Lifestyle

Neurotransmitters are affected by how we think, how we live, and what we eat. 
🌺 Nutrition ~ A diet consisting of foods that are as close to nature as possible is the best approach for the physical rejuvenation of the brain, supporting mental healing. The online video series, “Life at its Best”, listed on the Links page has more detailed information.
 
🌺 Exercise ~ A study published in the American Journal of Physiology revealed that exercise not only increases mitochondria in the muscle cells but also in the brain cells, increasing both physical and mental energy. Exercise releases endorphins, balances blood sugar, reduces stress, and strengthens the immune system. Speak to your doctor before starting an exercise program, in case there may be contra-indications.

 

🌺 Water ~ According to the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the brain is composed of 73% water. Studies have linked dehydration to depression. Adults should drink 8 glasses of pure water throughout the day between meals. It is best to wait an hour after a meal before drinking water, and to stop drinking water half an hour before meals to prevent stomach acids from being diluted and weakening digestion. If you feel thirsty during your meals, your body is dehydrated due to lack of water between meals. 
 
🌺 Sunshine ~ Depression can be caused by lack of sunshine. Although we need to protect our skin from sunburn, we also need to spend time outdoors for the management of moods and sleeping patterns. Sunlight has many health benefits. It provides vitamin D, releases endorphins, reduces cholesterol, balances blood sugar and strengthens the immune system. Speak to your doctor before exposing your skin to the sun in case there may be contra-indications.
 
🌺 Fresh Air ~ Lack of fresh air in the home or workplace can cause depression. We also need to spend time outdoors in a safe area.  

 

🌺 Nature ~ Positive (unhealthy) ions, found near electrical equipment and air conditioning, affect our mood negatively. Negative (healthy) ions affect our mood positively. They are found near waterfalls, rocks, sunlight, beaches, mountains, rivers, and forests. Walking in nature provides both negative ions and endorphins, a natural remedy for depression and anxiety. The sound of crickets, frogs, birds, the ocean, wind, rivers and rain were created for our well-being. In countries where nature sounds are limited during winter, nature sounds can be downloaded and listened to in the home for a relaxing atmosphere. Animals were also created for our well-being. Having pets or visiting places that allow interaction with animals soothes the soul.

 

🌺 Tranquility ~ Relaxation replenishes the body’s energy and releases stress. 
 
🌺 Sleep ~ Lack of sleep can cause depression, and vice versa. An hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after midnight as more cell renewal takes place before midnight when growth hormone and melatonin levels are higher. Getting up earlier, exercising and avoiding stimulants can improve quality of sleep. We should be getting 6-8 hours of sleep every night. Herbs such as hops, chamomile and passionflower can help to improve sleep. Magnesium can also help. Speak to your doctor before using herbs and supplements in case there may be contra-indications. 

 

🌺 Temperance ~ Take care not to overeat, oversleep, over-exercise, overwork, spend too much time in the sun, or do anything in excess. Also, abstain from caffeine, cocoa, alcohol, nicotine, recreational drugs, refined foods and unhealthy food additives as they trigger the stress response, weaken the prefrontal cortex and immune system and deplete neurotransmitters.

Nutrition

🌺 Protein ~ Animal proteins contain all the essential amino acids we need, but they lack fiber, making the digestive system sluggish. Animal protein is also acidic, creating an environment for diseases to develop. Our body’s pH should be slightly alkaline. Plant proteins may lack certain amino acids, but they are less acidic. Combining certain plant foods (e.g. legumes and whole/unrefined grains) creates complete proteins, which forms part of most plant-based dishes, providing enough protein. Quinoa, buckwheat, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, legumes, tofu made from soaked soybeans, unrefined grains and nuts are rich in plant proteins.
 
🌺 Carbohydrates ~ Our brain is dependent on glucose. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can cause depression, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, crying spells, forgetfulness, confusion, mood swings, aggression, sugar addiction, lack of self-control, drug addiction, alcoholism, mental confusion, concentration problems and learning difficulties. Fruits and whole grains such as brown rice, millet, sorghum or whole wheat provide a steady supply of glucose, needed for healthy brain function. It is recommended to have fruits (e.g. fruit salad or smoothie) together with whole grains for breakfast, such as a whole grain porridge with a slice of homemade wholewheat bread (or whole grain gluten-free bread). Porridge can be sweetened with dates or raw honey. There are many meal options one can choose from for lunch and dinner consisting of whole grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. Breakfast should never be skipped as it creates unstable moods, and triggers cravings for foods that further affect the mood.

 

🌺 Fats ~ Fats are broken down into fatty acids. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids because they cannot be synthesized by the body. A healthy ratio of omega-3 and 6 is two parts omega-3 to one part omega-6. Too much omega-6 causes inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids act as antidepressants and increase grey matter volume in the brain. Plant sources of omega-3 include flaxseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, etc. Two tablespoons of freshly ground seeds can be added to porridge or smoothies. Consult your doctor before using flax seeds if you are using hormonal or blood thinner medications, as they contain phyto-estrogens and act as natural blood thinners. 

