Let's be honest here.
- How many miserable people do you know?
- Are you one of them?
- Do you know more miserable people than happy people?
With the lack of nutrients in the majority of our society's diet, it's not a surprise is it?
Since we derive our "feel good chemicals and hormones" directly from quality food sources, digging into a person's diet may reveal a large amount of information about their poor moods.
Without the building blocks that create and regulate our delicate hormonal and chemical balance, we lose our minds, literally.
Neurotransmitters are primarily responsible for the moods we experience.
Whether you're experiencing the most blissful moment walking on the wet sand with your loved one, or you are on the verge of ripping your hair out and crying hysterically, neurotransmitters hold the golden key to these emotions.
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the brain.
Neurotransmitters may be one of the most single important aspects of health to focus on in the 21st Century.
As a matter of fact, it is estimated that 86% of Americans have suboptimal neurotransmitter levels. Stress, poor diet, neurotoxins, genetic predisposition, drugs (prescription and recreational), alcohol and caffeine usage can cause these levels to be out of optimal range. -Neurogistics Research Company
Our waking experience we call Life is created by the synchronous nature of these potent chemicals.
Think of your brain as a chemist and scientist, combing several hundred chemicals all together to form your moods, hormones and will power.
There are two categories of neurotransmitters
- Excitatory - Acetylcholine, Glutamic Acid, Noradrenaline, Adrenaline, Dopamine
- Inhibitory - Serotonin, GABA, Dopamine
Notice that Dopamine is in both categories, as it is responsible for both providing energy and focus, but preventing us from depression.
While we have identified over 100 different neurotransmitters, a key group of them has given great insight into improving our moods and health.
Excitatory neurotransmitters such as adrenaline and dopamine must be in balance with Inhibitory neurotransmitters such as GABA and serotonin.
Let's first discuss common self-medications used to aid low moods.
Common neurotransmitter modulators
Wait a second, you mean chocolate, tea and coffee are drugs?
We could say that almost all foods and plants modulate our brain chemistry.
Without neurotransmitter balance we may experience
- mood swings
- carbohydrate cravings
- poor sleep
- poor digestion
- immune disfunction
These are just some of the most common effects that can be experienced, there are many more.
This is why I say that neurotransmitters hold the master key to conquering poor moods and a generally miserable life.
What controls neurotransmitters?
Diet and thought patterns are the two factors we're focusing on that play a huge role in the proper levels of our neurotransmitters.
Our neurotransmitters can ONLY be produced with a source of protein.
Proteins contain the 22 essential amino acids required for neurotransmitter production. Our neurotransmitters can be influenced both positively and negatively depending on the mindset that we put towards our work, passions and life pursuit.
Have you experienced the benefits and "flow" that happens in life when you are thinking and acting in a positive manner?
What foods create happy chemicals?
For some, the initial response may be cookies, pastas, cakes, brownies and cupcakes!
While these items do promote an initial high, the corresponding crash and cravings afterward are not quite worth it.
Instead, by pulling a couple of food items from my ultimate food guide, we can naturally support these feel good chemicals using real food.
For example, L-Tryptophan which is found in large amounts in:
- grass-fed beef
provide the raw materials necessary for Serotonin production.
Serotonin is crucial for both achieving happiness and good sleep!
Once serotonin levels normalize from eating these quality foods, the famous sleep hormone melatonin can then be produced. No serotonin means no melatonin. No melatonin means no sleep, no quality sleep at least.
Vitamin B6 is also required to manufacture serotonin and GABA.
Luckily, the five foods listed also provide this key vitamin. Our dietary recipe for sleep, happiness and success is almost complete!
Gluten is a "happy chemical killer" hidden in the vast majority of processed and restaurant foods. Let's discuss further.
Gluten and Vitamin B12 connection
Vitamin B12 is necessary for maintaining a calm and healthy nervous system.
The brain and body rely heavily on this vitamin for metabolism, energy and well-being.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies in the modern world, next to Vitamin D, Omega-3 and Magnesium.
Some of the symptoms of B12 deficiency include:
- Low energy
- Memory loss
- Diarrhea or constipation
Think of your gut as a neurotransmitter nursery.
The right conditions and materials have to be present for the happy, healthy person to result. With the presence of gut-damaging gluten from breads, pastas and other sources of wheat, vitamin B12 production and absorption is impaired.
It is safe to say that no one has a wheat deficiency.
Chris Kresser calls B12 the silent epidemic with serious consequences and wrote about it here.
Mood foods are the key
Once again, grass-fed beef, lamb and eggs provide a great source of Vitamin B12.
Although a through explanation of each supplement will be provided in later articles, my recommended sources of Omega-3 and B vitamins and adaptogenic herbs are linked.
To learn some of the deeper concepts behind your major neurotransmitters and how to control your moods by optimizing them, listen to my podcast episode with Clinical Nutritionist Beverly Meyer.
If you are concerned about environmental toxins in your home that affect your health and moods, listen to my podcast episode with Nutritional Therapist Wendy Myers.
