In today's fast-paced world, experiencing periods of low moods or fleeting moments of unhappiness is not uncommon. It's a shared experience that touches lives across the globe, with research revealing the widespread impact of mental health challenges. Approximately 42.5% of adults in Ireland experience at least one of the 12 mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or insomnia. (1) In 2019, around one in eight people worldwide, totalling 970 million individuals, were living with a mental disorder, with anxiety and depressive disorders being the most prevalent. (2) (3)
Life's daily challenges, stressors, and even environmental factors can take a toll on your emotional well-being. Low moods can be a signal from your body that it's time to pay attention to your overall health. If you've ever wondered how nutrition can play a pivotal role in boosting your happy hormones, you're on the right track to uncovering a powerful solution! The journey to a happier, more balanced you begins with understanding the connection between nutrition and your mood. A Nutritional Therapist can help you navigate this intricate landscape, ensuring you choose foods that promote the release of happy hormones, and introduce you to some easy lifestyle considerations to get you started on your journey to a brighter mood.
The Happy Hormones
The hormones serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphins are recognised for their ability to induce feelings of happiness and, at times, euphoria. The exciting news is that you can increase the levels of these uplifting hormones while simultaneously reducing stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline through simple lifestyle adjustments. Below is what each hormone does in the body.
Known as the "feel-good" hormone, serotonin is primarily produced in the gut and acts as a natural mood booster.
Often called "the cuddle hormone" or "the love drug," oxytocin is triggered by closeness and plays a vital role in facilitating childbirth.
Called "the pleasure hormone" and "the happy hormone," dopamine is a motivational molecule made in the gut.
Often referred to as "the runner's hormone". Endorphins act as natural painkillers. It is released in response to pain or stress and comes in about 20 different types.
The Gut-Hormone Connection
Did you know that there is a link between the health of your gut microbiome and hormones? In fact, 95% of your body’s serotonin (the "feel-good" hormone) is produced in the gut! (4) Hormone production and regulation are significantly influenced by the gut microbiome. When your gut health isn’t at its best, your hormones become imbalanced. This imbalance can lead to difficult symptoms, like mood swings, weight gain, and acne.
Your gut and brain are also intimately connected, and this relationship plays a pivotal role in your mood. Because of the gut-brain axis, improving gut health has been shown to be one of the most efficient ways to improve mental wellness. (5) The gut is often referred to as the "second brain" due to its influence on neurotransmitters, which are essential for regulating mood. A healthy and well-balanced gut can positively impact your mood and emotional well-being. Improving nutrition and lifestyle is key to nurturing a healthy gut, which in turn supports a positive mood. Good gut health is a journey, and this is where the support of a Nutritional Therapist can be invaluable!
How Diet Can Boost The Happy Hormones
A good quality diet and optimised nutrition really hold the key to boosting these happy hormones and lowering the stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. The role of nutritional deficiencies in someone's mental well-being often goes unnoticed.
Vitamins & Minerals
Low levels of essential vitamins and minerals can lead to mental health issues like mood swings and depression. (6) (7) Certain foods contain nutrients and compounds that can either uplift or dampen your spirits. For example, probiotic bacteria can use prebiotic fibre to produce serotonin.
Polyphenols are antioxidants found in certain foods and drinks that can lower cortisol and protect brain cells from oxidative stress and inflammation, potentially improving mood.
Omega-3 fatty acids can influence your happy hormones by supporting the production and function of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Research shows that certain omega-3 fatty acids may lower your risk of depression. (8)
Tryptophan and tyrosine are essential amino acids obtained from our diet, and they serve as precursors for key neurotransmitters. Tryptophan is crucial for serotonin production, linked to feelings of happiness and well-being. Tyrosine, on the other hand, is a precursor for dopamine, associated with pleasure and motivation.
With the guidance of a Nutritional Therapist, you can learn how to incorporate these key nutrients into your diet to boost your happy hormones.
The Path to a Happier You
Nutrition and lifestyle both have a profound impact on your mood and emotional well-being. While improving your overall diet can boost your happy hormones, the journey to a happier you is highly individual. A Nutritional Therapist can assess your unique needs and create a personalised nutrition and lifestyle plan to improve your emotional health and well-being.
- State of Ireland's mental health: findings from a nationally representative survey. Hyland, P., et al. e47, s.l. : Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci, 2022, Vol. 31.
- IHME. GBD: Results. IHME website. [Online] 2019. [Cited: 11 October 2023.] https://vizhub.healthdata.org/gbd-results/.
- WHO. Mental disorders. World Health Organisation. [Online] 8 June 2022. [Cited: 11 October 2023.] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-disorders.
- The Gut-Brain Axis: Influence of Microbiota on Mood and Mental Health. Appleton, J. 4, s.l. : Integr Med (Encinitas), 2018, Vol. 17, pp. 28-32.
- Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. Clapp, M., et al. 4, s.l. : Clin Pract., Vol. 7, p. 987.
- WebMD. What to Know About Vitamins and Mental Health. WebMD. [Online] 09 April 2023. [Cited: 11 October 2023.] https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/what-to-know-about-vitamins-and-mental-health.
- Mayo, K. 5 Common Nutritional Deficiencies in Mental Health Problems. Amen Clinics. [Online] 10 May 2022. [Cited: 11 October 2023.] https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/5-common-nutritional-deficiencies-in-mental-health-problems/.
- Healthline. 9 healthy foods that lift your mood. Healthline. [Online] 5 February 2020. [Cited: 11 October 2023.] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mood-food.