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Body Chemicals that Influence Your Emotions

At the risk of diminishing the mystery around emotions, it’s important to be aware that emotions can be caused by the presence or absence of particular chemicals in the body. Those interested in taking care of their emotional health can be greatly helped by understanding the biological component of emotions. Depression, for instance, can be alleviated by simple changes in diet and lifestyle. People prone to mood swings need to appreciate how our systems are set up to experience negative feelings longer than positive feelings. And the impact of certain body chemicals in how we relate to other people can provide much needed rationality to impetuous romance.

What body chemicals are associated with particular emotions? Below are just a few worth knowing more about.

Dopamine

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter; that is, it acts as messenger between the cells of the brain and cells in other parts of the body. Dopamine is associated with a feeling of alertness and vigilance. It’s also considered as the “pleasure chemical” because they trigger the feeling of happiness and natural highs among people. In fact, one of the reasons why some activities --- such as logging on a social networking site or eating a rich cheese cake --- are addictive is because they trigger the release of dopamine in the brain.

Low levels of dopamine in the body can result to depression, compulsive behavior, cravings, apathy and loss of satisfaction in life activities usually considered pleasurable. There are no foods that can provide dopamine directly, but if you want to increase dopamine levels in your body, consume foods rich in the building blocks of dopamine: tyrosine and phenylalanine. Both are amino acids (building blocks of protein) and can be found in protein-rich foods like beef, chicken, turkey, eggs, milk and cheese.

Serotonin

If serotonin is the brain chemical responsible for feeling watchful and attentive, serotonin is what helps us achieve a state of calm. An adequate amount of serotonin in the body helps make a person feel focused and relaxed, hence its nickname “the calming chemical.” Serotonin is also helpful in maintaining good memory.

Serotonin may be obtained naturally by eating foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates, which in turn helps produce a chemical called tryptophan: the building block of serotonin.  Or you can opt to take tryptophan directly. Foods rich in tryptophan include bananas, milk and cheese. Tryptophan supplements are also available in many health stores.

Oxytocin

Here is a body chemical that you probably don’t hear about everyday: oxytocin. Oxytocin is an endorphin (that is, a natural pain reliever) and its presence help reduce stress in the body, especially among women in labor and lactating mothers. But oxytocin also serves another interesting function in the body. Called the “cuddle chemical,” oxytocin promotes a feeling of closeness between two people after sex. It may be said that oxytocin is responsible to the feeling of euphoria associated with the early stages of a relationship.

Why is oxytocin a body chemical worth considering? Oxytocin promotes the feeling of attachment in a couple, but sadly, it only stays in the body for maximum of 2 years. This implies that if your want a relationship to last, you have to start creating ways of maintaining closeness --- body chemistry won’t always do the job for you! In a way it’s great, because oxytoxin’s limited shelf life forces couples to really get to know one another and establish a friendship, if they really want to last. At the end of the day, this friendship is what can save a relationship from getting stale!

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