Happy Gut, Happy Mood

The relationship between gut and brain health is undeniable. Eighty to ninety percent of one of the most important neurotransmitters, serotonin, is primarily produced in the gut.   Serotonin, is a key neurotransmitter that impacts mood, anxiety, appetite, and emotions.  Its deficiency can lead to symptoms of depression, increased appetite, restlessness, increased weight, food cravings, and sleeplessness.  

There are a number of reasons that can contribute to a serotonin deficiency, and gut health is one of them.  

Serotonin is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan and it’s absorption and conversion can impact serotonin levels.  In addition, gut bacteria secrete the majority of serotonin, so even if you diet is full of tryptophan, in the presence of a gut bacterial imbalance, you may not be able to produce enough of the neurotransmitter.  

When thinking about gut health and serotonin production, the following factors are important to consider:

Food sensitivities:

Inflammation as a result of food sensitivities can impact digestion and absorption of amino acids like tryptophan and can directly effect serotonin synthesis.  Doing a trial of food elimination for 4-6 weeks to see if that makes a difference to your digestion, mood, cravings, and appetite can be helpful.  Keep a dietary log to follow any changes in how you feel—meals, timing of meals, fluid intake, how you feel (mood, energy, digestion), and exercise for the day.

Gut bacteria:

It’s easy to mess up the gut flora, but hard to get it back to normal.  History of antibiotic use, food sensitivities, and processed food consumption can alter the kind of bacteria that occupy the gut, and in turn production of serotonin.  Some people can benefit from prebiotic rich foods such as bananas, onions, and artichokes, as well as probiotic rich foods such as kombucha and sauerkraut.  There are also supplements that contain fructooligosaccharides (FOS) which is fuel for the gut bacteria and can be taken with or without a probiotic.  The best way to find out which probiotic to take is to first find out if there is in fact a bacterial imbalance, because most probiotics can’t compete, and taking something without knowing if it will make a difference isn’t the best approach.

Enzymes:

The enzymes responsible for the breakdown of protein into its building blocks, amino acids, are called proteases.  These enzymes are secreted by the pancreas and for various reasons, such as genetic, people can experience a deficiency in its production.  You may not necessarily rush to start taking an enzyme supplement, but consider including a digestive aid such as apple cider vinegar in 4-6 oz of water before meals to improve food breakdown and absorption.

Lifestyle:

Stress, coffee, alcohol, and smoking can negatively impact digestion and neurotransmitter production.  Practicing stress management will not only improve digestion, but will also decrease dependency on caffeine and other substances.  Identifying lifestyle culprits and focusing on developing food lifestyle habits will improve mental and emotional wellbeing.

Improving Serotonin Levels Naturally:

Food:

Below is a list of foods that are helpful in naturally boosting serotonin levels: 

  • Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains
  • Variety of vegetables and fruits
  • Protein from chicken and fish
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Tahini
  • Lentils
  • Kidney beans
  • Avocado
  • Drinking plenty of water throughout the day

Supplements:

These supplements can be helpful to include into a daily regiment: 

  • B Vitamins—to help with serotonin synthesis, as they are not only needed for energy, but also for neurotransmitter production. 
  • 5 HTP—a precursor for serotonin, provides the body with a building block to make the neurotransmitter.  
  • Fish oil—optimal for brain health, gut health, and is anti-inflammatory with multiple health benefits.
  • Vitamin C—a great antioxidant, and is required for the conversion of tryptophan found in dietary protein into serotonin.
  • Crave Reset—designed specifically to naturally balance neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine to improve mood, reduce cravings, and balance hormones.

Lifestyle: 

Here are some simple lifestyles changes that will impact brain health, gut health, and serotonin production:

  • Daily movement and exercise
  • Small meals throughout the day
  • Meditation and quiet time
  • 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep
  • Good dietary habits 

Serotonin production, gut health, and mood are all interconnected.  Optimizing your gut health and focusing on foods, supplements, and lifestyle factors that can support serotonin production will lead to better mood, fewer cravings, appetite control, and decreased stress—everything you need to feel good.   

If you have any questions on the topic or want to learn more about how you can improve your health and start getting the results your want drop me a note at info@proactivehealthnd.com

In Health,

Dr. Elena

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Dr. Elena Zinkov