As our oestrogen starts to rollercoaster this can affect our serotonin levels, cue low mood. But we can help support our serotonin production through the food that we eat.
First off, we need to make sure we have regular intakes of one of the essential amino acids tryptophan. Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin AND melatonin, so good to support sleep too, and can be found in chicken, oats, bananas, figs, dates, nut butter, oat cakes, milk, kiwis and tart cherry juice.
Oestrogen is a factor so for those of us not on HRT, phytoestrogens are helpful here. They are not oestrogen but exert a mild oestrogenic effect on the body. They are in a wide variety of foods including the soy family (tofu, tempeh, miso, edaname beans, organic soya yogurt) and lignans, the largest concentration is found in ground linseed / flaxseed and then smaller amounts in sesame seeds, brasicas like kale and pulses.
The sunshine vitamin D is also needed to help convert tryptophan to serotonin. Hence why low levels can cause SAD syndrome.
Zinc is also essential – and why alcohol can affect our mood and sleep as zinc is needed to detox alcohol and can reduce stores. From pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds (tahini!), lean red meat, raw chocolate and crustaceans like prawns.
Mighty magnesium which is nature’s tranquilser which also supports our happiness neurochemical. It also helps to modulate the very excitory neurotransmitter called glutamate. Found in green leafy veg, pumpkin seeds, avocado, black beans and Epsom salts.
B6 is a super important vitamin for our hormonal health and our nervous system too as it helps support serotonin synthesis (and dopamine too – needed for motivation). Found in salmon, eggs, beef, cheese, sweet potato and spinach.
Omega 3 dexaenoic acid (DHA) helps support the serotonin pathway by making several types of serotonin receptors more sensitive to serotonin. Omega 3 also helps to reduce inflammation which has been positively indicated to help support low mood.
Our gut has the most nerve endings outside of the central nervous system – it is part of the enteric nervous system (from the oesophagus to the rectum), which communicates with the brain through the vagus nerve, and the brain to the gut. We make around 95% of our serotonin in the gut which is why the gut is linked to mood and why probiotics have been reserached to be mood modulators. The biggest way we can support our gut is to up our plants. Aim for 30+ unique plants per week and move up to 40+ and 50+. These can include fruit and veg, herbs and spices, pulses and legumes, nuts and seeds and non gluten grains.