Mood Enhancers: Part 5
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In this, the final part of the series, I will briefly examine dietary and nutritional factors which can influence mood.
Remember that healthy neurotransmitter production depends on a wide range of basic nutrients, including the B-vitamins (especially folic acid, B-3, B-6, and B-12) the minerals magnesium, selenium and zinc, along with the family of trace minerals.
Covering these nutritional bases can be accomplished by using a complete multivitamin and mineral product, such as our NutriPods, or for those with hormonal imbalances, by using NutriPods for Men or Women.
And, let us not forget the amazing works of Dr. Abram Hoffer (November 11, 1917 – May 27, 2009) who, for decades, treated many ailments with mega-doses of nutrients. He put vitamin B-3 on the map, and it is the basis of most of his treatment protocols, from anxiety and depression, through arthritis and cancer, to schizophrenia. Dr. Hoffer did use certain pharmaceuticals judiciously when circumstances required, but they were not the primary focus of his treatment, unlike with most doctors.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Since about two thirds of our brain is composed of fat, essential fatty acids are required to allow proper transmission of brain signals. Studies done with high levels of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), a fatty acid found in fish oils, showed it to be quite effective at treating severe depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.
Although the study to follow used omega-3 fatty acids in conjunction with a drug therapy, nonetheless “these results suggest that omega-3 adjuvant treatment is a potential option for depression and anxiety symptoms of people with recent onset psychosis”. (Source)
Another study suggests “that omega-3 supplementation can reduce inflammation and anxiety even among healthy young adults”. In this study those who did not get the placebo were given 2.5 grams per day of omega-3 fatty acids: 2085 mg EPA and 348 mg DHA. (Source)
As I mentioned in my previous series of newsletters on Essential Fatty Acids, I don’t believe one should ingest only EPA over a long period of time, as it will eventually deplete our DHA stores.
While it has been confirmed that supplementing with pure EPA “demonstrated clinical benefits” against depression, with an EPA dosage of around 1 gram per day, whereas supplementing with pure DHA “did not exhibit such benefits, current evidence supports the finding that omega-3 PUFAs with EPA ≥ 60% at a dosage of ≤1 g/d would have beneficial effects on depression”. (Source)
Thus, as long as the product used contains at least 60% EPA (and provides at least 1 gram of it per daily dose), then having the other 40% be DHA will not impede effectiveness, and we will be protected from potentially depleting ourselves of DHA.
One option to regular fish oils is to use Krill oil which, even though the amounts of EPA and DHA are low, has proven itself to be far more effective than fish oil, due to krill oil being in a phospholipid form (unlike fish oils which are in a triglyceride form), a form easily taken into cells. Furthermore, krill oil has already shown itself to be an effective treatment for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) in adults. (Source)
Protein provides amino acids, which are required for neurotransmitter production, and even the infamous carbohydrates are necessary for serotonin production, one reason why carbs are somewhat addictive. People who are overstressed will self-medicate by eating more sweets and refined carbohydrates. The ensuing insulin response favors tryptophan absorption over other amino acids, thereby increasing serotonin production, calming the nervous system.
Eating high protein foods, on the other hand, decreases serotonin levels and increases dopamine levels, since these foods are high in L-tyrosine. (The highest food source of L-dopa, the step before dopamine in the brain, is the fava bean.)
Unfortunately, women on low carbohydrate/high protein diets (like the “Atkins Diet”) are prone to depression, cravings, bingeing, severe PMS, Seasonal Affective Disorder and weight gain relapse, due to their low serotonin levels. This particularly affects women because they normally have about a third less serotonin than men.
This problem of low serotonin also can be an issue for other low carb/high protein diets such as the Paleo or Keto diets. Those adhering too strictly to the avoidance of all carbs can find themselves easily irritated or prone to anxiety as a result of this imbalance in the diet. At the very least they should consider using some of the serotonin-boosters we have been discussing in order to compensate for the lack of carbohydrates in their diet.
According to a variety of sources, there are certain foods which should be included in the diet, if one is suffering from anxiety or depression. Obviously, when one is suffering from any health issue, mood-related or not, it is critical that the diet be as clean as possible. This means avoiding bad fats (trans fats), sugars and refined carbs, while consuming high quality (organic, if possible) carbohydrates (unrefined), fats (avoiding too much omega-6 fatty acids), and proteins. It is also important to avoid all GMO foods, as they wreak havoc in the body, breaking down the lining of the gut and the blood-brain barrier.
