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Serotonin is a chemical that maintains “a happy vibe“, helps us to sleep, keeps anxiety and depression at bay.
Therefore low levels of only about 1-2% of the body’s serotonin are in the brain, the rest occurs all over the body where it has many functions, such as maintaining the flow of blood to tissues and organs, coordinating the passage of food through the bowel, blood clotting and others.
Serotonin, Melatonin, and Vitamins to Aid Stress
Serotonin cannot cross into the brain, so the brain has to manufacture its own. You need to eat foods containing the amino acid tryptophan from which the brain makes serotonin. virtually all our tryptophan comes from the food we eat. Eating carbohydrates may enhance the uptake of tryptophan. This is because insulin is especially stimulated by carbohydrates.
Serotonin is made by the digestive process so you cannot take drugs to boost your serotonin levels.
Foods containing tryptophan include turkey, milk (soy, cow, goat), cottage cheese, pecan nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, peas, beans, bananas, fish and eggs.
Carbohydrate foods that facilitate the uptake of tryptophan include salad leaves, baked potatoes, barley, apples, pears, grapes, and other fruits.
At night the pineal gland within the brain converts serotonin into melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep.
Melatonin helps reset our internal clock to keep it in step with the natural cycle of day and night. But technology allows us to pretend that we are not bound by the natural rhythms of life. The trouble is that our bodies have not quite caught up and they still respond to the natural cycles of day and night and the changing seasons.
Darkness stimulates the production of melatonin while light suppresses its activity. Exposure to too much light at night and too little during the day can disrupt the body’s normal cycle. For example jet lag, shift work and poor vision can contribute to a disrupted melatonin cycle.
It has also been claimed that low-frequency electromagnetic fields (common in household appliances) can upset the production of melatonin.
So if insomnia is a problem for you, keep the lights low in the evening, listen to music or the radio before going to bed and make sure that the computer isn’t in the bedroom.
The level of melatonin reduces as we get older.
This clash between our bodies natural rhythms and our ability to ignore them becomes more evident when we disrupt them by working night shifts etc.
The levels of many of the body’s chemicals including hormones vary regularly during the day as if under the control of an internal clock. This clock is approximately synchronized with the 24-hour cycle of day and night and uses the onset of darkness and the coming of daylight as timing cues to help keep itself in step with the outside world.
During daylight, the pineal gland contains a high concentration of serotonin plus a small amount of melatonin. When darkness falls the pineal gland begins to convert the serotonin into melatonin and slowly releases it into the bloodstream.
One of the main effects of the increased melatonin in the bloodstream is to induce sleep by reducing the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine which helps keep the brain awake and active. Melatonin is supposed to help sleep problems in depression. Some say it also mitigates stress, by reducing major swings in stress hormones (corticosteroids), and it has a great reputation for treating jet lag.
Foods containing melatonin include oats, rice, ginger, tomatoes, and bananas.