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Explanation of foods that regulate the autonomic nervous system, categorized by nutrients!
Introducing harmful foods and dietary tips

2024.5.20

  • # Autonomic nerves
  • # food
  • # About nutrition

Did you know that what you eat can make a difference in your autonomic nervous system?
You might be able to relax your mind and body by knowing the tips for eating!

"I want to improve my irritability and anxiety by adjusting my autonomic nervous system."
“What are the nutrients that regulate the autonomic nervous system?”

Some of you may have the same concerns and questions as above.
Perhaps the cause of your discomfort is a nutritional imbalance in your daily diet.

In this article, we will explain the following contents.

Please refer to this article as it will also explain lifestyle habits that can improve your autonomic nervous system.

What is autonomic nerve disturbance?

What is autonomic nerve disturbance?

Our bodies have an "autonomic nervous system" that regulates vital functions such as breathing, heart rate, and digestion.
Autonomic nervous disorder is a condition in which the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves that make up the autonomic nervous system is disrupted, and bodily functions cannot be properly controlled. When the balance of the autonomic nervous system is disrupted due to stress, anxiety, or poor lifestyle habits, a variety of mental and physical symptoms appear.

sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves
disturbance of balance

The autonomic nervous system is a nervous system that automatically controls organs throughout the body, and is made up of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The "sympathetic nervous system" is the nervous system that puts the body in an active mode, and the "parasympathetic nervous system" is the nervous system that puts the body in a relaxing mode.
In a healthy state, these two balance each other and maintain breathing, heartbeat, body temperature, etc.

However, if the balance of the autonomic nervous system is disrupted due to excessive stress or disordered lifestyle, various symptoms such as malaise, headaches, irritability, and insomnia will appear.
The various symptoms that occur due to disturbances in the autonomic nervous system are collectively called "autonomic imbalance."

Four causes of autonomic nervous system disturbances

There are four main reasons why the autonomic nervous system is disturbed:

  • stress
  • irregular lifestyle and diet
  • hormonal imbalance
  • effects of illness

If you are under intense stress from work or relationships, or if your eating, sleeping, and other lifestyle habits are disrupted, your autonomic nervous system may become imbalanced.
In addition, hormonal imbalance may also affect the balance of the autonomic nervous system.
Therefore, during menopause, when female hormones rapidly decrease, it can be said that, although it varies from person to person, disorders due to disturbances in the autonomic nervous system are more likely to appear.

Furthermore, the autonomic nervous system may be disturbed due to mental or physical illness.
If the cause is an illness, it is difficult to adjust the autonomic nervous system through self-care alone, so if you have any doubts, we recommend visiting a medical institution.

Symptoms caused by disturbances in the autonomic nervous system

The main symptoms of autonomic nerve disturbance include:

physical symptoms

  • headache
  • dizzy
  • Palpitation
  • nausea
  • Lethargy
  • Tired
  • constipation
  • Diarrhea etc.

Psychiatric symptoms

  • Frustrated
  • 不安
  • insomnia
  • decreased concentration
  • decrease in motivation
  • Increased sense of tension, etc.

The autonomic nervous system regulates the functions of various organs and organs, so if the balance is disrupted, various disorders, both physical and mental, may occur.

The discomfort you feel on a regular basis may not be due to your imagination, but may be due to a disturbance in your autonomic nervous system.

[By Nutrient] Foods that regulate the autonomic nervous system

[By Nutrient] Foods that regulate the autonomic nervous system

Here, we will explain foods that regulate the autonomic nervous system, categorized by nutrients.

If you want to improve your autonomic nervous system but don't know exactly what to eat, please use this as a reference.

[GABA] Tomato, brown rice, etc.

GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) is a type of amino acid and a neurotransmitter that works in the brain and nerves.
GABA has the effect of suppressing nervous excitement and can be expected to have a relaxing effect.

The main foods rich in GABA include:

  • Tomato
  • brown rice
  • Eggplant
  • Kimchi
  • pickles
  • Miso etc.

The recommended daily intake of GABA is approximately 1mg for adults. ※ 1.

If you have a well-balanced diet, you don't have to worry about being deficient, but since it is an essential ingredient for regulating the autonomic nervous system, it is important to actively consume it.

