Why I Use Nicotine Gum as a Nootropic

If you were to do a haul of my desk, you would find my pack of nicotine gum.

Upon hearing this, I bet you’d assume that I was a smoker and I use nicotine gum to help quit.

But guess what? I’ve NEVER been a smoker.

So why do I chew nicotine gum? Well, it turns out that nicotine is actually a powerful smart drug (nootropic) that can be used for improved performance and cognitive enhancement.

Many of my friends and family seemed shocked and gave me a strange look when I told them I occasionally chew nicotine gum. However, the science behind the benefits of nicotine is solid.

Read on to learn why I use nicotine gum as a nootropic, plus the pros and cons of this biohack.*

*Disclaimer: By writing this post I am definitely NOT suggesting to start smoking or using tobacco as a means for nicotine consumption.

What is nicotine?

Nicotine is a naturally occurring alkaloid produced in the nightshade family of plants. Of course, you most likely know that nicotine can be found in tobacco, but it can also be found in several more nightshade plants, such as tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant. Similar to caffeine, nicotine serves as one of the plant’s defense mechanisms to prevent being eaten by animals, insects, or fungus. Since nicotine is bitter and toxic in large doses, it keeps these predators away.

After being absorbed into the bloodstream, nicotine readily crosses the blood brain barrier (BBB). It then binds to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, specifically, alpha-4, beta-2, and alpha-7. Nicotine mimics the effects of acetylcholine (an excitatory neurotransmitter) in the brain. Binding to these receptors not only enables nicotine to act upon the brain, but also the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Nicotine also increases levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, GABA, glutamate, and endorphins.


Benefits of nicotine

Before we get into the benefits of nicotine and why I use nicotine gum as a nootropic, I first have to say that it is true that too much nicotine is not a good thing. However, low doses of nicotine have actually been proven to be beneficial.


Here is a quick overview of the benefits of nicotine, which I will discuss in detail below:



  • Increases your motivation, ability to pay attention, and creativity

  • Provides faster, more precise motor function

  • Improves your short-term memory

  • Neuroprotective

  • Promotes wound healing

  • Suppresses appetite



Increases your motivation, ability to pay attention, and creativity

One of the main reasons that I use nicotine gum as a nootropic is because of its ability to increase my motivation, ability to pay attention, and creativity.


Brain imaging studies have demonstrated that nicotine acutely increases activity in the prefrontal cortex, thalamus, and visual system consistent with activation of corticobasal ganglia and thalamic brain circuits.


According to SelfHacked.com, nicotine puts users into an alpha brainwave state, which is characterized by effortless alertness, attention, and creativity. Nicotine also increases wakefulness, mood, and motivation via activating orexin (a neuropeptide that regulates arousal, wakefulness, and appetite).


Nicotine can help to increase your attention. Multiple studies have shown that both nicotine patches and nicotine gum helped study participants pay attention to a mentally tiring task longer than controls could. Nicotine activates the occipital and parietal cortices, which are the command centers for sustained attention and visual processing tasks. Nicotine is also capable of increasing processing speed for complex tasks.



Improves your short-term memory & provides faster, more precise motor function


Research has found that nicotine can improve both immediate and long-term memory. One study found that participants who took nicotine better recalled a list of words they’d just read, and also repeated a story word-for-word, making fewer mistakes than participants given placebo made. Nicotine also improves fine motor skills, such as handwriting.



Neuroprotective

Nicotine is considered to be “neuroprotective”, which means it to protects nerve cells against damage, degeneration, or impairment of function.


There are several mechanisms through which nicotine is neuroprotective:


  • Anti-estrogenic effects

  • Decreasing inflammation (regulates prostaglandin production: prostanoids promote or restrain acute inflammation).

  • Stimulation of nicotinic cholinergic receptors in the brain


Promotes wound healing

Nicotine at a low concentration promotes wound healing by stimulating vasculogenesis and angiogenesis (growth of tissues and blood vessel capillaries). Nicotine also helps to repair damaged blood vessels and increase blood circulation, which speeds up wound healing. This effects are accomplished with nicotine patches.




Suppresses appetite

Nicotine is well known to be an appetite suppressant. It works by first interacting with the β4 subunit of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors that are expressed by pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons, thereby activating the POMC neurons and causing the release of the hormone melanocortin. This increase metabolism and decreases hunger. Nicotine can also lower insulin levels in the bloodstream, which can reduce cravings for sugary foods.


