During a recent presentation to a popular football youth academy, a great question was asked of me; "With lockdown bringing moods down, what food can we eat to support and uplift our moods?"
The answer: Eat foods containing the amino acid, tryptophan.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid found in many protein-based foods and dietary proteins including meats, dairy, fruits and seeds (1). It's conversion to the feel-good hormone, serotonin, takes place in both the gut and the brain (2).
What is low mood?
Low mood is an emotional state characterised by sadness, anxiety, low self-esteem, tiredness, and frustration. In its most severe form it becomes an ongoing problem that impacts daily life.
Research has explored tryptophan depletion to demonstrate how low levels of serotonin is associated with low mood and emotional state and the steps that can be taken, therapeutically to ameliorate symptoms.
Before I provide you with a list of tryptophan containing foods, which you can combine into delicious meals and snacks, I feel its important to consider tryptophan's involvement in sleep (as this too impacts mood) and the importance of gut health (the very epicentre of our wellbeing).
Tryptophan is associated with promoting better sleep. This is because tryptophan, after its conversion to serotonin, in the evening, can be converted into melatonin, the hormone associated with sleep.
People may choose to focus on tryptophan rich foods before bed, to help promote a more restful sleep.
With all of the above said, gut health needs to be taken into consideration.
The human gut is often referred to as the "second brain," and rightly so....it's the only organ to host its own independent nervous system, an intricate network of 100 million neurons embedded in the gut wall (gut instinct, it's a real thing). The gut also plays host to the millions of bacteria which need to be kept at healthy, well balanced levels, meaning more beneficial bacteria, than pathogenic opportunistic bacteria, as the beneficial bacteria aid in functions such as digestion, absorption, immune defence, vitamin synthesis, and synthesis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin.
Beneficial gut bacteria produce approximately 80% of the body's supply of serotonin, which influences both mood and activity within the gastrointestinal tract.
When you consider the gut's multifaceted ability to communicate with the brain, via the vagus nerve, that travels up the spine, into the stem of the brain, along with its crucial role in defending the body against the toxins from the outside world, it is almost unthinkable that the gut is not playing a critical role in the state of how we feel.
If you have been experiencing low moods and dysfunctional sleep for a while, you may want to consider exploring the composition of your gut bacteria.
Tryptophan Containing Foods:
If you are tired of feeling tired, or experiencing regular low moods, I invite you to book in for a complementary Health Transformation Call with me wherein we can explore what's going on and how I may be able to help you get back to feeling your very best self.
1. Friedman M., Levin C.E. Nutritional and medicinal aspects of d-amino acids. Amino Acids. 2012;42:1553–1582
2. Jenkins, T. A., Nguyen, J. C., Polglaze, K. E., & Bertrand, P. P. (2016). Influence of Tryptophan and Serotonin on Mood and Cognition with a Possible Role of the Gut-Brain Axis. Nutrients, 8(1), 56