If you want to learn more about electromagnetic pollution in your home and environment such as WiFi and cell phone towers, and how this affects us, listen to my podcast episode with Dr. Jack Kruse.
Hack your calming chemical
GABA is an amino acid that acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. GABA also plays a key role in muscle formation and maintaining a calm nervous system.
When we are depleted of GABA, which is extremely popular with our fast-paced lifestyle, our nervous system then fires rapidly out of control.
The over-firing of the nervous system caused from GABA depletion is responsible for anxiety disorders, panic attacks, seizures, headaches and even more serious effects such as Parkinson's disease.
Have you ever drove or ridden in a golf cart?
Most small motorized vehicles have a governor on them that regulates their top speed. Without this governor, the golf cart may be too fast, dangerous and could blow it's engine.
If we compare this analogy to someone without a solid governor in place, (GABA), the anxious and skittish person results.
However, we can aid this neurotransmitter naturally through specifically targeted nutrients and foods.
For example, Green tea contains the amino acid L-Theanine. This amino acid plays a role in maintaining a calm nervous system. During times of high stress, GABA levels are depleted.
Research has shown that L-Theanine significantly increases our calming neurotransmitter GABA.
Green tea would be a good addition to your "zen regimen" during times of stress or anxiety.
L-Theanine can also be supplemented during these times with the most bioavailable form called Suntheanine.
Minerals are responsible for hundreds of actions in the body.
With a depletion of any of them, the central nervous system can misfire and cause a plethora of problems.
Due to a widespread magnesium deficiency nationwide caused from poor soil, anxiety, nausea, fatigue, weakness and poor memory are the most common symptoms attributed to this modern day epidemic.
This is why a high quality magnesium supplement is a requirement for all of my clients.
Vitamin B6 and B12 have already been mentioned for their important jobs in the body.
Since vitamin B6 is required for the production of GABA, having a B-Complex supplement may help increase the conversion.
Flowers and herbs derive some of the most potent pharmaceuticals on the planet. The popular painkiller Oxycontin for example, is derived from a seemingly benign flower called the Poppy plant.
While I'm not recommending painkillers at all, I want to point out the potentially dangerous consequences from assuming plants, herbs and flowers are benign substances.
Any product, deemed "natural or alternative medicine" or not, should always be used with caution.
However, an incredibly safe and beneficial flower has proven to be a savior for those struggling with even the most incessant cases of anxiety and fear.
This flower has also been mentioned on the podcast by Clinical Nutritionist Beverly Meyer for treating her patient's anxiety problems.
Mind over matter
Even Abraham Lincoln knew that our minds manifest our unhappiness a lot of times.
"Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be".
Answer these questions:
- How often are our struggles inside our own head?
- How often are outside forces truly out to get us?
- Am I the one driving myself crazy?
- Are the kids, traffic, husband/wife really that bad?
- Am I taking my own issues out on others?
Ego and bad moods
Many times, I find that my bad moods come from my ego.
When our ego is threatened or let down, it tends to fight itself. Almost as if there are two voices inside of us, constantly battling each other in a mental tug-of-war.
To conquer our own inner battle and poor moods, you have to confront them.
How NOT to solve our inner battle
- Retail therapy
- Legal or illegal drugs in excess
- Beating yourself up physically or emotionally
- Denying your feelings
- Excess caffeine (150mg+ per day)
- Excess chocolate (more than 3 squares per day)
- Long-distance running (5 miles+)
I'm aware that many "cover up" methods to our negative moods are not on this list.
While it's true that these actions and chemicals may benefit us in the short term, they will not solve our problems in the long-term.
How TO solve our inner battle
These are just some ideas to get you started.
Exercise is on the list due to it's ability to produce the feel good neurotransmitters and hormones that we are trying to achieve!
However, this can lead you down a path to overtraining and obsessiveness in the gym. While most of you won't experience this, I've had clients who have. Just make a mental note here.
Just let it go
I remember as a kid, one of my Dad's girlfriends would always give us the hand signals "let it go".
Anytime that an argument, stressful event or silly drama that popped up in life happened, she would always say "just let it go".
It makes you wonder, how many things have we worried ourselves sick over that haven't ever come true? Is the worry and weight on our shoulders worth the price?
I'll leave it up to you.
Remember that it's not what happens to us in life, it's how we respond to it.
Responding positively to any moment in life is always the best route to take.
I'd like to leave you with a quote from Willie Nelson.
"Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results."
Dietary and Nutritional Summary
- Eat grass-fed beef, lamb, chicken, eggs, spinach and almonds
- Drink organic green tea, kombucha and clean spring water
- Avoid nicotine, excess caffeine (1 cup of coffee per day max) and cannabis abuse (no more than once per week)
- Supplements are Passionflower, L-Theanine, Vitamin D, Magnesium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6
- Avoid gluten 100%
What has your experience with poor moods been like? What has been the biggest factor to make you a happier person? Comment below