Last night we went to see Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper. I had been keen on the trailers for this film for a few weeks now. The concept of being able to increase one’s IQ exponentially with a pill is incredibly interesting and I assume I’m not the only one interested.
In the movie, Cooper plays a character that goes from “lack of focus loser bum writer” to “super smart successful confident and intimidating millionaire” in a matter of weeks with the help of what the movie refers to as NZT – an expensive drug of unknown origin with underground distribution. The character gets his hands on a stash and just one tiny clear round pill a day is all it takes. Of course, as one can imagine, the drug has its side effects – both mental and sociological.
Besides, the pill doesn’t exist…
Or does it?
Although I can’t find the reference, I can recall reading something that Tim Ferriss wrote in his book or blog about drugs that can boost intelligence. I also know SWIM who indulged in Ritalin during university and could bash out essays faster than I could write a single paragraph.
So I turned to Google and started reading up on Nootropics – also referred to as smart drugs, memory enhancers, cognitive enhancers. These are pills, supplements or simply foods that are purposed to help memory, cognitive ability, comprehension, intelligence and concentration. Some of them are mild and lack much of an effect. Others are said to have profound effects but are considered dangerous or are associated to illness or death.
But they do exist.
While I’m not interested in going around trying to score illicit “medication”, I am interested in what I can do safely, naturally, with minimal risk, that can maybe boost my focus and ability to recall information.
Starting today, I’m switching things up a little. Ginkgo and Ginseng have been shown to possibly help increase memory and concentration but I can’t go this route because of adverse effects of drug interactions with current prescriptions that I take. But what I can do is the following:
Go gluten free. This is something that I’ve already been trying to do (although admittedly not consistently). Gluten, found in wheat based products, has been anecdotally associated with ADD and ADHD. I’m not gluten intolerant (that I know of) but at the same time, gluten doesn’t do us any good.
Drop the caffeine intake. Caffeine has been known to increase alertness and energy, but excessive caffeine use (which I am possibly guilty of indulging in) lowers this effect over time. Instead it is recommended to take caffeine only when necessary to reap its full reward.
Switch to green tea. Green tea is loaded with antioxidants and has a lower caffeine amount than coffee. Green tea also contains theanine, which has been known to stimulate alpha brain waves, calm the body, and promote relaxed awareness.
Up the Omega-3. Fish oils are a rich source of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), a fatty acid that is found in high concentration in the gray matter of the brain. DHA is fundamental to the function of brain cell membranes and is super important for the transmission of brain signals.
Be careful with carbs. The brain needs sugar. But high glycemic sugars (cane sugar, table sugar, sugar from fruit or white bread) gets absorbed quickly and don’t last long. Instead, I’m going to work on ensuring I take in low glycemic carbohydrates in the morning. Organic Oatmeal is an example of a high fiber, low glycemic carb that can feed my brain for the full workday. Likewise, brown rice over white rice will be the norm. Lots of veggies will also consume my dinner plate (yes, veggies are carbs). No pasta, no bagels.
Train the brain. I used to play Brain Age on the Nintendo DS. Haven’t for a while though. Fortunately the iOS has a slew of brain training type games available for it. The one that I picked up was Dr. Kawashima’s More Brain Training for the iPad. I’m happy to report that I have a brain health of a 28 year old (according to the game). I’m sure there’s room for improvement though. I’ve also picked up Photographic Memory Training for iOS – a training app, based on research by A.W. Volkmann that supposedly helps photographic memory training. The hope is that daily doses of brain training can help a lot.
I’ll report back after a couple weeks of my little brain health experiment.