How to Improve Your Neurotransmitters with Diet

(Last Updated On: November 6, 2018)
neurotransmitters affected by diet

Our neurotransmitters are affected by our diet.

The composition of our neurotransmitter fluid is directly associated with our mood and nervous condition. And neurotransmitters are directly linked to our diet. In fact, certain foods will increase good neurotransmitters, while others will increase levels of neurotransmitters that increase our risk of allergies, stress and cognitive problems.

What are neurotransmitters?

Nerve dendrites do not actually touch. They are not connected in the physical sense. Rather, between them exists a space called the synapse. The synapse contains a special chemistry called the neurotransmitter fluid. The neurotransmitter fluid provides the medium for the waveform pulses traveling between neurons.

Through this chemistry, nerve impulses are transformed, moving information from one neuron to another. This enables a broadcasting of information through various nerve channels around the body. The tiny sea of neurotransmitter fluid contains various biochemical components, most of which are ionic in nature. These ions combine with the protein neurotransmitters to create a system of electromagnetic nervous responses throughout our brain and tissue systems.

Each neuron can range in synapse count. Some might have several thousand while others have significantly less. Through these synapses, each neuron may be firing up to 100,000 electromagnetic pulse inputs into this fluid at one time. Depending upon its particular makeup at the time, the fluid will provide a combination of excitatory potential and inhibitory potential. This balance serves to escort or conduct information from one nerve to another, while at the same time dampening or filtering these nerve waves to prevent overload and over-stimulation.

This process might well be compared to the process of transistors and resistors we see in integrated circuits. Neurotransmitters are tremendous semiconductors. Their delicate ionic balance precisely buffer and conduct waveform communications within neurotransmitter fluids.

Neurotransmitters and moods

Two examples of neurotransmitters are acetylcholine and adrenaline (or epinephrine). These two messenger substances conduct and/or magnify specific wave frequencies, which reflect either programmed (autonomic) intention or conscious intention. Acetylcholine will modulate an instruction to muscle fibers to contract, while adrenaline will modulate instructions that perpetuate the ‘fight or flight’ response: Causing a quickening of heart rate and blood flow, immediate motor muscle response, visual acuity, and so on.

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Each of these biochemicals conducts particular types of waveforms. They will affect the neurotransmitter fluid, but they also interact with waveforms outside the confines of the fluid. For example, acetylcholine also stimulates skeletal muscle cells directly. This means the intentional response and programming to protect the body in specific ways is being conducted through these messenger molecules-and they are effectively translating that information into physical response.

The chemistry of this neurotransmitter fluid directly relates to our moods, our thinking patterns and our reaction time. The chemistry of the neurotransmitter fluid is most directly affected by our diet.

This can be evidenced clearly by observing a drunk person. Alcohol immediately changes the chemical composition of the neurotransmitter fluid, resulting in a change in mood, reaction time, balance, and cognitive awareness.

Foods that supply neurotransmitters

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A study from Italy’s Tourette’s Syndrome and Movement Disorders Center investigated the effects of diet on neurotransmitters. Some foods, they found, directly supply neurotransmitters. These include fruits, plant foods, roots, and other botanicals. Here are some foods that directly supply neurotransmitters needed for healthy moods and a healthy nervous system:

Dopamine

Dopamine is critical to our moods and muscle activity. Good dopamine levels contribute to a positive attitude and help fight feelings of depression and anxiety. Dopamine is typically deficient in Parkinson’s disease patients. Here are some foods that contain significant amounts of dopamine:

  • Banana peels
  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Velvet beans

Modest levels:

  • Oranges
  • Forest apple (Malus sylvestris)
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Peas
  • Common beans
  • Aubergine

Serotonin

Serotonin is a necessary neurotransmitter for healthy moods and the ability to relax. When serotonin levels are low, we can experience greater levels of pain and anxiety. Serotonin levels also help us get good sleep. A healthy diet of whole carbohydrate foods such as whole potatoes and whole grain pastas help provide the ingredients for serotonin making, including L-tryptophan.

