with Donna Gates, author of The Body Ecology Diet
What role does serotonin play in our bodies, and what are some natural ways to increase this neurotransmitter? Thanks!
In part 1 of this 2-part response, I highlighted the importance of serotonin, “the happiness hormone,” including how your brain makes serotonin.
In this column, I will share tips to boost serotonin naturally, through your food and lifestyle.
Serotonin plays an essential role in:
- The regulation of your appetite,
- Your body temperature
- The tone of your blood vessels
- Your perception of pain
- And the health of the mucus membranes of your stomach and intestines
11 Tips for Boosting Serotonin Naturally
While anti-depressants are often the medical mainstream’s choice for increasing serotonin, they often have undesirable side effects like low libido and low energy. I am not surprised at this because any use of drugs, whether prescription or over-the-counter, make your blood acidic. Among other things, this depletes your adrenals, a chief organ for creating energy.
Over time, blood that is too acidic can set your body up for pathogens and disease.
Please keep in mind that I am not advocating ignoring your doctor or medical professional’s advice. However, recognizing some natural ways that your body can make serotonin and obtain plenty of the important co-factor, vitamin B6, may free you from needing to rely on long-term use of prescription drugs.
If you decide to go this route, it can be helpful to work with a creative medical professional or naturopathic doctor who understands the power of food to influence your body’s biochemical processes.
Here are several tips for naturally boosting serotonin with the Body Ecology program:
- Get enough vitamin B6—since you must acquire this very important vitamin from your foods (or supplements), here are some vitamin B6-rich options: spinach, turnip greens, garlic, cauliflower, mustard greens, celery, fish (especially tuna, halibut, salmon, cod and snapper), poultry (chicken and turkey) and lean beef tenderloin.
You’ll be delighted to know that the many fermented foods and beverages on the Body Ecology Diet contain beneficial microflora that manufacture B-Vitamins right down inside you…right at the gut wall so they assimilate quickly.
- Eat Body Ecology recommended grain-like seeds—Amaranth, buckwheat, millet and quinoa are seeds with grain-like taste and properties. These are healthy, high-protein carbohydrates and small amounts of the right carbohydrates are critical to boosting serotonin.
I strongly suggest you have one of these Body Ecology grain-like seeds with land vegetables, ocean vegetables and cultured vegetables for your dinner meal. This nice dose of serotonin in the early evening will help you sleep better at night.
When you eat Body Ecology grain-like seeds in the late afternoon or early evening for your dinner meal…when blood sugar may be low…they are especially helpful for boosting your mood and for combating the desire to over eat.
These grain-like seeds also provide important B vitamins. As just mentioned B vitamins play a critical role in brain health and in the manufacture of all your neurotransmitters including serotonin. Vitamins B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin) and B6 (pyridoxine) as well as vitamin D, folic acid and selenium plus calcium, and magnesium are needed to make serotonin.
- For protein meals: focus on digestion and food combining—Eating foods that are high in protein—and specifically have a higher percentage of tryptophan (like turkey, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds), will provide much needed tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin. But beware: because research shows that eating protein with carbohydrates actually works against your ability to make serotonin.1
At Body Ecology, we recommend the principle of food combining, which reinforces your body’s ability to make serotonin AND improves your ability to digest protein.
Eating a high animal protein diet does not help create more serotonin.
In fact, it can actually make things worse. This is because tryptophan completes with other amino acids to reach your brain. Unfortunately tryptophan looses in this contest.
You’ll find that eating a meal of the Body Ecology grain-like seeds is a better solution to increase serotonin. Quinoa, for example, is an excellent plant source of protein that also has those important B Vitamins. Unlike animal protein it is also an alkaline-forming food.
If you eat a tryptophan-rich protein at lunch, then switch to a Body Ecology grain meal in the evening, it can help reduce overeating and boost your mood. According to Dr. Judith Wurtz, it can also combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is when you experience fatigue and depression in the winter months.2
- Include fermented foods and drinks in your diet—Fermented foods and drinks greatly assist in digestion and assimilation of all the important nutrients you need for serotonin. Additionally, they boost the nutrients in your food by at least a hundred fold. As mentioned above they manufacture those essential B vitamins that help with boosting your mood.
Microflora rich Dong Quai is an excellent fermented drink that supports your energy and mood AND decreases cravings for sugar.