“A 2017 study found that the symptoms of people with moderate-to-severe depression improved when they received nutritional counseling sessions and ate a more healthful diet for 12 weeks. Depressive symptoms, including mood and anxiety, improved enough to achieve remission criteria in more than 32% of the participants. Studies have suggested that people who consume lots of fast food are more likely to have depression than those who eat mostly fresh produce.” (Source)
Top Foods for Anxiety and Depression
Following is the list of foods that should be included in the diet of those with anxiety or depression.
- Fatty fish (herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout) for the omega-3s. Other sources of omega-3s include chia seeds, flaxseed, flaxseed oil, and walnuts.
- Eggs because they are high in tryptophan, and lecithin, both of which are neurotransmitter precursors. And the brain requires cholesterol: “Cholesterol in the brain is involved in the communication process for neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. It makes up the majority of myelin, the white fatty sheath that provides a protective coating on neurons to increase the brain’s processing speed.” (Source) From this it becomes obvious that being on a cholesterol-lowering drug could worsen any mood conditions along with cognition functions: “Statin psychiatric effects can include irritability/aggression, anxiety or depressed mood, violent ideation, sleep problems including nightmares, and possibly suicide attempt and completion.” (Source)
- Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, potassium and zinc. Studies have found that lower magnesium and potassium levels are associated with high levels of the stress hormones. Some studies have suggested that zinc levels may be lower in people with depression.
- Dark chocolate is rich in magnesium, tryptophan, and polyphenol flavonoids, as well as phenylethylamine, a neuromodulator implicated in mood regulation. In a study which measured the effect of chocolate on depressive symptoms, “it was found that individuals who reported eating any dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods had 70 percent lower odds of reporting clinically relevant depressive symptoms than those who reported not eating chocolate at all”. (Source)
- Turmeric appears to help lower anxiety by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, which are often high in those experiencing anxiety or depression. A study done in 2015 “found that 1 g of curcumin per day reduced anxiety in adults with obesity”. Curcumin is an isolated extract of turmeric, though preferred when using turmeric supplements are those with concentrated curcuminoids, rather than just curcumin. One such option would be our Liposomal Curcumin/Resveratrol product, with the bonus of being able to deliver the turmeric extract into the cells of the body. A further bonus is the fact that resveratrol is a “neuroprotective agent regulating the function of the brain and improves the behavioral factors associated with learning, anxiety, depression, and memory, which can cross the blood-brain barrier”. (Source) One other thing to be aware of is that many of the important compounds found in turmeric are fat-soluble, therefore one needs to render turmeric into fat in order for it to be a therapeutic food. (Golden Paste is one such option.)
- Fermented foods have been found to reduce social anxiety in some young people, and those who consume fermented foods regularly tend towards higher levels of happiness. No surprise really, if the gut is the “second brain”, and the microbiome is already established to have a direct effect on mood disorders and brain health.
- Brazil nuts are the richest food source of selenium, which may improve mood by reducing inflammation, and aiding the body in the production of glutathione (for detoxification). In one rodent study, Brazil nuts helped to reduce anxiety and obesity in mice.
- Blueberries “are neuroprotective, increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1); anti-inflammatory; and raise production of serotonin precursors. Most of these effects are because of anthocyanins, a group of antioxidants that give the fruit its purplish-blue hue.” (Source) Now, all berries are a great source of antioxidants, and if the body does not have enough antioxidants to remove free radicals oxidative stress can develop, which is linked to both anxiety and depression. The results of a study done in 2012 suggested that “antioxidants may reduce symptoms of anxiety in people with generalized anxiety disorder”.
The nice thing about nutrients and foods is that they won’t interact with mood altering medications, and can gradually help reduce the need for such substances.
So, there you go: your own home brain chemistry kit. Mix and match, and suddenly you’re happier. Best of all they are all legal and safe. Be aware that it takes three points to plot a trajectory, or to quote Goldfinger (from the James Bond novel): “…once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time is enemy action.”
In other words, try to observe your reaction to a substance a few times to make sure that you are fully aware of its effects on you before you discard it, or stack it with other substances. When effects seem to lessen, rotate to another substance with similar properties. This will prevent habituation to one chemical pathway. Remember: You Are The Experiment.