[Tryptophan]
Dairy products, soy products, bananas, etc.

Tryptophan is a type of essential amino acid that cannot be produced in the body, and is a raw material for serotonin. Serotonin is also called the ``happy hormone'' and has the effect of suppressing stress and promoting relaxation, so it helps adjust the balance of the autonomic nervous system.

The following are the main foods rich in tryptophan, which is a component of serotonin.

  • Dairy products
  • Soy products
  • バナナ
  • Cereals
  • Chicken breast
  • lever
  • Tuna etc.

Tryptophan cannot be produced in the body, so be sure to get it from the foods listed above.

[Protein/vitamin B6]
Fish, lean meat, etc.

In order to increase ``GABA'' and ``serotonin,'' which suppress nervous nervousness, in the body, it is recommended to take ``vitamin B6,'' which is necessary for the synthesis of both.

Vitamin B6 is often found in protein-rich foods, so be conscious of your intake.

The main foods rich in protein and vitamin B6 include:

  • Fishes
  • lean meats
  • Sake lees
  • Sesame etc.

If you are busy and tend to have an unbalanced diet, it may be a good idea to supplement your diet with a supplement containing vitamin B6.

[Vitamin C] Vegetables, fruits, etc.

Vitamin C is involved in the synthesis of anti-stress hormones such as dopamine and adrenaline, which are secreted to combat stress.
Vitamin C is easily consumed by stress and cannot be synthesized in the body, so active intake is necessary.

The main foods rich in vitamin C include:

  • broccoli
  • paprika
  • Lemon
  • strawberries etc.

Vitamin C is a nutrient that is easily destroyed by heat, so it is best to consume fruits and other foods in their raw form.

[Dietary fiber] Sweet potatoes, mushrooms, etc.

Dietary fiber has the effect of increasing stool bulk and softening it, so it helps improve the intestinal environment.
The brain and intestines influence each other through autonomic nerves and hormones, so adjusting the intestinal environment will also help adjust the autonomic nervous system.

The main foods containing dietary fiber are:

  • Potatoes
  • mushrooms
  • Cereals
  • seaweed etc.

Dietary fiber is a nutrient that is often lacking in the Japanese diet, so be conscious of consuming it to maintain a normal intestinal environment.

Ingredients and foods you should avoid for your autonomic nervous system

Ingredients and foods you should avoid for your autonomic nervous system

In order to balance the autonomic nervous system, it is necessary to avoid excessive intake of trans fatty acids, caffeine, alcohol, etc.
Although it may be difficult to not consume it at all, try to reduce it little by little.

Foods containing trans fatty acids

Trans fatty acids are artificially created fatty acids that are often found in products such as shortening and margarine.
Trans fatty acids are known to have a negative effect on health, and according to overseas research, they are said to affect coronary artery disease, obesity, and the onset of allergic diseases.

Foods that are likely to contain trans fatty acids include:

  • cake
  • donut
  • sweet bread
  • Fried food
  • Instant noodle
  • Snacks etc.

Eating out and processed foods tend to be especially high in trans fats, so it's a good idea to try to cook your own meals as much as possible.

Drinks containing caffeine

Caffeine is a nervous stimulant, so ingesting too much can cause palpitations, nausea, excitement, dizziness, and insomnia. Caffeine is found in large amounts in coffee, energy drinks, and tea.
If you habitually drink to concentrate on work or study, be careful not to overdose.

excessive alcohol intake

Moderate amounts of alcohol are said to have a relaxing effect, but excessive intake can stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and disrupt the autonomic nervous system. If you often drink alcohol, it may be a good idea to drink more water (chaser) or eat food before drinking alcohol on an empty stomach.

Eating snacks such as edamame or cheese first can help protect the mucous membranes of your stomach and intestines and reduce the impact on your body.

