What is the role of serotonin? - It's Mother Nature’s antidepressant
Produced from an amino acid (tryptophane), serotonin enables information to be transmitted from one neuron to another in our brain. It’s a neurotransmitter, mainly secreted by intestinal cells (95 %) but also by neurons in a part of the brain.
It acts on the central nervous system and is involved in the regulation of behaviors, moods, emotions, anxiety and learning. It is also involved in motivation, decision-making, sleep and some sexual and eating disorders. As you can see, serotonin plays an important role in our well-being. A serotonin deficiency is therefore linked to some forms of depression.
Serotonin and depression: a limited and difficult to quantify responsibility
Although we recognize that it has certain powers over our well-being, it is difficult to control. Indeed, the level of serotonin cannot be determined by taking a blood or urine sample. To do this, cerebrospinal fluid would have to be taken, and even if the procedure was possible, the analysis of its dosage wouldn’t reveal much. This is because low levels can be associated with depression, but only in certain people and for a certain form of depression.
➡ Some forms of depression have nothing to do with serotonin.
What causes a lack of serotonin?
There can be many causes:
➡ A weak production of serotonin can originate from: stress, lack of sunlight or even a vitamin B12 deficiency.
➡ A deficiency in tryptophane (amino acid) linked to a poor diet can also disrupt the workings of our production chain.
➡ Finally, the cause can also come from a dysfunction of the receptors that serotonin binds to.
What foods are rich in serotonin? The happiness production chain
We can never say it enough, happiness comes from our plates and a varied diet. How? We stimulate serotonin production by including tryptophane on the menu. Despite its unpleasant name, we regularly consume this amino acid without realizing. It’s present in foods such as:
➡ Wholegrain rice, eggs, dairy products, soya, meat, oily fish, cabbage, dark chocolate, bananas or even grains and nuts.
Carbohydrates to encourage the transportation of tryptophane to the brain
Carbohydrates are the best fuel for this: honey, dried fruits, legumes, cereals, quinoa, bread, rice, pasta (give priority to “whole meal” pastas for their fiber content), potatoes, corn, hot milk… These foods enable tryptophane to reach its destination without any problems.
Optimize the transformation of tryptophane into serotonin by boosting the enzymes involved
For this, we slip in:
➡ Vitamins B3, B6, B9, iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C
➡ Vitamin D, fish, eggs, dairy products
➡ Finally, it’s possible to stimulate the action of serotonin thanks to Omega 3 found in oily fish, seafood, rapeseed or linseed oil.
And what can I serve this to you with?
🍽️ Tryptophane: wholegrain rice
🍽️ Carbohydrate: lentils
🍽️ Vitamin D/ Omega 3: salmon
And for dessert, we’ll have some more tryptophane
🍽️ Banana and melted dark chocolate!
We’re talking about a recipe for happiness, there’s no doubt about that!
How can you increase your serotonin levels?
A 5-HTP supplement: no, it’s not a new Star Wars character! Behind this code name is actually an extract of a climbing plant of African origin: Griffonia Simplicifolia (and it’s not a spell from Harry Potter either!).
It’s an amino acid that our body naturally produces from tryptophan. Once the 5-HTP is absorbed, this amino acid joins the highway of happiness to be transformed directly into serotonin in our brains. Sport as well as meditation naturally boost serotonin production, as does sunbathing. That’s why we’re always happier in summer!
Editor's opinion: take care of yourself!
Prevention is better than cure so take care of yourselves and this wonderful machine that is the human body by giving it the right fuel to function properly and contribute to your well-being. Eat a varied, balanced diet and follow our favorite motto: eat, move. If you’re feeling symptoms of depression or a certain unease, don’t hesitate to contact a professional. He or she will be able to give you advice adapted to your situation, and the little boost necessary to get back on the road to happiness.