Understand Food Cravings, Brain Chemistry and Body Weight
April 16th, 2012Consider how your lifestyle patterns, food choices, and physical activity choices influence your brain chemistry, your moods, your sense of well being and your weight. Research shows that certain foods and lifestyle patterns affect powerful mood-modifying brain chemicals called "neurotransmitters". Examples of these are:
~ Dopamine and Nor-Epinephrine—these are chemicals released after eating protein (meats, dairy, poultry, and legumes). They enhance mental concentration and alertness. These neurotransmitters come from the amino acid tyrosine.
~ Ghrelin - a neurotransmitter that sets up an irresistible urge to eat when elevated.
~ Endorphins - the body's natural "high" which gives pain relief and pleasure when elevated.
Sleep deprivation can cause an increase in ghrelin, which increases appetite and causes weight gain. At the same time, it decreases leptin, the neurotransmitter that suppresses appetite.
Exercise increases endorphins which, as described above, increases the feeling of pleasure.
Stress is a common reason for overeating or emotional eating. Two out of three people eat more under stress. Plus we don't usually eat vegetables when we are over stressed!
A few steps to a healthier life style are:
1. Practice healthy thoughts. Nothing has a greater ability to change your brain chemistry and your desire to eat, more than the way you think. Stress related thoughts lower serotonin which increases cravings.
2. Don't forget to eat! Don't allow yourself to get over hungry as this causes overeating.
3. Keep problem foods out of the house!
4. Note the benefits of physical activity, including lessening stress, controlling blood pressure, and increasing our mental sharpness and creativity.
For more information on healthy eating and lifestyle changes, stop by the Health Services Satellite in the Rotunda on April 18th from 10:00-12:00.