Why You May Not Be Feeling Your Best?

The speaker at the podium has just called your name. As you rise from your seat and walk to the stage you’re smiling from ear to ear. You accept the award and begin your acceptance speech. The rest of the evening you continue to glow and bask in this incredible feeling of being recognized – you’re feeling your best and you’re high on life – nothing could bring you down at this moment.

Why is that?

That’s because you are high on serotonin. Yes, that’s right “high” – naturally high on life.

Serotonin* is a neurotransmitter that your neurons (brain cells) release when you feel significant or important. It’s your brains way of saying, “that was a good thing, do it again.”

Serotonin is really important to your well-being and too little of it is often associated with depression. In fact, most anti-depressants work by tricking your brain into thinking you have more serotonin then you really do.

The king of anti-depressants is the drug Ecstasy?  It causes your neurons to release massive amounts of serotonin (and to a lesser extent dopamine), which is why people feel REALLY good when they take it.

We are all chasing this high. Whether we do it naturally or taking illegal or prescription drugs; we all want to feel good.  Unfortunately a lot of people suffer from low levels of serotonin – can you really blame them for trying to change that?

I talk a lot about brain chemistry in my blog – mostly focusing on serotonin and dopamine and how you can increase them naturally.

But today I want to focus on a very frightening statistic, 86% of Americans have below average neurotransmitter levels – that’s almost 9 out of 10 people walking around feeling lonely, disconnected, depressed, unmotivated, uninspired and/or having low energy.  I find that horrifying!

There are a number of reasons for this: genetics, stress, alcohol, caffeine, prescribed and unprescribed medications, neurotoxins and/or poor diet.  Today I am going to focus on diet because it is critical to your well being.

If Your Body Can’t Make it Then You Have to Eat It

Your brain does not manufacture all of the necessary amino acids to make serotonin.  For example, the precursor to serotonin is tryptophan. Without tryptophan you can’t make serotonin, you have to get it from your food or take supplements. So you can be getting all the respect and recognition in the world, exercising all day long, cutting out alcohol and caffeine but if you don’t have tryptophan your brain can’t make serotonin. Therefore, no good feeling. 🙁

The same goes with dopamine* – which we need for focus, motivation and energy. You must have phenylalanine in order to make tyrosine, which then converts to dopamine. The only way to get phenylalanine is to ingest it.

The Worst Diet in the World

The American diet is arguably the worst diet in the world for your brain and waist line.  Most of the American diet isn’t even real food – it’s just processed chemicals and crap – not what your brain needs.

Please don’t think for one minute your kids are going to be geniuses on Cheerios and Lunchables – giving your kids processed foods is one of the worst things you could do for them.

Meanwhile most adults are walking around in a low-energy fog, dragging themselves from Starbucks to Starbucks just to get a quick hit to keep going.

This is not living – it’s barely existing.

We need good food for our brain to function properly and to feel good.  Don’t you want to feel good naturally?  Of course you do.  We all do.

So if you want to feel good, motivated and energized then make sure you’re taking in the nutrients your brain needs to give you that feeling.

What food groups contain the most amount of phenylalanine and tryptophan? Think protein: meat, fish, nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, beans and eggs.  Processed meats do not count!

It’s critical we eat real food for our brain and body to be healthy.  If you’re feeling anxious, easily distracted, tired all the time or depressed – take a look at your diet.  Are you giving your brain what it needs to make you feel happy, focused, motivated and energized?

It’s so simple – give your brain what it needs and in turn it will give you the neurotransmitters you need to feel good.

*Both serotonin and dopamine have many other functions beyond what I’ve described here.

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