- Get plenty of Exercise—Researchers have found that exercise boosts serotonin. Even gentle exercise like walking and rebounding can boost your immunity and mood.3
- Get massages and other forms of body work—We’ve heard about the healing power of touch, but now research backs it up! A study conducted by the Touch Research Institutes at the University of Miami School of Medicine shows that massage increases serotonin by 28% and decreases cortisol (the stress hormone) by 31%.4
- Have fun in the sun—Early morning sunlight is more intense and this can boost your body’s production of melatonin in the evening. Serotonin converts to melatonin for a great night’s sleep. Getting outside for a 20-minute walk in the early morning sunlight can boost your mood and improve your sleep!5
- Consider purchasing a BioMat. This is a wonderful pad that you lie on—ideally with headphones and beautiful relaxing music that increases brain cells. The BioMat combines far infrared negative ions and amethyst crystals and produces negative ions that increase the flow of oxygen to your brain having a positive effect on how serotonin is oxidized in your blood stream. Like a large, chamber-size and more expensive sauna the Bio Mat also helps with removal of toxins that interfere with brain health. I recommend the smaller size because it is more affordable and yet you can still do a “sauna-level” sweat on it.
- Reduce Stress—prolonged physical or emotional stress produce adrenaline and cortisol, which interfere with serotonin.6 It’s very common in today’s modern world to try to fit an overwhelming amount of work and errands into a day or week. This creates chronic stress. Shifting your lifestyle and adding more relaxation into your week can make a huge difference.
- Eliminate sugar (or at least drastically reduce sugar)—If you have low serotonin, you may have intense cravings for sugar. This is your body’s way of trying to increase serotonin because eating sugar produces insulin, which helps tryptophan go into your brain. However, too much sugar can eventually cause addiction to sugar, insulin resistance, hypoglycemia and type 2 diabetes.
Instead, satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthy way with Stevia or Lakanto. Both of these sweeteners are zero calories, do not raise blood sugar (insulin), don’t feed candida and actually benefit your health!
- Focus on Emotional Healing—Reducing stress and focusing on spending more time relaxing is a first step to boosting serotonin. You can take this even further by taking action in key areas to remove negative emotions like fear, guilt and anger. One excellent resource is The 9 Intense Experiences, by Brian Vaszily. Brian’s 10-CD set allows you to go on an amazing journey into yourself—consider it visualization techniques with an extra special and extra beneficial twist—exploring everything from your relationship to yourself, to others and to nature. Like nothing else doing this program clears through those emotional barriers and will help you live a well-balanced life. Learn more about The 9 Intense Experiences right now!
While research has been promising on natural supplements like L-Tryptophan, 5-HTP and SAMe, I’d like to cover these in another column. Your doctor or natural health practitioner may be able to guide you with respect to these supplements as well.
Happiness as a Lifestyle
Doing this naturally means you may have to shift many long-standing habits. To keep your stress levels low when experiencing this kind of change, make sure to follow Body Ecology’s step-by-step principle. Even baby steps towards changes in your eating habits can offer big rewards.
Rewards like feeling better, sleeping better and feeling like your mind is more clear. This is nature’s gift to us.
It is often said we are spiritual beings having a human experience. As humans, we are NATURAL beings. Our bodies have not evolved much over the last 100 years, but our lifestyles, technology, manufactured foods, personal care products and environment have changed dramatically. Sometimes this means we have to go back to basics…back to nature…to create our best health.
You owe it to yourself to create healthy habits that will keep you feeling energized and vibrant for the long-term!
For more information on the Body Ecology program, get your copy of The Body Ecology Diet (with FREE bonus!) today.
1Wurtman, Judith J., PhD, and Marquis, Nina Frusztajer, MD. The Serotonin Power Diet.
2Wurtman, Judith J., PhD. SAD, Serotonin and Carbohydrates
3Dunn, Andrea, Ph.D., “[Exercise] affects the biology in the brain in the same way that anti-depressant drugs do.”
4Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Diego M, Schanberg S, Kuhn C. Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy. Touch Research Institutes, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Florida 33101, USA. email@example.com
5Challem, Jack. Sunshine for Your Mind. The Nutrition Reporter. 2002.
6Plesman, Jurriaan, BA (Psych). THE SEROTONIN CONNECTION, Post Grad Dip Clinical Nutrition.
Vitamin B6. Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.
Bouchez, Collette. Reviewed by Nazario, Brunilda, MD. Serotonin: 9 Questions and Answers. WebMD.
Vitamin B6. The World’s Healthiest Foods.
Tryptophan. The World’s Healthiest Foods
Overactive Transporters of Serotonin are Linked to Autism.
Get Angry When Hungry? Blame Low Serotonin. Reuters. June 2008.