What the Body Needs To Produce Serotonin


Our physical, mental, emotional, and chemical well being are interrelated.

We can study these aspects of health separately and address problems in these areas separately, but whatever affects one area touches all the others, for good or ill.

Something that has an immediate impact on each aspect of health is our dietary choices.

This is why a nutrient rich diet is the most common sense and scientific first line of treatment for all our ills, including depression. A simple explanation of how the body manufactures serotonin illustrates this.

What the Body Requires to Produce Serotonin

Although much remains a mystery, we know that a state of mental health requires an adequate supply of neurotransmitters such as serotonin.

  1. The body must have protein to manufacture serotonin (and other neurotransmitters).
  2. To digest protein, we need to have adequate stomach acid.
  3. To produce stomach acid, we need to ingest proper amounts of zinc, B1 and B6.
  4. Stomach acid breaks down proteins into the amino acid tryptophan.
  5. To break down tryptophan into 5-hydroxytryptophan, the body must have a ready supply of folate, calcium, iron, and B3.
  6. To morph 5-hydroxytryptophan into serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine) the vitamins and minerals B6, zinc, magnesium, and Vitamin C are required.

So, without zinc, our stomach acid is inadequate to break down protein. The amino acid tryptophan cannot be transformed without folate or calcium. Without the presence of all vitamins and minerals required, no serotonin can be made.

This is not to imply that lack of adequate nutrition is the cause of everyone’s depression. It may be why some people are depressed, but for many people diet is one of several possible factors in their diagnosis.

Keep It Simple

Eating well when you are depressed is not easy. You may not be hungry or might not have the energy to grocery shop or prepare food already in the cupboard. People who feel worthless or hopeless may not care whether they eat well enough.

Do your best, and ask others to help you shop or prepare food if you need to. You can eat simply and still get the nutrients you need.

  • Have an egg or oatmeal for breakfast.
  • Eat whole grains, lean meats, and legumes.
  • Snack on fruits, yogurt, nuts, or seeds.
  • Try to eat a leafy green salad every day.
  • If you are struggling with eating well, discuss taking a dietary supplement with your doctor.

One more thing to keep in mind is that dark chocolate and cocoa powder are good sources of zinc.

source: Tabrizian, Igor, Dr. The Visual Textbook of Nutritional Medicine, NRS Publications, 2007.


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