Foods can be a powerful healing modality. Especially when it comes to mood problems. 90% of the serotonin in our bodies, the “feel-good” hormone, is produced in our gut. The foods that we nourish the microbiome in our gut with can directly impact these serotonin levels.
Carbohydrates boost serotonin levels. Donuts, candy bars, fruit, brown rice and sweet potatoes all help to temporarily boost serotonin in the body. This is because when you consume carbohydrates, your pancreas releases insulin. All amino acid levels drop, except for tryptophan, which creates serotonin in your brain. Your dopamine levels drop and the serotonin wins, resulting in a happier, more relaxed mood.
However, not all carbohydrates are created equal. You may crave a donut or a candy bar, and you will feel the boost in your mood after consuming them. However, sugar causes an intense rise and crash in your serotonin levels. Additionally, sugar is highly inflammatory in the body, which can exacerbate anxiety and tax your adrenals. Sugar also feeds the bad bacteria and yeast in your gut, which do not produce serotonin.
Complex carbohydrates in the form of brown rice or sweet potatoes, especially when combined with a tryptophan-rich source of protein, such as fish, feed the good guys in your gut, help them to produce more serotonin, and offer sustained energy. Eating fruits and vegetables are other sources of beneficial carbohydrates that are full of anti-inflammatory antioxidants.
Some great foods to help soothe anxiety include:
Blueberries and other berries
Wild-caught fish such as sardines and salmon
Good fats such as avocado and olive oil
Foods to limit or avoid, that may worsen anxiety symptoms:
Sugar, in all forms
Industrial oils (soy, corn, canola)
Dairy (industrial dairy. Some can tolerate raw and grass-fed dairy products)