Diet, Stress & Neurotransmitters

According to Paleo guru, Robb Wolf, there are strong links between diet and stress. In order to combat obesity we need to understand the connection between stress and diet. When people are stressed, hormones are released and can remain in the blood for a while after stresses have been removed.  The Paleo diet can be beneficial in improving & preventing stress as well as obesity. To understand the connection, neurotransmitters play an important role with what’s going on in our bodies.

We have 2 types of Neurotransmitters:

1. Inhibitory (e.g.Serotonin) which is responsible for self esteem and sleep.When depleted you can suffer from depression, insomnia or anger.

2. Excitatory (e.g.Dopamine) which is responsible for ambition, focus, memory and stress. When depleted you can suffer from fatigue and depression.

If you have low dopamine you will generally be fatigued, have trouble with numbers, low libido, and decreased short term memory. Low norepinephrine  (noradrenaline – “fight or flight” chemical) causes depression, decreased ambition, and dependence on stimulants such as caffeine. Too much norepinephrine and you get panic and insomnia.

Normally, our bodies can sense when we have too much of one neurotransmitter and will counteract each other to become balanced again. When this happens too often meaning our neurotransmitter continually keeps renewing (up-regulates), our receptors start to desensitise. There are 2 reasons that cause neurotransmitters to desensitise: diet and stress

Poor Diet

High glycemic carbohydrates cause spikes in dopamine and serotonin. This can cause an insulin response then a subsequent crash. Also, too little protein in your diet can cause depletion.


Stress increases free radicals, insulin, and blood pressure which damage neurons. Chronic stress makes you release serotonin which can lead to depression, insomnia and anxiety.  Studies have shown that high stress can trigger cravings for sugary foods and cause an increase in abdominal fat storage leading on to an increased risk of obesity.

What can you do to help combat stress?

A low carb Paleo diet can help combat blood sugar imbalances and put the right nutrients back in to your body. Exercise is known to double serotonin levels and brain repair chemicals. Sunlight is also known to increase serotonin levels. Meditation is also said to help combat stress. So, it is important to get the correct nutrients in your body and eating Paleo can help you do this. As you start to feel more energy and not get those energy crashes from the sugars and carbs, the more you will want to exercise thus helping to reduce stress levels.


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