Did you open this out of sheer curiosity?!  Or you may have some knowledge and are wondering what the relevance is to you in your business?

It was Mental Health Awareness Week recently and so this topic is quite relevant as a lack of Serotonin can cause severe mental health issues – but it’s all relative, and a small deficit can cause problems too with day to day mood and functioning.

Let’s just start off by talking about how your diet can help you to live a longer, happier and healthier life

I have talked before about Blue Zone / Mediterranean diet (Eat your Way to Success)

Currently, there are five known Blue Zones. They are:

  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Icaria, Greece
  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Nicoya, Costa Rica
  • Loma Linda, California

For example, people in these areas tend to exercise more and eat lots of vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and legumes. Note their diet is not completely plant based but high on vegetable content and protein derived from non-animal sources.

Alcohol is allowed in moderation and also coffee

Processed food is nowhere in their diet!

However food and diet (and other healthy habits) are important – I wanted to go into more detail from a neuroscience point of view!  I have a degree in Psychology and during lockdown I participated in Lynda Shaw’s Neuroscience Professional Development Programme.  Having an understanding of neuroscience can help us to understand how our mind works – and how it can go a bit awry – and neurochemicals are a key part of this.

You will probably have heard of Serotonin? It’s a neurotransmitter or hormone and it is found in the brain (and pretty much everywhere in your body – digestive system, nervous system and has a role to play in blood clotting – yes that was a surprise to me too). I do talk a lot about Dopamine – the reward hormone.  Serotonin is the “happy” hormone (and Oxytocin is the “love” hormone!)

Serotonin has lots of functions –

  • Improving mood
  • Sleep
  • Appetite and digestion
  • Emotions
  • Motor skills

And it is thought that low levels of serotonin play a part in anxiety and depression, but even less serious symptoms such as irritability, low level anxiety, aggression, sleep problems, sugar cravings, being impulsive and digestive problems.  As someone said  – Menopause!  But also – who doesn’t feel like that at least some of the time!?

There are a number of drugs – Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs – which you may be familiar with – Prozac being the main one people have heard of.  So you produce the Serotonin and the drugs block the reabsorption so therefore there is more available – which leads to higher levels.

The side effects can be severe though – although IF YOU ARE TAKING THEM PLEASE FOLLOW YOUR DOCTOR’S ADVICE. The following information is for people not taking medication.

However – there are natural ways to increase serotonin and these are:

  • Good carbs (e.g pulses, wholegrains)
  • Bright light
  • Supplements – amino acids such as tryptophan
  • Exercise
  • Meditation (I saw a link to an article demonstrating measurable positive effects of meditation – and it doesn’t have to be sitting in a chair in silence)
  • Diet – Red meat, tofu, turkey, cheese, Salmon, eggs brown rice, nuts, pineapple – pretty much my ideal diet! Quinoa is a great carb substitute and it is loaded with protein.   (9 amino acids – more than any other food apparently)

The Importance of Sleep

the importance of sleep

Sleep is SO important – so if you – or anyone you know is “working hard” into the night and not getting enough of it they HAVE to find a way to work less and sleep more!  Specifically if deprived of REM sleep this can lead to low serotonin levels (and you will also feel the cold more).

Too much serotonin – there is such a thing – as a side effect of the SSRIs or other antidepressants, or anti migraine drugs or indeed illegal drugs can cause confusion and hallucinations, suicidal ideation, seizures, Feeling cold, restless and agitation – on and on,.

In summary then – you are awash (or should be) with serotonin and it’s so essential to normal functioning of the brain (and the body) so sunlight (vitamin D), exercise, good diet and sleep are required!  And all this helps you to be a successful business owner.

Is that helpful?  Was it interesting – are you going to change habits to boost your serotonin naturally?

I’d love to know what you think?

If you would like to talk more then please do Get in touch.