Feeling down is something that we all have to deal with at times. This is especially true in winter, where sunlight is in short supply and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can creep in.
The modern lifestyle often doesn't help us when it comes to keeping happy. There are many things that can cause low mood, one of which is dehydration or not enough water. How, you might ask?
In this article, we'll cover the many scientific reasons why a lack of water could be the root of mood and cognition issues. But before we dive into how water keeps us happy, let's discuss the science bit...
The Gut-Brain Axis
Mood and cognition are intricately linked to our overall health and wellness. Serotonin is often considered the “happy hormone” and is produced by the synthesis of the ?-amino acid tryptophan.
A depressed mood has been found to be linked to low brain serotonin levels and hence serotonin production must be optimised to enhance health and a positive outlook on life.
The gut and the brain work together, with the help of the microbes in our gut. These microbes work with the brain to produce hormones like serotonin.
Interestingly, the microbes in our gut can morph to survive dehydration. In the short term this is useful, but in the long term can produce deleterious effects.
Water is required to keep all aspects of our gut and brain health mobile and flowing. Without water, the microbes wouldn’t be able to carry out their critical functions.
Is Serotonin Produced in the Gut?
As mentioned, serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) is a well-known neurotransmitter that is primarily synthesised in the gut. Researchers have found that a healthy and diverse gut microbiome can increase the amount of serotonin in the body by as much as 30%. It’s estimated that as much as 90% of the serotonin in the body is produced in the gut.
We know that serotonin is important and its precursor tryptophan is essential. But where does water fit into the equation?
Water is the transmitter that is required for all systems in the body to function effectively. Not least the hormones that are required to boost mood.
The Best Water to Boost Mood
One of the keys to boosting mood is making sure the body can effectively rid itself of toxic acidic waste materials. This is done via the kidneys and urine.
Without excreting the acidic waste, the body can get overloaded with toxins. As such, the best water to drink to boost health and mood is clean, pure alkaline water.
Dehydration & Acid Buildup
The body’s pH must be kept at 7.35-7.45 to allow it to function. Excess acidic waste buildup can lead to your brain and vital organs being compromised.
To balance and neutralise excess acidic waste, the body will sacrifice essential amino acids. Four amino acids that are used to balance the body’s pH are tryptophan, tyrosine, cysteine and methionine.
When using tryptophan to neutralise excess acid, it’s not available to be used as a mood enhancer. To rectify this situation, we must adequately hydrate the body (ideally with pure alkaline water), so that excess toxic acidic waste can be expelled.
Diuretics increase the amount of water expelled from the body, however, this is not the correct approach to increasing the amount of urine produced by the body. Mainly because diuretics can cause dehydration.
Alcohol, fizzy drinks and caffeine are all mild diuretics and as such should be avoided by people who are looking to boost brain health.
Prescription, pill-based diuretics often used by athletes are even more dangerous and can lead to serious dehydration.
Circulation & Mood
Water boosts the circulation of all systems in the body. The stagnation of the body, whether due to dehydration or a lack of exercise, will inhibit the body’s ability to transport essential amino acids.
The amino acid tryptophan shares its neurotransmitter network with other amino acids such as valine, leucine, isoleucine, phenylalanine and tyrosine.
A lifestyle where dehydration and lack of exercise become the norm, for example in an alcoholic, will mean that levels of leucine, isoleucine and valine increase. This depletes the ability of tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB). In turn, this reduces the amount of serotonin in the body, which can lead to the development of diseases related to mood and cognition.
Eat Tryptophan-Rich Foods
Alongside exercising and increasing pure water intake, a diet rich in tryptophan should be consumed to increase serotonin levels in the body.
A tryptophan intake of 4mg per kg of body weight is suggested. However, for those who are suffering from memory issues or a depressed mood, higher levels of tryptophan-rich foods can be consumed.
Tryptophan rich foods include: tofu, spirulina, seeds (sunflower and pumpkin), nuts (peanuts and almonds), oats, beans, chickpeas, and buckwheat.
Water Isn't Always Enough
To ensure that the body can function effectively, resulting in the proper synthesis of serotonin, adequate hydration is essential. However, drinking water alone often isn’t enough.
The mineral salts sodium, magnesium and potassium are often referred to as “electrolytes”. These minerals are required for the body to absorb water.
Dehydration can occur if the body is low in these essential mineral salts. Magnesium, in particular, is required for the kidneys to utilise sodium and potassium effectively.
Learn More: The 5 Best Plant Sources of Electrolytes
The Bottom Line
While tryptophan and other amino acids are critical for boosting mood, they are not activated without water. Water is the conduit through which all nutrients are delivered.
Additionally, water absorption requires electrolytes (magnesium, potassium, and sodium). Alkaline water can also be consumed to tip the pH balance of the body and detoxify excess acids.
Written by Rebecca Rychlik-Cunning, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.
Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.
Water boosts the circulation of all systems in the body.