Immune Health and Neurotransmitter Function: What You Need to Know

Fun fact: a hijacked immune system means hijacked neurotransmitters, especially in the case of tryptophan.

The primary pathway for tryptophan metabolism in the body is the kynurenine pathway, needed for supporting inflammation and immune function in case of virus or infection. In fact, tryptophan is so crucial for fighting inflammation that a recent study on mice found that mice who consumed diets low of tryptophan have altered gut bacteria and increased inflammation.

Tryptophan is needed for so many functions in the body. We need tryptophan to make serotonin, which definitely has an impact on mental well-being. We need it for sleep support, as serotonin flips the switch to melatonin at night, and we even need tryptophan to regulate GI function.

Tryptophan plays an important role for those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as well, so if the immune system is under attack, or the body is dealing with any other threat, tryptophan may not be available to support mood health. This is often referred to as the “tryptophan steal.” Some studies even suggest supplementing with tryptophan may be just as effective as taking an antidepressant to ward of seasonal depression. This make sense, because SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) work on the synapses of the brain to keep serotonin available for longer. If the body isn’t getting tryptophan to make serotonin, there isn’t much available to “inhibit reuptake.”

You can support tryptophan by focusing on getting more tryptophan rich food into your diet or by taking a tryptophan supplement, but I advise you to check with a professional before adding in a supplement like tryptophan.

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Tryptophan-rich foods I love and how I incorporate them:

Bananas – Not only do they contain tryptophan, they are a great source of B6, needed for the metabolism of tryptophan. I love having bananas on hand to eat with peanut butter, throw in a smoothie, or add to oatmeal or chia pudding. Which leads to…

Oats – I love making overnight oats, using a cup of liquid, 1/4 cup oats, nuts and seeds, protein powder, all mixed in a jar and put in the fridge overnight or for a few hours. I also love making power balls with a mixture of oats, peanut butter, honey, and other add-ins like coconut and chocolate chips. My boys help me roll the mixture into balls and set in fridge. Usually it gets eaten immediately!

Chocolate – The darker the chocolate, the higher the amount of antioxidants and tryptophan. I love a square in the evening, or mid-afternoon if I’m having a craving for something comforting. I love dipping a square in organic peanut butter (with one ingredient: peanuts).

Dairy – This is when quality goes a long way. For those who can tolerate dairy, looking for full fat, grass-fed and organic dairy will give the most nutrient value. Because dairy is such a staple in the American diet, I don’t need to specify how to incorporate it. But be sure you tolerate it well and the quality is top notch, or you won’t be getting the full benefits.

Tuna – Quality is extremely important in all seafood, due to water contamination. Look for wild-caught, sustainable versons, especially when you’re looking for shelf stable tuna to mix as tuna salad.

Various nuts and seeds – Pumpkin seeds are great sources to throw on a salad, while I love adding chia and flax seeds to my kids’ oatmeal or yogurt. Cashews and pistachios have more tryptophan than peanuts, but organic peanut butter is such a great quick source and can be added to anything to up the flavor (I’ve even drizzled it onto my stir fry dishes).

Chicken/Turkey – Always look for pasture-raised, antibiotic-free sources. For turkey, this is particularly challenging, so I usually stick to chicken.

Because we are in the middle of cold/flu season, our bodies are constantly fighting viruses and our immune systems are more vigilant than ever. Those with more adipose tissue will carry a higher viral load, so it is extremely important to load up on tryptophan-rich foods as much as possible.

If you’re curious to know more about tryptophan and how to supplement with it, message me. I’d love to support you as you support your neurotransmitters this season!

Innovations in Psychiatry for ADHD, Depression, PTSD, and Anxiety

Recent estimates show that one in five Americans takes a psychiatric medication for depression or anxiety. Studies also show that two-thirds of people don’t respond to or have negative effects from current psychiatric treatment options. Another recent study highlighted the fact that SSRIs only work in 15% of people with depression, when you take away the placebo effect. I have written much on the topic of the “chemical imbalance” theory of depression, and where it falls short in application.

All this information can make the task of seeking help for your mental health extremely daunting and discouraging – especially when you are in crisis. This podcast interview with Dr. Brent Turnipseed is devoted to breaking down the innovations in holistic psychiatry.

