Do you feel like You are living under a dark cloud?
If so, your Serotonin reserves might be low. This vital and precious neurotransmitter (brain chemical) is our primary defense against depression and anxiety and when our supply is low, it can also contribute to irritability, insomnia, gut & heart problems, PMS, fibromyalgia, headaches and other pain conditions, as well as cravings for carbohydrates, alcohol and certain drugs.
How is Serotonin produced?
Serotonin is naturally produced in our body from tryptophan, an amino acid found in foods like turkey, beef and cheese. Tryptophan converts to 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) which then converts directly into Serotonin. When we don’t make enough 5-HTP, we don’t make enough Serotonin to keep us happy and feeling balanced.
Why are You Serotonin starved?
- Diet – Not getting enough fuel through foods because you skip meals or don’t eat a pro-serotonin diet which is rich in proteins and healthy fat. Also, consuming anti-serotonin foods like coffee, other caffeinated beverages or artificial sweeteners, especially in after noon, can lead to deficiency.
- Stress – Physical and emotional stress can tax the brain and the body and use up Serotonin reserves to help us deal with the chronic demands while keeping us calm and centered.
- Substance Use – Stimulant use and abuse, including ephedra, diet pills, cocaine, etc., can overwhelm our nervous system and narrow our focus while inhibiting rest and relaxation. Marijuana, opiates, pain relievers and alcohol also affect our brain’s natural ability to produce the chemicals it needs to stay in a state of balance.
- Light – A lack of natural sunlight or bright light stimulates the brain to make more Serotonin.
- Exercise – Not getting enough physical activity can also lead to low Serotonin levels.
- Gender – Females simply produce less serotonin than males (about 1/3 less). PMS and menopausal mood problems can result when estrogen levels fall too low, because this sex hormone helps program Serotonin production.
What can You do to feel better?
Outside of the brain, most of your body’s supply of serotonin is stored in the gut. Consider working with an Acupuncturist or a Naturopathic Doctor to resolve any underlying digestive issues;
- Consume enough high protein foods. Eat a minimum of 4 ounces of low-fat animal protein at each meal (3x/day), preferably turkey, chicken, eggs, lean bee, lamb or wild game. Avoid meats that contain hormones or antibiotics and choose grass or plant fed meats. Limit red meat consumption to 1-2 times a week as research shows a correlation between red meat consumption and heart disease. Vegetarians can get some tryptophan from nutritional yeast, milk products, nuts, seeds, bananas and pumpkin.
- Don’t skip meals and avoid fast foods and processed foods.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants, as well as any other mind-altering substance.
- Reduce your exposure the stressful situations and environments. Practice self-care through meditation, exercise, yoga or mindfulness training.
- Expose yourself for 20-30 minutes a day to direct, bright, natural sunlight or spend 30-60 minutes a day under a 150-200 watt lamp. This stimulates Vitamin D production and helps with mood.
- Get 30-45 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 times a week. The higher level of oxygen in the blood helps with the conversion of serotonin from amino acids and also more amino acids are available in the blood because the body is calling for them to help with muscle repair. More aminos in the blood means more available for the brain to convert and use to make Serotonin.
- EEG Biofeedback / Neurofeedback, also referred to as brainwave training, can help to regulate the brain’s biochemistry and in turn increase Serotonin production.
- Some dietary supplements can assist the brain in returning to its natural state of balance. It is recommended that you consult with your physician before taking any supplements, especially if you are taking any other prescribed medications.