Plus, combining nicotine with caffeine could provide even more appetite-suppressing benefits. One randomized, double-blind study demonstrated that combining low-dose nicotine gum with caffeine enhanced appetite suppression.


In sum

Due to all of these beneficial effects, researchers have are now evaluating the role nicotine could play in improving conditions such as ADHD, anxiety disorders, depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and various other health problems This blog post is not going to cover how nicotine can specifically benefit these conditions because I just wanted to share the general benefits of nicotine and why I occasionally use nicotine gum as a nootropic. However, this doesn’t mean nicotine doesn’t come without any drawbacks.  


Drawbacks of nicotine

As a biohacker, it’s important to know both the pros and cons of using nicotine gum as a nootropic before trying this biohack.


Addictive potential

You’re probably aware that one drawback of nicotine is its addictive potential. What’s interesting, however, is what researchers have discovered about the addictive potential of tobacco and nicotine. While tobacco is quite addictive, animal models indicate that nicotine on its own is much less addictive than tobacco.


Potential to increase tumor growth

Nicotine has been found to make tumors grow faster and spread more quickly in mice. However, the cancer link has never been demonstrated in human studies, so it’s difficult to say whether nicotine is a cancer risk for people. If you have or previously had cancer, it is probably not a good idea to use nicotine gum as a nootropic.


Stimulant effects

Since nicotine is a stimulant, it can raise blood pressure, increase heart rate, and constrict blood vessels. If you have cardiovascular conditions, it is probably not a good idea to use nicotine gum as a nootropic. Of course, always consult with your physician first.


Toxic in high doses

When using nicotine as a nootropic, I am talking about using low doses and only doing so occasionally. This is because nicotine is lethal if ingested in high enough doses. Always store and treat any nicotine products with care so pets and/or children cannot get ahold of them.



My experience with using nicotine gum as a nootropic

Using nicotine gum as a nootropic is one of my favorite biohacks. I will chew one piece of 2mg nicotine gum typically in the afternoon since I drink coffee in the morning. I do not chew nicotine gum every day, and I do not feel addicted or dependent on it. If I run out of nicotine gum, it’s no big deal; I do not have cravings for it. One drawback of nicotine gum that I have noticed is that it can cause me to have an upset stomach if I chew the gum on an empty stomach. Another drawback of nicotine gum is that most brands contain artificial sweeteners, such as acesulfame potassium, aspartame, and/or sucralose. Apparently nicotine lozenges and nicotine spray have very little amounts of artificial sweeteners. Overall, I think using nicotine gum as a nootropic is valuable when used appropriately.




References:

https://selfhacked.com/blog/28-proven-health-benefits-nicotine-4-potential-risks/

https://blog.bulletproof.com/is-nicotine-the-next-big-smart-drug/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2946180/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicotine

https://arstechnica.com/science/2011/06/researchers-learning-how-nicotine-works-as-an-appetite-suppresant/


Bulletproof Collagen Protein - What Are The Benefits?

I love everything about the Bulletproof brand, from Dave Asprey’s podcast Bulletproof Radio to all of the high quality products created to “biohack” your life. This blog post is all about Bulletproof Collagen Protein, a product that I have been using for about 6 months now. I’m pretty impressed with the results I’ve seen from this product and I want to share with you what Bulletproof Collagen Protein is and how it can benefit you.


What is Bulletproof Collagen Protein?

Bulletproof Collagen Protein contains just one ingredient: hydrolyzed collagen powder. The term “hydrolyzed” means that the collagen protein has undergone hydrolysis, a process that breaks the collagen protein into smaller chains of amino acids by reaction with an enzyme. The enzymatic hydrolysis ensures that the collagen is not damaged by heat.  Hydrolysis creates a low molecular weight product, which makes digestion, absorption, and distribution of the amino acids throughout the body easier.

One of the main advantages of Bulletproof Collagen Protein compared to other brands of collagen proteins is that the hydrolyzed collagen powder comes from pasture-raised, hormone-free cows. It is odorless and does not have any taste once mixed with coffee or some other type of beverage. I typically mix my Bulletproof Collagen Protein in my coffee along with grassfed butter + Brain Octane Oil in my NutriBullet. Of note, when I just stir the collagen into my coffee without the help of my NutriBullet, it sometimes forms small clumps.

