Diet and Spirituality
The foods you eat have a profound impact on your spiritual health. As a matter of fact, your diet is the foundation on which spirituality is built.
Before we explore this field of thought any further, I first want to clarify my definition of spirituality. When I refer to spirituality, I am referring to feelings of inner peace, having depth, meaning and purpose in your life and the relationship or connection you have with yourself, the Universe and the people in your life. It also involves being aware, living a conscious and authentic life and living in line with your true inner desires and principles.
Now, to understand why diet plays such an important role in spirituality, we must first take a look at neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that regulate all facets of our life, including our thoughts, feelings, behavior, cognitive function and energy levels. The ones that would be most associated with spirituality include serotonin, dopamine, GABA, endorphins/enkaphalins, and norepinephrine.
Dopamine provides us with feelings of pleasure, joy, confidence, well-being, contentedness, motivation and focus, while serotonin provides us with self-esteem, feelings of happiness, contentedness, connection and feelings of well being as well, and endorphins also provide us with self-esteem, happiness, contentedness, relaxation and feelings of well-being, while GABA calms and relaxes the mind and alleviates anxiety like a natural tranquilizer. All of these neurotransmitters provide feelings of light euphoria, tranquility, bliss and inner peace.
Norepinephrine provides us with energy, focus and attentiveness, however, when norepinephrine is in excess we are in disaccord; we feel disconnected, restless, anxious and fearful. Much of our society is deficient in serotonin, dopamine, GABA and/or endorphins and has an excess of norepinephrine, because of poor diet, chronic stress and environmental toxins, and thus, why so many people feel spiritually bankrupt.
As I see it, it is neurotransmitters that defines our experience of spirituality, because if neurotransmitters are disrupted or we do not have enough of them or there are too many, then it is very difficult to find inner peace, tranquility, calm and relaxation, self-awareness or depth, meaning and purpose in our life and to feel connected to self and others. As a matter of fact, insufficient, disrupted or excess neurotransmitters will result in exactly the opposite.
Ever wonder why we feel good when we engage in what is considered a spiritual activity like meditating, communing with nature, yoga, visualization, deep breathing exercises, listening to music, singing, dancing, making love, connecting deeply with ourselves or others, prayer, exercise, or any of the activities that bring us spiritual pleasure? It is because each and every one of these activities stimulates the release of our feel good neurotransmitters, dopamine, serotonin, GABA and endorphins. Our neurotransmitters are released, which makes us feel euphoric and connected, and we experience this thing we call the “divine” or the origin of creation.
Where do neurotransmitters come from? From the food that we eat. Neurons use nutrients from the food we consume, like amino acids, b vitamins and minerals to form neurotransmitters and fatty acids are needed for sufficient neurotransmission. So, if you are not eating a diet that provides the brain with the nutrients needed for adequate neurotransmitter production and function, then they will not be formed or function properly, and hence, one will feel spiritually disconnected or unfulfilled.
Furthermore, there are a wide variety of foods and substances, like sugar, caffeine, refined foods, processed foods, whole grains, starches, food additives, dyes, and preservatives, artificial sweeteners, pesticides, and herbicides, that disrupt or deplete neurotransmitters and have a significant impact on one's quality of spirituality.
So, what foods are needed for adequate production and function of neurotransmitters, and consequently, optimal spiritual health? An abundance of animal protein, fish, eggs, fat, low-starch vegetables, and a small amount of nuts, seeds and low-sugar fruit. You can find a more detailed list by taking a look at the caveman diet, also known as the Paleolithic diet. This is the diet that we are genetically designed to eat, and it is inherently void of the foods that disrupt and deplete neurotransmitters and rich in the foods that balance them; thus enhancing our spirituality.