Exploring what are the brain chemicals that determine the way we feel and why what we eat might be the reason behind it.
With the increasing levels of stress, society expectations of success and the increase of fast food and sugar intake more of us are feeling swallowed by bad feelings, negative thoughts and low self-esteem (Not trying to be negative, but it’s quite real). We all have friends and family fighting depression and we all wonder why.
I find this subject very interesting from a scientific perspective and I am very intrigued by: how do we create these feelings and how do we get ourselves to the point of metal exhaustion?
I came across a book about a year ago when someone recommend it to one of my friends and I really loved the way it described the different levels of depression and how it can feel and be different for each individual based on the lack of the right chemical formula in the brain.
The difference between false moods and true moods
Some negative feeling are absolutely needed for our survival: true fear warns us of potential danger, true shame helps us improve, true anger can defend us against abuse. True feelings should be allowed to come and go or be easily solved.
The problem arises when we don't really hold reasons to feel in a certain way. When fear arises from stepping outside of your flat or when sadness keeps you tight to your bed and makes even breathing hard. False moods are the ones that don't leave you for days and makes going to work in the morning a total stress. Also, one of probably the most common is when we are finding fault in our behaviour or appearance on a daily basis and can't seem to understand why there is so much wrong in us.
How do you get false moods?
Your brain holds both the true and the false moods and transmits feelings through "mood transmitters" that need to hold a specific chemical composition to offer you the right reserve of emotions to keep you happy and full of life. The moment your brain runs low on these mood transmitter either due to increased level of stress, a bad diet or genes, it stops producing the true moods you need.
These have been intensely investigated by neuroscientists over the time till the author of this book, Julia Ross has come across the work of a neuroscientist Kenneth Blum PHD, who discovered that by giving his research subjects a supplementation of amino acids they could improve the mood of addicts trying to come off drugs and alcohols and have managed to stay away from the addictive substances. Julia took this and has treated several conditions in her clinic over the years.
Why Amino Acids?
The building blocks of our cell and body functions are amino-acids. A few of those are also the building blocks of our moods so when we run low on them, we are running on an empty gas tank for our emotions. This leads to all sort of altering to our feelings and causes all this chaos that we struggle to explain to ourselves. These amino-acids are the fuel for our well-known hormones of happiness such as endorphins and serotonin. Each of these hormones have a different effect on ours moods depending on the availability of its fuel. Let's explore what are the four types of false moods and how kick them!
To identify if you have "false moods", Julia has designed a questionnaire that can be found here to help identify the category of deficiency you might have.
The "Dark Cloud"
(negative, obsessive, worried, irritable and sleepless)
If you often feel followed by a dark cloud, no feeling of accomplishment, anxious about the days to come and easily irritable, your brain might not produce the amazing happy hormone called "serotonin". People with a deficiency of serotonin tend to function well, due to their tendency towards perfectionism, but often feel drained by the end of the day and consider they might just have an over-obsessive personality.
Serotonin is synthesised in your body from tryptophan, an amino acid found in foods like turkey, beef and cheese. Tryptophan first converts into a substance called 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) and sequentially turns into serotonin which offers you a positive, confident and easy-going feeling.
This deficiency can be caused by a very low protein diet, skipped meals, large consumption of alcohol, caffeine or stress. Genes can also play a role in this but research shows that gene can either be expressed or not expressed and you hold the power to control them.
As mentioned above, a deficiency can easily be stored back with a supplementation of 5-HTP which comes from an African bean and can be purchased easily in stores.
(lack of focus and motivation, not feeling anything, sleeping a lot, lack of excitement)
If you feel like there is nothing in the world that can get you excited, you don't get angry or happy at anything and there is a general attitude of "I really don't care", you might have depleted your brain of some amazing brain chemicals called "catecholamines" or a lack of vitalising thyroid hormones.
The sparkle in your life that makes you feel energised and upbeat comes from the production of the three catecholamines: dopamine, norepinephrine and adrenaline. The extent to which you are extroverted or introverted likely depends on how much of these hormones you are producing. These are also the ones that help you stay alert in the face of a threat and fuel your fight or flight mode.
