Serotonin General InformationSerotonin is a neurotransmitter produced in the brain by the pineal gland. It acts as a chemical messenger that the transmits signals between nerve cells. Changes in the levels of serotonin in the brain lead to mood changes. Low levels of serotonin can cause anxiety, depression, compulsive disorders, learning problems and aggressive behavior. Since serotonin plays important role in regulation of mood, medications used for the treatment of mood disorders and depression are mainly acting by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain. Apart from the brain, serotonin can be also found in the lining of the digestive tract and in blood platelets.
Serotonin levels can be changed by the foods that we consume, which means that one can lift his or her mood with foods that have the ability to increase serotonin levels. However, the body doesn’t get serotonin from foods but makes it from tryptophan, biochemical precursor to serotonin. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is found in foods rich in protein. Therefore, tryptophan derived from food is transported to the brain to produce the serotonin.
Foods That Increase SerotoninOur bodies can produce serotonin when we eat foods high in vitamin B. That includes brown rice, green leafy vegetables, legumes, eggs, chicken, meat, corn, nuts, peas and sunflower seeds. Foods rich in calcium such as almonds, brewer’s yeast, green peas and cruciferous vegetables, fish, sesame seeds and tofu and sources of magnesium like green leafy vegetables, brown rice, shrimp and salmon can also help in production of the serotonin the body. Folic acid, like tryptophan, is also the precursor to serotonin and it can be found in chicken liver, lentils, kidney beans, black beans, oranges, melons, strawberries, leafy greens, broccoli and spinach.
Tryptophan rich foods are turkey, soy products, poultry, eggs, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, bananas and oats. Finally, in order to produce the serotonin, the body requires essential fatty acids like omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, and gamma-linolenic acid. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in walnut oil, flax seed oil and fish oil such as mackerel, salmon, sardine and tuna. Foods rich in omega 6 fatty acids are canola oil, grape seed oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, wheat germ oil, chicken, turkey, eggs and flax. Gamma-linolenic acid sources are black current oil, evening primrose oil, borage oil and bluegreen algae. Dark chocolate and cocoa, sour cherries and whey protein should be incorporated in the diet too to increase the serotonin levels.
Additionally, you can improve the levels of serotonin in other ways as well. That includes regular exercising, exposure to sunlight, full night sleep and sufficient intake of vitamin D.