Serotonin and Its Effect on Our Mood
Did you know that nutrition has a huge impact on our physical health and our mental health as well? “90-95 percent of the body’s serotonin is produced within the gut,” which influences mood. This suggests diet and mood are closer linked than you may have thought.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that relays important messages from the brain to the rest of the body – it is most known for boosting mood and happiness. Our bodies can make serotonin from tryptophan, but we cannot make tryptophan – we have to obtain that from the foods we consume.
Foods That May Help Boost Serotonin Levels
Serotonin helps influence many bodily processes, such as sleep, learning, digestion, memory, mood stabilization, and happiness. Along with other factors, inadequate levels of serotonin in the body has been associated with depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
While there is no way to directly boost serotonin levels through food, it is possible to eat foods containing tryptophan, which helps increase serotonin production. Generally speaking, foods containing high levels of iron, protein, riboflavin, and vitamin B6 usually also tend to contain high amounts of tryptophan.
Amino acids are molecules that combine to form proteins. There are 20 that the body needs in order to function properly – 11 of which the body can produce itself. The other 9 are called essential amino acids. Essential amino acids can’t be made by our body, so we have to get them from the nutrients in the foods we consume. Tryptophan is one of those 9 essential amino acids.
In order to boost absorption, it is recommended to eat tryptophan-rich foods along with carbohydrates. This is because carbohydrates cause the body to release more insulin, which promotes amino acid absorption and leaves tryptophan in the blood.
Foods that are particularly high in tryptophan include:
Foods That Positively Affect Gut Health
There are also certain foods that can negatively affect our mood and lead to feelings of anxiety and depression. This is because eating too many of the wrong things (sugar, processed/refined foods, meat containing antibiotics, fried foods, etc) can cause inflammation in the body, damage to the gut lining, and have an overall negative impact on our happiness. Since the majority of our serotonin is made in the gut, it is very important to keep the gut in healthy condition.
Some foods that are particularly helpful for maintaining a healthy gut are foods rich in:
- Vitamin D (salmon, sardines, mushrooms, eggs)
- Omega-3 fatty acids (sardines, mussels, anchovies, mackerel, salmon)
- Probiotics/Fermented Foods (yogurt, miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir)
- Prebiotics/Fiber (oats, beans, lentils, garlic, leeks, artichokes, bananas, asparagus)
- Polyphenols (berries, nuts, olives, red grapes, apples, dark chocolate, turmeric)
Most fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain an excellent amount of fiber and various nutrients that promote gut health.
The health of the gut plays a huge role in the production of serotonin, and low serotonin levels can influence the development of different mood disorders. However, it is important to remember that mood disorders such as depression and anxiety can be influenced by so many other factors than just the foods we eat. Eating to boost serotonin levels may not ease feelings of anxiety and depression completely, and may not work with the same amount of effectiveness for every person that struggles with these feelings. It is just one method within our control that may be worth trying in order to help manage the symptoms.
This article is for purely informational purposes only. If you suspect you have low serotonin levels, or are suffering from anxiety, depression, or another mood disorder, please consult a licensed medical professional.