Wellness: A quick guide to the hormones that keep you in a good mood
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that gets the most attention. It is derived from the protein that is amino acid tryptophan and belongs to the inhibitory group of relaxing neurotransmitters that gives us a sense of happiness and stabilises one’s mood. In case you feel irritated, experience depression, have insomnia or low self-esteem, you might want to give your serotonin levels a boost to improve your overall well-being.
Serotonin also works as a natural appetite suppressant and its deficiency is closely related to obesity or weight gain. Also, when we have low serotonin levels, we start getting carbohydrate or sugar cravings because tryptophan — the building block of serotonin — or from where the serotonin is derived, can only get into our brain after we eat sweet or starchy foods. So, the next time you get a sugar or carb craving, observe how you are feeling, as any cravings are closely related to mood.
Let’s look at things that we can do to improve serotonin levels in our brain:
■ Always have a balance of carbohydrates and proteins in your meal to synthesise serotonin properly because you need to have enough tryptophan in the blood to improve serotonin. We will get tryptophan (amino acid) from protein-rich and the carbohydrate foods. This will help to transport the tryptophan into the brain. We have to stay away from processed sugar, processed flour, as well as simple and refined carbohydrates. Though they raise serotonin levels quickly, these aren’t a good long-term option because they can lead to various nutrient deficiencies, as well as acidic environment in body. With complex carbohydrates like whole grains, the serotonin elevation is slow but more consistent and longer-lasting as compared to a quick release.
■ Sunlight from 10 am to 3 pm — is one of the best sources of natural Vitamin D, which plays a key role in the synthesis of serotonin. Soak in the sun for at least half an hour with bare minimum clothing.
■ Sleep is an important factor to improve our health. The lack of it disrupts nerve function as well as optimal neurotransmission of serotonin. To reverse the disruption in the brain’s serotonin system, you need to get proper undisturbed sleep to go through a proper detoxification and recovery process.
■ Exercise regularly to improve blood circulation and to release the feel-good hormones — endorphins. It is believed that exercise also increases the availability of tryptophan in our body, which is converted into serotonin. If for some reason you cannot exercise, doing 10k steps throughout the day will also keep you feeling active.
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