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Does your diet affect your mood?

There is a lot of talk about physical health and the effects of additives, sugar, refined carbs, saturated oils on blood pressure, gut health, weight etc but have you ever considered that your diet could impact your emotional health too?

Our mood is affected by the levels of various mood regulating chemicals or to be more precise neurotransmitters/hormones in our brains like serotonin, dopamine, GABA, endorphins, catecholamines etc.

What do these mood regulating chemicals do exactly?

Serotonin helps regulate mood, anxiety, and happiness. Lack of it contributes to depression, negativity, obsessiveness, irritability, and anxiety.

GABA blocks certain signals in the nervous system and slows the brain down resulting in a calming effect, reducing stress and anxiety, and improving sleep.

Endorphins help reduce pain, discomfort, stress, and anxiety and increase a feeling of pleasure and comfort.

Catecholamines, which includes the likes of noradrenaline, adrenaline and dopamine, help feel energised and alert. Lack of them leads to a flat feeling.

Dopamine helps us feel pleasure, satisfaction, happiness, focus and motivation. Lack of dopamine gets in the way of enthusiasm, motivation and concentration just to name a few.

How can the levels of mood regulating chemicals drop?

  • Some people are genetically wired to have lower levels of those chemicals.

  • Drugs and medications we take may affect their levels.

  • Prolonged stress and lifestyle can deplete the reserves we have and reduce our body’s ability to top them up.

  • Our hormone levels (adrenal, thyroid and/or sex hormones) depending on our age (i.e. menopause for women and andropause for men) and lifestyle choices affect levels and production of those chemicals as well.

  • And last but not least, diet has a big impact. All neurotransmitters/hormones are made of amino acids and are put together with help of other nutrients that come from our food.

How can you elevate and maintain the right levels?

Regardless of the reason for the low levels of mood regulating chemicals, you can increase them by making changes to your lifestyle and diet.

Building blocks of neurotransmitters are amino acids which come from proteins like fish, poultry etc. It is important to include plenty of protein rich foods in all your meals. If your protein comes from plants, be sure to add a little bit extra as plants contain less protein than animal sources do.

Facilitators of the building of neurotransmitters are vitamins and minerals. It is important to eat a lot of different fresh fruits and vegetables. Vitamins B, C, D, Zinc, Magnesium are paramount alongside with others. A good balance is key!

Another example is the importance of Omega 3 for our brain. This comes mostly from fish oil. It is a facilitator for building catecholamines. We tend to eat more vegetable oils which have Omega 6 and compete for space with Omega 3. There needs to be the right balance between Omega 3 and 6. Eating healthier oils like olive oil and ensuring enough fish is consumed is the way to go.

We all know that sugary foods give us a pleasurable feeling, but it only lasts for a short while and then we crash back down feeling as we felt before. In addition to that they aren’t good for our waistline and overall physical health. So, it’s best to reduce those foods.

Reducing processed food consumption and alcohol is important to allow the good nutrients to do their work as intended.

Good examples of healthier diets are Mediterranean and Japanese with plenty of fish, a variety of fresh seasonal vegetables and less refined and processed foods.

Exercising regularly and spending time outdoors to get enough daylight is important, as that helps stimulate the production of serotonin.

There are also supplements that can be added to specifically target deficiencies of certain neurotransmitters, but this should only be done under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner. Excess of anything can cause adverse side effects.

Remember that adjusting your diet and feeding your brain the right food is imperative but doesn’t replace talk therapy with your counsellor. Both should go hand in hand to achieve the best results.

Final words...

Everything in our bodies is connected. Our physical health impacts our emotional health and vice versa. It all starts with what we feed our body!

A healthy balance and a holistic approach to overall physical and emotional health is the key to a happy and purposeful life.

If you need help with making changes in your life or any other challenge you may be facing, feel free to reach out to me here. I would be delighted to help!

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