Ebb & Flow -

Spring is blossoming, the sun is trying to shine, the nation’s mood might be starting to pick up…

Sunlight is the best source of Vitamin D, and Vitamin D can elevate our mood by supporting our serotonin synthesis. Serotonin is one of our main feel good neurotransmitters, which means we tend to feel naturally happier in the brighter seasons.

But how can we support our mood with nutrition whilst there are still April showers?

Serotonin is made from the amino acid L-Tryptophan, which is found in protein foods like milk, turkey, nuts or eggs. If we eat a low protein diet, we might struggle to have enough of the raw building blocks to make serotonin to feel good. Interestingly, if we are feeling low, we generally don’t crave protein rich foods to boost our mood, we tend to crave high carbohydrate foods, like bread, pasta or chocolate. This is because high carbohydrate or sugary foods elevate the hormone insulin, which enables the amino acid L-Tryptophan to cross the blood brain barrier, thereby increasing serotonin levels. Maintaining a healthy balance of protein to carbohydrate foods in our meals can therefore be really helpful in supporting our serotonin production.

A meal like a baked potato with buffalo mozzarella cheese and a salad full of colourful vegetables, like tomato, carrot, spinach, beetroot and olive oil and vinegar dressing, is a great way to get the nutrients we need to optimise our serotonin levels:

  • The cheese is a good source of protein, including the building block of serotonin: the amino acid L-Tryptophan
  • The potato is a whole food source of carbohydrate, which triggers a modest release of insulin, which enables serotonin to be used in the brain.
  • The salad full of a rainbow of vegetables, offers an abundance of micronutrients which are needed to support serotonin synthesis, and the olive oil is a healthy source of fat which supports optimal brain function.

A balanced meal like this also offers the benefits of a stable blood sugar level. Unstable blood sugar can be very stressful to our bodies and minds, whereas stable blood sugar levels can support our energy and our mood.

If we ate the carbohydrate rich potato but didn’t combine it with the protein in cheese, our blood sugar level could go up too high, resulting in an excessive secretion of insulin and a corresponding blood sugar crash. If our blood sugar gets too low, it can make us pump out the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin, which can make us feel stressed rather than happy.

Thus, overindulging in sweets for a boost of serotonin can backfire, as it may not maintain a high serotonin level, but temporarily increase it, followed by a surge of stress hormones, which can crash our mood. Combining carbohydrates with protein, fat and fibre in a balanced meal eases the secretion of insulin, so a balanced mood can be sustained. Conversely, only eating protein rich foods can reduce the amount of insulin we secrete, which might deplete serotonin production, potentially affecting individuals struggling with depression or anxiety.


Our digestive health is also relevant to serotonin synthesis.

90% of our serotonin is made in the gut, so the health of our digestive system can affect the production and utilisation of this feel good neurotransmitter. In order to function optimally, we need a healthy balance of probiotics, or healthy bacteria in our gut. We can check the levels of our personal gut bacteria in a stool test, which can be privately ordered and reviewed in a nutritional therapy consultation. Eating probiotic and prebiotic foods can help support our gut function and the synthesis of serotonin. Probiotic foods like yogurt or kefir are full of healthy bacteria, whereas prebiotic foods supply the fibre beneficial probiotics need to thrive, such as asparagus, oats or bananas.

A healthy digestive system is also important to the health of our immune system and corresponding levels of inflammation. Higher levels of inflammation can correlate to a lower mood, because the immune inflammatory response produces chemicals called cytokines, which have been linked to mental health issues like depression. Reducing foods which we might be intolerant to, and including healthy fibre, fats, pre and probiotics in our diet can reduce levels of inflammation in the gut.

The meal of a baked potato with buffalo mozzarella and a colourful salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing, offers lots of anti inflammatory antioxidants, good levels of fibre which acts as a prebiotic, and probiotics from the vinegar and cheese, which support healthy digestive function and optimal mood.


Lifestyle is also a very important part of how we can increase our feel good chemicals alongside nutrition.

There is a huge amount of evidence that physical exercise, like yoga, encourages our brains to produce the feel good neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. So keeping active, particularly in the sunshine can be very beneficial to our mood, alongside eating healthily. Relaxation, sleep and rest are very important to our mental wellbeing, so trying some mediation or restorative yoga might help reduce stress hormones in favour of the calming, feel good neurotransmitters, serotonin or GABA.

On a psychological note, connection and community are vastly beneficial for our mood. So surrounding ourselves with caring, compassionate people can support our mental wellbeing, alongside being good to ourselves. If you feel you need a bit more help with your mood, it might be very helpful to reach out to a trained psychologist or psychotherapist for one to one support.

Or if you feel like personalised Nutritional Therapy might help support your mental wellbeing, you can book a free introductory call with Kelly at the studio.