If you're struggling with stress, anxiety, poor sleep, or experiencing regular mood problems, it could be related to gut health. 90% of serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter that stabilises our mood, feelings of happiness and well-being, is made in the intestines.
90% of serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter that stabilises our mood, feelings of happiness and well-being, is made in the intestines.
Poor gut health can result in low production of serotonin, which can be a cause of anxiety, depression, poor sleep and low mood. Serotonin is scientifically known as 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) which is used to send messages between nerve cells. Serotonin is a precursor for the production of melatonin, which helps regulate circadian rhythms. It also plays a critical role in appetite and digestion.
Eating foods that are rich in an amino acid known as tryptophan can help to boost the production of serotonin.
Tryptophan cannot be made by the human body and must be obtained by eating certain foods.
Foods that naturally contain tryptophan include:
Salmon is a fantastic source of tryptophan and also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, supporting healthy skin, bones, brain and eye health. It's also a food source of Vitamin D, essential for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.
Spirulina is an edible algae, considered a 'superfood' extremely rich in tryptophan as well as B vitamins, iron, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids.
3) Chicken & Turkey
Poultry such as chicken, turkey, goose are all natural food sources of tryptophan and are high in protein.
Research shows that eggs can significantly boost levels of tryptophan. The yolks are extremely rich in tryptophan as well as tyrosine, choline, biotin and omega-3 fatty acids.
5) Cheese & Milk
Cheddar cheese actually contains more tryptophan than turkey but that doesn't make it healthier! It's all about moderation and a balanced diet.
6) Tofu & Soy
Soy-containing products such as tofu, soy milk and soy sauce are another source of tryptophan and a great source of plant-based protein and calcium.
7) Nuts & Seeds
I'm a big believer in adding nuts and seeds to salads, porridge, cereal, smoothies or eat with a piece of fruit as a snack. They are packed with healthy fats, vitamins, protein and fibre and of course, tryptophan.
Better known as a great source of bromelain and its anti-inflammatory properties, the deliciously sweet pineapple also contains plenty of tryptophan, the precursor to melatonin required for sleep regulation.
If you've read this far, you may also be interested to know that alcohol and caffeine have been shown to decrease serotonin levels.
When you understand what foods can improve serotonin, it's easier to make better choices. Start by selecting a few foods from the above list to add to your daily diet and you should start to see a positive improvement in how you feel.
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