What are the benefits of Bulletproof Collagen Protein?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It is a major component of connective tissues that make up several body parts, including tendons, ligaments, bones, muscles, and skin. Collagen is often referred to as the “glue” that holds the body together. Here are some of the benefits of taking Bulletproof Collagen Protein:

  • Support overall bone and joint health

Collagen plays an important role in the building of joint cartilage and it may have anti-inflammatory effects. Taking a collagen supplement has been suggested to help those with osteoarthritis since this disease is caused by the breakdown of the cartilage matrix, which is made up of collagen.

  • Promote healthy, firm skin

Collagen plays a role in strengthening skin, plus may benefit elasticity and hydration. After the age of 20, a person produces about 1 percent less collagen in the skin each year. Moreover, environmental free radicals, such as UV overexposure and cigarette smoking, can degrade collagen proteins. The result is skin that becomes thinner and more fragile with age. By taking Bulletproof Collagen Protein, your skin should appear more firm, plump, and hydrated.

  • Stimulate hair growth

Similar to how collagen affects the skin, supplementing with collagen protein can help to promote stronger hair that grows faster. Specifically, the amino acids in hydrolyzed collagen enable the hair follicle to produce keratin, the protein that makes up 95% of the hair shaft.

Benefits I’ve noticed after taking Bulletproof Collagen Protein

  • Decreased cellulite

The reason why I initially started taking Bulletproof Collagen Protein was to help decrease the appearance of cellulite on my legs. Cellulite is caused by the herniation of subcutaneous fat within fibrous connective tissue of the hypodermis. Since the root cause of cellulite is breakdown of connective tissue, I figured using collagen to help repair my connective tissue would decrease the appearance of my cellulite. And I was right! I still have some cellulite, but I attribute this to slacking on my diet. Overall, I would say I have definitely noticed a decrease in my cellulite after taking Bulletproof Collagen Protein.

  • Improved skin tone

This may sound cliche, but I have definitely noticed a “glow” to my skin after taking Bulletproof Collagen Protein. My skin is clear, bright, and firm. Plus, if I do get a blemish, I’ve noticed that it heals much faster than when I was not taking collagen.

  • Stronger nails

The first sign that indicated my daily intake of Bulletproof Collagen Protein was working effectively was my stronger nails. They also grow much faster, too!

  • Longer eyelashes

I didn’t start to notice my longer eyelashes until several months of Bulletproof Collagen Protein. It looks like I have mascara on even when I don’t! I’m very pleased with this result and I am hoping the same thing will happen with my eyebrows, however, I haven’t noticed any difference as of yet.

Where to buy Bulletproof Collagen Protein

You can buy Bulletproof Collagen Protein on the Bulletproof website or on Amazon.

Bulletproof offers several varieties of their collagen protein:




Five Reasons to Quit Sugar Now

This article first appeared on Sweetdefeat.

Why it’s so important to cut back on your sugar intake—and take back control of your health.

Over three-quarters of packaged food in grocery stores today comes with copious amounts of added sweeteners, making it easy to overindulge, even if you pass on dessert. Most Americans eat over 82 grams of sugar daily, which is triple the amount recommended by the American Heart Association.

Over the course of a year, that equals 150 pounds of added sugars per person. Feeling gross yet?   

Top Five Dangers of Added Sugar

It’s time to resolve to cut your sugar consumption levels down this year. Below are five health risks of overeating sugar and sugar substitutes, and the damage that they wreak on your body.

1. Driving Force Behind Type 2 (and Type 3) Diabetes

The results are in: eating too much sweet stuff raises your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. According to the CDC, an estimated 100 million Americans have the disease, and millions more are at risk. Insulin resistance is the trigger for diabetes, and foods filled with fat and sugar reduce your sensitivity to insulin, meaning your blood sugar levels go unchecked.

Sugary drinks tend to be the most dangerous. When the British Medical Journal conducted an analysis of fruit juice and soda, they found that even eight daily ounces raised diabetes risk by 13 percent. Likewise, research published on PLOS One shows that every extra 150 calories of sugar (the amount in a single can of soda) every day increases diabetes risk by one percent, compared to just 0.1 percent for non-sugar calories.  

Now, new evidence from the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology shows that sugar-filled diets might increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, the link between insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s is so strong that some scientists are considering renaming the disease as “type 3 diabetes.”

