What Are Neurotransmitters?
Neurotransmitters are brain cells that send messages to the brain and throughout the body. These neurons regulate a lot of activities in the body including how the body responds to different stimuli. Food is an example of a stimulus that influences the body. Certain foods naturally contain neurotransmitters (NTs) or develop NTs through food technology.
Which neurotransmitters are present in food?
Neurotransmitters are classified into two groups: neuropeptides and small-molecule transmitters. Neuropeptides have larger molecules and include up to 36 amino acids. Small-molecule transmitters are smaller than neuropeptides. Foods can contain either of these NTs. Here is a list of some of the neurotransmitters present in food:
- Glutamate: affects the learning and memory capabilities of the brain
- Tyramine: regulates blood pressure
- Histamine: contracts tissues in the lungs, stomach, uterus and dilates blood vessels
- Choline: promotes cell growth and metabolism
- Tryptophan: produces melatonin and serotonin, which help with the sleep cycle
- Tyrosine: produces melanin and helps with organ function
Where can I get neurotransmitters?
Food neurotransmitters can be found in turkey, liver, eggs, cheese, seafood, soybeans, and other foods. Most importantly gut flora, which occurs naturally in the small intestine, produces a majority of the body’s serotonin, an important neurotransmitter.
How do neurotransmitters affect my mood?
Neurotransmitters affect the production of mood-boosting chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. Dopamine is a chemical that aids in the brain’s behavior processes and is part of the brain’s pleasure-reward system. Serotonin is another feel-good chemical. Lower serotonin levels contribute to high depression and anxiety levels. Endorphins contribute to feelings of euphoria and energy.
All these chemicals are natural and are released by the body through regular activities like jogging or laughing. However, certain foods can boost the production of these chemicals, and people suffering from certain mood disorders may benefit by changing the diet.
What foods contain these neurotransmitters?
Dopamine production increases when people eat foods like chocolate, almonds, apples, peanuts, and olive oil. Oranges, grapes, and animal proteins boost endorphin levels. For increased serotonin production, try eating more salmon, milk, and pineapples.
Will changing my diet improve my mood?
Adding mood-enhancing foods will not completely fix mood disorders but these foods can help improve a person’s overall physical and mental health. Before starting a new diet, consult a physician to learn more about different dietary options. A healthcare provider will be able to thoroughly evaluate patients and suggest specialists to help with other health issues.