Vitamins and minerals

🌺 Vitamin B6 helps to convert tryptophan to serotonin.

 

🌺 Vitamin B12/complex injections or tablets can help to relieve depression, irritability, psychosis and burnout.

 

🌺 Vitamin C enables noradrenaline and serotonin synthesis.

 

🌺 Folic acid and zinc are useful for depression.

 

🌺 Magnesium eases nervous system excitability, anxiety, depression, insomnia and sensitivity to noise. Applying magnesium oil to the skin is an effective way of absorbing magnesium. It can be applied to the arms, legs, back and belly. Start with a small area as it may cause a burning sensation, which eases over time, allowing you to increase the area of application. Avoid contact with eyes.  

Digestion

Our mental health depends on a healthy, functioning digestive system and vice versa:
🌺 Chewing our food properly makes digestion easier for the stomach. Starch digestion starts in the mouth.

 

🌺 Overeating can lead to indigestion and fermentation (acidity, gas, bloating, intestinal flora damage, leaky gut, etc.).

 

🌺 Eating between meals causes previously eaten food to ferment while it waits for the new food to be turned into chyme. There should be 4 to 5 hours between meals to ensure that the stomach is empty before the next meal to prevent fermentation. It is best to only drink water between meals but if blood sugar levels drop before the next meal, freshly squeezed fruit juice, or a fruit smoothie, can be taken between meals until the body has recovered and is able to go without it. Eating whole, unrefined foods such as brown rice, whole wheat bread and wholewheat pasta (instead of white rice, white bread and white pasta) helps to keep blood sugar stable. Refined grains spike blood sugar levels, lack nutrients and may cause constipation.

 

🌺 Eating before bedtime can lead to fermentation and halitosis. Our last meal should be at least 3 hours, or more, before bedtime.

 

🌺 Drinking liquids with meals dilutes stomach acids, weakening digestion. We should drink liquids between meals.
 
🌺 Eating fruits and vegetables in the same meal can cause fermentation, since fruits digest quicker than vegetables. The digestion times of other plant foods (grains, legumes, nuts and seeds) are somewhere in-between fruits and vegetables, making them “neutral” and compatible with both fruits and vegetables: fruits can be eaten with grains, nuts, seeds and legumes (e.g. breakfast). Vegetables can also be eaten with grains, nuts, seeds and legumes (e.g. dinner). All plant foods are compatible except fruits and vegetables. Salad-like foods, such as cucumber, herbs, lettuce, sprouts, watercress, tomatoes, lemons, avocado and olives are “neutral”, and can be eaten with fruits or vegetables. Pineapple can also be tolerated with vegetables by some.

 

🌺 Vinegar (acetic acid) can lead to heartburn and acidity. Replace vinegar with fresh lemon, raw honey and natural sea/rock salt. Vinegar also interferes with starch digestion.

 

🌺 Refined foods and animal products lack of fiber, leading to constipation. Cow’s milk can cause digestive problems and allergies.

 

🌺 Antibiotics destroy healthy bacteria. Probiotics help to restore it.

 

🌺 Parasites can be treated with a safe remedy.

 

🌺 Soaking grains, nuts, seeds and legumes according to their required soaking times converts them from a dormant state to an active state (able to germinate) making them easier to digest.

 

🌺 Food intolerances (e.g. gluten) can cause inflammation in the bowel and body. If you are experiencing symptoms such as digestive discomfort, intestinal cramps, IBS, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heart palpitations after eating, tiredness, hair loss, itchy scalp, itchy skin, acne, insomnia, water retention, etc., it may be worth going for a food intolerance test, and to find good substitutes.

 

The 6-part series “Removing the Mystery Behind Disease”, listed on the Links page, contains more information on the keeping the digestive system healthy and recovering from physical ailments.

Problematic Foods, Beverages, Additives & Habits

🌺 Caffeine ~ “Stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system by caffeine puts the body in ‘fight or flight’ mode. In psychiatric in-patients, who can neither fight nor flee, sympathetic arousal will produce excitement and anxiety, which may result in behavioural disturbance (Kruger, 1996). In a study of long-stay psychiatric in-patients, switching to decaffeinated coffee for 3 weeks led to an improvement in anxiety, irritability and hostility, which was reversed when caffeine was reintroduced; reintroduction of caffeine also caused an increase in psychotic features.”  (It is best to switch to natural grain coffee rather than decaffeinated coffee.) 2

 

