In many of my sessions this week we have been talking about how stressed out my clients are. And, of course, I am feeling it as well.
None of us thought that the Covid crisis would last this long, tensions are running high with important social issues that don't have simple solutions and many of us just want some peace. The stress of it all is taking it's toll and now... we are entering back to "school" season.
There are many posts online about how to manage this situation in your home. Lots of ideas for how to get your kiddos used to wearing masks for hours, reminders that we parents set the tone of the tension our kids experience so we need to remain calm and demonstrate for them it is going to be ok. By now we all know the benefits of going for a long walk to clear our heads!
So I thought for this blog I would share something a bit different. Since many of us are struggling to manage our mood, despite knowing we need to keep it together for our kids & our jobs... Here is something you can control. When everything is spinning around us, there are some things we can do to manage our wellness.
Let's talk about Serotonin
Many of us have heard about this neurotransmitter. We talk about people having chemical imbalances, we know someone who is taking a prescription medication to help their Serotonin levels. We know that it has something to do with depression. But since most of us & our kids are having mood issues in 2020 I thought it might be a good time to have a serotonin chat!
Serotonin is not just about regulating your moods, but responsible for your sleep, appetite, memory and perceptions. If serotonin levels dip too low we might see anxiety, depression, panic attacks, insomnia, obesity eating disorders, chronic pain, migraines and alcohol abuse. So it is important to keep our serotonin levels healthy!
Like any other organ in our body, our brain needs essential nutrients in order for it to function well. So if your brain is struggling due to a history of trauma, a current stressful situation, or a lack of nutrients, you may want to give it some extra TLC in order for it to function the way it was designed.
If you have anyone in your home who is struggling to manage their mood (depression or anxiety), if they are struggling with too much or too little sleep, if their appetite is increased or decreased, if they are struggling with their cognition, you may want to make some simple at home adjustments to help them (you?) feel a little better.
L-tryptophan is an amino acid that's found in high protein foods like meat, cheese, yogurt, eggs, and fish. Your body uses tryptophan and turns it into a B vitamin called niacin. Niacin plays a key role in creating serotonin! Tryptophan is just one of many different amino acids that are contained in foods (like turkey, but not just turkey!). Carbs boost tryptophan to the brain easily, increasing serotonin levels. So eating a snack that is carb + protein is a fantastic way to get that amino acid to the brain to support your serotonin production.
If you or someone you love has been in a bit of a funk lately, perhaps increasing their protein and combing that with some carbs could be a great way to help them feel better.
Here are some serotonin boosting snack & meal ideas...
1. Fruit + cheese Cottage cheese, cheddar or mozzarella, whatever cheese you prefer would make a great choice. You could make an adult or kid friendly charcuterie board with fresh / dried fruit, organic cheese & lean meats if you wanna feel fancy!
2. Fruit + hard-boiled egg Check out my previous blog about all the benefits of eggs!
3. Whole wheat toast + cheese Enjoy it just as toast with a slice of organic cheese or make a grilled cheese sandwich.
4. Breakfast sandwich The combination of eggs & whole grain bread makes for a great start to the day. Adding some organic cheese will also help boost your mood.
5. Your fav meat/fish sandwich on whole wheat bread Some people think turkey is the only source of tryptophan but that isn't true, there are high amounts in all types so just grab a good quality meat or fish, and feel free to add a slice of cheese or egg for additional nutritional benefits.
6. Egg & cheese omelet/wrap + fruit You could also add some turkey or chicken to your omelet
7. Organic Greek yogurt + fruit Buy the plain kind without a lot of added sweeteners and then toss in some berries or bananas. This can be delicious but if it still isn't sweet enough for you or your kids, stir in 1 tsp of honey or agave. You could also toss in some whole grain cereal for a crunch.
8. Fish/Seafood + Brown rice Halibut & Salmon are your best choices for fish and Lobster & Shrimp are great choices for seafood, but all fish and seafood choices contain great nutrients for your brain & mood.
9. Meat + Brown rice You can make it in a skillet, it can be in a casserole, you can toss in some organic cheese or veggies, but this combo is always a winner.
10. Loaded sweet potatoes Root vegetables are all good for serotonin, but sweet potatoes are esp good for ya.
11. Trail mix Look for ones (or make your own!) that contain sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pistachios, cashews &/or almonds as they are high in tryptophan. The combination of seeds, nuts & fruit is great for your brain. Also, dark chocolate can help boost your mood so don't shy away from tossing in some dark chocolate chips.
12. Fruit + Almond butter Grab some apples, pears or bananas and dip them in some almond butter for a delicious treat.
13. Protein shakes + chia/flax seeds Chia & Flax seeds are not only a great source of fiber, but they contain tryptophan as well so if you enjoy a morning protein shake, consider tossing in a tbsp of chia or flax seeds.
Feel like that isn't enough? If you are looking at supplementing your diet with vitamins, minerals or herbs to help you feel better, consider looking at...
14. B Complex vitamin Whether you start taking a multi vitamin or just a B Complex, to boost your serotonin levels you are specifically looking at increasing your vitamin B12 & B6. You can grab it in pill or powder form as a quick way to boost your brain helath.
15. Probiotics About 90% of your serotonin production takes place in your gut, so let's make sure your gut is healthy! Taking a daily probiotic can be super helpful. You can drink it in Kombucha or Kefir, or eat it in some yogurts (there are even dairy free kinds), there are chewables & drops as well as powdered formulas you can drink or add to breakfast smoothies.
16. St. John's Wort This flowering plant is named for its bright yellow flowers that were said to bloom for the first time around St. John the Baptist's birthday. The word "wort" means "plant" in Old English. Researchers believe ingredients in the herb (hypericin & hyperforin) may increase levels of certain brain chemicals, like serotonin and it is often recommended for mild to moderate depression with less side effects than pharmaceutical drugs.
So whether it is you or one of your kiddos, hopefully this list gives you some ideas of how to boost serotonin levels and help us all feel happier despite the stress in our communities. Hang in there.
As my mom keeps saying, This Too Shall Pass. But in the meantime, we cannot do this alone... so stay connected.
For herbal support... I would encourage you to check out Gaia. As a certified B Corp they offer St John's Wort and a great selection of other healing plant products.
For vitamin and mineral support... I would encourage you to check out Arbonne. I am not only a fan of their products, but have become a consultant myself. If you are looking to add B Complex vitamins or probiotics to your daily intake feel free to reach out (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I can let you know of some of the Arbonne products I would recommend. (Also a certified B Corp)
Disclaimer: The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition.