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Are Your Emotions Eating You?

Is your emotional state is not what you would like it to be?
The answer may lie at least in part to your diet. At first this may seem bizarre, but after taking a closer look, it makes perfect sense. Our emotional response is strongly related to our brain health and chemistry. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which regulate mood, are made from amino acids. These chemical pathways also require vitamins and minerals for their normal function. 

The brain is made mostly of fatty acids in particular omega 3 and requires a healthy supply of nutrients to function normally. Almost every vitamin or mineral deficiency can cause psychiatric symptoms such as depression, anxiety, irritability or low stress tolerance. Other food related factors such as caffeine, allergies, alcohol and blood sugar can also effect our mood.

A study by Professor keys over fifty years ago demonstrated that placing college students on a low calorie diet to reduce their weight by 25% lead to extreme changes in personality and some bizarre behaviour ensued. In fact one participant in the study cut off some of his fingers. 

Vitamins and minerals. 

Scientists used to study the effects of nutrient deficiencies by depriving people of specific nutrients. This would not get through ethics today but it did provide some insight into the effects of nutrition on our mood. Changes in behaviour were very commonly found. For example, vitamin B1, thiamine, deficiency was associated with irritability, depression, fearfulness, agitation and emotional instability. 

Vitamins and minerals have a number of different functions. Magnesium is required by over 300 biochemical reactions . Vitamins and minerals are required for the normal production of neurotransmitters, hormones, cellular energy, antioxidants, DNA and digestive enzymes.

Our mood can become affected if these nutrients are not available. Deficiencies of key vitamins and minerals are found in significant numbers of people with altered mood states. For example folate deficiency is present in 17-31% of people suffering major depression. 

Correcting any nutritional deficiency can be helpful. In some cases it can be a little like the chicken or the egg, what came first. Is the nutritional deficiency a result of the person not eating correctly because they are depressed, or did the deficiency lead to depression.

In any case it’s important that people suffering depression eat well. Amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. They make up the structural part of neurotransmitters, nucleotides, membrane structures, hormones, and many other substances that enable our Central Nervous System to work. 

A deficiency in one or more amino acids can directly or indirectly impact on mental health by leading to a deficiency of its metabolites. For example, tyrosine is a component of dopamine and thyroid hormones.

Tryptophan can boost the serotonin pathway, while tyrosine and L-Dopa are used to increase levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. 
• Tryptophan --> 5-HTP --> Serotonin 
• Tyrosine --> L-Dopa --> Dopamine --> Norepinephrine 

Supplements can also be used to modulate other mood regulating neurotransmitters, including endorphins, acetylcholine and Gama-Amino-Butyric Acid (GABA). 

NOTE: These supplements should not be combined with psychiatric medications and should only be taken under the guidance of a knowledgeable health professional. 

Essential fatty acids

Omega-3 (N3) fatty acids are a type of essential fatty acid (EFA). Our body is unable to produce essential fatty acids and they must be obtained through our diet. Well known food sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish and flax seeds otherwise known as linseed. 

The role of omega-3 fatty acids in mental health hasreceived the attention of a lot of research in recent years. Omega-3 fatty acids participate in a large number of processes in our body. They make up the structural part of our brain, improve brain cell membranes, have anti-inflammatory properties, regulate the stress response, and participate in a huge number of other functions. 

Research consistently reveals lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with poor mood. The vast majority of research has indicated that fish oil supplements reduce symptoms in almost every brain related condition, including major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADD/ADHD and dementia.
25 Oct 2011

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