Today, we are going to explore the secret food chemistry of happiness.

Today, we are going to explore the secret food chemistry of happiness.

Ancient wisdom says “happiness starts in the stomach”. According to Maharishi Ayurveda, the food you eat is directly connected with your health and happiness. When the food has been completely digested, a very subtle essence known as OJAS is created causing our mind-body system experience the joy, pleasure, contentment, and satisfaction. Indeed that substance exists, a few, actually.


What are neurotransmitters?


Secret food chemistry of happiness


Modern science says that there are a few major compounds, called neurotransmitters that influence our happiness and mood.

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that transmit signals between nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain and throughout the body. These molecules play a crucial role in the communication within the nervous system, influencing various physiological and psychological functions.

Ancient wisdom says “happiness starts in the stomach”.

Neurons are specialized cells that transmit electrical signals. When an electrical impulse reaches the end of a neuron (the presynaptic terminal), it triggers the release of neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft—a tiny gap between the sending neuron and the receiving neuron. These neurotransmitters then bind to receptors on the receiving neuron, transmitting the signal across the synapse and allowing it to continue its journey through the nervous system.

There are many different types of neurotransmitters, each with specific functions and effects on behavior, mood, cognition, and bodily functions.


Some well-known neurotransmitters include:

  • Serotonin: Often referred to as the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, serotonin plays a key role in regulating mood, emotion, sleep, and appetite.
  • Dopamine: Associated with pleasure, reward, motivation, and motor function, dopamine plays a significant role in the brain’s reward system.
  • Norepinephrine (Noradrenaline): Involved in arousal, alertness, and the body’s “fight or flight” response to stress.
  • GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid): Functions as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, calming neural activity and reducing anxiety.
  • Glutamate: Acts as an excitatory neurotransmitter, facilitating communication between neurons and contributing to learning and memory.
  • Acetylcholine: Plays a crucial role in muscle control, memory, and attention.
  • Endorphins: Serve as natural pain relievers and contribute to feelings of pleasure and well-being.
  • Oxytocin: Known as the “bonding hormone,” oxytocin is involved in social bonding, trust, and emotional connections.

Balancing the levels of these neurotransmitters is essential for maintaining mental and emotional well-being. Imbalances or dysfunction in neurotransmitter systems can contribute to various mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. Understanding the role of neurotransmitters is crucial for both the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions.


Four major “happy hormones” – DOSE


Secret food chemistry of happiness


There are four major neurotransmitters which are widely known as “happy hormones” – DOSE:

  1. Dopamine
  2. Oxytocin
  3. Serotonin
  4. Endorphins

Each of them makes you happier in its own way.


Popularly known as “hormone of happiness”, dopamine is a natural opioid drug that our brain injects into the nervous system to ease the pain. Phenylalanine, an essential amino acid, is a precursor for dopamine. Phenylalanine is found naturally in milk, and in our body can be easily produced from another commonly found amino acid tyrosine. High tyrosine foods include cheese, soybeans, beef, lamb, pork, fish, chicken, nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy, beans, and whole grains.


Oxytocin is sometimes called the cuddle hormone because it is released through closeness with another person. But it is not necessarily to hug somebody (especially a beautiful stranger); it can also be triggered through social bonding, like eye contact or a love letter.


Serotonin – if you are in a good mood, you’ve got serotonin to thank; if not – you’ve got serotonin to blame. The major amount of serotonin exists in the intestine, and is governed by your state of hunger. Feel happier after lunch? That’s why.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and biochemical precursor for serotonin. It cannot be produced in our body and must be part of our daily diet. A high level of tryptophan in blood makes us happier by promoting the serotonin production. Conversely, the lack of tryptophan results in low mood and even depression. That’s why tryptophan is used as antidepressants.

Some foods naturally contain tryptophan in large amounts: chocolate, oats, dried dates, milk and dairy products, red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, sesame, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, corn and peanuts.


Secret food chemistry of happiness



Endorphins are our internal opioids – “endogenous morphine”. The name came from the Greek words “éndon meaning “within” and morphine, from Morpheus, the god of sleep in the Greek mythology.

They are produced by the central nervous system and the pituitary gland.

The principal function of endorphins is to inhibit the transmission of pain signals. They are used as an analgesic in the body to numb or dull pains. They are released during periods of strenuous exercise, emotional stress and orgasm. Endorphins help relieve pain and induce feelings of pleasure or euphoria, very similar to that produced by other opioids.

Endorphins are neuropeptides – short sequences of amino acids that bind to opioid receptors in the brain. Like other proteins, they are synthesized from amino acids, for example, α-endorphin is an opioid peptide with a length of 16 amino acids.

Food does not supply our body with ready-made endorphins; it helps to produce them by providing with amino acids, energy, minerals and vitamins that are required for the endorphin synthesis. Balanced diet plays a vital role in this process.


You can make your life brighter by planning your every day the way that activates these hormones of happiness. It will increase your productivity and creativity, give a positive attitude, and make you enjoy many wonderful things that you might have not noticed before.


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