Meals and lifestyle habits that regulate the autonomic nervous system

Meals and lifestyle habits that regulate the autonomic nervous system

From here, we will introduce food and lifestyle habits that regulate the autonomic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system is easily affected by lifestyle habits such as diet, exercise, and sleep, so it may be a good idea to reconsider your daily lifestyle.

with a well-balanced diet
Eliminate nutritional deficiencies

If your eating habits are disordered, your intake of nutrients becomes uneven, and you may unconsciously become deficient in the nutrients necessary to balance the autonomic nervous system. It is important to eat a nutritionally balanced diet with as many staple foods, main dishes, and side dishes as possible.

If you usually eat out a lot, start by increasing the frequency of cooking for yourself.

Improve the intestinal environment with ingredients that increase good bacteria

The intestines and the brain are closely connected to each other through the autonomic nervous system and hormones, so when the intestinal environment is in good condition, the autonomic nervous system will also be in good condition.

In particular, if you are suffering from symptoms such as constipation or diarrhea, it would be a good idea to try to maintain a lifestyle that maintains your intestinal environment.

The function of ``good bacteria'' is important for improving the intestinal environment to regulate the autonomic nervous system.

Therefore, be sure to eat foods that contain a lot of good bacteria, as well as foods that contain dietary fiber and oligosaccharides that serve as food for good bacteria.

Foods containing a lot of good bacteria

  • Yogurt
  • cheese
  • Natto
  • Kimchi etc.

Ingredients that feed good bacteria

  • Yogurt
  • cheese
  • Natto
  • Kimchi etc.

Continuous intake of good bacteria is important to maintain the intestinal environment and balance the autonomic nervous system.

Relieve stress with moderate exercise

In order to balance your autonomic nervous system, we also recommend exercising that you can do without straining yourself (walking, jogging, yoga, stretching, etc.). By performing exercises that are not too demanding, the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated, making it easier to balance the autonomic nervous system.

If you get some sunlight and move your body after you wake up, you will be more likely to produce serotonin, a hormone that has a relaxing effect.

Intense exercise actually activates the sympathetic nervous system, so it's a good idea to choose exercise that is light and easy to maintain.

Relax with quality sleep and bathing

Good sleep and bathing are also ways to adjust your autonomic nervous system. Let's take a look back at the amount of time you usually sleep and the quality of your sleep.

During sleep, the parasympathetic nervous system is dominant, so lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can disrupt the balance of the autonomic nervous system. If you have a habit of looking at your smartphone or computer until just before bed, refrain from using it at least 2 hours before bed to avoid blue light, which has a wake-up effect.

Also, if you soak in the bathtub instead of taking a shower, your parasympathetic nervous system will become dominant, which can help you fall asleep more easily.

Adequate alcohol consumption and smoking cessation

Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and disturb the autonomic nervous system, so be aware of the appropriate amount.

Moderate intake of alcohol is: ※ 2.

  • Beer: 1 medium bottle (500mL)
  • Sake: 1 go (180mL)
  • Wine: 1 glass (120mL)
  • Whiskey: 1 double (60mL)

Also, if you have a habit of smoking, try to quit smoking to reduce the risk of discomfort.
This is because the nicotine contained in cigarettes overstimulates the sympathetic nervous system and causes disturbances in the autonomic nervous system.

Meals and lifestyle habits that regulate the autonomic nervous system

In this article, we have explained the foods that regulate the autonomic nervous system and the foods that should be avoided in order to regulate the autonomic nervous system.

There are various types of nutrients that regulate the autonomic nervous system, such as vitamins, protein, and dietary fiber, so it is important to eat a well-balanced diet on a daily basis.
In addition to disordered eating habits, the autonomic nervous system is also caused by stress, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, etc., so it is important to review lifestyles that tend to be disordered.

Balance your autonomic nervous system by adjusting your lifestyle habits and live your days without worrying about painful ailments.

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Registered dietitian Hitomi Matsuura

At university, she studied a wide range of fields including applied nutrition, food science, and nutrition education, and obtained a registered dietitian license and a nutrition teacher license. After graduating, she worked as a registered dietitian at a nursery school, where she not only provided school lunches, but also focused on nutritional education, allergy countermeasures, baby food classes, and dietary guidance, consultation, and suggestions. After obtaining qualifications as an online food creator, she will work as a food writer, taking food photos, writing articles for online media, developing and supervising recipes, and providing online dietary guidance as a freelance registered dietitian.

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