Tag Archives: Tryptophan

It gets better and better!

Well I was quite satisfied with Monday’s blog post justifying my treasured lie-ins…but wait! There’s more!

Not only have I a Licence To Sleep but, with absolutely no training required, I’ve got a Licence To Be Moody too! Wish I’d known this a few years earlier…

"I'm searching for some fancy medical terminology I can use to justify why I'm such a complete bitch."

…because it’s very scientific, which is of course, a language I understand and is difficult for others to argue with.

Basically it’s to do with serotonin levels. I’m sure we’ve all heard serotonin referred to as a ‘happy hormone’ (even though it’s not actually a hormone…it’s a neuro-transmitter!) and know that low levels of it can lead to depression. The number of women being treated for depression is much higher than that for men. Of course, there is probably some truth in the fact that the numbers of women being treated for depression may be down to the simple fact that they’re more likely to seek medical help, or talk to their girlfriends about it and be advised to go to the doctor by those friends.

Most of our serotonin is actually used for regulating intestinal functions- nice! But the small remainder is found in the central nervous system where it affects, amongst other things, mood.

The serotonin is taken up by cell receptors which allow neuro-transmitters, hormones etc in and out. So a double edged sword then. Not only do we need enough serotonin to be ‘happy’ but also enough cell receptors to take up as much as possible.

However men and women process serotonin slightly differently. Recent scientific research has found (using brain scans) that women have more serotonin receptors than men. Therefore, logically, need more serotonin. It should also be noted though, that where there is a deficiency of just about anything in the body, our cells open up as many receptors for whatever is lacking as possible in order to take up every last tiny bit that is available. So this could mean there was never enough serotonin in women and thats why we have more receptors.

For some people the answer is anti-depressants. Which is a medicine like any other as far as I’m concerned and solves a problem of deficiency, just like taking vitamin supplements. Some anti-depressants such as Prozac work by increasing serotonin in order for the receptors for it to have access to an optimum amount.

Then of course there’s the other reason for us women’s mood swings…the ACTUAL hormone ones. Oestrogen being the main culprit. The thing about oestrogen is that it also affects serotonin levels by stimulating the number of receptors for it in the brain – meaning during our monthly hormonal fluctuations we need even more!

What to do about it? We can actually help ourselves via our diets. Plenty wholegrain and fortified cereal gives us lots of B vitamins and magnesium which reduces stress hormone cortisol. The high carbohydrate content of these cereals also boosts the level of serotonin.

Of course exercise and sunlight are natural mood boosters, so getting outside for a walk or better still a run will actually do you the world of good – provided you’re not sooooo down that it’s hard to find the motivation to do it! Don’t diet though!! Restricting calories lowers tryptophan which is necessary for making serotonin.

Healthy eating and exercise – YES. Losing out on essential nutrients – NO.

Those chocolate cravings when you’re feeling grumpy?? Your body requesting ‘more carbs please’.

So feel free to indulge! ;)

 

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