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The Role Of Dietary Amines On Anxiety

Are you wondering about the impact of food on your anxiety and mood? Maybe you have heard that there's an influence of dietary amines on anxiety. In this article we look at amines, what they are, how they can influence your mood and physiologically affect your body.  We will discuss what amines are, some of the foods that you might find them in and the genetics involved with breaking down and eliminating dietary amines.

What Is An Amine?

First let's look at what actually is an amine?  Amines are biologically active compounds that can stimulate your nervous system similar to how dopamine and adrenaline stimulate your nervous system.  With this stimulation, they can make you feel anxious, worried and fearful.  Whether we are talking about amines like dopamine, adrenaline (or epinephrine) or other types of amines, they are all structurally similar.  This point on structure we will revisit further along in the article. 

The general purpose and way they work in your body is that they are uplifting to your mood and can help you focus.  However, in some cases it can actually give you anxiety and sleep issues like trouble falling asleep, waking up early, or even panic.  What they do at any given moment depends on how much of them are present and how much your body is burdened with these stimulating chemicals. 

 When there are a lot of them, they are stimulating.  You will get that sense that things are not right, you will feel on edge and anxious.  We should also note that these molecules are not just biologically active in the psyche or in the mind.  They also do things throughout the body.  They have effects on your cardiovascular and can speed up your heart rate.  The also affect your digestive system, respiratory system and many other parts of our bodies. uday-mittal-bwKtz4YVtmA-unsplash

Other than the neurotransmitters noted above, there are specific groups of molecules referred to as amines.  For the purpose of this article we will focus on the ones produced or found in food.  Collectively all these amines are called biogenic amines.  Again these amines are found in food or from microbes that generate them.  Microbes produce them when food sits around too long or as the food passes through a digestive tract.  Some examples of the neurotransmitters are dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, serotonin, and histamine.  Some examples of microbial generated amines are putracine, sperimadine, cadaverine, and histamine.  These are also the types of amines that will be found in food because most of them are produced by the microbes. 

As an aside, when we cook food and prepare food, part of the idea to not get sick from that food is to eliminate the microbes.  The cooking reduced the microbes so they are not able to produce too much of these amines.  When the food sits around too long and you get sick, it can be from these biogenic amines that are produced by the microbes.  The microbes that are still present in the food after cooking in small amounts and therefore so are amines.  We cook food to reduce the amount there.  Depending on how long it sits and how well you cooked it, will determine the amine load.

Many foods contain amines naturally and a good example of this is histamine.  This amine can be particularly aggravating for some people.  Amines have a resonance time in the body, meaning they stick around in your in the body for a certain period of time.  During that time that they are biologically active whether it's in the cardiovascular system or the digestive system.  The amount of time that they stick around in your body is based on how quickly they are eliminated.  All amines have similar elimination pathways as the neurotransmitters and the molecules our bodies naturally make in this category.  When you are consuming more of them or there are more being generated in your body, that resonance time will go up. 


Amines Detoxification and Anxiety 

The reason for that is because they have a similar structure.  Structurally similar molecules go through common pathways for detoxification.  In the case that you are consuming, your body is producing, or there are high amounts in your diet, the pathways that remove or detoxify these molecules can get over burdened.  The bucket gets filled up and the molecules start to spill over into your tissues.  Those tissues get more stimulated and you have and you have certain symptoms of high amines.  Since these molecules are stimulating as we noted, some of those symptoms can be higher amounts of anxiety, worry, stress, palpitations,  shortness of breath.  You may be generally not feeling well because your body is revved up.  The same way as if you you have a close call in a car accident.  You will feel a little stimulated.  That is from the epinephrine or adrenaline in your body.  The same thing can happen from certain foods.  Especially when there are a lot of them around and you have genetic alterations in the pathways that eliminate these amines. 

You may have even more sensitivity to these foods or sensitivity to situations that are causing your body to produce more adrenaline.  Two of the common pathways or enzymes that that are involved in elimination of amines are COMT, MAOa and MAOb.  Both of those enzymes do a lot of the heavy lifting for amine elimination. 

Learn More about COMT and Anxiety

They are not the only enzymes involved though.  If you have a genetic alteration in these enzymes, foods that are high in amines may not be the best for you or they may increase your anxiety.  However, just because you have a genetic alteration in those doesn't necessarily mean you will feel worse from those types of foods.  There are lots of different things that go into a psychological makeup that have nothing to do with your genetics.  With that being said, there can be strong influences of dietary amines on one's psychology and how they feel on a day-to-day basis.  Anxiety and things like that do occur from these foods when your body is overburdened by these biogenic amines.  This process is going to be more common in those that do have genetic alterations.  It can happen when you don't have those genetic alterations as well. 

For instance if you consume a lot of foods that have a high level of amines in them.  Fermented foods have a lot of these biogenic amines in them.  So eating a lot of these may cause issues.  Also people that have a lot of allergic or sensitivity type reactions.  Whether it is from environmental or food, histamine contributes to the slowed elimination of these biogenic amines. 

That should give you a better understanding of the role of dietary amines in anxiety.   If you have questions about the content in this article, please ask it in the comment section below.

If you want a customized plan on how to improve your anxiety, click in the link below to get started. 

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