Given the times that we are in, I think the world could use a little bit more happiness, and really, who doesn’t want more happiness in their life? So, can we use fasting to increase happiness? This week I’m diving into that exact question on my Youtube channel. Check out my newly released video on how we can use fasting to increase happiness, as Part 3 of my Fasting and Hormones Series. We know from neuroscience that certain nutritional deficiencies and neurotransmitters imbalances can affect our levels of perceived happiness. Science also shows us that we can use fasting as a tool to improve the functioning of these neurotransmitters, in turn raising our levels of happiness.
There are 4 neurotransmitters that we need to have in balance for happiness:
- Dopamine, the feel-good hormone that regulates pleasure and reward.
- Serotonin, which gives us a sense of well-being. Lack of serotonin can lead to anxiety. 90% of serotonin is made in the gut.
- GABA, which calms our brain. We know that as you increase ketones by fasting, you increase GABA production.
- BDNF, also called brain-derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF is like brain fertilizer, it can lead to better mental clarity, memory retention and focus.
Ready to start fasting to increase happiness?
If you want to work on balancing these four neurotransmitters, I recommend joining me in the Happiness Fast Training week. You can join me live October 12-16, 2020. The Happiness Fast will also be available anytime for you on my Youtube channel.
Here I want to focus a bit more on dopamine. What is dopamine? Dopamine is a hormone and neurotransmitter commonly referred to as the “feel-good” hormone because it corresponds with the pleasure and reward function of our brain. Our brain releases dopamine in response to pleasurable activities like food, sex, drugs, social media, texts, etc.
Can we become addicted to dopamine? Yes.
Can we become intolerant to dopamine? Yes.
Do we need more dopamine releasing activities to feel the same effect? Yes.
We live in a modern world that is full of dopamine hits, things that give us immediate, instant reward and pleasure, like social media, food, Uber, DoorDash. We are so used to getting what we want, when we want it that we are becoming intolerant to dopamine. Not only that, but as our tolerance to dopamine increases, we begin needing bigger experiences to feel the same rush of excitement and pleasure.
Can fasting help reset our dopamine pathways?
Can we reset our dopamine pathways so we feel more happiness with less dopamine? Yes.
In this study, researchers found that people who were obese had dysfunction in their dopamine pathways, specifically that they had less dopamine being release AND less receptor sites for dopamine to get into the part of the brain that controls mood and memory. Through fasting, they were able to boost dopamine signaling pathways.
The second thing they found was that they found was that there was a direct correlation between insulin resistance, leptin resistance and dopamine dysfunction. In fasting we are usually working with clients on insulin and leptin resistance as it relates to losing and regulating weight, but now this study is showing that a 24 hour fast will also help balance happiness hormone levels as well by resetting dopamine receptor sites.
The study found that, ”fasting caused a change in the properties of somatodendritic dopamine release, possibly by increasing dopamine release, and that this increased release can be sustained under conditions where dopamine neurons are highly active”.
In yet another study done on rats, researchers found that caloric restriction increased dopamine, D2 receptors sites.
Ready to create a more calm and joyful brain? Try my Happiness Fast, or subscribe to me Youtube channel for weekly educational videos and my monthly Fast Training Week, where you can fast with me!