The role of nutrition in mental health is vastly underappreciated. Even though the research is now undeniable, nutritional support for mental health is still not widely recognized. Of course, this is a complex topic. But it’s generally accepted that good mental health requires proper neurotransmitter metabolism and activity. That’s where nutrition comes in.
Neurotransmitters are made from nutrients
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that the brain uses to regulate many critical functions, including heart rate, breathing, sleep, digestion, and mood. The raw materials the body needs to produce most neurotransmitters are nutrients – amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that we get from our diet.
The nutrients for neurotransmitter production come from the foods we eat
Serotonin is produced from tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid found in poultry, red meat, pork, fish, dairy and soy products, beans, nuts, seeds, and eggs. In addition, the final step in serotonin metabolism requires Vitamin B-6 as a co-factor.
Dopamine requires the amino acid tyrosine. Tyrosine is found in animal and plant proteins (such as those listed under tryptophan above), as well as iron and folate.
Norepinephrine is produced from dopamine with the help of copper. Shellfish, nuts and seeds, and whole grains are all great sources of dietary copper.
GABA synthesis requires zinc and B-6. Zinc is found in shellfish, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy. Good food sources of B-6 include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
These are just a few examples of the role of nutrients in neurotransmitter synthesis. Of course, there are other factors that influence neurotransmitter levels. Not surprisingly, genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors all play a role as well. However, healthy nutrition lays the foundation for good mental health and is the factor most within our control.
Nutrition is the mental health risk factor most within our control
Improving diet (and supplementing key nutrients to address deficiencies as needed) can make a significant positive difference in mental health. If you’d like personalized nutritional support to balance mood and mental health, I’d love to connect with you. Contact me or set up a complimentary Wellness Discovery Session via my bookings page.