and sharpens the mind. Reduces stress, improves mood, and boosts energy levels. Ashwagandha has gained popularity over the last few years an

Holy Basil: Known for its calming effect. and immune support. Holy Basil is also known as Tulsi in Ayurveda and most of my clients find themselves drinking a cup of Tulsi tea at the end of the day to help with nervous system regulation and adrenal stress / fatigue. It’s very restorative and relaxing.

Schichandra: Used in Traditional Chinese medicine to help with fatigue, mental performance, and liver function. That last one is a biggie for me because as you know, optimal hormone levels and balance depend on how effectively your liver can process hormones, such as estrogen when estrogen levels go high during your luteal phase or are still circulating in the body from last month’s menstrual cycle.

Other adaptogens out there include Rhodiola, Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng), Ginseng, Chaga, and Lion’s Mane.

How do you know which adaptogens to take and where can you find these? I work with my clients on finding appropriate adaptogens for their goals and lifestyle and I love blending these together as well to create powerful combinations that promote hormone balance. If you’re interested in just trying out some adaptogens, please shoot me an email: varsha@wellandgreat.com and I’ll send a special treat your way (you don’t have to be a client for this)!

 

Nootropics

Nootropics are cognitive enhancers designed to help with focus, memory, attention, mood, and even creativity. They’re brain health enhancers and can be found in natural or synthetic form. Here are some common nootropics you may be familiar with:

Natural nootropics: Ginko Biloba, Rhodiola Rosea (also falls into the adaptogenic category), Bacopa Monnieri, L-Theanine, Creatine, Caffeine, Omega-3 fatty acids.

Synthetic nootropics: Piracetam (enhances memory and learning), Aniracetam (helps with anxiety and creativity), Adderall (most often used for ADHD patients to help with focus and attention), Modafinil (used in patients for narcolepsy and sleep disorders, but often used off-market for a brain boost and enhancing focus and alertness).

How do you know which nootropics are the right ones for you? I have honestly not tried (or needed) any of the synthetic ones and highly recommend working with your doctor if you think you may need any of these. I do love L-Theanine and Omega-3 fatty acids for the natural nootropics. L-Theanine gives me calm and steady energy, as opposed to the jitters and energy crash that may be associated with caffeine. L-Theanine is also amazing for hormone balance because it gives you a boost without disrupting your nervous system. You’ll find many supplements containing L-Theanine, but I love it in its very natural form in ceremonial grade matcha tea. My favorite matcha brand is Pique.

Your body can’t produce its own Omega-3 fatty acids (needed for cognitive function and hormone balance), but they are plentiful in wild-caught salmon, sardines, and anchovies, chia, hemp, and flax seeds, seaweed, and walnuts. I try to get at least a few of these in every single day for a nice brain boost.

Creatine can provide you with a brain boost as well, in addition to helping women (especially those going through perimenopause and menopause) retain the lean and sculpted look, and it’s amazing for post-exercise recovery. It’s naturally found in the body, but women have lower creatine stores compared to men and typically consume lower amounts from mostly animal sources, such as beef. Creatine can cause some water retention, which many ladies often confuse for fat gain, but it will not actually cause you to gain fat! It’s a well studied substance, but it’s imperative to find a supplement without additives that can irritate the gut. I’m still playing around with the right type of creatine for me, but I know I’ll be needing it as I approach perimenopause.

As you may have guessed, I prefer to get my nootropics through real, whole foods, which is pretty much my mantra when it comes to most things hormone health. If these substances are widely available in their real food format, I always recommend sticking to those options. You’ll find many types of drinks and even granola bars out there that contain nootropics, but as always, beware of added ingredients, fillers, and refined sugar in these. My prediction is that we’re still at the very beginning of the nootropics trend and you’ll find many more products with nootropics in them in the near future.

 

What questions do you have about adaptogens and nootropics? Leave a comment and I’ll be sure to respond back!

 

matcha latte nootropic

*https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC11079574/

Other resources used:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1155/2015/949036

https://www.drstacysims.com/courses

 

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