Using Our Own Natural Chemicals
by Anita Alexandra
The language of Traditional Chinese Medicine is symbolic. Each season is defined by specific characteristics and personality traits. In Autumn, it is believed that one will be most affected by the emotions of grief and sadness. Sadness and grief are healthy expressions of emotions. However, if they go on for long periods can lead to depression, anxiety, lethargy, and cause general harm to our health.
It is particularly helpful to attend to our natural chemistry at this time of year, to remain emotionally and mentally healthy moving into the demands of Winter.
Chinese medicine has known for thousands of years that acupuncture can unleash the body’s natural ability to heal.
- It can circumvent pain pathways
- Communicate with the central nervous system to create chemical changes
- Release analgesia
- Improve communication with organ systems and more
Within the past decade or so, Western medicine began to figure out what is happening at the insertion sites of the most powerfully effective acupuncture points, and the specific types of neurochemicals that can be orchestrated.
Although, in our everyday lives, we each possess that ability to balance our emotions at any time of year by turning to our reservoir of natural chemicals. There are close to 100,000 chemical reactions produced by the brain. Although, Psychology Today featured an article in 2012 extolling the benefits of the following seven “feel good” neurochemicals that we have the power to access:
1) “The Bliss Chemicals” Endocannabinoids: A 2012 study at the University of Arizona, suggested that these are the chemicals most likely responsible for “runner’s high.” A person can increase endocannabinoids through exercise, cold exposure (30 seconds at the end of a shower), 1 cup a day of coffee with whole coffee fruit concentrate, extra virgin olive oil, CBD oil, flavonoids, concentrated green tea extract, probiotics, and dark chocolate.
2) “The Reward Chemical” Dopamine is driven by reward and pleasure-seeking behavior. If you want to increase dopamine levels, simply set goals, and achieve them regularly. Dopamine is generated by tyrosine and phenylalanine as found in turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, and legumes.
3) “The Bonding Chemical” Oxytocin is a hormone directly linked to human bonding—trust, loyalty, and romantic attachment. There is some debate as to whether oxytocin has the same effect on men as it does on women. In men, vasopressin (a close cousin to oxytocin) may be the more accurate “bonding molecule.” Increase oxytocin through skin-to-skin contact, affection, lovemaking, intimacy, working out with a buddy or at a gym, and loving a pet.
4) “The Pain-Killing Chemical” Endorphin. The name translates into “self-produced morphine.” Endorphins resemble opiates in their chemical structure and have analgesic properties. In 1999, clinical researchers reported that inserting acupuncture needles into specific body points triggers the production of endorphins. Endorphins are also produced during strenuous physical exertion, sexual intercourse and orgasm, as well as high-intensity cardio and strength training exercises, laughter, intimacy, eating chocolate, listening to music, and vanilla or lavender aromatherapy.
5) “The Anti-Anxiety Chemical” GABA slows down the firing of neurons and creates a sense of calmness. According to the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, GABA is naturally increased with yoga. Other sources are running, walking, meditation with deep breathing, eating foods high in glutamic acids such as almonds, walnuts, bananas, broccoli, brown rice, halibut, lentils, oats, citrus fruits, and spinach.
6) “The Confidence Chemical” Serotonin allows people to put themselves in situations that will bolster self-esteem, increase feelings of worthiness, and create a sense of belonging. It controls mood swings, sleep, and anxiety. To increase serotonin, challenge yourself regularly, and pursue things that reinforce a sense of purpose, meaning, and accomplishment. Increase with exercise, natural light, massage, eat complex carbohydrates, fish oils and salmon, nuts seeds, and seed oils. Emphasize the recall of happy memories.
7) “The Energy Chemical” Adrenaline, technically known as epinephrine, plays a significant role in the fight or flight mechanism. The release of epinephrine is exhilarating and creates a surge in energy. An ‘adrenaline rush’ comes in times of distress or facing fearful situations. You can also create an adrenaline rush by taking short rapid breathes and contracting muscles. This jolt can be healthy in small doses, especially when you need a pick me up. A surge of adrenaline makes you feel very alive. Increase adrenalin or adrenal function with vitamin C rich food, vitamin B rich foods, coconut oils, olive oil, seed and nut oils, and protein-rich foods.
These are not merely “feel good” substances. The release of these chemicals can influence every aspect of our lives and those of others. When we choose to boost this internal natural pharmacy, we are taking charge of our well-being. When we are “feeling good,” we influence and inspire those around us. These positive chemical responses trigger more expansive thinking, higher problem-solving abilities, boost immunity, and result in an increase in our energy for participating in life and relationships. The concept of “feeling good” can expand to encompass higher thinking and deeper states of emotion and creativity. In this, we become a catalyst for inspiring others.
Chemistry on every level is a dynamic and individual experience. It is essential to research any possible interactions or allergic responses to any of these suggestions. Consult with a physician or health care practitioner when making extreme changes to your diet, exercise, and supplement regimen. I encourage you to use this list of seven neurochemicals in taking an inventory of your daily habits to create a lifestyle that can keep your personal health and happiness quota fortified.
Anita Alexandra is a Colorado licensed acupuncturist and Chinese Herbologist of 21 years’ experience. Her current practice focuses primarily on assisting in the treatment of chronic illness, post concessional syndrome from TBI, pain syndromes developing from injury, post-surgical pain and recovery, radiculopathy, headache, Parkinson’s and MS. You can contact Anita at http://architectinhealth.com/contact/ or by calling 970-485-4958