What is Natural Serotonin?
Natural serotonin is produced by the body during the digestion of foods that contain the natural food substance named L-Tryptophan; commonly referred to simply as tryptophan.
Tryptophan is a naturally occurring amino acid that is a part of many foods, mainly various kinds of protein, such as milk, eggs and meat. Some vegetarians may be low in amino acids, low in tryptophan and low in serotonin.
The body cannot supply it’s own serotonin. It has to come from food in the diet, or from dietary supplements. The key food in making serotonin is tryptophan. If the diet does not contain any tryptophan, the body will not produce any serotonin. That is the simple fact of the matter. This is one reason why tryptophan is classified as one of the essential amino acids.
The function of natural serotonin can have a calming and relaxing effect on the nervous system. Lack of serotonin can lead to anxiety and depression.
An urban legend claims this calming effect is the reason why you may feel like you want to take a nap if you eat large amounts of turkey at Thanksgiving dinner.
In reality, while turkey does provide some naturally occuring tryptophan to your body, it is not any more than any other source. The real reason many people may feel sleepy is probably due to eating a very large meal (and possibly consuming an alcoholic beverage). Turkey does indeed provide some natural tryptophan and in turn does create natural serotonin — but not so much that you can’t keep your eyes open.
A popular, proven source of tryptophan is whey protein. These powders and drinks are made from milk protein and are rich in tryptophan. The amount is listed right there in the ingredients on the label of the container.
Another source of tryptophan is dietary supplements. These were off the market for many years but have now returned.
L-Tryptophan and Serotonin
When we eat foods that are naturally rich in tryptophan, such as whey protein shakes, scrambled eggs, milk, lean meats, etc., the tryptophan turns into natural serotonin. The serotonin is then found in the blood stream, in the gut, and is synthesised in the central nervous system. This is how nature intended things to work and how things could work if only we would eat a more healthy diet.
Athletes and bodybuilders often seem to be in a good mood. Many people have thought this is due to the endorphins being released while exercising. That is probably one reason. The other reason may be that many people who exercise regularly also drink whey protein shakes every day. This protein is rich in all of the amino acids, including tryptophan. Many of these folks also use egg protein powders and also eat a lot of scrambled eggs and/or Eggbeaters (egg whites).
Whey protein is rich in all of the eight essential amino acids that you body needs. Enjoying a tasty whey protein chocolate milkshake every day is an easy thing to do for most people. Some shakes now come in ready-to-drink single serving cartons.
Serotonin and Depression
In the past, when people were suffering from depression or anxiety, they would often go to the health food store and buy some tryptophan supplements. This came to an end one day in the US when a foreign manufacturer made a bad batch which was contaminated with impurities. The problem was traced to a batch of supplements made by Japanese manufacturer Showa Denko.
The FDA then had to take action to protect consumers. They banned the kind of tryptophan that had used the problem.
Next they created very strict regulations regarding the domestic manufacturing of tryptophan.
As a result, for some time, companies were afraid to make it or sell it. All brands of the product quickly vanished from store shelves.
All of the other essential amino acids were still available for sale. It was only this one, tryptophan, that could no longer be found at retail stores in the US. There were a few sources on the Internet, but the product was very expensive. People with depression began taking prescription drugs instead.
Recently a well-known supplement company has carefully made a top quality, USP pharmaceutical grade tryptophan supplement. This manufactures it according to the strict FDA rules. This product is tested for purity according to the United States Pharacopeia (USP) standards. It is the real thing and it can be ordered on the Internet at an affordable price.
The official FDA statement about tryptophan includes this quote: “Although FDA continues to enunciate its concern about the safety of dietary supplements containing L-tryptophan and related compounds such as L-5-hydroxytryptophan, this does not mean that FDA prohibits the marketing of dietary supplements that contain L-tryptophan.”
Psychology Today magazine featured an article that concluded “The only surefire way to increase tryptophan to the brain is with dietary supplements.”
The moral of the story is, be a very wise and careful consumer. Don’t just buy the cheapest dietary supplements you can find.
The editors believe that the best way to get your natural tryptophan, and thereby adjust your natural serotonin levels, is to (1) drink a high quality whey protein supplement shake such as Myoplex once or twice every day, and/or (2) to take a brain supplement like the one we recommend below.
