Choosing food as medicine to support & help with brain feels
Just like our body, our brain also sends us messages and insight into what’s going on under the hood. We experience anxiety, fuzziness, fatigue, irritability, aggression, numbness - just to name a few.
What you choose to eat, can act as medicine for such brain feels, helping to restore harmony and balance to the brain and your emotions, function and moods as a result.
As discussed in our anxiety blog & episode, certain foods have an antagonising and arousing effects – with Glutamate being the primary neurotransmitter (NT) being synthesis from L-glutamic acid, which is found in foods containing MSG (monosodium glutamate), flavourings and slow cooked foods (see full list of foods at the bottom). .
Caffeine although not contributing to glutamate production, does stimulate the nervous system, and along with glutamate forming foods and amino acids, increases the speed of nerve impulses and neuronal activity – hence why we’re “charged up” and are thinking fast, moving fast, feeling irritated, annoyed and anxious.
The opposite are foods rich in GABA, a calming and soothing neurotransmitter, that is synthesised from L-glutamine (a similar molecule to L-glutamic acid).
Glutamine is actually made from L-glutamic acid by the body, requiring zinc, vitamin B6 and L-theanine (see full list of foods at the bottom), but conversion can be blunted by increased stress - with stress ranging from inflammation within the body, psychological stress, environmental stress, over training, lack of sleep, etc etc. STRESS IS ALL AROUND US, so it’s safe to say most of us could be experiencing a lack of glutamine conversion.
These two NT play an important role in our brain feels, but they’re not the only guys holding the cards.
Our microbiome also massively influences our brain feels. Our energy, ATP, that fuels our cells is relient on the nutrients eaten and absorbed within the small intestine, and the bacteria in our gut that produce SCFA (short chain fatty acids) to create energy also.
These bacteria can be friends or foes, providing our mitochondria with the nutrients they require to produce cellular energy, or steal it, and use it themselves leaving our cells starved of fuel.
Not only that, but the bacteria in our gut is directly linked to our brain via the Vagus nerve - sending messages and influencing chemical signalling and hormone release, impacting our mood, function, emotions and personality.
Processed foods and high sugary, refined foods encourage the growth of bacteria that create havoc, inflammation, and tend to be high in L-glutamic acid, which cause us to gain weight, feel foggy, anxious, moody, irritable, lazy, sluggish and unmotivated.
Real whole foods, spices and herbs encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria species, which provide our mitochondria with fuel, decrease inflammation, produce serotonin (happy hormone) and help to maintain homeostasis and balance.
There’s lots of reason we experience anxiety, which we cover indepth in a previous blog & episode (link). Foods that help to alleviate anxiety are rich in magnesium, potassium, zinc and B vitamins – cacao (raw cocoa), pumpkin seeds, green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, swiss chard, arugula), legumes, almonds, walnuts, avocado, banana, wild-caught fish, bone broth, organic whole grains (soaked and sprouted) and reishi mushroom.
Mush / fuzzy
If your brain feels mushy and fuzzy, along with eating gut loving foods, ferments (kombucha, krauts), eating L-Tyrosine rich foods to boost dopamine conversion the NT involved in attention, focus and memory is a good move. Nuts, seeds, grass-fed meats, sustainable seafood, legumes, avocado and banana’s are rich in tyrosine.
L-Theanine is involved in GABA creation, and can help to calm down an overactive mind and nervous system, so consuming matcha, green tea and lion’s mane medicinal mushroom.
Sluggish / down
If you’re feeling sluggish and down, eating more iron rich foods can help. Low iron is linked with depression, fatigue and irregular moods. Iron rich foods include kelp, grass-fed meat, chickpeas & legumes, pumpkin seeds, nuts, seeds, avocado, asparagus, kale and spirulina.
Wired & tired
Being wired and tired brain-wise is to do with sleep and your circadian rhythm (check out blog & episode all about that). Amongst eating GABA rich foods to help with promoting sleep, incorporating calming and grounding foods following Ayurvedic principles includes root vegetables (sweet potato, beetroot, pumpkin, carrots), nuts and seeds and complex carbohydrates, like quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, potatoes, white rice.
Angry / agitated
If you experience random bursts of anger or feel agitated, consuming cooling foods such as cucumber, celery, berries, apples, summer fruits, spinach, zucchini, white rice, coriander, fennel and activated nuts.
Also consuming vitamin C rich foods (which all those foods are) to help clear out histamines from the body, which can cause irritation, reducing caffeine and stimulants, and pineapple that contains bromelain a digestive enzyme to help break down histamine and reduce inflammation.
Water is your best friend. We’re 70% water, give or take. So making sure you’re adequaltey hydrated helps with fatigue, memory and mood – via detoxification pathways and everything else. 0.33L x every kg of body weight is how you figure out how much water for you, e.g 0.33 x 75kg = 2.47L
It’s also important to realise during certain periods and phases of your life, such as higher stressful periods, increased training, when we have our period ladies, that we require more nutrients, sleep and supplementing can help to fill those gaps also, to support brain health and brain feels.
Increasing all the foods listed, and supplementing with magnesium, activated B vitamins and zinc are ideal.
Tune into your brain feels – be aware, conscious of your thought and emotions and take notes metaphorically (or literally) of whats going. Have you been consuming foods, thoughts or ideas that are aggravating or alleviating the brain feels? And just make your own assessments and adjust accordingly. Additionally, ask for help, for advice, for support, work with someone to support and guide you through figuring out if you have any micronutrient deficiencies, gut or hormonal imbalances that are attributing or even, causing, your brain feels.
One love xxx
Glutamate rich Foods:
Slow cooked foods (stews, soups)
MSG latened: noodles, chips, Chinese food, soy sauce, stocks, frozen dinners, cold cut meats, condiments like gravy, anything “hydrolysed” including whey and soy protein.
GABA forming foods:
Lentils ( soaked& sprouted)
Legumes (soaked & sprouted)
Brown rice (soaked & sprouted)
And good, high quality protein sources (like grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish, organic eggs, and organic tempeh).
Also notice how all these foods are real, whole foods? And antagonising foods are all processed and refined?