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Managing your Mood: Supplements that help maintain the brain's delicate balance
There are some health conditions that are universal: whether you are in Singapore or anywhere else in the world, sometimes we feel that we have no control over our emotional well-being.
Sometimes, you wake up on the wrong side of the bed and your emotions are all over the place. For some people, every day is a struggle, and for others, it is the beginning of a roller coaster ride of euphoric highs and devastating lows.
While there are many psychological factors that are at play, it can be possible that chemical imbalances in our brains are the reason behind these changes. In the past, the understanding of the chemical pathways of brain has been lacking, but recently, we better understand the effects that these imbalances have on mood, stress, depression and anxiety, and how we can better manage them.
These chemicals are referred to as “neurotransmitters” as they transmit signals between different parts of the nervous system. Together with hormones, they help regulate functions and tell the body and mind how to behave or react to different situations. For instance the hormone adrenaline is produced when the brain senses danger, and activates muscles to prepare the body for “fight or flight”.
It is important to have an understanding of the different chemicals and hormones that affect mood and which conditions they cause, in order to manage them.
Glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter found in the brain, meaning that it turns pathways on. It plays an important role in learning and memory. Having abnormal glutamate levels can lead to diseases like Alzheimer’s, depression and schizophrenia and may lead to psychosis.
Supplements to help promote healthy glutamate levels in check include green tea, vitamin D3, magnesium and omega 3s.
Serotonin has commonly been known as the “happy chemical” is another neurotransmitter found in the brain which helps with calming the mood, regulates sleep and appetite and is protective against stress and anxiety. Low serotonin levels can lead to anxiety, panic attacks, depression, insomnia and loss of libido.
Supplements to help keep serotonin levels balanced include Sam-e, Tryptophan, 5-HTP, Folate, vitamin B6, B12 and D, St. John’s Wort and Omega 3.
Gamma-Aminobutyric acid, or GABA for short, is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, meaning that it turns pathways off. It is responsible for reducing brain excitability. Linked closely to serotonin levels, having low levels of GABA has been associated with OCD, ADHD, anxiety, PMS and muscle stiffness.
Supplements to help keep GABA at optimal levels include GABA, Passion Flower, L-theanine, vitamin B6, zinc and inositol.
Norepinephrine is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter that is found in the body and released in times of stress to heighten the level of alertness and arousal. It also speeds up reaction time. Low levels of Norepinephrine have been linked to ADHD and depression.
Supplements to help support optimal Norepinephrine levels include tyrosine, L-theanine, inositol and omega 3.
Dopamine is another neurotransmitter which is found in the brain and is important in the control movements that result in reward. Therefore, it is known as the “reward chemical.” It is responsible in focussing attention and enhancing the feeling of pleasure.
Supplements to help keep dopamine at healthy levels in include tyrosine, L-theanine, B vitamins, St. John’s wort, ginkgo and omega 3s.
CRH / Cortisol:
Cortisol is a hormone that is found in the body and released by the adrenal glands and is released in response to stress and low sugar levels. Low levels of cortisol are vital for the body, however, when these levels are high for a prolonged period of time, it can lead to obesity, diabetes, degenerative brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and memory loss.
Supplements that help keep cortisol levels in check include B vitamins, antioxidants, herbal adaptogens, mangosteen, phosphatidylserine and L-theanine.