2. Promotes Addiction and Brain Fog

Eight times more addictive than cocaine. That’s what research from Princeton is reporting about the sinister side of sugar. Your body craves this sweet substance like it’s a drug because, well, it is. And like many other drugs, sugar only hurts your body in the process.  

The taste of sugar triggers signals in your brain that light up its reward pathway and create a surge of feel-good hormones. Too much stimulation reduces their effectiveness, meaning you start needing larger amounts of sugar to feel the same way. Likewise, sugar-induced insulin resistance weakens the synaptic connections between brain cells, leading to impaired cognition, higher depression rates, and emotional mood swings that leave you depleted.

3. Develops into Dangerous Belly Fat

Eating refined sugar overloads your liver with fructose, and anything you don’t immediately burn is turned into fat—predominately around your belly. Not only does this leave you looking bloated, but it also leads to lingering health challenges. In fact, reports from Harvard reveals that abdominal fat can raise your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, and premature death.

4. Triggers Premature Aging

Wrinkly, saggy skin is hardly the fresh start you want this year. Yet, sugary snacks might make it a reality. A study conducted at Dartmouth Medical School states that overindulging on sugar leads to glycation, a process where excess sugar molecules attach to collagen fibers, causing them to lose flexibility and strength. As a result, your skin loses elasticity and becomes more vulnerable to skin damage and sagging. A high-sugar diet also deactivates your body’s natural antioxidant enzymes, which leaves you more susceptible to sun damage and skin cancers.   

5. Zaps the “Good” Bacteria in Your Gut

Your digestive system is a zoo of beneficial bacteria that keep things functioning as they should. Research funded by the American Cancer Society show that sugar alters gut bacteria in ways that affect mental performance and potentially raise toxin levels in your bloodstream. Because most sugars are digested without microbial help, these hungry bugs turn to nibbling on your intestinal lining instead. Permeating this barrier allows food particles into the rest of your body, which can cause inflammation and fungal growth like candida.

Further research from Tel Aviv University also shows that artificial sugar might promote the growth of harmful gut bacteria, which can lead to irritation, allergies and skin conditions, as well as digestive distress.

This Year, Cut Out Sugar for Better Health

The facts don’t lie.

Sugar is terrible for your health, and cutting it out only does your body a favor. So, commit to eat less sugar, and you’ll experience profound benefits in the process.   



Sugar.jpg

Top Period Hacks to Improve Mood + Decrease Cramps, Bloating, etc.

Did you know that PMS, the dreaded bloating, headaches, mood swings, cravings, cramps, etc., affects 75% of women?

It certainly takes a toll on me once a month, which is what inspired me to find out ways to “hack” my own biology in order to stop feeling so miserable during this time of the month (and to save my boyfriend from my crying spells and irritability!). If you’re looking for ways to alleviate symptoms of PMS, keep reading below for my top period hacks derived from science!

 

What Causes PMS?

Simply put, PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is caused when a woman’s hormones become unbalanced. During a woman’s cycle, the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone all fluctuate in response to different changes in the body. Below is a graph of the typical times when these hormones peak during a 28 day cycle.

 

Image  source

Image source

In addition to cramps and mood swings, these fluctuations in hormones are also what lead to acne breakouts during PMS. Specifically, the rise in progesterone stimulates sebum production, skin swelling, and compressed pores. This is a recipe for blemishes as the excess sebum gets trapped beneath the shut pores.  As a skin care lover, this is one symptom that I really would like to avoid!

While many people rely on oral contraceptives and/or anti-inflammatory medications (i.e. Advil, Aleve) to help with PMS symptoms, there are well known risks that come along with both of these types of medications. Therefore, I believe in first making lifestyle changes, such as adjusting your diet or taking supplements, that will support your body (including your hormones!) Below you'll find my top period hacks that I've derived from reading the science and literature on how to better balance hormones and PMS symptoms. 

 

Top Period Hacks

 

1. Support Your Liver for Better Estrogen Metabolism

When you think of period hacks, supporting your liver probably isn’t the first thing to come to mind. But did you know that the liver plays a very important role in estrogen metabolism? The liver converts excess estrogen into compounds that can be excreted by the body.

