The impact genetics, stress, trauma or toxic burden has on your health as well as your neurotransmitter balance is greatly exacerbated by a nutrient-deficient diet. The Standard American Diet (SAD) almost seems to be designed to cause neurotransmitter imbalances, emphasizing lots of processed foods full of artificial ingredients as well as many highly allergenic foods that can cause the body to dump serotonin and stimulate the output of excitatory neurotransmitters.
Many of the processed foods we eat contain chemicals, colors, flavor-enhancers and dyes that are known to disrupt proper neurotransmitter function. In addition, high-quality protein is needed on a daily basis to supply the necessary amino acids to allow the body to produce neurotransmitters. Unfortunately, the SAD diet is very high in refined carbohydrates and low in good-quality protein, which provides insufficient amino acid precursors to produce adequate neurotransmitters while simultaneously over-stimulating the body causing greater destruction of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. This can create a tremendous disparity over time.
In addition to consuming too many processed foods, allergenic foods and poor quality proteins, there are other habits that also create neurotransmitter imbalance, including eating fast-food regularly and/or high-fat, high-sugar foods, and not eating sizeable portions of vegetables (i.e., which provide many of the vitamins and minerals needed by the body) on a daily basis.
The reason is two-fold: (1) a poor quality diet doesn’t supply the body with the necessary building blocks (i.e., amino acids and cofactors) to make the necessary neurotransmitters, and (2) most of these foods are so depleted in nutrients that they actually rob the body of vitamins and minerals to process them. Either way, following the SAD is a sure-fire way to elicit or exacerbate neurotransmitter imbalances over time. This means that getting the right foods into your body is a key to correcting these obstacles over time and absolutely essential in order to eliminate or reduce the need for amino acid therapy over the long term.
What we choose to drink also has a dramatic effect. Stimulants like coffee and energy drinks deplete the excitatory neurotransmitters (like epinephrine and norepinephrine) and alcohol adversely affects serotonin and GABA production (which are inhibitory neurotransmitters). Alone or combined, these drinks immediately confuse the brain and cause all sorts of biochemical imbalances.
The biggest wrench in the neurotransmitter machinery from a dietary perspective, however, has to be soda. Soda is the perfect food to promote neurotransmitter imbalance. Many sodas contain lots and lots of sugar, often up to 12 teaspoons in one 12 ounce can (just imagine what the ‘large’ sodas contain!), caffeine, artificial colors and flavors and no beneficial amino acids.
The occasional can of soda is probably no big deal, but we don’t drink just a can of soda now and then. In fact, people in the US drink a LOT of soda – upwards of 54 gallons per person per year! That means that, on average, each person in the US drinks over 102 2-Liter bottles, or about 576 12-ounce cans of soda every year.
That’s almost two cans per day of something that is tailor made to cause your brain some issues. It’s no wonder that drugs that manipulate neurotransmitter levels are the most prescribed group of pharmaceuticals used in this country!