Neurotransmitters are what we use to transmit messages from one neuron to another and can affect our behaviour. Two in particular – dopamine and serotonin – dopamine is central to our reward system and serotonin, the ‘happiness and contentment neurotransmitter’. They have very distinct affects on the body:
Dopamine: is all about pleasure. More short lived, internal, alone, extremes can lead to addictions.
Serotonin: happiness, longer lasting, external, giving, substances not needed, more social, you can never have a problem with having too much. Most of our serotonin is made in the gut.
Unfortunately our modern lifestyles are often skewed to the dopamine reward system, such as:
- Dips in blood sugar can immediately affect behaviour, irritability and aggression in adults and also in our children. Adopt a lower carb diet and avoid high sugar foods.
- Toxic load – help your eliminatory organs remove heavy metals from the body and other toxins. Make sure you’re having a bowel movement daily, drink plenty of water to help the kidneys and boost antioxidants and sulphur rich foods such as garlic, onion, brassicas like broccoli.
- Inflammation – gluten in particular is known to cause ‘leaky gut’, promoting inflammation. Toxins get through that shouldn’t and can trigger an inflammatory response.
- Stress – also prevalent in our children when gaming -the fight of flight response can also affect the dopamine reward system, essentially increasing adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol.
- Insufficient key nutrients- the brain is over 60% fat!
- Hormone imbalances
What you feed your brain is incredibly important to balance these messengers.
- Most of the body’s serotonin is made in the gut so it is very important to keep this well balanced. More evidence shows the link between gut permeability and instances of depression. Increase gentle plant based fibre (avoid gluten fibre sources), garlic, onions, ground linseed, psyllium husk, pectin from apples and fermented foods – sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, kimchi. Our Morning Elixir is beneficial here.
- Omega 3 fats – small oily fish 2-3x week. Sardines, mackerel, trout and salmon. Nuts (interesting how walnuts look like the brain!), seeds, linseed oil, algae.
- Phospholipids- essential for our cell membranes and memory – eggs, oily fish.
- Antioxidants – to help reduce our toxic load. Brightly coloured vegetables and fruit (including green and white), turmeric, ginger, flavanoids high in dark coloured berries.
- Vitamin D – catch the sunshine vitamin. Indicated in depression and increased inflammation.