We’ve all heard of serotonin, which is colloquially known as our happiness hormone. But what only a few know is that serotonin is mostly, 90% to be exact, produced in our gut. This is because certain gut bacteria in our microbiome can produce substances that release serotonin. These substances include, for example, the short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) butyrate and propionate (1,2). And serotonin can do much more, in our body it regulates glucose and fat metabolism, gut inflammation and gut motility (1,3). A recent study also found that serotonin production in the gut is protective against the invasion of pathogenic invaders that cause disease (4). Now the questions remains, what can we do ourselves to increase these serotonin-producing gut bacteria?
By the way, with the myBioma gut microbiome analysis you can find out how much your gut bacteria support you in coping with stress.
The right diet to boost your serotonin production in the gut
In general, a diet with adequate levels of prebiotic fibre (often found in plant-based foods) helps support a health-promoting gut microbiome. Prebiotic fibre supports the growth of SCFA-producing bacterial species that can stimulate serotonin production. Importantly, serotonin production in the gut is dependent on the absorption of certain nutrients, which can be obtained through a balanced diet.
The precursor of serotonin: tryptophan
Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, is the building block for serotonin production in both the brain and the gut (5). As an essential amino acid, tryptophan cannot be produced by our body and must be taken in through food. Serotonin production from tryptophan also requires nutrients such as vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B3 (niacin) as well as glutathione. Let’s look at a few suitable foods.
Foods that contain a lot of tryptophan, glutathione, B6 and B3
These foods contain tryptophan:
These foods contain glutathione:
These foods contain B6 (pyridoxine):
These foods contain B3 (niacin):
A recipe to boost your serotonin production.
We’ve created a recipe for you that boosts your serotonin production and tastes delicious too. Have you ever tried amaranth? Amaranth was one of the main foods of the Aztecs and Incas and belongs to the foxtail family. The power corn is gluten-free and full of valuable ingredients such as iron, zinc and, of course, tryptophan. It tastes slightly bitter/nutty and is a great source of vegetable protein. What’s more, the strawberry season is starting and we need to make the most of it. Here we go!
Amaranth porridge with strawberries & walnuts
Soak the amaranth in water overnight. The next morning, pour the amaranth through a sieve and rinse again.
Now heat the amaranth together with the almond milk in a pot and let it simmer gently for about 10 minutes.
Now you can grate the apple or cut it into small pieces and then fold it into the porridge. Let the porridge simmer for another 5 minutes.
In the meantime, chop the walnuts and cut the banana and strawberries into bite-sized pieces.
Season the porridge with vanilla and cinnamon to taste. Then stir the maple syrup into the porridge and add a little almond milk if needed.
After a total of 15 minutes cooking time, you can serve the porridge in a bowl and garnish with the banana, strawberries and walnuts. If you like it even sweeter, you can add some maple syrup on top. And your amaranth proddige is ready.
If you try this recipe, feel free to link your creation to @mybioma on Instagram. We’ll be happy to repost your post!