Serotonin is a neurochemical that plays an important role in regulating mood, appetite, sleep and dreaming. It has both a sedating and stimulating effect and is related to the flow of thoughts through your mind. But specifically it is a neurotransmitter which relays brain signals from one area of the brain to the other and effects all of our 40 million brain cells. Many researchers believe that an imbalance of serotonin levels leads to depression, as well as Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, anxiety, panic attacks and excessive anger.
Prescription Anti- Depressive drugs such as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft are termed as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors – so, they are supposed to modify the reabsorbtion levels of serotonin in the brain. However, latest research refutes this theory and suggests that these drugs are ‘glorified and expensive placebos’.
The facts are, we still don’t know how, to what extent and why serotonin plays a role in moods. But we do know that high levels are associated with wakefulness and low levels are associated with sleep. Also, another such nurochemical Melatonin, plays a supporting role to serotonin in its function as it prepares the body for darkness and sleep, regulating our cicadian rhythm. So, sleep disorders, the ability to focus, alertness and dreams are entwined with the level of serotonin in our brains.
95% of the serotoninin our bodies is in our gut. So can you effectively increase the serotonin levels if they are too low? Knowing the facts above, a lot of our brain functions are connected to our gut health. So eating live cultures such as sauerkraut, jun and Kampuchea will keep the health of your flora in your digestive system, therefore helps keep a balance of serotonin in your gut. Once this is established, eating foods such as nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, beans, lentils and eggs will help build up your serotonin levels. But also exercise, particularly outdoors in the sun increases the levels of serotonin.
May I underline that there needs to be a balance, because if serotonin levels are too high there is evidence of a connection with irritable bowel syndrome, osteoporosis and maybe autism, this being the case. A fact in addition to this: people who take antidepressants often have digestive issues…so Balance is the key to regulating serotonin levels, and to do it naturally.
Special Note: people on shift work should pay close attention to serotonin levels in connection with gut health!