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Foods Containing Serotonin

foods-containing-serotoninEat Your Way to Happiness With Foods That Boost Your Mood and Reduce Symptoms of Depression

It's an almost magical connection. We've known for a long time that serotonin is one of the amazingly powerful substances related to depressive mood disorders.  Are foods that increase serotonin a good idea?  Many perscription medications used to control depression have concentrated on inhibiting serotonin loss or adding more through supplementation.

Recent research has determined that most serotonin coming into the body from prescription drugs ends up in the gut and has difficulty passing to where it is needed, beyond the blood-brain barrier.  Therefore serotonin never makes it to the central nervous system and the brain where it is desperately needed. The key to raising serotonin levels includes understanding nutrition and increasing trytophan and folic acid intake to make the most of our food's value.  Simply eating foods that contain serotonin won't do the trick.

Serotonin and Tryptophan: The "Feel Good" Connection

Serotonin levels affect mood, appetite, sleep, and sexuality. Low serotonin can cause depression, anger, and insomnia, and mental malaise.  This leads to an inability to face life challenges. Normally we have thought we need the help of psychiatric drugs that treat depression to raise our serotonin levels.Researchers are now looking at foods that boost serotonin levels. Serotonin along with dopamine is highly affected by the foods we eat. However, foods containing serotonin do not raise our serotonin levels as serotonin does not pass directly from our intestines through our blood to the place it is needed in the brain.  Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are considered one way to maintain better levels in the brian.

A myriad of reuptake inhibitors and tricyclics have caused untold side effects for patients and done actually very little to speed up the slow progress toward lifting depression once serotonin levels have gone out of balance.  We are learning through nutritional and digestive research that there may be other more organic and body friendly ways to fight serotonin depression.  More and more nutrition including foods high in serotonin are being recognized as a factor to mental and physical health since this substance functions in the nerve bundles of the serotonin brain as a neurotransmitter.

What is Tryptophan

Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, can easily be absorbed through digestion into our blood brain barrier. Our bodies are unable to produce trytophan and so we rely on our diet to continually fill this void. Trytophan is a biochemical precursor to serotonin.  Eating foods which contain the amino acid tryptophan can help increase levels in serotonin in the brain. However, tryptophan has to compete with other amino acids for brain absorption. Eating high protein diet creates the release of too many competing amino acids. High glycemic foods that boost serotonin like breads, pasta, and potatoes cause spikes and drops in insulin and blood sugar levels.  For some, the result is almost like a roller coaster of ups and downs in energy and mood.

Increase Tryptophan

whole grains by themselves without any proteins allows better and slower absorption of trytophan, reduces competing amino acids, and assists the body in maintaining good levels of serotonin in your body. Also eating meat by itself can also help increase the absorption of trytophan.  This actually is good reason to look at food combining habits in a new light.

Some of the best sources for tryptophan (foods that boost and increase serotonin) are eggs, turkey, poultry, cottage cheese, chickpeas, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, bananas, mangos, oats, and spirulina.

Increase Folic Acid

Most depressed people have also been found to have a diet insufficient in folic acid. Folic acid, like tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin and can cross the blood brain barrier. Eating foods with more folic acid increases serotonin levels in the brain. The best sources of folic acid or folate are chicken liver, lentils, kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, oranges, melons, strawberries, leafy greens, broccoli, spinach, and asparagus.

Serotonin is your key to being happy, but resolving a serotonin imbalance is more complicated then just taking it as a supplement or trying to use chemicals in your brain to change the metabolism of serotonin in the body.  You can literally eat your way to happiness with food rich in tryptophan and folic acid, the building blocks to maintaining high levels of serotonin. Remember to eat your leafy greens, beans, and whole grains.   Remember it's more than a simple serotonin deficiency. 

Get Help

If you are experiencing a number of the symptoms mentioned in this article along with other related problems including brain fogginess, insomnia, extreme, persistant or chronic depression, you likely need more than an increase in any supplements.  Please see a physician and make sure that your problems are addressed both physically and mentally.