Serotonin is a neurotransmitter or hormone that maintains mood and well-being. It helps regulate appetite, sleep, learning, memory and cognition.
Sounds like something we could all use more of, doesn’t it? You aren’t wrong. Low serotonin levels are linked to depression.
What can you do to increase your serotonin levels?
For one, you can exercise regularly. Anything you enjoy will do. From simply taking walks, to yoga, cycling or weight training. 30 minutes three times a week is a recommended minimum to see results for increased serotonin.
Second, a better diet can. Serotonin is created by the body from tryptophan which comes only from one’s diet. The body cannot produce it. Some common, high-tryptophan foods are: eggs, sa
Getting more light is a third thing you can do to help. You’ve probably heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is a type of seasonal depression caused primarily by lack of light. If you can’t make it out in the day time there are many sun lamps on the market. 20-30 minutes of from 2 feet away, not looking at the light directly, should help increase serotonin levels.
A fourth thing to try is getting a massage. Massages decrease cortisol, the alarm hormone (that causes the fight or flight response). Unreleased cortisol can cause anxiety by keeping you on “high alert” and increase your heart rate. Massages will lower cortisol and increase serotonin.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is important for good health. You need tryptophan to build certain proteins. Your body also uses tryptophan in a multi-step process to make serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter in your brain that regulates sleep. I asked Jody Victor to tell us all about it.
Jody Victor: Turkey has tryptophan, but all meats have tryptophan. Chicken and pork contain more tryptophan than turkey per gram. Even cheddar cheese has more tryptophan per gram.
What really triggers your Thanksgiving after-dinner sleepiness is not the turkey. It?s the carbohydrates-rich meal (not the protein-rich meal) that increases the level of tryptophan in your brain, which leads to serotonin synthesis. The carbs stimulate your pancreas to secrete insulin. When this happens, some of the amino acids that compete with tryptophan leave your bloodstream and enter your muscle cells. This causes an increase of tryptophan in your blood stream. You then synthesize the serotonin that makes you sleepy. A high fat meal also contributes to your sleepiness. Fats take a lot of energy to digest. Your body redirects blood to your digestive system to break down the fats. Your energy level declines. Overeating in general takes a lot of energy and more blood is directed away from your other organ systems to your full stomach to aid in digestion. Sleepiness ensues.
Nutritionists say that the tryptophan in your Thanksgiving turkey probably doesn?t trigger your body to produce more serotonin because tryptophan works best on an empty stomach. It?s not the turkey that makes you sleepy after your Thanksgiving feast because it has to compete with all the other amino acids in your body. The truth is that you could leave out the turkey in your Thanksgiving meal and still feel the sleepiness factor after dinner.
All the Best
Quercetin is a flavonoid. Flavonoids are natural pigments found in plants. Flavonoids provide plants with antioxidant protection from the elements and environmental stressors. I asked Jody Victor® to tell us how they can help us, too.
Jody Victor®: Flavonoids have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. They help strengthen and maintain healthy cells walls. Healthy blood cell walls block histamine from being released into your bloodstream and causing an allergic reaction.
Quercetin has been shown to be an especially effective bioflavonoid for fighting allergies. Quercetin has a binding effect on cell membranes, which prevents them from releasing anti-inflammatory enzymes into your surrounding blood and tissue. Mast cells (which line many blood vessels) and basophils (a type of white blood cell circulating in your blood stream) are the main storage sites for histamine and serotonin. When your body encounters allergens it sends enzymes to fight the intruder. The enzymes cause the cell membranes of your mast cells and basophils to become “leaky”. Histamine and serotonin pour into surrounding blood and tissues, causing the familiar allergic reactions. Quercetin has a strong affinity for mast cells and basophils. Essentially quercetin prevents the release of histamines from your cells into your bloodstream rather than blocking them after they have already been released.
Quercetin is particularly concentrated in fruit skins but can also be found in high amounts in tea, wine, berries, and leafy green vegetables. Compared with other flavonoids in plant foods, quercetin contains the highest amount of antioxidant activity.
Here is a list of foods containing the highest amounts of quercetin:
- Citrus fruits
- Onions (especially red onions)
- Dark berries (blueberry, blackberry, bilberry)
- Green and black tea
- Chamomile tea
- Red wine
Quercetin can also be taken as a supplement. Quercetin supplements are available as pills and capsules. They are often packaged with bromelain (an enzyme found in pineapple). A total dose of 250 to 600 mg a day is recommended for allergy treatment in adults. Quercetin may be toxic to your kidneys when more than 1 gram a day is taken. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, ask your doctor to help you identify the safest product and dosage.
All the Best!