Serotonin is the key brain chemical that generates feelings of optimism and relaxation, which give you a general sense of well-being. It helps you sleep well by regulating your sleep patterns. Serotonin also enhances certain brain functions such as the ability to focus better. Deficiency in this neurotransmitter results in an inexplicable predisposition to negativity, edginess, insomnia, depression, and poor concentration. You might be feeling bad about yourself for swinging back and forth from being choleric to melancholic. This is why it’s important to treat this neurotransmitter deficiency as your mistaken belief about your ‘naturally’ negative attitude might lead to greater sadness and frustration, which only further compounds your already depressed state.
Causes of Serotonin Deficiency
Serotonin deficiency doesn’t just come from nowhere. You may have inadvertently caused this neurotransmitter shortage by:
-Skimping on sleep
-Staying physically inactive
-Taking certain prescription medications such as antidepressants
-Consuming pesticide-laden meat and produce
-Exposure to toxic chemicals found in plastics such as bisphenol-A (BPA)
-Not managing your stress levels
-Consuming too much caffeine and alcohol
-Insufficient blood flow in the brain
-Multiple vitamin and mineral deficiencies
-Human growth hormone deficiency
-Inborn abnormalities in serotonin receptors
While serotonin deficiency may have genetic causes, many times it is acquired via poor lifestyle choices such as the ones enumerated above. But whether it’s genetic or acquired you can definitely bank on the hope that it can be reversed completely, provided that you seek professional help and adhere faithfully to the solutions that will be laid out for you.
How do you know if you are deficient in serotonin? The following are symptoms of serotonin deficiency:
-Feeling rundown in spite of sedentariness
-Cognitive impairment e.g. inability to focus, poor memory, lack of mental clarity
-Strong sugar cravings
-Chronic pain (fibromyalgia, migraines, back pain)
-Inability to fall and stay asleep
-Moderate to overwhelming sadness
-Feeling worse and agitated during bad/dark weather
The good news is that serotonin deficiency is highly treatable. Consult your doctor or a holistic health practitioner if you have ticked many of the symptoms associated with low levels of serotonin before embarking on any program to treat your neurotransmitter deficiency. Your health care professional will help you gauge the severity of your deficiency and give you an individualized treatment plan to restore your serotonin levels quickly and effectively.
Supplementation is usually helpful in upping low serotonin levels (more on this in a separate article), but there are other actions that you can take to increase your serotonin stores naturally. The most commonsensical step is by eliminating the causes that triggered it in the first place (see above), which means sleeping on time and getting enough sleep, eating well, getting enough sunlight, engaging in physical exercise, finding natural alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs, avoiding inorganic foods, reducing exposure to xeno-estrogens, learning how to relax, and cutting back on alcohol and caffeine. Seek the help of a physician if the cause of your deficiency is medical in nature or is caused by other deficiencies.
It is important to note that although serotonin is manufactured in the brain, about 90% of this neurotransmitter actually resides in the gut and blood. Diet therefore plays a paramount importance in keeping your serotonin from ebbing for protracted periods of time. Certain foods that help stabilize serotonin levels are:
-Foods high in tryptophan (an amino acid precursor to serotonin) such as organic, free-range turkey, dairy products such as milk and cheese, peanuts, legumes, chickpeas, tree nuts (almonds, pistachio, pine nuts, pecan, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts), brown rice, whole grains, spinach, blue-green algae, potatoes, radish, beets, fennel, bananas, figs, pineapple, and soy products such as soy milk, tofu, tempeh, natto, and miso.
-Flax seeds/oil, hem seeds/oil, chia seeds, walnuts, and fatty fish such mackerel and sardines, all of which contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids
-Foods that contain glutathione such as garlic, walnuts, carrots, potatoes, squash, okra, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, purslane, tomatoes, apples, avocado, and grapefruit.
-Iron-rich foods such as organic, grass-fed beef, spinach, bok choi, collards, Swiss chard, kale, lettuce, broccoli, nuts, seeds, sprouts, and dried fruits.
-Leafy greens, cacao, seaweed, bananas, orange, tree nuts, peanuts, whole grains, corn, cheese, eggs, milk, and white fish that all contain significant amounts of magnesium.
-Foods high in calcium such as sardines, salmon, skimmed milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, sesame seeds, soy, artichoke, green leafy vegetables, dried figs, watercress, cabbage, soy products, tree nuts, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, peas, lima beans, kelp, orange, strawberries, grapes, kiwi, and avocado.
-Pumpkin seeds, nuts, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, oatmeal, parsley, oysters, steak, and egg yolk that all have above-average amounts of zinc.
-Organic lean meat, cheese, whole grains, brewer’s/nutritional yeast, chestnuts, tree nuts, artichoke, broccoli, lima beans, mushrooms, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, watermelon, peaches, bananas, cantaloupe, and avocado, all of which contain vitamin B3.
-Wheat germ, bananas, watermelon, avocado, Brussels sprouts, carrots, potatoes, whole grains, beans, green leafy vegetables, chicken, and fish, foods that have sufficient levels of vitamin B6.
-Food sources of folate such as wheat germ, black-eyed peas, peanuts, tree nuts, bananas, orange, kiwi, strawberries, avocado, cantaloupe, bananas, blackberries, tomatoes, dark green vegetables, asparagus, green bell pepper, carrots, and liver.
-Foods rich in vitamin C such as dark green vegetables (leafy and cruciferous), cauliflower, cabbage, sweet peppers, potatoes, black currants, guava, strawberries, acerola cherries, mango, goji berries, parsley, raw cacao, rosehips, nettle, camu-camu, and citrus fruits such as lemon, orange, and grapefruit.
Heating greatly decreases the amount of vitamins and makes minerals less bioavailable, so as much as possible eat your fruits and vegetables raw or lightly cooked (save perhaps beans, potatoes, and brown rice). Of course you have to cook animal flesh well to avoid UFO (unfriendly fecal organisms) invasion and nutritional deficiencies caused by parasite infestation. The point is to lean heavily on plant foods to reap the maximum amount of nutrients in order to increase your dwindling serotonin levels.
With the right diet, positive lifestyle changes, professional guidance, and supplementation you can finally correct your serotonin deficiency and be free of the symptoms that significantly impact your happiness and quality of life.