By Maureen Nagle M.S., L.N.
We know that what we eat impacts our risk for developing certain diseases but did you know that it affects your mood? Your state of mind is significantly influenced by your nutritional state.
Our country is currently in the state of an emotional crisis. It is estimated that 21 million adults have mood disorders and 40 million have anxiety disorders. Many psychologists have identified the breakdown of the family structure as a contributing factor. Doctors often prescribe medications to help patients manage their symptoms. Is it possible that nutritional deficiencies could be playing a role in the patient’s symptoms?
Studies have identified that woman are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression. I believe that this has to do with the fact that woman are also twice as likely to have been on fad diets which recommend cutting back on their protein and fat intake in an effort to try and lose weight. When woman focus only on weight and calories this leads to malnutrition, which leads to, depleted brain chemistry and blood sugar imbalances.
How do you feel when your blood sugar is low? Many people describe symptoms such as intense hunger for sugar and carbs, shakiness, impatient, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and low mood.
The key to blood sugar management is to eat every 3-4 hours each day and consume some healthy form of protein, fat and carbohydrate at each meal and snack. Often when clients first hear this they react with I can’t eat that much without gaining weight. The biochemistry of the body is designed to be fueled frequently because of the brains large dependence on glucose. When we go long periods of time without fuel we actually cause our brains to starve and slow our metabolisms simultaneously. Over time this leads to weight gain for many of us combined with a low mood.
The body along with our emotional state of health simply does better with a variety of fresh, whole foods that provide the necessary nutritional building blocks from protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Why? What we eat influences and regulates the amount of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that are produced each and every day.
Neurotransmitters are a team of chemicals used to relay electrical signals from one nerve cell to another. These chemicals have a significant impact on our behavior, food choices, and overall emotional health. The most important food source to consume if you want to create optimal levels of feel good neurotransmitters is animal protein such as: fish, turkey, eggs, chicken, steak, and nuts. The animal protein supplies the chemical building blocks called amino acids, which rely on the help of minerals and enzymes in order to convert into neurotransmitters.
Let’s meet the neurotransmitter team:
Serotonin, Dopamine, Norepinephrine and GABA
Serotonin is produced from the amino acid L-Tryptophan. When we have healthy levels of serotonin we feel hopeful, optimistic, calm, able to concentrate, sleep well with good dream recall, and have no emotional charge towards carbohydrates.
Please pass the protein.
Dopamine is produced from an amino acid called L-Tyrosine. It’s primary job it to provide that natural high. We produce additional dopamine when we are falling in love. People who have a healthy level of dopamine have good self-esteem, a high pain tolerance, and the ability to take responsibility for their actions. Dopamine is also an important chemical for supporting the thyroid properly.
Norepinephrine is derived from Dopamine. It is your natural caffeine that gives you that get up and go energy. If you feel like staying in bed and are lacking motivation you are likely low in this mood chemical.
GABA is derived from L-Glutamine. It supports the brain in filtering information, while allowing you to stay focused and calm. It is the body’s natural Valium and helps soak up adrenaline after a period of stress leaving us relaxed.
Magnesium and zinc along with numerous b-vitamins are very important to ensure that the amino acids are properly converted into the active neurotransmitter.
Our brains are 70 percent fat and research supports the importance of consuming adequate Omega-3 essential fatty acids to ensure that the receptor sites are able to properly receive the neurotransmitter chemicals. Have you oiled your brain yet today?
Hormone, thyroid and iron imbalances can also have a significant impact on mood. So if your not feeling yourself be sure to have some blood work done to determine where the imbalance is coming from.
I believe food is the most powerful drug we come in contact with several times a day. Do we need more prescription medication or is it possible that we need to address our nutrient deficiencies?
Maureen Nagle M.S., L.N.
Licensed Nutritionist and Founder of Nutritional Resources
Nourishing Your Mind, Body and Soul
7200 France Ave S Ste 236
Edina, MN 55435
Educating and empowering clients to achieve optimal health through nutrition based lifestyle changes
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