A mind of your own: what are serotonin levels

Think about it like this – serotonin acts as the volume control for the stereo that is your brain.

Serotonin is a chemical neurotransmitter in the body; the serotonin used in the brain is also produced there.

It is accepted within the neuroscience community that your  Serotonin levels can affect everything from sexual desire to appetite, to mood and social behavior so it’s no surprise that the food we eat on a daily basis can have a massive impact on the way we feel!

While it’s easy to see how what we eat has a direct impact on our waistlines, it seems a little foggier how our nutritional choices affect our brains.

seratonin levels and you

So what does it actually do? Serotonin controls how efficiently neurons (nerve cells in the brain) communicate with each other – this is where thoughts about that puppy photo you saw earlier on instagram, where you’re going to eat next, and debates about what kind of workout you’ll do next all come from – some signals are louder or softer than others (duh).

It’s accepted within the neuroscience community that serotonin is intimately intertwined with our mood: the lower the serotonin levels, the more depressed we are, and the higher they are, the happier we are! Makes enough sense.

Perhaps the most surprising fact about serotonin, however, is that 80 to 90 percent of serotonin in the body is found in the gut!

For humans (any many other species) serotonin is absolutely essential for the functioning of gut muscles and contraction of the intestines, and in other specias, it’s directly tied to appetite – depleted serotonin causes them to act as though they’re starving.

According to a Columbia University study, serotonin might even be important in hunger signaling, most specially, feeling full. Injecting low serotonin doses into the body of rats caused them to eat less, despite their hunger.


Basically, we know serotonin helps to modulate food intake, we’re just not 100 percent sure exactly how…

Moral of the story is – serotonin has a multiplicity of v. important functions in your bod aka it’s key key to healthy mental and physical. Good news for you is that it’s found in many different foods so if you want to get your serotonin on, add some of these fab foods to your diet!

Walnuts, plantains, pineapples, bananas, kiwis, plums, tomatoes

I am adamant about eating clean (I’m allergic to gluten and dairy so I NEVER eat those) but I do love me some gluten free pasta from time to time.

Even though I’ve been super tough on myself in the past, it’s important to remember that when you eat clean, giving yourself a carb-rich treat from time-to-time can actually help you maintain higher serotonin levels and keep you in a better mood.

You might have heard the rumor that turkey makes you sleepy, which is why you pass out after your Thanksgiving meal. What’s the deal with that? Tryptophan – and yes, you guessed it, you’re so smart, it is key to serotonin production in our brains when serotonin is low. So unless you want Thanksgiving every day (my bod would be a disaster if that was the case, let’s be real) eat these:

nuts, bananas, eggs, beans, fish, yogurt, milk, and even meat.

Vitamin levels in our diet can also affect serotonin function.

Thiamine (a component of Vitamin B Complex) is a (major) KEY to serotonin function. Women who took supplemental vitamins for one year were shown to have significantly improved moods and well-being, sooo vitamins?

Vitamin-B compound, folic acid, is also associated serotonin levels. Boosting folate levels in older people folate levels in older people, who are generally deficient compared to younger adults, has been shown to improve their mood swings and cognitive function!! I am always down for less mood swings soo more vitamins?

We all know that a chocolate milkshake (yes, vegan milkshakes are a thing) might feel good for an hour or two after a stressful day at work (or in fantasy land), but remember that this is real life. The choices you make food wise have very real consequences, not just for how those Sweaty Betty tights will fit, but on your mood. I’m not saying don’t live your life; I’m saying crush it out there by being aware.

– Maya Elias 

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