April 11th, 2012
by Jodi · Filed Under: Nutrition
Have you ever woken up in the morning and just knew that was the day “it” was going down? I mean everything, not just food. So if your co-worker was going to try to throw you under the bus again, she was getting an earful; if your man wanted to voice his opinion on what you were wearing that day, he was in for a beat down; if your kids thought that they were going to sass you that morning, they were in for the longest punishment given this side of the Mississippi; and when you went out to lunch that day with the office, you were having a piece of bread AND you were splitting a dessert. Have you ever had one of those days? Did you ever wonder where it came from in the first place? What made you all “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” at 6:30 in the morning before you even got dressed? Serotonin.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates our mood, increases our pain tolerance, helps us sleep and curbs our food cravings. When this little guy is in line, all is well. When he isn’t, you start at one end of the kitchen and don’t stop until you make it to the other side eating anything with starch, fat and salt. I’m sure your first question is going to be, “What makes him fall out of line?” And my answer, plain and simple, for us is dieting. Food restriction wears him down until he is at such low levels that he demands to be raised again by any means necessary and that means carbohydrate, lots and lots of carbohydrate. When these cravings kick in, the only thing that is keeping you from blowing through a big bag of lays potato chips by yourself is the fact that they are not yours. You just happen to be at your girlfriend’s house and those are her kids’ chips. You don’t want her to think you really eat that stuff so you’re going to behave, but as soon as you get home it is on.
Here are some things to think about serotonin:
Symptoms when low: insomnia, depression, strong food cravings, aggressive behavior (pushing your cart into the woman in front of you at the grocery store was not cool), and poor body temp regulation.
Three things raise the level: carbohydrates, vitamins and estrogen.
When our period comes around: estrogen begins to drop dramatically which in turn drops serotonin. Suddenly, we have the desire to eat 4 pounds of chocolate as a midmorning snack with a tablespoon of nuts to make sure it’s healthy.
At the end of a dieting phase: we are the lowest in terms of estrogen, carbs and vitamins. It’s no wonder we walked into the neighborhood bakery with a can of pepper spray demanding that all half moons be placed in a brown paper bag while we slipped out the back.
How do we keep in check? High protein, vitamin B6 and fish oil.
Who Are Serotonin’s Aiders and Abettors?
You can thank dopamine any time you want a coffee first thing in the morning or a sweet after dinner. Dopamine drives our desire for familiar foods that seem like rewards to us. If we did all the right things in a given day by eating all of our veggies and not nibbling on foods in between, we want to be rewarded. This means we want something sweet or yummy that feels naughty on our palette. Or if we had a bad day and want to be comforted, hot chocolate or warm chocolate chip cookies seem to fill the gap. What we desire on these bad days or at the end of the week when we feel like we’ve worked hard and deserve something good, is guided primarily by dopamine.
This dude is no joke. He has a bad attitude and the only thing that makes him happy is fat. High levels of galanin make us crave fatty foods and desserts. Why is he an aider and abettor? Galanin increases with our estrogen levels just like serotonin does. So once a month when our inhibitions are low (i.e. high serotonin means good mood all around) due to high estrogen therefore high serotonin and galanin, we feel like we can indulge ourselves with some high fat yummy food. When we do that, though, our levels then drop with our blood sugar and carbohydrate cravings are there to lift our spirits once again. This is a horrible see saw ride to be on and we do it all the time!
Ahhh…yes, endorphins. We love these guys because they tell us that the beat down workout we just did earlier in the day was A-Ok. They give us a natural high or what most folks know as a runner’s high. They also like to make tasty food seem more fun than normal. They literally encourage us to eat junk. This means if you accidently listen to galanin or serotonin and eat something sinful, endorphins tell you to keep on going! This is why you can’t stop eating the box of chocolates until they are gone. WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS? Jeez louise!
If you have ever wondered why you cannot stop eating chocolate, why you want a sweet right after dinner or why you can be a beast every so often for no apparent reason, there you go. These guys are out to get us and it’s not nice.
Oh there’s more self sabotage on the way! Wait til we talk about sodium, sugar and fat. Honestly, it’s a wonder we all don’t weigh 1000 pounds knowing all this stuff. Hang tight! Woop woop!