Are you feeling sad, depressed, tense and irritable? Do you crave sweets and have low energy, negative thoughts, and a reduced interest in sex?
Are you going through perimenopause or menopause?
These are all common symptoms women come to me for, and all blame their hormones and how they are going into menopause.
I agree. These symptoms are very common for women as their estrogen and progesterone levels start to decrease. However, if you’re really struggling with these symptoms, and have other symptoms such as anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, IBS, and more… it’s time to do some detective work.
One of the contributing factors to why your peri-menopause and menopause is so rough may be low serotonin.
Every one of the symptoms listed above is also associated with low serotonin.
Serotonin is sometimes known as the happy chemical, because of its important role in regulating mood. It is a neurotransmitter and a hormone. It’s role as a neurotransmitter is to carry impulses from one part of your brain to another by transmitting signals between neurons, nerve cells.
As a hormone, it helps to regulate gut function.
It is mostly found in the digestive tract and is involved in numerous core physical processes such as the regulation of sleep, bowel movements, blood clotting, appetite, the stimulation of nausea, bone health and healing wounds.
Serotonin is also found in your brain and is a key player in regulating your mood. It helps to depress anxiety and fear and increases your general sense of well-being.
Imbalances in serotonin, whether too high or too low can affect your mood and sex drive.
Many women who suffer with depression, mood swings, anxiety and disturbed sleep during perimenopause and menopause are prescribed antidepressants.
If you have low serotonin, antidepressants can help. In general, when you take a SSRI, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, you are blocking the reabsorption of serotonin. This means your available serotonin levels stay higher.
However, if your doctor suspects low serotonin, you might want to try boosting your levels naturally first and avoid the side-effects that come with taking antidepressants. Additionally, by avoiding additional medications, you support your body’s natural intelligence to find balance.
Natural Serotonin Boosters
Regular exercise, or activity of any kind, has been proven to enhance mood.
Stress relieving strategies such as methodic deep breathing and meditation. The release of cortisol, a stress hormone, can lower serotonin levels.
Exposure to sunlight or light therapy when natural light is limited. It has been found that vitamin D is essential for serotonin biosynthesis.
A healthy diet, increasing foods the promote the production of serotonin, calm the and nourish the body and avoid foods that trigger your stress response system.
A Healthy Diet Explained
The majority of your serotonin is produced, stored and released in your gut by specific cells. To produce serotonin, these cells require an amino acid called L-tryptophan. The serotonin produced in your brain also requires L-tryptophan.
Additionally, research has shown that your gut flora, microbes, have an important role in boosting the productions of serotonin.
To have a healthy diet for serotonin production, you want to prioritize three things;
First, Increase foods high in protein, iron, riboflavin and vitamin B-6 tend to contain a lot of tryptophan.
- Seeds & nuts
- Lamb, beef, pork and game
- Fatty fish like salmon and tuna
- Oat bran and oats
- Beans and lentils
- Dark leafy green vegetables and seaweed
Second, focus on complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates trigger the release of insulin, and insulin allows more tryptophan to enter the brain. As tryptophan enters the brain, more serotonin is produced in the brain.
Note, this may be one of the reasons simple carbohydrates are so addictive. They can be used to make you feel happy, but high blood sugar levels over time can contribute to memory problems and other health complications like heart disease. Therefore, consuming high amounts of sugar and simple carbohydrates are not recommended.
Instead of simple carbohydrates, include complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, fibrous fruit like apples and berries, carrots, and beans.
Finally, prioritize microbiome health.With evidence that your microbiome contributes to the production of serotonin, you want to support a healthy microbiome.
Eat lots of vegetables, especially greens and leafy vegetables. The soluble fiber in plants material is the perfect food for your microbiome.
Include fermented foods such as low to no sugar yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, miso, and other fermented foods. These are natural probiotic sources. Taking a high-quality probiotic that can deliver probiotic cultures to your intestinal tract are also recommended.
Avoid foods that feed unhealthy microbes and yeast, such as simple carbohydrates and sugar.
Get a professional opinion and have testing done to check your overall hormone, neurotransmitter and gut health. Testing should include a broad-spectrum hormone panel to include 4 – 6 cortisol points. Additionally, you want to test for nutritional deficiencies.
If you want support or advice on what tests to take and how to address your serotonin levels, you can contact my office.
To contact me for a FREE Hormone Troubleshooting Session, click on the button below and fill out the health questionnaire. Once you click Submit, you can schedule an appointment that is convenient for you.
Serotonin has several critical roles throughout the body – above and below the neck. It promotes feelings of well-being, and regulates appetite, temperature, energy balance, blood clotting, building bone tissue, sleep cycles, your inflammatory response and sexual behavior, just to name a few.
To make all these processes happen, serotonin works in tandem with other chemicals; estradiol, testosterone, cortisol, vitamin D and many others that help shape its behavior.
In this context, hormones and serotonin are intimately integrated and maintaining healthy levels across the board is necessary to feel your best.
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