Cocaine and amphetamines increase your production of these three hormones for up to 1400 percent, but the effects are short lived. These drugs quit giving real satisfaction as your brain can't simply produce that amount, which why people start taking a higher dose till they might end up overdosing. Also, for those trying to quit, depletion of these hormones accounts for the withdrawal symptoms and the long lasting depression that follows.
An amino acid that is directly related to the production of the catecholamines is tyrosine which is found in beef, fish and eggs. Tyrosine is the raw material from which your thyroid glands makes its vital metabolic regulators, the hormones T3 and T4, which stimulate all the cells in your body. Reason for why your "blahs" might be caused by a poor functioning thyroid that just doesn’t release the right amount of tyrosine to stimulate the production of the these amazing happiness chemicals. Please go and ask your GP for a thyroid check (especially if you might struggle with weight problems as well). For this, she recommends L-tyrosine supplementation.
All stressed out
(anxiety, irritable, exhaustion)
You hear this word everywhere, from the collogue at work to the random chat on the tube.
!"I am just stressed"!
Well, being stressed is a good thing, our body has designed this stressed state to keep us alive from the outside threats, help us get things done and add some spice to our lives. But it hasn't been designed to cope with the current stress and hectic lives we live. All stressors trigger the same cascade of biochemical events in your body, and it all starts in your adrenal glands, which as soon as it senses a certain stress factor it starts the production of two hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline is rather short-lived and it's intended to give you that initial kick, whilst cortisol is the "can do" hormones that keeps you alert for a longer period of time and raids the body's own muscles, bones, and fat tissues to save the nutrients needed for survival. (kind of an amazing hormone)
But as much as of a hero, the adrenal glands also have a limit. Under continuous and prolonged stress, (also referred as chronic stress) their ability to produce cortisol wears out. When you feel like you had enough, it often means your adrenals are not producing enough of the amazing hormones you need, and when you feel stressed from the smallest thing, you might have too much adrenaline or cortisol running around.
On top of reducing some of the stress factors in your life, nutrition can also help. The aim is to keep the adrenal glands supplied with enough cholesterol and the other nutrients it needs to be able to produce the right hormones. Julia recommends a diet full of healthy protein, fats, vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates. If you think you need more help, a supplementation of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which has the power to turn off certain kinds of brain reaction and brings a state of calm and control, might be your rescuer.
Too sensitive to life's pain
(sadness, not finding enjoyment, sensitive)
Some people find easily enjoyment in life. The people that find happiness in a hug, a bath or just a treat. These people are not blessed by a Divine power (or they might), they are just loaded with the brain chemicals that transmit enjoyment, contentment and euphoria. These chemicals are called endorphins which can be as potent as morphine or heroin and can amplify pleasure or make pain tolerable.
If you endorphins levels are low due to going through too much of life's pain or you are just genetically in the low, you have probably figure out some way of coping with it, which usually is finding comfort in the foods we love (chocolate for me 🙋🏼♀️), alcohol, painkillers, sex or even people. Apparently, sex can increase endorphins levels by 200% .The lower in endorphins we are the more drawn we are to the above.
In order to restore your endorphins levels or just give it a boost when needed, Julia recommend a high protein diet backed up by two powerful amino-acids: DPLA: D-phenylalanine and L-phenylalanine which help and sustain the healthy formation of these amazing brain chemicals the endorphins.
I would recommend to anyone that is dealing with any sort of depression to read a copy of this book and really understand if this is something they would like to give it a try. Dealing with something so serious is a very sensitive subject so everyone has the freedom of choosing the right way.
I will dare to say the story of one my friends who was starting to become immune to her anti-depressants. Her dose was getting to a maximum and she was running out of options. I was really concerned and I recommended she read Julia's book. She is now still dealing with depression but she is off her anti-depressants. When she is feeling low she ups her amino-acids and together with therapy learnt to cope with it. We all just need to find what works best for ourselves, but in order to choose please seek out more options and choose the right one of you.
Also, I have only summarised a very small part of the book, she goes into much more detail with examples and specific dosages, so if you choose to give this a try, have a proper read and consult with a professional. Link to her book: https://www.juliarosscures.com/mood-cure/.
With love and kindness,