This post is about the MAOA gene and how it can contribute to your mental health. The MAOA is an enzyme that helps and encourages the production of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These are three important neurotransmitters, and when in balance can have a positive effect on brain functioning. You can read more about neurotransmitters here.
When your MAOA gene is malfunctioning, it can be detrimental to your mental health. It can be the cause of mood swings as found in people with bipolar disorder.
Now, a malfunctioning MAOA gene can either be too fast or too slow. If your MAOA gene is fast, then your brain is eliminating dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin too quickly. It can leave you starved for these neurotransmitters and cause them to be depleted quickly throughout the day. On the other hand, if your MAOA is slow, then your brain is eliminating these neurotransmitters too slowly which can build up and cause excess and high levels.
A note about MAOA is that it produces serotonin. When we have sleep difficulties it is easy to eat a diet rich in carbohydrates and high in tryptophan. Tryptophan replenishes serotonin levels in the brain. This act of eating a carbohydrate-rich diet is your MAOA gene at work telling you it needs more serotonin.
A fast MAOA gene has too little tryptophan, while a slow MAOA gene has too much.
For your MAOA to function properly you need tryptophan-rich foods such as spinach, mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, and seaweed. You also need vitamin B2 -riboflavin-rich foods you can find from liver, lamb, mushrooms, spinach, salmon, and eggs.
For your MAOA to work properly you need to eat a diet that will satisfy your three main neurotransmitters that are affected (dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin). That means eat balanced meals of protein: carbohydrates: fats. Your mind and body will thank you for it. After a while, you will start to notice your energy levels increase and your moods and behaviors become balanced, and your sleep improved as well.
Signs of Fast MAOA:
Alcoholism / addictions
Sleep difficulties with staying asleep
Signs of Slow MAOA:
Mood Swings / Bipolar disorder
Rage / aggressive behavior
Sleep difficulties with falling asleep
There are also some supplements that can help along with diet. For a fast MAOA the supplement 5htp could help. This could help especially if your COMT is fast as well.
For a slow MAOA, lithium in the form of orotate could help. B2 / riboflavin is also needed. Be advised to speak with a practitioner before starting any protocol.
Fabbri C, et al. (2014). Genetics and epigenetics of psychiatric diseases. Neural Plast, 2014:463784.