Research indicates mental wellness depends on the nutrients we have in our bodies to produce good brain chemistry. To feel optimal, we require five neurotransmitters: GABA, serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphin and dopamine.
These transmitters are responsible for the depth of our moods; depression, anger, sadness, problem solving, mental energy and mental clarity. If our diet is poor in nutrients, if we don’t have good stomach acid, we can’t produce good quality neurotransmitters, thus mental wellness becomes a challenge.
Why am I talking about stomach acid? Because the building blocks of neurotransmitters are proteins. To digest protein, we need good stomach acid, which requires the mineral zinc. When dealing with depression, it would be wise to check the levels of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. In the words of Dr. Alan R. Gaby: “Big Mac + Zantac = Prozac.”
Mental wellness is like a lens we see life through. If we lack nutrients, the lens will be cloudy and dark. If we eat a real food, nutrient dense diet, the lens become light and sunny. So the most influential action we can take for mental wellness is to choose nourishing foods.
HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR NEUROTRANSMITTERS
GABA, short for gamma amino butyric acid, can influence anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, guilt and remorse, difficulty to sleep and lack of focus. Grass-fed butter, vitamin B6 foods like meat, fish, poultry and organs meats are a good source of GABA. Minerals and amino acids like zinc, manganese, glutamine, taurine, lithium, vanadium and rubidium, herbs like valerian, hops and passion flower can healthfully feed GABA.
Serotonin is produced in the intestines at 95%, so once again, good digestion is primordial to have adequate levels of this neurotransmitter. A deficiency can lead to loss of pleasure in hobbies, feeling overwhelmed, internal rage and paranoia, stepping away from relationships, sleep problems, chronic pain, et al…
To have and maintain good levels of serotonin, include vitamin B6 and B12, found in meat from properly raised animals (grass fed and pastured), folic acid, magnesium and the herb St-John’s Wort in your diet.
Norepinephrine will affect memory, like if you make a list of things to buy and leave it at home, can you remember most of that list? Norepinephrine needs good protein digestion, including phenylalanine, taurine and glutamine.
A lack of endorphins can cause of intense emotional sensitivity, emotional pain, depression, a need to use alcohol or drugs or chocolate to numb that pain, it can also create chronic pain. To encourage good production of endorphins, just like norepinephrine, good protein digestion is needed.
Finally, dopamine deficiency can cause Parkinson’s Disease, give feelings of hopelessness which can lead to suicide, anger and depression, waking up feeling tired and inability to focus. To help with dopamine, aim for a diet rich in vitamin B6 and B12, selenium, ALA, tyrosine, phenylalanine and n-acetylcisteine and blueberries. Most important though, avoid caffeine at all cost.
Depression is a serious illness and it’s important to consult your doctor before doing any changes. But good digestion and good intake of nutrient dense foods will make a difference.