Serotonin and Your Gut
Serotonin is our happy hormone & plays a key role in maintaining mood balance — low serotonin levels have been linked with depression, anxiety, nausea, migraines & chronic stress. Interestingly, almost all of our serotonin is produced in our gut - not our brain. This emphasises the importance of the gut-brain connection & is why prolonged psychological stress often leads to the feeling of “a pit” in your stomach.
Chronic levels of low serotonin also exacerbate & often are the reason for IBS & related symptoms, as well as hormonal conditions such as PCOS, Endometriosis, dermatitis & acne. Based on this concept, our digestive system is much more powerful than once assumed. Recent studies suggest that the gut can influence our basic emotions, our pain sensitivity, our social interactions, and even guide many of our decisions - and not just those about our food preferences and meal sizes.
This actually validates the popular notion of having a “gut feeling” and making a “gut based” decision — which we now know is because our gut has its own nervous system and is referred to as our “second brain”. Yes this is scientific! I’ve always been a big believer of following your gut feeling, and women’s intuition. This reinforces the importance of a healthy gut microbiome to help us better deal with stress & mental health.
An important approach to dealing with mental heath & chronic stress is increasing variety of gut flora & eating food high in the amino acid Tryptophan which produces Serotonin.
Foods high in Tryptophan include: Peanuts & peanut butter, pumpkin & sesame seeds, tofu & soy, and dark chocolate or cacao.
Foods high in Probiotics (healthy gut bacteria): Kombucha, pickles, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso.
Foods high in Prebiotics (food for good gut bacteria): Almonds, chicory, garlic & chickpeas.
Most importantly is to eat a variety of different food to increase the diversity of your gut microbiome. The more diverse, the better the improvements.