Though serotonin is typically recognized as a brain chemical, the majority of this neurotransmitter is produced in our digestive tract. Serotonin exerts powerful influence over mood, emotions, memory, cravings (especially for carbohydrates), self-esteem, pain tolerance, sleep habits, appetite, digestion and body-temperature regulation. It is often thought of as our “happy hormone,” especially because its production increases when we’re exposed to natural sunlight. And let’s face it, after months of being stuck indoors, most Canadians are battling low serotonin levels.
Production of serotonin is closely linked to the availability of vitamin B6 and the amino acid tryptophan. If our diet lacks sufficient protein and vitamins, we run a greater risk of serotonin deficiency. We may experience a dip in serotonin in relation to physiological causes, dieting, low protein intake, digestive disorders and also stress, since high levels of the stress hormone cortisol rob us of serotonin. When we measure our current lifestyle against all the elements necessary for the body’s natural production of serotonin, add in chronic stress and out-of-control multitasking — two of the main causes of serotonin depletion — it’s no wonder many of us suffer from depleted serotonin.
Serotonin deficiency has become an epidemic of equal proportion to obesity. This parallel is no coincidence.
Here are some simple things you do to ensure you keep your serotonin levels up and depressive levels down:
- Exercise for 20 min, 2-3 times a week
- Calm your stress with Vitamin B-complex
- Cut down on cigarettes and alcohol consumption
- Take short brisk walks when its bright and sunny