One way to support your liver is to clean up your diet. Eliminate refined carbohydrates and sugar, which are toxic not just to the liver but to your entire body. Then, add in foods that support the liver, such as:

 

  • Sour/bitter foods: According to Dr. Axe, bitter green vegetables, such as mustard greens, arugula, chicory, and dandelion root, aid in liver detoxification. Dandelion root also acts as a diuretic, which can help if water retention is one of your PMS symptoms.

Product recommendation: Try Nature's Way Dandelion Root 525 mg Vegetarian Capsules.

  • Flax seed: According to Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, flax seed contain plant compounds known as lignans, which help balance hormone metabolism and block the negative effects of excess estrogens. 

Product recommendation: Try Viva Naturals Ground Flax Seed

Product recommendation: Try Pureco Organic Milk Thistle 6,000 mg Capsules.

 

2. Increase Levels of Serotonin

As you can see from the image at the beginning of this post, there is a drop in estrogen that typically occurs right before your period starts. This drop in estrogen may lead to decreased levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter (also referred to as 5-HTP, 5-hydroxytryptophan) that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. Moreover, lower levels of serotonin are also associated with the carb cravings that come with PMS (hello, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream!)  


One way to increase serotonin levels is to supplement with 5 HTP. Cycle Harmony suggests taking a 5HTP supplement with a small carbohydrate snack at bedtime for optimal absorption. Be sure to take a break from taking 5HTP from time to time to prevent the build-up of tolerance, which will make it much less effective.

Product recommendation: 5HTP 200 mg Capsules

If you don't want to take a 5 HTP supplement, there are natural ways to boost your serotonin production, such as:

  • Going out in the sun

  • Exercising

  • Eat foods that are high in tryptophan (the precursor to serotonin aka 5-hydroxytryptophan)

 

3. Supplement Nutrient Deficiencies

My next period hack is to supplement any nutrient deficiencies that you might have. Deficiencies in certain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients may contribute to PMS symptoms. Below are some supplements that have been shown in studies to help with PMS symptoms. Of course, please check with your doctor or healthcare provider before taking any supplements. 

Magnesium citrate 

Magnesium citrate supplements can help to decrease PMS symptoms like cramps, irritability, fatigue, depression, and water retention.

Fabio Facchinetti et al from the Universities of Modena and Pavia, Italy found that low levels of magnesium are prevalent in women who experience menstrual problems. In a two-month trial, 32 women with PMS received 360 mg/day of magnesium or placebo from the 15th day of each menstrual cycle to the beginning of the next menstrual period. Women who were given magnesium supplements had lesser menstrual complaints.

I take a magnesium citrate supplement called Natural Calm and I have definitely noticed an improvement in my PMS symptoms, most notably my cramps are much less severe. Natural Calm also helps to decrease my anxiety and get better sleep at night. I take 325mg every night before bedtime.  

 

 

Vitamin B6 

Vitamin B6 acts as a cofactor in the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, both which affect mood. 

A double-blinded placebo-controlled clinical trial compared the effects of supplementing with magnesium vs. magnesium + vitamin B6 vs. placebo for PMS symptoms. While all three groups saw improvements in their symptoms, the magnesium + vitamin B6 group had significantly decreased PMS symptoms. 

Researchers believe that the right dose of vitamin B6 for PMS is above 50 mg and not beyond 100 mg.

Product recommendation: NOW Foods Vitamin B6 100 mg Capsules

Calcium citrate

Studies have found that low dose supplementation with calcium citrate (500 - 600 mg) can reduce PMS symptoms. Note: the body needs vitamin D in order to absorb calcium, so taking a combination of calcium + vitamin D is a good idea!

Product recommendation: Caltrate 600 mg + D3

 

4. Eat Some Chocolate

My last period hack is probably going to be your favorite because if you're anything like me then you definitely crave chocolate during PMS! Luckily, there is evidence that dark chocolate can alleviate PMS symptoms in several ways. First, dark chocolate is full of beneficial antioxidants that trigger the walls of your blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure and improving circulation, according to an article by Health. That may be why research has shown that enjoying about an ounce and a half of dark chocolate daily for two weeks can reduce stress hormone levels. Dark chocolate also contains magnesium, which, as mentioned above, can relieve PMS symptoms.

 

 

Do You Have Any Period Hacks?

Those are all of the period hacks that I have for now. Do you have any period hacks that have helped you to deal with PMS symptoms any better? Leave me a comment below!