Dr. Brent Turnipseed is the Co-Founder of Austin-based Roots Behavioral Health. Dr. Brent Turnipseed, Roots’ Medical Director, is a board-certified psychiatrist with a deep interest in innovative approaches to providing behavioral healthcare. Brent is on the Scientific Advisory Board for Ninnion Therapeutics and previously practiced psychiatry in clinical and law enforcement settings in Texas.

Download and listen to this episode here, or find wherever you get podcasts.

Continue reading “Innovations in Psychiatry for ADHD, Depression, PTSD, and Anxiety”

Why You Need More Protein for Your Mental Health

In light of the new research being published on mental health, this episode is important! Our brains need key nutrients to function, and if we want to support the root cause of brain balance, we need to be aware of what nutrients we need. Because protein is crucial for building our neurotransmitters, it takes the primary focus in this podcast episode.

Christina T. Veselak, MS, CN, LMFT, is the founder and director of the Academy for Addiction and Mental Health Nutrition which teaches practitioners around the world how to use diet, along with amino acid and nutrient therapy to help prevent cravings and recurrent use by restoring neurotransmitter function and keeping blood sugar in balance. She has been a licensed psychotherapist working in the SUD treatment field since 1985 and a certified nutritionist specializing in mental health and addiction recovery since 1993.

Download and listen to this episode here or find wherever you get podcasts.

Continue reading “Why You Need More Protein for Your Mental Health”

New Research on the Serotonin Theory of Depression – My Takeaways

The serotonin theory of depression has been extremely pervasive in how we discuss mental health, though no comprehensive review has ever fully broken down the relevant evidence. 

At first glance, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) method of keeping serotonin in our synapses longer is pretty revolutionary.

But that’s assuming that an issue with serotonin at the brain level is what is causing depression.

Unfortunately, current research is showing that depression and mood issues are not simply related to serotonin alone. There are MANY other factors at play, chronic inflammation being a key role, along with other epigenetic drivers.

While over 77 million Americans are prescribed psychotropic drugs in the US (which is a number greater than any other developed country), with 45 million on antidepressants, we still have climbing rates of depression and anxiety, and prescriptions are being written for children as young as two. 

A new systematic review and meta-analysis, published this week in Molecular Psychiatry, suggests that depression isn’t a chemical imbalance of serotonin or really anything to do with low serotonin at all.

Continue reading “New Research on the Serotonin Theory of Depression – My Takeaways”

Mental Health Solutions: Where Are We Now?

We are in the middle of a serious mental health epidemic (I feel like a broken record when I repeat that statement). More and more people are suffering from anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses that ever before. We have medication and talk therapy, but how many people are actually receiving relief from their symptoms and actually getting better?

This recent podcast episode with Dr. Josh Friedman tackles why we are stalled in our current mental health care treatments, and he proposes ways to get unstuck.

Dr. Josh Friedman earned his doctorate in Psychology from New York University and did post-doctoral training in Psychoanalysis from the Training and Research Institute for Self Psychology (TRISP) in New York City. After working in the field for a few years, he realized that something was missing from traditional mental health treatment. Curiosity and a chance meeting led him to discover the world of Nutritional Psychology, which teaches that many psychological issues are caused or made worse by underlying biochemical/nutritional deficiencies. Dr. Josh started Alternative Mental Health Solution to help people find and fix the ROOT cause of their mental health struggles.

Download this episode here or find wherever you get podcasts.

Continue reading “Mental Health Solutions: Where Are We Now?”

Getting to the Root of Anxiety with Trudy Scott

Trudy Scott is a Food-Mood Expert and Certified Nutritionist who educates anxious individuals about nutritional solutions for anxiety. She is the author of The Antianxiety Food Solution and host of The Anxiety Summit, an online educational platform for both consumers and health professionals.

The Anxiety Summit 6: Toxins, Meds and Infections is airing November 2-8, 2020 and you can register for free here.

In this episode, we dive into the root causes of anxiety. It will challenge you to rethink the common everyday items in your life and how they are contributing to your mental function. As Trudy says, “A lot of people think of anxiety as only being a psychological thing… but there are underlying factors that trigger anxiety.”

