- Researchers at Emory University found that chronic, low-grade inflammation — the kind of inflammation you probably don’t even notice — messes with your neurotransmitters and causes a drop in motivation.
- You use a lot of your energy resources to deal with inflammation, both stored energy and from your diet.
- The research team found that low-level inflammation is enough to shift your dopamine and tank motivation.
- Keep reading to find out how to get your inflammation in check and get your mojo back.
Researchers at Emory University found that chronic, low-grade inflammation — the kind of inflammation you probably don’t even notice — could mess with your neurotransmitters and cause a drop in motivation.
Here’s what’s happening. When your body is fighting an infection or repairing tissue, you get tired and you don’t feel like doing anything. That’s because inflammation comes with a high energy demand that requires a quick mobilization of energy resources, both stored energy and from your diet.
In response to illness or injury, your immune cells pump out cytokines, which are signaling molecules that kickstart the inflammation response. The research team found that cytokines themselves have a direct effect on not only energy metabolism in different parts of your body, but also your dopamine pathways. Dopamine is the main neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, that’s involved in motivation, among other things. In effect, the cytokines put the brakes on some body processes and ramp up others by deciding where to shuttle energy.
Instantly download the Bulletproof Diet Roadmap, your cheat sheet to keeping your inflammation in check.
This finding is huge, since dozens of physical and behavioral aspects of being human rely on dopamine, like:
- Motivation and drive
- Mental energy
The list goes on.
Cytokines rerouting your energy is probably an adaptive mechanism that humans developed generations ago. If your body needed to heal, it served you well to take a break from hunting for food or looking for a mate until you were back in fighting shape.
Inflammation when you’re not sick or injured
This smoking gun study points to why some people feel that way all the time, even when they don’t feel sick or injured. If you have chronic, low-level inflammation from a junk diet, from food intolerances that you aren’t aware of, from bad sleep, or from high stress, inflammatory cytokines are constantly floating through your system and putting a constant damper on your dopamine.
That translates to not achieving as much as you know you could, not caring about the things that normally light you up, trouble learning and concentrating, and bad moods.
With chronic inflammation and low dopamine, you’re going through the motions instead of living.
More research needs to be done to make the claim that inflammation causes mental problems associated with low dopamine, but either way, it’s a good idea to dial in your inflammation and see how you feel. Spoiler: you feel like crap when you’re inflamed, and you feel like a superhero when you’re not.
Controlling your inflammation response
These microscopic cytokines might boss your energy levels around, but the good news is, you’re largely the boss of your inflammation response. Every part of the Bulletproof lifestyle — ketosis, fasting, eating polyphenols, avoiding glyphosate, avoiding antinutrients … it all centers around one thing: reducing inflammation.
When you have less inflammation, you think more clearly, your jeans fit better, and you pack more awesomeness into your days.
Here’s what you can do to get your inflammation in check.
- Follow the Bulletproof Diet. Eating the right foods will have the biggest impact on the kind of everyday inflammation that you can’t see.
- Read about inflammation here. Explore the most common causes of inflammation and experiment with natural remedies to combat it.
- Give cryotherapy a go. Whether you opt for a cold shower, an ice bath, or a session in a cryochamber, it’s a great way to quiet your inflammation response.
- Start a meditation practice. Meditation is the best way to re-train your brain and body to better deal with stressful situations. You can start with this 30-day meditation challenge, complete with guided meditations.
- Read Head Strong. Head Strong is the ultimate guide to reducing inflammation in the brain and building up your mitochondria, the power plants of your cells, to keep your mental energy and motivation strong no matter what life throws your way.
Low-fat, grain-based diets and motivation
Fun fact: did you know that John Harvey Kellogg invented Corn Flakes and Sylvester Graham invented graham crackers over a century ago to lower testosterone in men? I am not making this up – do a quick internet search and you’ll see. They held religious beliefs that testosterone was at the root of all evil and made up a whole diet and lifestyle to combat it. Kellogg, a physician, went as far as to make a list of “symptoms” of sex and masturbation, which included arthritis and seizures.
They were onto something. Doing the low-fat, grain-based thing works wonders for depleting your testosterone and libido. Since testosterone is directly tied to dopamine, it messes with your motivation, too.
Deprive the body of saturated fat, and your hormone levels go wonky. Pile your plate with grains, and inflammation goes through the roof while motivation tanks. Given the era, you have to wonder whether they were trying to create a class of subservient people with no motivation.
Don’t let that be you. Eat like the boss you know you are. Looking at you, too, ladies — you make testosterone in just the right amount, so eat in a way that keeps you ready to take on the world.
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