A link between food and serotonin?

Just what is the link between food and serotonin, and can a change in your diet make a difference?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, which has gotten a lot of attention in the last few years. The reason is that low serotonin levels have been linked to depression, lack of concentration, obesity, sleeplessness, and, of course, migraine.

But the food and serotonin link is more complicated than just eating foods containing serotonin. Your body doesn't get serotonin from foods, but makes serotonin from tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid which is essential for the body to get. It is the precursor to more than one neurotransmitter.

You may be able to increase levels of tryptophan by eating foods like breads, pastas, candy ... but wait! That's no good. It may temporarily help if you're depressed (or it may not!), but it's not going to really help anything in the long run.

Is there another way?

Yes, there are a couple other ways. You can find the food and serotonin link in items that are somewhat healthier. Try turkey, black eyed-peas, black and English walnuts, almonds, sesame or pumpkin seeds, and cheddar, gruyere or swiss cheese. Also helping to a lesser extent are whole grains, rice, and other dairy products (grandma was right – drink a glass of warm milk before bed!).

Examples of food with tryptophan:
wheat germ - 0.4g/1cup
granola - 0.2g/1cup
cottage cheese - 0.4g/1cup
egg - 0.1g/1
duck - 0.4g/quarter lb
turkey - 0.37g/quarter cup
chicken - 0.28g/quarter cup

* list from The Healing Nutrients Within by Dr Eric R Braverman.

How much this may help to raise your serotonin levels is uncertain, but eating healthy foods is going to help with migraine, obesity, depression and sleeplessness anyway, so you can't lose!


If you have Migraine Headaches and the Foods you Eat by Hartnell and Tyler, some recipes that may increase your serotonin levels include: Turkey Quiche (pg 148), Wild Rice Casserole (pg 186), and Rice-Stuffed Squash (pg 92).

In The Migraine Cookbook (Sharp) - for some food and serotonin recipes try... Almond Crescents (pg 144), Roast Duck with Spiced Honey (pg 75), and Bulgur and Green Bean Salad (pg 108) to name a few.



The other method is to give your body a 5-HTP supplement. 5-HTP is the next step after tryptophan to help your body naturally produce serotonin. Drugstore.com has 5-HTP in 50mg capsules.

Special note for the ladies:

Food and serotonin may be especially important for you, because estrogen levels are linked to serotonin levels. When estrogen levels fall, so do serotonin levels, and that may be just what it takes to trigger a migraine. So why not pay close attention to the food and serotonin link, and make sure that you're eating healthy foods especially when you know your estrogen levels are falling.

Once again, remember that eating healthy all the time is a great cure for more than you think! :-)

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