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On this week’s A Different Perspective, Dr. Jesse goes over how things like stress and sugar impact the hormones and neurotransmitters that are responsible for mental health.

  • Lots of stress and sugary treats over the holidays

According to the APA, over the holidays:

  • 59% people feel nervous or sad
  • 55% pack motivation & energy
  • 51% feel fatigued
  • 48% have muscular tension
  • And those numbers are likely underreported

In 2020:

  • 1 in 5 people experienced a mental illness
  • 1 in 20 experienced a serious mental illness
  • 1 in 15 struggled with substance abuse
  • 12 million+ had serious thoughts of suicide

American Psychological Association:

  • 38% of people surveyed saw an increase over the holidays
  • Stress increased during the holidays
  • Increased physical illness, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, over the holidays

Stress boosts certain hormones

  • Epinephrine (adrenaline)
    • Increases heart rate
    • Elevates blood pressure
    • Boosts energy supplies
  • Cortisol
    • Increases blood insulin
    • Fight-or-flight
    • Decreases immune response
    • Decreases digestive function
    • Increases heart rate
    • Increases breathing rate and decreases depth
    • Decreases growth
    • Decreases sexual function
  • Long-term activation of these stress hormones leads to:
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Digestive problems
    • Headaches
    • Muscle tension and pain
    • High blood pressure
    • Heart disease
    • Sleep problems
    • Weight gain
    • Memory and concentration impairment

Neurotransmitters—hormones for the brain

  • Adrenaline; fight or flight
  • Noradrenaline; concentration
  • Dopamine; pleasure
  • Serotonin; mood
  • GABA; calming
  • Acetylcholine; learning
  • Glutamate; memory
  • Endorphins; euphoria
  • If the adrenals are busy making cortisol and adrenaline, they have less ability to make other things, like dopamine, leading your body to get cravings for it

Sugar—including all processed grains

  • Decreases liver function
  • Causes weight gain
  • Increases fatigue
  • Decreases kidney function
  • Accelerates aging
  • Increases hunger
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Cognitive decline
    • Linked to Alzheimer’s
    • Neurodegeneration
  • Increases anxiety and depression
  • Addictive
    • More addictive than cocaine
  • Decreases immune function
  • Mental stress depletes a woman’s hormones more than anything; sugar depletes a mans more than anything
  • Too much sugar in a cell leads to cell death; type 2 diabetes is an adaption to allow you to survive

Too much sugar can lead to less stomach acid.

    • Too little stomach acid leads to acid reflux, because the intestines send the contents back in for better sterilization. If unsterilized food gets into the small intestines, it can cause inflammation in the gut. Serotonin is made in the gut, meaning too little stomach acid leads to not enough serotonin, leading to mental health hormone problems.
      • If you’re on antidepressants DON’T just quit; work on getting your body back to where you need it before tapering down.
    • Stomach acid breaks down the bonds between amino acids. You should never have proteins in your GI tract, because your body will recognize protein and see it as a virus, leading to an immune response. Acid-reducing meds can lead to depression for this reason.
      • We need the amino acids the stomach acid breaks proteins down into to produce neurotransmitters (see above). Inadequate breakdown or provision of proteins leads to a lack of production of neurotransmitters.

Putting it Together

  • When you’re sick, your brain chemistry changes to get you to stay home, sleep, and recover. When you’re more chronically sick, say with chronic inflammation in the gut, that’s not going to go away and it’ll be hard to go out. Leading to an understanding of depression. What happens if you DO go out? You get nervous and anxious and the feeling that you need to get home—social anxiety. But there’s nothing wrong with your brain; there’s other stuff going on.
  • Testing your hormones is imperative to know how to get better. Is it a production issue? A conversion issue?
    • Vitamin D
    • Neurotransmitters
  • The goal is for you to not need to be “on” anything forever—meds or supplements. The goal is for you to get everything you need from your food.


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