What You Eat Determines What and How You Feel

Have you heard of the saying what you eat usually affects how you feel and what you think? Studies show that it is a valid hypothesis. Let’s try learning some fast facts about what you eat and how it affects your emotions and your thinking pattern in general.

Eating nutritious food and having a well-balanced diet is contributory to the improvement or deterioration of your total well-being. For example, if you take in recommended amounts of sodium, potassium, and chromium, you are less likely to suffer from confusion and poor memory; apathy and confusion; and depression. Why? Put simply the lack of sodium can trigger a sense of confusion and poor memory while the lack of potassium contributes to feelings of apathy and confusion as well. Meanwhile, without the adequate amounts of chromium in your body you are prone to experience depression. The list just goes on and on.

The truth is, the food you eat affects brain chemicals-the reason behind moody swings and changes. These brain chemicals are called neurotransmitters. Here are some of them.

  • Serotonin is a chemical released after eating carbohydrates (sugars and starches). It enhances calmness, improves mood, and lessens depression. Serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan. High levels of serotonin help control appetite, satisfy cravings, and provide a feeling of well-being and inner calm.
  • Cortisol is the emergency gland of the body, the adrenals releases cortisol as the primary coordinator for the reactions of stress. Cortisol decreases the production of serotonin. If you normally eat to relieve stress, the hormone cortisol places the extra calories (fat) in the abdomen or stomach area of your body.
  • Endorphins is the brain chemical that gives pain relief and pleasure when elevated. This is usually in effect when your emotions are triggered by emergencies.
  • Dopamine and norepinephrine are chemicals released after eating protein (meats, poultry, dairy, legumes). They enhance mental concentration and alertness. These neurotransmitters come from the amino acid tyrosine.
  • Ghrelin is  a neurotransmitter that sets up an irresistible urge to eat when elevated
  • NPY, neuropeptide Y are brain chemicals that increases carbohydrate cravings when elevated
  • Galanin is another chemical that increases the desire for fatty foods when elevated

Now how are the neurotransmitters affected by what we eat?

You may be wondering why the diet regimen you tried failed again and this is already the nth time. You have recently tried reducing your caloric intake, it worked for a while and you lost weight after three months. Hoorah! Yet, after those three months you gained back all the weight you lost. Worse, you feel more depressed and hopeless.

The big reason behind it was this when the calories in your body was lesser, you experienced the depletion of the neurotransmitter serotonin. The lack of serotonin leads to depression, anxiety, lethargy, feelings of hopelessness and intense anger. On top of that, you will also crave for other food. You have to remember that right levels of serotonin in the body makes a person feel, calm, peaceful, contented and able to control appetite. There’s another effect to lowering your calories. It dramatically reduces your insulin and thyroid hormone which in turn reduces metabolism and lowers the release of fat from your body. So too much calorie reduction will not help in losing weight.

A common but very questionable way of losing weight or dieting is skipping meals. It is not helpful at all. Not eating on the right time in the hope that it will reduce the calorie or fats that you take in your body will only lead to hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar levels which in turn increases cravings. Not only that, another neurotransmitter called neuropeptide Y decreases  which leads to carbohydrate cravings. The cravings become very intense, you can’t help but eat more carbohydrates which will be turned into starches and sugars.  In turn, this raises the serotonin. Again, this neurotransmitter helps a person feel calm and relaxed. This only means that instead of losing some weight, you set yourself up to eat a lot of sweet food. Thus, instead of losing weight you end up gaining more.

Have you noticed that during a stressful day or week you tend to overeat? That’s what you call emotional overeating. Not everyone does that but according to studies two out of three people eat more when stressed out. Usually, emotional overaters feast on starchy and sugary foods. The result of overeating is of course more calories and more weight! A quick explanation leads us back to the neurotransmitters. When a person is stressed or is lonely, the neurotransmitter called cortisol increases. Cortisol leads in the development of abdominal fat deposits. Now, you know what you can’t keep thus flabs off you! If a person is also stressed out you tend to lack sleep. Sleeping is vital to your health. You can’t just ignore your sleeping habits. The recommended sleeping hours is between 7-9 hours. Lack of sleep is also a major risk factor for obesity or being overweight. Simply, without much sleep a neurotransmitted called leptin, a blood protein that suppresses appetite decreases while grehlin, a substance that makes people want to eat increase. Exactly, you overeat!

The mood swings as we call it really has a link to what you eat plus your exercise and sleeping patterns. So, you better keep tabs with your lifestyle right now. You can’t escape what experts yap about eating, exercising and sleeping! That’s just the way it is.

Do you know that when you exercise your abnormal cortisol levels decrease including dopamine neurotransmitter (or arousal hormone) and the norepinephrine responsible for appetite suppression and mood stability? Here’s another benefit of exercising: it increase the endorphins and control NPY (neuropeptide Y) which lowers anxiety and carbohydrate cravings and increases feelings of contentment.

The careful balance of eating right, exercising well, and sleeping the right number of hours is the key in having your brain chemicals work for you. You have to be informed about how they work then you go on applying them. If you have not been doing well with your lifestyle it’s time to modify it, then your feelings follow.