Meet dopamine & serotonin:
Dopamine plays a big role in the reward and motivation system within your brain and serotonin plays its role in mood, cognitive function, appetite and sleep.
Initially thought only to affect brain function, both neurotransimtters are now known to play an important role in the gut and have effects on the gut-brain axis. So, it stands to reason that, an imbalance in your levels of these can have effects on your mental health, digestion, appetite and sleep. In fact low levels of dopamine and serotonin have been linked to depression.
Today we'll take a closer look at serotonin.
Serotonin is important for mood regulation, gut movement and also required to make melatonin - our sleep cycle hormone.
So what nutrients do we need to support serotonin production?
The essential amino acid - tryptophan. This is found in meat, fish, eggs and dairy produce along with tofu, nuts, oats, pumpkin & sesame seeds. Turkey contains high levels of tryptophan, could it possibly be the reason for post Christmas dinner snooze.
In order to convert the tryptophan into serotonin, we require both folate & B6 - both of which are contained in the above foods, leafy greens are also a great source of folate and contain lots of beneficial fibre for your gut, speaking of which....
Approximately 95% of serotonin is made in the gut, so be kind to it - try to eat the rainbow. Eat a variety of coloured fruits and vegetables, they contain different phytonutrients which in turn support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Daylight - exposure to bright light has been shown to increase serotonin production. Unfortunately, our working world often involves long periods indoors, so try and get our whenever possible take a walk on your break instead of looking at your phone or eat your lunch outside. Ideally at least 20 mins exposure to blue light (daylight), longer if possible helps to kickstart the production of serotonin.
Exercise - Regular exercise has been shown to increase serotonin production and we already know it's very good for lots of other reasons, so get swimming, running, walking whatever it is you enjoy, you may find a benefit in your mood maintenance as an added extra.