Depression is a term that many of you might have heard about. But how many of you know about it? Some people consider it as a mental stage that everybody goes through at some point of time in their lives. Others believe that it is a human frailty faced by the emotionally weak and vulnerable. 

Well, the truth is that over 300 million people from various parts of the world suffer from depression, according to a latest statistical report by World Health Organisation (WHO).

Many popular personalities, like Selena Gomez and Deepika Padukone, have already opened up about their struggles with depression.

Considering the seriousness of the problem, British royals Prince William and Prince Harry along with Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton launched a mental health charity program called Heads Together. The campaign encourages many people to come forward and discuss their struggles with depression.

Depression can strike anyone. So, it is important to know how depression is caused. Scientifically, it is described as a “mental disorder” that is caused due to an “abnormal chemistry in the brain”.  This abnormal brain chemistry is triggered by the chemical messengers called neurotransmitters.

What are neurotransmitters?

Neurotransmitters are packets of chemical molecules in the brain that help the nerve cells to communicate with each other. They play vital roles in several processes of our body, including sleep, mood, memory, and emotions. Neurotransmitters also play important roles in connecting brain and spinal cord with other parts of the body, such as glands, muscles, and organs.

So, an imbalance in neurotransmitters can lead to many health problems, like obesity, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, pain, mood disorders, hormonal imbalances, brain fog and behavioral disturbances.

Although it’s true that those neurotransmitter imbalances must be diagnosed and treated at the right time, you don’t really have to depend on medications for it. Restoration of proper balance in neurotransmitters could be done by consuming nutrient-rich foods. Vitamins, minerals and amino acids play vital roles in treating the imbalance in neurotransmitters.

Before getting into the details of neurotransmitter and nutrition,  let’s look at different types of neurotransmitters. 

Norepinephrine

It is also known as noradrenaline or noradrenaline. Norepinephrine is a chemical released by the sympathetic nervous system during stress. Therefore, it is at its highest point during a stressful situation and lowest while in sleep.

It increases the heart rate and blood pressure in the body and also increases the release of glucose. An elevation in Norepinephrine could make you hyperactive, anxious and vigilant. On the other end, low level of these neurotransmitters may make you unmotivated, miserable and foggy.

GABA

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is known to be an important mood regulator. It plays a significant role in calming the neurotransmitters located in the central nervous system. It is also a type of protein molecule that receives signals from outside of a cell.

An imbalance in GABA can lead to many problems, including sleepiness and high level of anxiety. While a high level of GABA can lead to brain fog and sluggishness, a decline in it can cause irritability and restlessness.

Dopamine

It functions as neurotransmitters in the brain that is transferred through neurons. It also acts as the local chemical messenger outside the central nervous system. It is synthesized locally and releases to the nearest cells. Dysfunctioning of dopamine causes various diseases related to nervous system.

While a rapid increase in dopamine can lead to hallucination, agitation, frank psychosis, and delusions, a decrease in this neurotransmitter can cause lack of motivation, low energy, poor concentration and difficulty in completing a task.

Serotonin

It is a type of monoamine neurotransmitters. It is a contributor to happiness and well being.  A decline in Serotonin can lead to depression and compulsive behavior mainly because it is known for sustaining high levels of stress, inflammation, poor nutrition, and sleeplessness.

Acetylcholine

Acetylcholine is released by the parasympathetic nervous system and helps the body to relax after a stressful situation. It also plays a vital role in memory, attention, arousal, and motivation.  

Acetylcholine helps the muscles to contract and thereby exercises motor control. The body parts that get affected by these are known as cholinergic. 

Glutamate

It is referred to as anion of glutamic acid in neuroscience. It acts as primary neurotransmitters for some local brain regions.

These neurotransmitters are also involved in cognitive functions, such as memory and learning. They play a vital role in growth cones and synaptogenesis during brain development.

Improve Neurotransmitters Levels and Fight Depression Naturally

Before you begin your special diet for raising the levels of neurotransmitters in your body, you must find out which neurotransmitter you are deficient in.  For that you don’t really have to go for a diagnosis, you just need to keep a track of your symptoms.

For example, you could experience mood swings and lack of motivation if you are suffering from a deficiency in norepinephrine. To improve the condition, you can add pumpkin seeds, almonds, and avocados in your diet. They will help you in fighting your fevers and improving your mood.

Meanwhile, you can try including poultry wheat germs, dairy products, and brussels sprouts in your diet if you are struggling with memory loss and lack of concentration. They are caused due to a decline in Acetylcholine levels in your body.

If you are suffering from insomnia and hallucination, you must include sesame seeds, citrus fruits, berries, bananas, fish and spirulina in your diet. They play an important role in improving your dopamine levels.

For raising GABA levels you can consume almonds, lentils, brown rice, beans, cantaloupes, and oranges.

Lastly, you must include bananas, mangoes, kiwis, turkey, walnuts, chia seeds, sesame seeds, and brown rice in your diet. These food items play an important role in improving the Serotonin level in your body.

Although tea and coffee are stimulants and deplete neurotransmitters in the longer term, if taken in moderation they can lift your mood. Yogurt also aids in the production of neurotransmitters. Try to eat more of whole grains, easily digestible proteins, vegetables, and fruits and you cannot go wrong with your mood.

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