There is some research that suggests a link between nootropics and corticosteroids. Research suggests that corticosteroid balance is crucial to the effectiveness of racetam nootropics. Both high and low levels of corticosteroids may reduce or even block the memory enhancing effects of nootropics .
Low levels of corticosteroids are believed to hinder the memory enhancing effects of nootropics. Adrenalectomy, or removal of the adrenal glands, has been seen to eliminate the effects of racetam nootropics  which suggests that corticosteroids play a role in the mechanism of action.
What Are Corticosteroids?
Corticosteroids are natural steroid hormones in your body created in the adrenal glands. There are two types of corticosteroids: glucocorticoids & mineralcocorticoids. Glucocorticoids act as inflammatory agents and reduce the body’s resistance to stress. Mineralcocorticoids maintain salt and water balance within the body.
Glucocorticoids are primarily an area of interest in the cognition and memory field. They have been suggested to play a role in long term potentiation of memory (long-term memory) and attention. Low levels of glucocorticoids have been attributed to poor performance in these cognitive areas. On the other hand, high levels have been attributed to similar poor performance as low levels as suggested in graph below. Balance seems to be important for optimal memory and cognitive function
Cortisol – An Essential Enemy to Your Body
One of the most important and abundant glucocorticoids is cortisol. Cortisol has a large variety of important functions within the body. It is important for modulating blood sugar and the immune system as well maintaining the proper metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and protein.
Cortisol carries a lot of essential functions in the body however extended release can cause a lot of negative interactions. It is released during times of stress to limit less important functions such as immune function and energy metabolism. It also works to block insulin and reduce sexual function amongst many other negative consequences
Long term exposure to cortisol damages cells in the hippocampus which results in impaired learning and cognitive function . The most important thing to remember with cortisol levels is that I can be maintained and controlled to healthy levels by following some of the tips below.
Reduce Cortisol Factors:
- Proper sleep
- Enjoyable activities
- Omega 3-6
Increase Cortisol Factors
- Elevated and prolonged levels of stress
- Sleep deprivation
- Excess fat on the body
- Calorie restriction
- Excess caffeine
Alzheimer’s, Corticosteroids & Nootropics
The link between optimal corticosteroid levels and nootropic effectiveness may be a theory to explain the discrepancy of results nootropics have on Alzheimer’s patients. Some Alzheimer’s patients respond very well to nootropics whereas the opposite can be seen in most others. Many Alzheimer’s patients have very high corticosteroid levels through both natural means and medicated methods.
These high corticosteroid levels may be reducing the function of nootropics given to Alzheimer’s patients. At this point, this is just a possible theory explaining the big discrepancy between the results.
Research shows a direct link between corticosteroid levels and nootropic effectiveness. It is not exactly clear what the relation between the two is however a common theory is that nootropics have some sort of modulatory effect on protein synthesis which overlaps into gene transcription (an affect corticosteroids control).
This suggests that taking nootropics during stressful times may reduce their effectiveness. One should get proper sleep, exercise and obtain proper nutrition to avoid the build-up of cortisol. The high levels of cortisol may explain why some get great effects while on nootropics while others may experience mediocre effects.