🌺 Chocolate ~ “Raw cacao contains over 300 naturally occurring chemicals and many of them are detrimental to the human body and mind when consumed on a regular basis… Raw cacao stimulates high levels of serotonin, endorphins and dopamine, three crucial neurotransmitters involved in regulating mood, pain, sleep and appetite, and the cycle of addiction… Overstimulation or mimicking of neurotransmitters causes the brain to cut back on production as it is tricked into thinking it has too many and this leads to depletion of neurotransmitters and tolerance… Many of these chemicals are also overstimulating to the autonomic nervous system and thrust the body into a state of fight or flight… All this impact on neurotransmitters and the autonomic nervous system has a detrimental impact on the adrenal glands because they cause overstimulation to this organ as well… Over time as the adrenal glands are called upon continuously to release these hormones, they burn out. They no longer produce cortisol as they should, which leads to adrenal fatigue and eventually exhaustion. Adrenal fatigue or exhaustion leads to many chronic health conditions and symptoms like excessive fatigue, inability to handle stress, anxiety, depression and many more.” 3

 

🌺 Alcohol, drugs and smoking (including natural drugs) ~ Alcohol, drugs and smoking affect brain function, memory and neurotransmitters. Alcohol and drugs can trigger anxiety, psychosis and depression. Studies revealed that drugs and alcohol shrink the prefrontal cortex due to volume loss, leading to mood problems, behavioural problems, impulsivity and lack of self-control.  

 

🌺 Sugar ~ Refined grains and sugar spike blood sugar levels, resulting in hypoglycemia, and other problems: “Noted British psychiatric researcher Malcolm Peet has conducted a provocative cross-cultural analysis of the relationship between diet and mental illness. His primary finding may surprise you: a strong link between high sugar consumption and the risk of both depression and schizophrenia. In fact, there are two potential mechanisms through which refined sugar intake could exert a toxic effect on mental health. First, sugar actually suppresses activity of a key growth hormone in the brain called BDNF. This hormone promotes the health and maintenance of neurons in the brain, and it plays a vital role in memory function by triggering the growth of new connections between neurons. BDNF levels are critically low in both depression and schizophrenia, which explains why both syndromes often lead to shrinkage of key brain regions over time… Second, sugar consumption triggers a cascade of chemical reactions in the body that promote chronic inflammation. Now, under certain circumstances (like when your body needs to heal a bug bite), a little inflammation can be a good thing, since it can increase immune activity and blood flow to a wound. But in the long term, inflammation is a big problem. It disrupts the normal functioning of the immune system, and wreaks havoc on the brain.” 4

 

 🌺 Aspartame ~ “We know that in a variety of psychiatric disorders there is a disturbance in the balance of certain neurotransmitters. Specifically, serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine and acetylcholine are all major players. Aspartame can affect the levels and balance of all these transmitters. It impairs the absorption of L-tryptophan, the major precursor in the synthesis of serotonin… It can both produce and aggravate depression, in certain patients it can trigger manic episodes, it can produce or aggravate panic attacks. Some of my patients have experienced a complete cessation of panic attacks and needed no further treatment after they completely eliminated aspartame from their diet. Certain schizophrenic patients have experienced fewer auditory hallucinations or needed less antipsychotic medication after the elimination of aspartame. It is essential that there be much greater awareness of the hazards of this highly toxic substance!” 5

 

🌺 Monosodium glutamate ~ MSG can cause “Depression, mood swings, rage reactions, migraine headache, dizziness, light-headedness, loss of balance, disorientation, mental confusion, anxiety, panic attacks, hyperactivity, behavioral problems in children, attention deficit disorders, lethargy, sleepiness, insomnia, numbness or paralysis, seizures, sciatica, slurred speech, chills and shakes, shuddering.” 6

 

🌺 Tartrazine ~ “The role of tartrazine in modulation of depression response has been formerly outlined in children where ingestion of tartrazine showed clinical depression, migraines and sleep disturbance (Rowe and Rowe, 1994). In addition, Novembre et al. (1992) reported two cases of unusual reactions to food additives (tartrazine and benzoates) involving mainly the central nervous system (headache, migraine, over-activity, learning difficulties and depression)… Tartrazine has been found to diminish the ability of vitamin B6 to function in critical biochemical pathways such as tryptophan/serotonin metabolism (Bender, 1999; Meletis, 1999; Russo et al., 2003). The results reported herein potently suggest the relevance of tartrazine in inducing harmful effects especially on behaviours related to anxiety and depression. This study also gives insight into the potential hazard of long term exposure to currently food-permitted colorants with increased incidence of psychological disorders and its co-morbidity impact on human health.” 7

 

🌺 Sodium Benzoate ~ “Sodium benzoate has received a lot of attention for its potential effects on hyperactivity and inattention, symptoms generally associated with children who have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. A study published in 2004 in the journal, “Archives of Disease in Childhood,” examined the effects of eliminating artificial colorings and benzoate preservatives for one week in children with hyperactivity… The researchers found a significant increase in hyperactive behavior in children who received the drink containing artificial coloring and sodium benzoate.” 8
 
Dietary and lifestyle changes should be made gradually, to prevent the body from detoxifying too quickly. 

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~ Natural is the way to go ~