Emotional well-being is not based solely on how we manage our emotions through actions such as meditating, having fun with friends, or crying when we need to. An act as seemingly mundane as eating also influences him through various psychological pathways and processes . Let’s see how it does it.
The neuropsychological implications of nutrition
What we eat has a clear impact on what happens in our brain. For example, some amino acids such as tryptophan, widely available in certain foods, are necessary to be able to have key neurotransmitters in our nervous system (in the case of tryptophan, serotonin, a substance closely linked to the feeling of calm and well-being). Neurotransmitters are molecules that our neurons use to communicate with each other. They are something like the pieces of a message, and they are constantly emitting and capturing them both in the brain and in the rest of the nervous system distributed throughout the human body.
In addition, as this exchange of chemical substances is “burning stages”, changes are consolidated in our brain: changes in the way in which our neurons connect with each other and in the way in which they are activated or deactivated when receive certain neurotransmitters. There is no instruction manual that explains what happens when a neuron receives X molecule, it all depends on its position, the neurons it is connected to and what has happened to it before. Nerve cells learn just like we do.
It is here, among other aspects of the functioning of the brain, where the way in which the obtaining of nutrients and chemical processes in general influence the psychological is clearly seen: without neurotransmitters, brain activity cannot exist . And the brain is characterized by being constantly on the go, even when we sleep; it is the engine of human experience and of our own survival as autonomous beings capable of being aware of what is happening to us.
In addition, the fact that our neurons are always maintaining a dialogue based on chemical reactions is behind our ability to adapt to what life presents us with. As our nervous system is always transforming anatomically and functionally depending on the experiences we go through and the chemical state of our nerve cells, we evolve as people.
Thus, our brain maintains a bidirectional communication relationship with the nutrient extraction processes that occur in parts of the body relatively far from it, both via the nerve cells and the neuroendocrine network (it should not be forgotten that neurons are seen highly conditioned by the hormones that circulate through our body through the blood, and vice versa).
Nutrition and emotional well-being:
So far we have seen the relationship between nutrition and the functioning of the nervous system in general and the brain in particular, but if we want to understand the human mind and the way we feel and behave, we must broaden our focus and see beyond cells. nervous.
Emotional well-being is not reduced to chemical processes (although they participate in it), and it also incorporates a behavioral dimension: what we do to relate to our environment and ourselves. And this is also influenced by nutrition, although in a somewhat more subtle and indirect way. And it is that nutrition cannot be totally separated from food . If nutrition is a process that begins and ends within our body and is based on the extraction and processing of nutrients, food is a behavioral phenomenon, based on our actions as individuals. The way in which we relate to food is food, and unlike nutrition, we can modulate it through conscious decisions.
Now, in most cases, the actions that make up our diet are not conscious; We do them spontaneously, without thinking too much We get used to eating certain foods, snacking between meals, combining ingredients in a certain way … This can be good in some cases (it would be very tiring to have to stop to think and decide something every time we go to eat or prepare food), and bad in others. For example, many people develop emotional problems involving their eating habits .
This happens a lot with foods rich in carbohydrates; our body has evolved so that we have a preference for sweets or for those with many carbohydrates, since they are signs that we will extract a lot of energy from them; But if we go on to try to “cover” our discomfort with these foods, sooner or later we will develop physical health and emotional management problems. Eating without hunger is usually something we do without realizing that we don’t really need food, but the fact that it offers us a momentary distraction causes us to lose perspective and not see that it is worse in the long run.
Thus, the relationship we learn to maintain with food is key when it comes to explaining whether we are worse or better at maintaining a good level of emotional well-being . While we adjust our actions to satisfy, above all, the needs based on nutrition, we will be favoring that our body has the ingredients it needs, neither more nor less.