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Moods: Mind or Biochemistry?

Do we control our moods or do our moods control us? Who is really in charge? Whilst there are many factors that can influence our moods such as our relationships, our environment or not feeling the best, what drives chemical reactions that can in turn make us moody?

Good Moods V’s Bad Moods

Good moods and bad moods all drive different chemical responses and depending on our choice of reaction, will determine whether they have a positive or negative affect on us. It is up to us to decide how we will allow these chemical reactions to dictate who we are. 

Negative emotions can be responsible for releasing inflammation forming toxins and oxidation, speeding up the aging process. Negative responses can take us away from being the best version of ourself. This in turn can create poor appetite, weight loss or gain, insomnia and digestive issues as we churn over what we shouldn’t even allow to control our thought pattern. 
On the other hand, positive emotions produce longevity hormones and responses that may assist to reduce pain, increase oxygen and reduce repair time, all by releasing healthy neurotransmitters and chemical reactions. One could say this puts us in the state of healthy, wealthy and wise. A much better place to be! 

Chemical Reactions & Emotions

There are 4 main chemical reactions that contribute to our feeling of emotion, these including:  Serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline and oxytocin.  
Responsible for your feelings of happiness! Whilst also assisting to regulate your sleep cycle and appetite. When you have a good level of serotonin you feel emotionally stable with a sense of calmness. Most of the serotonin in our body can actually be found in the gut, not the brain
We can naturally increase the serotonin levels in the body through many methods including; 

  • Food – bananas, chickpeas, eggs, leafy greens, nuts/seeds, oily fish, probiotics/fermented foods are all good sources that naturally contain serotonin. 
  • Sunshine – sunlight boosts your vitamin D levels which is needed for serotonin production. Not getting enough sunlight is thought to be linked to people experiencing depression. Seasonally affective disorder (SAD) a type of depression that’s related to long periods of no sunlight.
  • Exercise – Regular physical activity boosts serotonin levels .
  • Massage – has been shown to release serotonin and decrease the stress hormone cortisol.

Known as the feel good neurotransmitter and assists to control your mood! Dopamine allows you to feel pleasure, satisfaction and motivation. We can boost dopamine level naturally by:

  • Increasing exercise. Studies have shown that practicing yoga for 1 hour a day, 6 days a week significantly increased dopamine levels (
  • Get a good night’s rest: try avoiding any screen time before bed and ensure you are getting adequate sleep.
  • Increase protein intake: The amino acid tyrosine plays an important role in the production of dopamine.
  • Meditate: reduce stress and anxiety through meditation which has been shown to increase dopamine levels.

Responsible for the bodies fight or flight response. When quickly released it is known as an adrenaline rush which some may enjoy. Long term stimulation of the adrenals can lead to chronic fatigue and kidney issues.
Otherwise known as the love hormone! It promotes, love, trust and empathy. Oxytocin isn’t fully understood but what is thought is that it may help assist social anxiety, depression and anger. The love hormone is produced when we do things that improve our mood or bring us pure happiness! Oxytocin is used by the body largely during childbirth and breastfeeding.

Our Emotional Choices Create Our Life

If you are finding your overall mood is not where you want it to be, could you increase any of these tips to boost a particular reaction naturally? For example if you are feeling low, poor memory and issues sleeping you may just need a boost of serotonin to stabilise your emotions and give you higher levels of energy and focus. 
Gratitude: reduces the inflammatory response 
Love: Lowers blood pressure 

Our emotional choices can create our life.  To understand more, read Robert Emmons’ study on Emotions + Health or Illness.

Source:  Article courtesy of Nuferm


Stressing about not sleeping?

It is well known that sleep is fundamental for our health and well-being, however due to various lifestyle and physiological factors, 33-45% of Australian adults suffer from poor quality and inadequate sleep while insomnia affects around 20% of adults in Australia. 3

The Australian Sleep Association defines insomnia as a chronic and debilitating disorder relating to a difficulty with:

  • Sleep initiation: Sleep onset takes more than 30 minutes and/or 8
  • Sleep maintenance: Being unable to maintain sleep (being awake for more than 30-45 minutes) and/or 8
  • Early termination: Waking earlier than intended and not being able to return to sleep. 8

Insomnia has been linked to a myriad of health complaints including reduced cognitive function, anxiety and depression. It may also contribute to several psychiatric and medical conditions including cardiovascular disease and hypertension. 9, 10

In addition to this, mental health problems (depression and anxiety) and physical health issues (pain and breathing difficulties) are thought to be the primary causes of sleep problems. 11, 12

Insomnia and Inflammation

A common underlying factor associated with insomnia and its concomitant conditions is inflammation. Recent evidence has revealed shorter sleep duration (<6 hours per night), poor sleep continuity and quality to be associated with higher levels of inflammatory markers (IL-1β, IL-6 and TNF-α) suggesting that insufficient or disturbed sleep may play a role in the upregulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines. 12-14 Chronic insomnia has been shown to disrupt the circadian release of IL-6 and TNF-α resulting in excessive daytime sleepiness, contributing to conditions such as sleep apnoea and narcolepsy. 12, 15

Stress and Inflammation

These same pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1, IL-6, TNF-α) have also been shown to activate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, stimulating glucocorticoid release, further exacerbating symptoms of stress, sleeplessness, and mood disorders. 16-18

Chronic stress, via excessive release of glucocorticoids (cortisol), can exacerbate symptoms of insomnia due to the influence of the adrenal glands on the rhythmic release of hormones, this causes dysregulation of the circadian rhythm altering normal sleep cycle. 19

In healthy persons, reductions in cortisol, corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and a rise in growth hormone (GH) supports sleep onset and maintenance. During times of chronic stress, abnormal HPA axis and sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activation causes disruptions in GH, CRH and adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH) release which disrupts the normal diurnal pattern. This results in altered cortisol expression in the evening hours and initial phases of sleep, resulting in sleep fragmentation, raising cortisol even further. 19, 20

Natural Treatments to Reduce Inflammatory Stress and Support Healthy Sleep

As multiple physiological and psychological factors can contribute to insomnia, our practitioners apply a broad spectrum treatment approach which addresses these factors. Furthermore, considering herbs and nutrients with a multitude of beneficial effects in these areas have shown positive results.  For more information about what impacts sleep and how our body is affected when we don’t get enough quality sleep.


  • Studies have shown probiotics may have a modulating effect on the HPA axis, reducing symptoms of stress. 2
  • A probiotic [available from qualified Naturopaths] taken for 30 days was shown to be beneficial in improving psychological symptom scores, reducing psychological distress scores and decreasing 24 hour urinary free cortisol, showing a beneficial effect on general signs of stress, mild anxiety and low mood. 5


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