Historically, our ancestors went long stretches without eating. Fasting allows you to use your energy for other purposes, such as rejuvenating the body and enhancing mental function.
When the breakdown of fat outstrips the breakdown of carbohydrates, three ketone bodies are produced, including acetone, acetoacetate and b-hydroxybutyrate (BHB). Anecdotal reports of feelings of well-being and mild euphoria accompanying short-term total fasting or low-carbohydrate diets are common.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in motivation and learning. It is also involved in unhealthy compulsive behaviors, including emotional eating, excessive internet usage and gaming, shopping and gambling, porn and masturbation, and thrill and novelty seeking.
A low dose of dopamine can cause blood vessels to relax (acting as a vasodilator). It increases renal and urinary tract flow, cardiac contractility, heart rate, and blood pressure. A high dose of dopamine can cause adrenergic effects, such as angina pectoris and tachycardia, and it may lead to gangrene.
In their dopamine fast, Sinka and Fleischer avoid eating, looking at screens, exercising, playing music, socializing, talking more than necessary, and even letting people touch them. This diet, they say, is modeled after Amish and monastic practices. But is it a ground-breaking wellness initiative or just another pretentious Silicon Valley fad? The answer lies in the brain.
During the first few days of following a low-carbohydrate diet, the body creates a series of chemicals called “ketone bodies.” These compounds are made from fat and provide an alternative energy source when glucose is unavailable. Three ketone bodies are produced by the liver: acetone, acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB). One of these ketone bodies, BHB, has very similar properties to GHB, a chemical used as an antidepressant and also illegally abused by some people.
People who have followed a low-carb diet report feelings of euphoria as they enter ketosis, a bodily state that occurs when the liver produces fatty acids from fat and uses them for fuel instead of sugar. As a result, the brain receives an alternate energy source and begins to operate more efficiently. It’s also been reported that a feeling of euphoria can last for months as the body adjusts to the new metabolic process.
Orexin is a neuropeptide produced by a collection of neurons in the lateral hypothalamus (LHA). The peptide acts on multiple targets, including monoaminergic and cholinergic nuclei of the brain stem as well as regions involved in arousal, cognition, and stress. Intracerebroventricular injection of orexin potently increases waking duration in rats and is markedly attenuated by histamine H1 antagonists (Yamanaka et al., 2002).
The expression of orexin mRNA is enhanced by hypoglycemia and a prolonged fast and inhibited by leptin, glucose, adenosine, and melatonin. Orexin neurons also monitor indicators of metabolic state such as blood glucose levels and have been shown to protect against fasting-induced hypothermia.
Orexin neurons receive input from the SCN, amygdala, and BST. They also innervate NPY and POMC neurons in the Arc and project to the LDT, PPT, and pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus. Orexin agonists increase food intake. In addition, orexin neurons modulate cardiovascular and locomotor responses to a variety of stressful stimuli.
The brain’s natural GABA neurotransmitter is responsible for calming the body and mind. It works to keep the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate in check and is critical for learning, memory, and the ability to control anxiety and stress.
When GABA is low, people feel hyperactive and anxious. GABA supplements decrease the activity of neurons in the brain and central nervous system, helping to ease feelings of anxiety and stress.
Supplements that boost GABA can also lower blood pressure, which is important for ensuring proper sleep patterns. However, these supplements can interact with medications such as high blood pressure and anti-depressants, so they should be used with caution by people taking those drugs.