Our moods are regulated by different hormones and neurotransmitters, which are affected by our genes, environments and foods we eat. Different neurotransmitters are responsible for different emotions, let’s take a look:
Serotonin – confidence, positive
(Low serotonin – negative, irritable, sleep problems)
Norepinephrine, dopamine – alert, energetic, motivated
(Low norepinephrine or dopamine – flat, tired, unmotivated)
GABA – relaxed, free of stress
(Low GABA – tensed, overwhelmed)
Does this sound familiar to you?
Tend to have negative thoughts
Worry a lot, gets anxious easily
Perfectionist, obsessive, control freak
Mood is worse during rainy/cloudy days, or during fall/winter times
Difficulty falling asleep, insomnia, wake up too early
Crave for sweets, high carbohydrate foods or alcohol
Pains and aches
Low norepinephrine, dopamine
Flat, bored, lost passion and motivation
Gets tired easily
Cold hands and feet, feel cold easily
Gain weight easily
Difficulty focusing and concentration
Use coffee or chocolate to help with focus
Feel stressed and overwhelmed often
Tensed, hard to relax
Sensitive to light, noise or chemicals
Use tobacco, alcohol, food or drugs to help you relax
Sensitive to the environment and people
Find it hard to get over past grief or pain
Experiencing physical or mental emotional pain
Use food, alcohol, tobacco or coffee to help numb the pain
If you answer yes to several symptoms listed above, then you are probably deficient of one or more neurotransmitters.
So what causes the deficiency?
Neurotransmitters are made of amino acids, when your diet is deficient of amino acids listed below, it can cause your neurotransmitter levels to drop
Tryptophan -> Serotonin -> Melatonin (melatonin helps you to fall asleep, therefore low in serotonin will also affect your sleep)
Tyrosine -> norepinephrine & dopamine
Phenylalanine blocks the enzyme that breaks down endorphin, therefore raising endorphin levels
Other factors include stress, lack of exercise, lack of sun exposure and deficient in vitamins and minerals that are needed for the synthesis of the neurotransmitters.
How to boost your neurotransmitters?
The very first step and the most important step is to adjust your diet:
Avoid refined carbohydrates (white breads, noodles, soft drinks, cookies, cakes), sugar, alcohol, coffee
Eat foods that are rich in tryptophan, tyrosine and phenylalanine
Nuts and seeds (flaxseeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pistachio, cashew, almonds)
Soy, soy products (tofu, soy milk)
Cheese, egg, lamb, pork, beef, chicken, turkey, fish (salmon, mackerel), seafoods (lobster, octopus, oyster, shrimp)
Besides protein rich foods, consume enough folate, B12, B5, B6, vitamin C, iron, and magnesium rich foods because these are important cofactors in the synthesis and regulation of neurotransmitters
Aside from a healthy and well balanced diet; stress management, good sleep hygiene, and exercise can help regulate your neurotransmitters and boost your mood too.