What is Serotonin “brain food”?
Neurochemistry, the chemical processes and patterns that enable your brain to function as it does, is highly complex and varies significantly between individuals. Diet, exercise habits, sun exposure, social group and genetics all have a role to play in the brain’s chemical behaviour.
Most of us do not get enough of everything we need every day to keep our brain function 100% optimised. That’s why supplementing with brain food can give you such an edge. Brain foods are natural nutrients which act as fuel for specific neurotransmitters in the brain.
By addressing any deficiencies or imbalances in the delicate neurological system, you can increase your ability to concentrate, regulate your energy, and balance your mood.
Serotonin – What’s the Deal?
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for mood, fear, aggression and anxiety. It plays a large part in the digestive process as it interacts with neurons present in the gut. Healthy serotonin levels enable you to live in the moment instead of becoming drawn into negative thought patterns.
So Where Does it Come From?
It starts with tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin. Found in many foods such as egg whites, soybean and turkey and is also available as a nutritional supplement.
It is converted into 5-HTP by the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase (TH). TH is a key rate-limiting enzyme that controls the production of 5-HTP in the body. TH comes in two variants. TPH1, which is found in the gut and the peripheral nervous system, and TPH2, which is primarily expressed in the central nervous system.
Serotonin outside the central nervous system is not particularly interesting for cognitive enhancement. However, a lack or excess of serotonin in the digestive tract may contribute to irritable bowel syndrome.
Cortisol also has a profound effect on regulating serotonin metabolism. Cortisol pathways are induced by stress and cause an increase in serotonin reuptake, possibly contributing to depression. Increased cortisol also may increase the production of N-formyl-L-kynurenine by increasing the activity of tryptophan 2, 3-dioxygenase. This pathway uses up L-Tryptophan in the eventual production of niacin instead of serotonin. Niacin is produced from tryptophan in competition with the serotonin pathway. Therefore, supplementing with niacin may free up tryptophan to be processed into serotonin.
Herbs that have exhibited serotonin reuptake inhibition activity like St. John’s Wart should only be used in situations where there is a significant deficiency. Berberine heavily influences the 5-HTT transporter while having positive health benefits and being well tolerated over long periods of time.