Ever felt so hungry you got angry? Food is so important to our mood that we now have a slang term that combines these two words, it is hangry. As you may have guessed, nutrition plays an important role in psychological wellbeing. Virginia Woolf said it well, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” She may not have understood the absolute scientific truth to her statement, but nonetheless she is absolutely correct. In this two part series let’s take a look at what you can do with your nutrition and supplements to up your happy factor!
You may have heard about serotonin, dopamine and epinephrine, these are called neurotransmitters and this is how our nerves communicate. They are made from the amino acids that come from protein. Of the 9 essential amino acids tryptophan and phenylalanine are the amino acids needed to make neurotransmitters. (1) These can come from meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, milk, beans, quinoa, nuts and soy.
The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are the substance used to make brain cells and are required for normal brain health. Deficiencies in these fatty acids have been associated with inflammation and mood imbalance. Good food sources are: flax, chia, sunflower, soybean, walnut, salmon, tuna and sardines. (1)
The preferred source of fuel for brain cells is the glucose that comes from carbohydrates. Make sure you provide your brain with fuel.
All of the B vitamins as well as vitamin C are important in the creation of neurotransmitters, metabolism and detoxification. Vegetables, fruits, meats, whole grains are all sources of these important vitamins. Deficiencies of the B vitamins have been linked to depression, confusion and other psychological symptoms. (1)
Vitamin D is vitally important in mood regulation because of it’s impact in nerve health. Depending on how much time you spend out doors or if you use sunscreen generating enough vitamin D from the sun can be next to impossible. Salmon, swordfish and sunned mushrooms are good sources of vitamin D.
Zinc, copper, iron, selenium, magnesium all serve a role in various processes in the body like the creation and sending of neurotransmitters and protecting cells from damage. Deficiencies in minerals are associated with depression and adverse moods. (1) Nuts and meat all have these minerals. They can be found in verying amounts in grains and vegetables.
So, if you are moody and looking for that missing piece of the puzzle, take a look at your diet. Get to the root of the problem and determine if you have a food sensitivity, excessive sugar intake, leaky gut and/or missing nutrients in your diet. If you feel as though you have the right diet then you might find the boost in mood you need with supplements.
Our understanding of the beneficial bacteria that lives in our intestines is beginning to flourish. There are a variety of different types. Two specific types were studied Lactobicillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum. During a double blind, placebo controlled study, researchers found that these probiotics when taken for as little as two weeks had a beneficial impact on mood. (1) This is not surprising as there are almost as many nerves that go to the gut as there are in the brain! Our guts even have their own chemical messengers, a lot of complex communication occurs there.
In a double-blind placebo controlled study this plant extract improved the participants overall symptoms of depression, insomnia and emotional instability but not self-esteem. (2)
In a meta-analysis of literature the active part of turmeric, curcumin was found to reduce depression in those with major-depressive disorder. (3) This may be due to its powerful anti-inflammatory ability to protect cells of the nervous system.
People with anxiety and depression have been found to be low in a neurotransmitter GABA. (4) There is not extensive evidence that supplementing with GABA can increase the amount in the brain, although some people claim that they get relief from anxiety and depression with supplements.
Green tea provides an amino acid, L-theanine. During a randomized double blind, placebo controlled study researchers determined that participants who drank 197 milligrams of L-theanine in 14.5 ounces had reduction in stress hormone production. This may be due to increase in dopamine, GABA and protective effect on nerve cells. (5)
Magnolia, passionflower extract, lavender among others’ are used to help moderate moodiness. Honor yourself by making mood matter-there are a variety of therapies available, let food be one of them. Plant based nutrients called phytonutrients are found in berries, citrus fruit, green tea, turmeric, rosemary, ginger, sage, garlic and onions and have protective benefits on the cells of our brains because of their powerful ability to help the body detox and repair DNA.
- Messaoudi, M., Lalonde, R., Violle, N., Javelot, H., Desor, D., Nejdi, A., . . . Cazaubiel, J. (2011). Assessment of psychotropic-like properties of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in rats and human subjects. British Journal of Nutrition, 105(5), 755-764. doi:10.1017/S0007114510004319
- Clinical trial of Rhodiola rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Darbinyan, G. Aslanyan, E. Amroyan, E. Gabrielyan, C. Malmström, and A. Panossian. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry Vol. 61 , Iss. 5,2007
- Al-Karawi, D., Al Mamoori, D. A., and Tayyar, Y. (2016) The Role of Curcumin Administration in Patients with Major Depressive Disorder: Mini Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials. Phytother. Res., 30: 175–183. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5524.
- Hanns Möhler, The GABA system in anxiety and depression and its therapeutic potential, Neuropharmacology, Volume 62, Issue 1, 2012, Pages 42-53, ISSN 0028-3908, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.08.040.
- White, D. J., de Klerk, S., Woods, W., Gondalia, S., Noonan, C., & Scholey, A. B. (2016). Anti-Stress, Behavioural and Magnetoencephalography Effects of an l-Theanine-Based Nutrient Drink: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Trial. Nutrients, 8(1), 53. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu8010053
- Mahan, L. K., & Raymond, J. L. (2017). Krauses food & the nutrition care process. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.