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However, some foods will directly supply the body with 5-HT, which is the precursor for serotonin. Here are some foods that supply the body with 5-HT:

  • Prata banana (Musa sp.)
  • Banana peels
  • Bananas
  • Red pepper (Capsicum annuum)
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pineapples
  • Plums
  • Passionfruit
  • Kiwis
  • Velvet beans
  • Spinach
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Wild rice
  • Green coffee beans
  • Pomegranate
  • Strawberries
  • Chicory
  • Green onion
  • Lettuce
  • Nettles

GABA

GABA stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid. GABA is a necessary neurotransmitter for being able to relax and sleep. It is also helpful for reducing stress. GABA is also pain-relieving.

GABA is typically synthesized from glutamic acid in the body. Many people do not produce enough of this, however. Especially during times of stress. But some foods will specifically provide or increase GABA levels in the body. Here are some significant sources:

  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Chestnuts
  • Lupin bean sprouts
  • Adzuki bean sprouts
  • Soybean sprouts
  • Pea sprouts
  • Common bean sprouts
  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Oryza rice (white, black, brown and red rices)
  • Buckwheat sprouts
  • Green tomatoes
  • Mistletoe
  • Valerian
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Passiflora

Acetylcholine

This neurotransmitter helps balance our moods and physical activity. This includes better balance, a calm nerve-muscle response and a calmer state of brain activity.

Many foods will either directly supply acetylcholine or provide the metabolites to form it. These include:

  • Squash
  • Spinach
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Mung beans
  • Common beans
  • Bitter orange
  • Wild strawberry
  • Nettles
  • Mistletoe
  • Foxglove

Some not-so-great dietary neurotransmitters

diet and neurotransmitters

Our diet seriously affects our neurotransmitters

Then there are some neurotransmitters that are not that good for us, especially if their levels are too high. These include histamine and glutamate. Histamine, for example, is linked to higher levels of stress and tension within the muscles. Histamine can also stimulate skin hives and allergic responses, such as anaphylactic responses.

Foods that can directly increase our body’s histamine levels include processed meats, wine, sherry, champagne, cheese, beer, ketchup, soybeans and dandelion.

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Then there is glutamate. Higher glutamate levels can lead to increases in stress levels and sometimes allergic responses. This includes monosodium glutamate. Foods that increase our body’s glutamate levels include meats, fish, cheese, soy sauce, cod, salami, caviar, instant coffee, oysters, Parmesan cheese and other processed foods.

This is also why we often notice that people who eat a diet with plenty of plant-based foods tend to be more relaxed, and sharp. And those who eat a diet rich in red meats and alcohol tend to be more stressed and sometimes even more aggressive. This is due to their balance of neurotransmitters.

For example, a study from the University of Copenhagen found that the Western Diet, with higher levels of meat and fat, was linked with differences in neurotransmitters, cognition and brain signaling. They also saw higher levels of oxidative stress in the brain. “Western diets, high in fat and energy, are associated with cognitive deficits in humans and animal models,” wrote the researchers.

The bottom line is that a wholesome diet with plenty of fresh plant-based foods will create a balanced neurotransmitter fluid, resulting in better cognition, more relaxed nerve cells, and better awareness.

References

Briguglio M, Dell’Osso B, Panzica G, Malgaroli A, Banfi G, Zanaboni Dina C, Galentino R, Porta M. Dietary Neurotransmitters: A Narrative Review on Current Knowledge. Nutrients. 2018 May 10;10(5). pii: E591. doi:10.3390/nu10050591.

Akihiro T., Koike S., Tani R., Tominaga T., Watanabe S., Iijima Y., Aoki K., Shibata D., Ashihara H., Matsukura C. Biochemical mechanism on GABA accumulation in tomato. Plant Cell Physiol. 2008;49:1378–1389. doi: 10.1093/pcp/pcn113.

Wichers H., Visser J., Huizing H., Pras N. Occurrence of L-DOPA and dopamine in plants and cell cultures of Mucuna pruriens and effects of 2,4-D and NaCl on these compounds. Plant Cell Tissue Organ Cult. 1993;33:259–264. doi: 10.1007/BF02319010.

Hansen SN, Ipsen DH, Schou-Pedersen AM, Lykkesfeldt J, Tveden-Nyborg P. Long term Westernized diet leads to changes in brain signaling mechanisms. Neurosci Lett. 2018 May 29;676:85-91. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2018.04.014.

 

 

Case Adams, Naturopath

Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. "The natural approaches in my books and research articles are backed by scientific evidence tempered with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years. I frequently update my books and articles with new research evidence.”

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