Updated: Oct 7, 2022
Poor nutrition is among the main causes of poor physical health and mental health. A diet that is out of balance leads to an imbalance in the gut and mind. Gut health and mental health are in a symbiotic relationship. This is why the gut has been termed “the second brain.” The gut-brain axis is a bidirectional communication network. What’s in your gut influences your mood. Several mood disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and autism spectrum disorders now have well-established links to functional GI disruptions. Diet influences the gut microbiome’s impact on cognitive function.
The Gut, Serotonin, & Dopamine
Gut bacteria produce hundreds of neurochemicals/neurotransmitters, but I want to focus on two in particular- Serotonin & Dopamine. Serotonin is known as the “Happy” neurotransmitter. You need more serotonin when you are feeling anxious or depressed. For this, they give you Adapin, Anafranil, Elavil, Prozac, Zoloft, Effexor, Paxil, or Lexapro. Dopamine is known as the “Pleasure” or “Feel Good” neurotransmitter. Dopamine is released when you get that euphoric feeling from any activity that you find enjoyable- romance, shopping, sex, and also illicit drugs. They may prescribe Buspar, Travivo, or a few of the other drugs mentioned above for an increase in dopamine. Yet, at the core, these neurotransmitters are simply modified amino acids.
The Power in Protein to Finding Happiness & Pleasure
Amino acids are the building blocks of PROTEINS mainly absorbed in the duodenum & jejunum of the small intestine. 95% of Serotonin & 50% of the body’s supply of Dopamine is stored in our gut.
Desire to be happier? For Serotonin to be released you need the essential amino acid tryptophan, supplied only through the diet (food or supplementation). Unless allergic, increase the uptake of Grass-fed & pasture-raised turkey, chicken, eggs, soybeans (edamame), almonds, squash, pumpkin seeds, oatmeal, and wild-caught seafood.
As for the more pleasure-seeking individual….In order for the body to produce and release more Dopamine you need the essential amino acids Tyrosine or Phenylalanine which can be found in foods such as Grass fed & pasture raised Beef, Chicken Breast, Wild caught Tuna, Pinto Beans, Squash, Pumpkin Seeds, Sweet Potatoes, Avocados, and Bananas.
To calculate your daily protein intake multiply your weight in lbs by .36g (i.e., 118lbs x .36g = 42g of Protein). This calculation will personalize your daily protein intake recommendation. Your daily protein range should be 19-35% of daily calories.
Genetics is not destiny. With the right guidance and health plan, you can rebalance and heal. Again, make sure you check your food sensitivities, allergies, and always consult with a physician. @Everlywell has great at-home Food Sensitivity & Food Allergy Tests. If you are on any of the listed opioids, it is best to consult with your doctor as well as a nutritional professional for a clean and safe path to healing.