The Serononin Diet
When tryptophan supplements were off the market, many people turned to whey protein, turkey, etc. For example, some people would eat a turkey sandwich for lunch every day and drink a protein shake along with it. Their body would then turn this food (that includes tryptophan) into natural serotonin. This is the way nature intended it to work. Some people call this the serotonin diet.
Many folks do not drink any whey protein or eat any turkey or other protein so they may not be getting enough tryptophan in their diets and they may be low in natural serotonin. These people may want to consider taking supplements.
L-Tryptophan versus 5-HTP
Another way that some people have attempted to improve their serotonin levels is by taking a supplement called 5-HTP. This is a precursor to serotonin. Most 5-HTP products are made from natural griffonia bean extract.
Two problems with cheaper 5-HTP types are (1) your body cannot actually control the amount of serotonin it produces so you need to make sure your 5-HTP is made in standardized doses. And (2) some of the 5-HTP supplements can give you an upset stomach, so look for one that is enterec coated.
Tryptophan itself is a good choice. And if you take 5-HTP, be sure to follow label directions.
Look for standardized extracts in enteric coated tablets. The standardized extracts help assure you that the product contains the amount it says on the label, so you don’t take too much or too little. The enteric coating carries the supplement through the stomach to the digestive tract, which helps to avoid some of the possible stomach discomfort and gastrointestinal upset.
Serotonin and Weight Loss
Sorry to keep repeating this but drinking whey protein is a very easy, natural way to get serotonin in your system. This daily diet will also help with weightloss. Being in a good mood helps with weightloss too. Many people eat when they are anxious. If you have been finding it difficult to lose weight, try the serotonin diet of whey protein shakes and turkey sandwiches. Many have lost weight and felt great on this diet and you probably can too.
One of our editors recommends going to Subway sandwich shop and ordering a six inch turkey sandwich with extra meat. Skip the soda and instead bring along a small carton of Myoplex whey protein shake to drink along with the sandwich. This carton is smaller than a can of soda.
The Editors of this website drink whey protein shakes every day and so get a good supply of all of the essential amino acids, including tryptophan. We also take a high quality daily multi-vitamin, a fish oil capsule and some green chlorella or spirulina along with the protein shakes.
We have noticed that we are always in a better mood when we follow this health regimen. We believe it is due in part to the natural serotonin produced by the body from the whey protein. And also from the positive effect fish oil has on the brain and mood, and how super green foods seem to make the body feel more energized, etc.
If you want your body to produce natural serotonin, drink a delicious whey protein shake once or twice a day. It is such an easy and enjoyable thing to do.
If you need even more serotonin, you may want to take tryptophan supplements. Talk to your doctor.
It is also important to give your body other food nutrients that are good for your brain.
For example, proper nutritional intake plays a role in the following:
Healthy brain function and good mood may be supported with the following standardized product that is also enteric coated. This well known company offers a pure fish oil capsule, and a blend of herbal extracts for brain and mood. These are very popular for a good reason. Click a link for some eye-opening information that reveals how important it is to get the right nutrients to your brain for optimum health and mental clarity.
One high quality product that meets and exceeds these requirements is Xtend-Life’s Total Balance. Our endless quality comparisons of various products has given us many reasons to believe that Total Balance is an excellent overall quality nutritional supplement that also contains beneficial herbs.
Their high quality brain and mood formula is an all-natural comprehensive supplement that provides a broad range of synergistic nutrients known to enhance cognitive function and neurological health. It contains dozens of the herbs and nutrients that are documented on this site.
The scientifically chosen formula includes vitamins and co-factors, essential minerals, amino acids, standardized herbal extracts, digestive enzymes, specialty nutrients and immunity support ingredients. These are standardized extracts with a pharmaceutical grade enteric coating and are free of any fillers and are guaranteed to contain exactly what is stated on the label.
We here at Quality-Nutritional-Supplements have been personally taking a variety of Xtend-Life products, including their famous fish oil, with excellent results.
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Peters, J.C. Tryptophan nutrition and metabolism: An overview. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology 1991;294:345-349.
Baumgarten, H.G. and Schlossberger, H.G. Anatomy and function of central serotonergic neurons. – Progress in Tryptophan and Serotonin Research, 173-188.
Van Pragg, H.M. Central monoamine metabolism in depressions. I. Serotonin and related compounds. Comprehensive Psychiatry 1980;21(1):30-43.