The Get Happy Diet

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), April 27, 2008 | Go to article overview

The Get Happy Diet


Scientists have known for years that serotonin - the so-called 'happyhormone' - boosts our moods and general feeling of well-being.

They know, too, that a lack of serotonin can lead to depression which,according to the World Health Organisation, affects 121 million peopleworldwide.

Not surprisingly, well-known antidepressants such as Prozac (one of the groupknown as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, or SSRIs) are designed toalter the balance of some of the brain's chemicals to increase its ability toretain serotonin.

Doctors believe a deficiency of this hormone can cause a range of problemsincluding migraine, eating disorders, irritable bowel syndrome and stress. Ithas even been linked to obesity and insomnia.

Now, Dr Caroline Longmore, a French paediatrician and natural health expert,has devised a plan everyone can follow to lift their daily levels of serotoninwithout resorting to pharmaceutical drugs - and get happier and healthierstraight away.

In this exclusive extract from The Serotonin Secret, Dr Longmore's new 'e-book'available only as an online download, we explain just what serotonin is, whyyou may be deficient in it and how to boost levels through diet, exercise andsupplements.

WHAT IS SEROTONIN? Serotonin is a chemical produced by the brain, believed toplay an important role in regulating mood, anger, and aggression, as well asbody temperature, sleep and appetite.

If its concentration in the brain is normal, we feel relaxed, happy and incontrol. If it drops below optimum levels, we may feel irritated, anxious anddepressed.

Our body instantly attempts to counteract the low serotonin concentration inthe brain, leading to carbohydrate cravings, which result in a subsequent risein serotonin levels.

WHAT CAUSES DEFICIENCY? Serotonin is derived from the essential amino acidtryptophan, which the body cannot make itself.

So for many of us, unless we take enough tryptophan through our diets, we maysuffer a deficiency.

However, insufficient serotonin synthesis may also be caused by geneticfactors, an overworked immune system, or when the brain has been damaged bytoxins such as alcohol. It can also be provoked by long-term stress.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS? The most obvious symptom is a change or lowering ofmood, but symptoms also include sleeplessness, problems with concentration andmemory, and binge-eating or carbohydrate craving. Longer-term deficiency mayresult in obesity, chronic exhaustion and fatigue, anxiety and panic attacks,migraine and depression.

WHAT DRUGS ARE AVAILABLE? If you suffer from severe depression, you may beoffered a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor such as Prozac. Those witheating disorders can also be helped by SSRIs. But recent studies have shownmild to moderate depression is better treated with cognitive behaviouraltherapy or holistically, than through drugs.

HOW CAN I GET A NATURAL BOOST? The best way is through diet: eat foods rich inthe natural amino acid tryptophan and avoid sugar and processed carbohydrateswhich artificially raise blood-sugar levels, leaving you feeling temporarilybetter, before even wilder mood swings.

Other vitamins are also required for tryptophan to be successfully converted toserotonin including Vitamins B (3 and 6) and C, as well as magnesium and zinc.

There are several other ways to boost your levels including taking herbs suchas St John's wort, oatstraw, angelica root, burdock, ginseng, dandelion,rhodolia, black cohosh and wild yam.

Another alternative is 5-HTP or 'hydroxy L-tryptophan', which is metabolisedinto serotonin in the body and can be bought in tablets from most healthstores, although there is no real scientific data to back up its effectiveness.

The World Health Organisation accepts acupuncture as an effective therapy formfor more than 100 conditions including depression. …

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