2 Being Well
Digestion, Health and Nutrition

Proteins Role in Brain Chemistry

Because amino acids make vital chemical messengers for use in the brain, inadequate protein intake or insufficient amino acid absorption can result in poor mental function such as an inability to focus, feeling blocked and scattered or having a short attention span. Emotional balance can be affected allowing depression and anxiety to overwhelm or result in emotional eating or other dysfunctional eating habits .

Emotional eating is generally associated with either imbalanced brain chemistry or an emotional wound. There are several things that may contribute to imbalances in brain chemistry:

  1. Protein deficiency. This may occur from failure to eat enough protein rich foods or from inadequate digestive enzyme activity that can lead to poor protein absorption
  2. Prolonged stress. Stores of brain chemicals are used up during periods of prolonged stress. When your body’s own natural pain relievers, sedatives or stimulants are used up you may find yourself eating foods that deliver similar effects of these waning brain chemicals.
  3. Inhibition of the production of the brains natural chemicals . Over consumption of food products such as sugar and refined carbohydrates or using addictive substances decreases your own natural mood enhancing brain chemicals.
  4. Inherited deficiencies. Certain genes program the amount of vital mood chemicals our brain needs for healthy, balanced emotions. Parents who have low supplies of naturally stimulating or sedating brain chemicals can pass these deficiencies along to their children, resulting in children who are anxious, depressed or become those who abuse food or alcohol as a substitute for the brain chemicals they need.

Sometimes it is difficult to know if emotional eating is set off by unbalanced physiology or by a need for emotional comfort. In evaluating the source of the use of junk food or overeating, look first to see what emotions may be attached to what, to when and to why you eat. If you think there is a mood-food connection it would be good to keep a mood/food diary, recording not only what they eat but the emotional circumstances in your life when you find yourself overeating or snacking too much. Common triggers for emotional eating are; eating for comfort, eating because you are depressed, eating when bored, eating when angry, eating to numb painful memories or banging and purging to elevate your mood. In most instances people have not connected eating certain foods with mood. However after logging any details of mood-food correlation, you should seek a professional. At this point adjustments can probably be made to your comfort food eating habits. Individuals whose emotional eating or eating dysfunction appears tied to emotional trauma are encouraged to seek the assistance of a psychotherapist.

Some of the amino acids found in protein foods are reconfigured into neurotransmitters in the brain and used as chemical messengers to control mood and satiety. Amino acid levels can be evaluated in a variety of ways, from a simple finger prick test called a blood spot amino acid test, to analysis requiring a blood draw or a sample of urine collected from a 24 hour urine collection. Based on the results an amino acid formula is custom blended and used to modify amino acid imbalance. If amino acid deficiency is part of your health picture, supplementing with custom amino acids can be the key that unlocks the door to emotional balance and vibrant health.