I recently came across a topic on these forums about how eating more cheese, especially right before you go to bed, can cause an increase in the vividness of your dreams, or increase the likelihood of nightmares ( http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=2422.0
). I read the reply by 'chris' :
Cheese is a rich source of neuroactive compounds including the monoamine called "tyramine", which has provokes the release of adrenaline.
When we go to sleep a small part of the brainstem, called the locus coeruleus, switches on and through its connections with other regions of the brain triggers rem (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is associated with dreaming.
The name locus coeruleus is latin for "blue place" and if you cut across the brainstem with a knife you can clearly see the blue-coloured nerve cells that comprise this region. The cells are pigmented by neuromelanin, the neurological equivalent of a suntan. Neuromelanin is made as a biproduct in the synthesis of the nerve transmitters noradrenaline (a relative of adrenaline) and dopamine. These chemicals are derived from tyrosine, the same stuff used to make melanin in skin cells.
So the locus coeruleus, which triggers dream-sleep, uses noradrenaline as its nerve transmitter. Since cheese contains tyramine, which has the ability to potentiate the action of adrenline-like nerve transmitters, it is likely that eating cheese before bed fools the brain into thinking that there is more adrenaline waashing around than normal, making dreams more vivid.
Famously, when some of the first antidepressants were invented they worked by blocking the breakdown of monoamine / indolamine nerve transmitters including dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin by inhibiting an enzyme called MAO (monoamine oxidase). But when patients on these drugs ate cheese it could provoke periods of life-threateningly high blood pressure and a racing heart rate, through the uncontrolled release of adrenaline as there was no MAO to breakdown the tyramine in the diet.
And I started wondering about cheese causing anxiety. More specifically, about cheese possibly causing some of the anxiety I have (I have social anxiety disorder and am always anxious before, during, and after most interactions with other people). I had read about before that it involves your body being perhaps stuck in a certain 'state', in which it is 'preparing' you for a threat, a threat that's not really there. So it is releasing some adrenaline to 'prepare' you for this 'threat'. And in the message above from 'chris', he says "Cheese is a rich source of neuroactive compounds including the monoamine called "tyramine", which has provokes the release of adrenaline."
I also notice that every time I eat cheese, if I eat a few pieces in a row without stopping, I start to feel a little warm or hot, like I am about to start sweating or something. It is only a little discomfort, though, and I never noticed anything more than this (and it goes away right after I'm done eating the cheese). I looked up something about this on Yahoo Answers, and saw someone else asking about this same sort of reaction, and an answerer replied that perhaps the asker was having an allergic reaction to the cheese...?
I have eaten cheese for years, almost every day probably (and probably every day for many years when I was much younger). I also drink milk almost every day, and when I was much younger I probably drank quite a bit every day. I have also always had anxiety problems, and while in elementary school for perhaps a year or two I took Prozac (and then went off of it, and then took it again for a year maybe in 7th grade). As a point of reference, I just finished my 12th grade year and graduated. I still have a bad anxiety problem, that just seems to switch on every morning that I get up (as well as automatic negative thinking nearly all of the time, coupled with depression that also doesn't seem to be going away).
But I shouldn't get into that stuff too much, because I am seeing a therapist and am doing a little better every day I think; I just wanted to mention it, because I wonder if there's any possibly connection, even if it's small, between me eating so much dairy products like milk and cheese throughout my whole life, and the anxiety that I've never been without.
Also, I also read some stuff, like here: http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/maois/HQ01575/METHOD=print
, about MAOIs and how people taking them are required to severely limit their intake of cheese (among other things, like wine). Sometime soon they may (or may not, I don't know) prescribe some sort of medication to me for my depression. I know Prozac isn't an MAOI, but I still sort of wondered about it (my mom has taken it for anxiety for the past several years...and she has higher than average blood pressure, and drinks wine often and eats cheese sometimes...which I thought was supposed to be the effects of taking an MAOI and eating/drinking that stuff, even though Prozac is apparently not an MAOI...?)