The brain chemical serotonin plays a vital role in your health and well-being. As a chemical messenger, serotonin relays information from one part of your brain to the other. Serotonin is necessary for a variety of functions in the body, and therefore it is important that enough is being produced. Diet can have an impact on serotonin levels, and vitamin C is a necessary part of the manufacture of this neurotransmitter. However, it is important to not self-diagnose that your serotonin levels are low, but rather to see your doctor to discuss possible dietary changes that might improve levels.
Serotonin is one of several neurotransmitters related to mood and energy. In the book, "Secrets of Serotonin" by Carol Hart, Ph.D., she explains that serotonin is the largest single system in the brain, and it oversees digestion, the expansion and contraction of blood vessels, movement, and mood. Serotonin also modulates or controls the effects of other neurotransmitters, which is why it can have such a large effect on mood and behavior, adds Hart.
Vitamin C is necessary to make serotonin, according to Dr. Michael J. Norden in his book, "Beyond Prozac." Not only is vitamin C important, but so are adequate amounts of vitamin E and all the B vitamins, particularly B-6, folic acid and biotin, notes Norden. Still, without enough vitamin C, the body cannot convert tryptophan into serotonin, notes health educator Karol Ladd in her book, "A Positive Plan for Creating More Calm, Less Stress," and therefore foods high in vitamin C and tryptophan are important for mood regulation.
A balanced diet is important for the production of all the neurotransmitters, but certain foods may help with increasing serotonin levels more than others. Spinach, bananas and almonds are good choices to provide vitamin C, along with the B vitamins and vitamin E. Turkey, eggs, nuts, beans and milk all provide tryptophan, notes Ladd, which is also necessary for serotonin production.
Along with the other neurotransmitters, the body maintains a delicate balance of serotonin for health and well-being. Trying to change serotonin levels without the help of a trained health care professional can cause negative side effects and may even be dangerous. Particularly if you suffer from depression, see your doctor to determine if you need prescription medication to increase serotonin levels.
- "Secrets of Serotonin"; Carol Hart, PhD; 2008
- "Beyond Prozac"; Michael J. Norden, MD; 1996
- "A Positive Plan for Creating More Calm, Less Stress"; Karol Ladd; 2005