Key topics include:

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    • Fluoride’s impact on mental health and GABA levels
    • The health foods that hurt us

    • Common medications and infections that trigger anxiety

    • Which amino acids benefit mental health symptoms and how to use them

    • How hormones impact neurotransmitters – The negative impacts of Accutane and Miralax

    • What pthalates are and how they affect anxiety

    • How “fragrance is the new smoking”

    • Other supportive tools for healing anxiety 

    Learn more about Trudy Scott at her website: http://www.everywomanover29.com

    Her Facebook page is called Trudy Scott Antianxiety Food Solution.

    This episode is sponsored by Swanson Health. Use the code Whole20 to receive 20% off supplements sitewide at swanson.com.

    Nutritional Psychiatry: Your Brain on Food

    “People don’t make the connection between how they eat and how they feel emotionally through the brain. They don’t realize there is a connection to food and the brain and emotional well-being.”

    Dr. Uma Naidoo is a board certified psychiatrist, professional chef, and nutrition specialist. She is the director of Nutritional and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and also on faculty at Harvard Medical School.

    In this fascinating episode, we discuss her exciting new book, This Is Your Brain On Food, which I highly recommend. Listen to the entire episode and subscribe wherever you get podcasts or listen here.

    Key topics of our conversation include:

    • img_0728a.wDr. Naidoo’s journey as a psychiatrist and professional chef
    • How what we eat affects our brain
    • The origin of the gut/brain connection
    • The rise of mental health concerns
    • Food to avoid for mental well-being
    • Inflammatory foods
    • Orthorexia and food obsession
    • How to add more diversity in your diet
    • The impact of caffeine and alcohol on mental health
    • So much more!

    Learn more about Dr. Naidoo here.
    Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @drumanaidoo

    Find her book on Amazon or your favorite bookstore. This book is so helpful and needs to be part of your mental health library!

    My Top 5 Mood-Boosting Foods

    I take eating for my mental health seriously. I don’t prescribe to a specific diet or style of eating, but there are numerous studies out there showing that food IS mood. For those of us who fight a mood disorder of any kind, the way we eat can impact brain health.

    Because our gut microbiome produces necessary neurotransmitters like dopamine and GABA, plus 90% of our mood neurotransmitter serotonin, what we digest in our gut matters. What we feed our gut impacts what our brain receives.

    Not all things will be digested equally by all people. Every BODY is unique, just like every brain is unique. But generally speaking, the foods I list here can be a wonderful addition to any body and brain!

    Here are 5 of my favorite mood-boosters that I always try to add to my day:

    Continue reading “My Top 5 Mood-Boosting Foods”

    How Food is Mood – Interview with Ali Miller, RD

    Ali Miller is a registered dietitian, integrative functional medicine practitioner, and author of Naturally Nourished, The Anti-Anxiety Diet, and The Anti-Anxiety Diet Cookbook.

    In this episode we discuss the concept of food as mood, how neurotransmitters play a role in gut health, and how your stress response affects your overall health – from mental wellness to reproductive function to immune health.

    She explains the 6 approaches she takes to restoring our bodies to their rightful state, how to biohack our bodies and create metabolic flexibility – and simple tools to reducing panic and anxiety during times of stress.

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    Key topics covered in this episode:

    • Blood sugar regulation is key to balancing mood.
    • The imbalance of our stress response in the HPA axis and how “the body has to feel safe to do well.”
    • Reduce inflammation, reset the microbiome, repair the gut lining, restore micronutrients, rebound the adrenal glands, and rebalance neurotransmitters.
    • What excessive screen time does for our dopamine.
    • How 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut and why probiotics can be nature’s Prozac.
    • Breath is the most powerful way to harness the HPA axis and how to use mantras.
    • How she uses a strategic ketogenic approach with her clients and the reasons it has been beneficial for so many of them.

    To download and listen to the full episode, click here. For the link to iTunes, click here.

    To learn more about Ali and her work, head to http://www.alimillerrd.com or check out her podcast at http://www.naturallynourishedrd.com.