Neurotransmitters, brain chemicals, are the means whereby the complex structures of your brain are turned into the conscious and unconscious workings of your mind. Several neurotransmitters have been tied to mood and depression. Furthermore, mental illnesses are clearly positioned as having a biological dimension as well as psychological.
When depression interferes with daily living, it can be considered a form of mental illness even if it is such feelings as loneliness, boredom, helplessness, alienation or hopelessness. Feeling sad from time to time is normal but losing interest in life signals depression.
Norepinephrine, seratonin, melatonin, dopamine, neuropeptides, and acetylcholine have been identified, so far, as mood altering brain chemicals.
The seratonin system in your brain is linked to a wide range of functions including appetite, sleep, sexual behavior, and pain perceptions. Reduced seratonin or dysfunction in its release in the brain causes a variety of mood disorders including depression, anxiety, lethargy, low self-esteem, lack of assertiveness, and impulsiveness. Increased levels of seratonin appear to enhance self-esteem, courage, assertiveness, calmness, flexibility, security, and resilience.
Melatonin, a derivative of seratonin, is linked to normal glandular, metabolic, and sleep cycles. Depression can result from low levels of this brain chemical.
Dopamine and acetylcholine may be influential in causing some types of affective disorders. Dopamine causes enhanced activity and aggression. Acetylcholine plays a role in our higher brain functioning. It exerts a suppressive effect on many automatic body functions, like slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure, and including memory. It is thought that inadequate levels of acetylcholine may cause or contribute to manias.
Neuropeptides are “site specific” neurotransmitters. Gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA), for example, has a receptor in the limbic system of your brain – the fear and anxiety center. Other neuropeptides have been linked to depression also. Research in this area is relatively new however.
Psychodietetics is the study of the effect of the foods we eat on our state of mind. But, mental disorders whether mild or severe all seem to have a connection to psychology, biology, and environment. It is believed that none of these alone cause mental disorders but all contribute.
Diseases of the body and mind rob us of quantity and quality of life. We need to do everything in our ability to improve our chances for a long, healthy, happy life.
And, if what we eat plays such a large role, don’t you think we should eat well?