Eating strategically may increase serotonin. The amino acid Tryptophan is a necessary building block (precursor) to serotonin, and it is readily available in protein rich foods and carbohydrates. But, another amino acid in protein has been found to slow, or even block, the production of serotonin so, ideally to increase serotonin production in the brain, eat sweet or starchy (ideally complex) carbohydrates without protein (15; 16;5). This may help to separate the pro-serotonin nutrients from the anti-serotonin ones. Eat low or fat free and protein free carbohydrates on an empty stomach (about three hours after a protein). The food source (like gram crackers, pretzels etc.,) should have at least 25 to 35 grams of carbohydrates and no more than 4 grams of protein. Try to eat less than three grams of fat per serving as this can increase your weight. If you want a quick boost to your mood try a simple carbohydrate, but keep in mind that this will raise your blood sugar and it may deplete levels of dopamine, another Nero-chemical associated with wellbeing (17). Here, chronic dopamine surges from easily digestible sources may lead to a loss of dopamine activity in the brain, as dopamine receptors stop functioning properly. This can result in constant cravings for foods that make dopamine (18) and ultimately weight gain. You should feel an effect 20 to 40 minutes after eating (5). Tryptophan is also necessary to make the sleep hormone melatonin as well as niacin, also called vitamin B3 (19). Sleep disruptions are common in depression, so this is important. Eat Tryptophan rich foods like the following: algae spirulina, bananas, beans, or legumes (like green peas or chickpeas), dairy, eggs, grass fed beef or lamb, Wild fish like cod or salmon, nuts like cashews or walnuts, potatoes, poultry, sesame seeds, and whole grains. The last includes brown rice, corn, oats, and quinoa.
The following foods may help to naturally increase serotonin: turmeric, dark chocolate, green tea, cold-water fatty fish, and fermented foods (yogurt, kefir, unpasteurized sauerkraut). The last helps balance gut bacteria as too much of a” bad” bacterium called lipopolysaccharides can lower serotonin levels (15;20;21). Also, adding vitamins (B6, B9, and B12), and the supplement SAM-e, that is S-adenosylmethionine, to your diet can help deal with depression (22; 23). Magnesium has been found to substantially help with treatment resistant depression (24) as have vitamin D and amino acids, especially tryptophan (25) and Glycine. The amino acid Glycine slows or stops the production of neurotransmitters that excite the nervous system, and therefore cause anxiety, often called the fight or flight response (26). When it is pared with glutamate it promotes the actions of glutamate in the forebrain, which may help in cognitive or thought processes (81). Glutamate is both excitatory and inhibitory. It can cause excitement in the brain and nervous system. Conversely, when turned into GABA it is inhibitory, causing feelings of calm. This is as glutamate is necessary to the production of GABA, or y-aminobutyric acid, which like glycine inhibits producing feelings of relaxation (27;28). In animal model’s glycine increase the amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. It is possible that glycine helps psychological problems associated with a lack of serotonin (29;30). Glycine can be found in high protein foods like fish, dairy, legumes, and meat.
The amino acid Phenylalanine (found in the algae supplements Chlorella and Spirulina) is converted into phenylethylamine (PEA) in the body (31). PEA boosts dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure, sexuality, and the brain’s reward system overall. This is why dopamine helps with feelings of wellbeing, with treating depression, and with reducing anxiety.
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