Serotonin and Symptoms

Serotonin and Symptoms

This post is similar to my post Emotions and Symptoms because your emotions are affected by your serotonin levels. Although this post will be more scientific and relate to what foods are best to eat to increase serotonin levels.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, meaning it is a chemical messenger, sending and receiving signals / messages from around the body. It is located in the brain but also is produced from specialised cells in the gastrointestinal tract (it does not travel between the two). Serotonin’s main purpose is to regulate signal intensity and in turn this regulates our basic function and mood.

In short, when serotonin levels are low, we are depressed and when they are high, we are happy.

Your gut produces around 80-95 percent of serotonin in your body and changes in your serotonin levels can affect your gut as well as your brain.

Roles it can have on gut function include:

  • Contractions in our intestines
  • Mobility of bowels – how fast food moves through your system
  • How much fluid, such as mucus, is secreted in your intestines
  • How sensitive your intestines are to sensations such as pain and fullness from eating
  • Acts on the guts nerves to signal pain, nausea and other gut problems
  • Influences how full we feel, therefore how hungry we are feeling

Exercise and relaxation techniques like meditation can alter your serotonin levels enough to have a positive impact on your symptoms. Scientists have found that even sunshine can alter your serotonin levels – no wonder people like to holiday somewhere sunny in the winter months!

There are also foods that can improve with your serotonin levels.

Serotonin-rich foods include:

  • Walnuts
  • Bananas
  • Kiwi
  • Pineapple
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes

However, your body needs an amino acid named, tryptophan in order to produce serotonin. The foods below contain this amino acid:

  • Bananas
  • Turkey
  • Milk
  • Yoghurt
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Fish
  • Some cheeses, including Cheddar

Your vitamin intake can also affect serotonin, the most important are thiamine (vitamin B1) and folic acid (vitamin B9), two components of Vitamin B Complex.

Deficiency symptoms, relating to digestion in the vitamins above include nausea, stomach pains and a poor appetite.

Food sources containing, Thiamine, Vitamin B1:

  • Brown Rice
  • Pork
  • Peas
  • Peanuts
  • Pulses

Food sources containing, Folic Acid, Vitamin B9:

  • Liver
  • Green, leafy Vegetables (spinach, broccoli)
  • Peanuts
  • Bananas (forget about an apple a day, have a banana!)

There are more foods I could add to each list but I have tried to keep the list for foods best for your stomach and as always if you have a food intolerance, allergy or any unwanted symptoms with any of the foods above it is best to avoid them – choose something else on the list to try, otherwise supplements are readily available, just make sure you keep to the correct dosages.


I hope this has given an insight into how food can impact our mood.

Join in the conversation by commenting below and following on Facebook and Twitter. Let’s educate ourselves on digestive health and support others to Find a Friend in Food.

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The Digestive System: Inside the Mouth

In my first post I mentioned listing foods as ‘safe’, ‘tolerable’ and ‘intolerable’ based on how your gut reacts to them and gave you a list of generally safe foods and avoidable foods to give you something to start adding meals around.

The type of foods you are eating may not be the only problem to your digestive system but there are ways we can prevent and reduce any inflammation and upset.

Our bodies work like a machine and when it works well everything is in perfect harmony; input, process, output. Together, a combination of nerves, hormones, bacteria, blood, and the organs of the digestive system completes the complex task of digesting the foods and liquids a person consumes each day.

So with that in mind, let’s see what ‘equipment’ (our organs) we have to work with.

human_digestive_system

The image above is a typical one you will find for the digestive system but it is worth remembering the effects on your digestion happen before you even start eating.

To aid digestion and reduce the risk of any upsets make sure you are mentally ready to eat. If you are stressed or unhappy it is best to give yourself some time to unwind before having a meal. When ready sit upright, dining chairs are ideal, as this does not constrict your stomach activity. Now you are ready to eat…

The Mouth

Your mouth is the first indicator whether a food is okay to eat, along with your sense of smell, take gone off milk for an example. If you like the smell and taste of the contents then your saliva glands will produce the enzyme ptyalin (also known as amylase), this is used to breakdown carbohydrates, converting starchy food, like bread, into maltose; a sugar which can be absorbed immediately.

It is thought that less than 5% of all starches consumed are digested within the mouth, before being swallowed as most of the digestive changes occur later on. This is because starch is a type of complex carbohydrate, which means that it’s made of long chains of sugars called polysaccharides. Foods high in starch, such as potatoes and some other tubers and root vegetables, are not as easily digested as simpler carbohydrates such as fruit, baked goods and pasta.

Therefore to help with this process it is important to chew your food as much as you can, it is recommended up to 32 times, if possible. Chewing for longer means your meal will last longer, making you eat smaller portions, one reason for this could be the time taken for your brain to signal that the stomach is full. This usually takes around 20 minutes.

When large particles of improperly chewed food enter your stomach, it may remain undigested when it enters your intestines. There, bacteria will begin to break it down, or in other words it will start to putrefy, potentially leading to gas and bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain, cramping and other digestive problems.

To reduce these problems, take smaller bites and swallow what you have already chewed before taking another bite. To reduce the symptoms of wind and bloating, try not to take down air when drinking or swallowing food.

Look out for more updates about processes throughout the digestive system coming soon.