The ability to feel strong, energetic, and healthy comes from healthy communication between the neurons in your brain. The way these neurons communicate is through chemicals that are made up of amino acids called neurotransmitters. They manage your mood, motivation, cravings, energy, libido, and sleep and establish your capacity to focus, retain information, and adapt to stressors around you. They are an essential component in the brain allowing for the neurons to fire, sending messages to one another about what is going on both internally and externally. This message system provides a way for your entire nervous system to interact. Your brain is made up of approximately 86 billion nerve cells, which means the functionality of the neurotransmitters is essential for overall healthy brain function. (1)
There are two kinds of neurotransmitters, excitatory and inhibitory. Excitatory neurotransmitters assist in nerve impulses firing, controlling motivation, excitement, and focus whereas inhibitory neurotransmitters decrease the ability for a nerve impulse to fire taking control of calming and relaxing the mind and body, inducing sleep, and helping to filter excess messages to the brain. The essential four neurotransmitters, which you have probably heard of are, serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine, and GABA.
Fact: It is estimated that 86% of the human population suffers from substandard neurotransmitter count.
Many people don’t realize they have a neurotransmitter imbalance, or a low neurotransmitter count, which causes mood disorders, ADD/ADHD, irritability, low sex drive, inability to focus or make decisions, lack of energy, and fatigue. This imbalance can be caused by alcohol, chronic stress, poor diet, lack of physical activity, drugs, smoking, and caffeine.
How To Increase Neurotransmitters
Once you recognize that you have a neurotransmitter imbalance, there are many ways to give your brain a boost to increase them naturally. You will notice significant improvements in your mood (depression, anxiety, and stress), overall performance, energy levels, and health.
Incorporate Brain-Boosting Foods
Neurotransmitters are made up of amino acids. One way to increase your neurotransmitter count is to consume foods that contain the essential amino acids and antioxidants your brain and the essential four neurotransmitters require. These foods include walnuts, flaxseeds, hemp and chia seeds, green leafy vegetables, tofu, sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seeds, fish, berries, ripe bananas, almonds, lentils, brown rice, beans, melons, poultry, meat, dairy products, wheat germs apples, avocados, beets, green tea, sea vegetables, and turmeric. It is also important to improve your digestion by balancing your microbiome by taking pre and probiotics as well as eating fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut. “The health of your gut microbiome is directly linked to your production and balance of neurotransmitters.” (3)
Practice an Active and Mindful Lifestyle
Exercise has proven to be essential for increasing neurotransmitters along with mindful practices such as meditation and yoga. All of these activities boost dopamine levels and improve performance, mood, and focus.
There are a wide variety of supplements you can take to balance your brain’s function like L-Tyrosine, Rhodiola, Mucuna, L-theanine (found in green tea), N-acetyl-cysteine, Ginko Biloba, and Curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric). (4) Before taking any supplements, consult your doctor for proper dosage and to see if there are any interactions with any supplements or medications you are taking.