Tuesday 27 March 2018

Diet ideas for increasing dopamine or serotonin

Child eating cheese

When Anthony was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) a few years ago the health service sent us a list of things to help him.  Problem was, we were doing almost all of it already which meant the only remaining support for his ADHD was via medication. I wondered how the medication worked and if there was anything we could do instead via his diet?  I also wondered if by understanding this, it might apply to people with depression or sleep difficulties.

When Anthony was diagnosed with ADHD, he'd already been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Autism, four years earlier.  We found that much of the therapy and routines we did to help Anthony were the same things to help him with his ADHD.  Bluntly put, we were already doing everything we could to help Anthony when he was diagnosed so the only other option to help him was medication.

It was not something we went into lightly.  No one wants to gives their kids medication if they don't have to - especially a controlled drug like we do. So I did a bit of reading.

Anthony's medication was a stimulant that could help to regulate his dopamine and serotonin levels.  Dopamine affects your emotions, movements and your sensations of pleasure and pain and serotonin is thought to regulate anxiety, happiness, and mood. Well that all sounds useful to help a kid with ADHD or possibly someone with depression. It's not necessarily that Anthony's not producing enough of these chemicals though, it's possible they just aren't going to where they need to in order for him to focus.

I wondered if we could consider increase levels of dopamine and serotonin through diet. It's possible to find out more about supplements that may be available by contacting your pharmacy online or speaking to them in store, but it's also possible to see if increasing levels of dopamine and serotonin through their regular eating, could work for someone.

Anthony has a relatively restricted diet, like many autistic people, so it didn't work for him.  But here's some foods I found out that could help. I'm in no way a health expert - just sharing what we found incase it's of interest to others looking into this.

One key tip is to eat regularly and not to skip meals. This will prevent a sudden swing in hormones and help to regulate your appetite.

Breakfast with eggs and strawberries

For breakfast or lunch try adding in eggs and cheese

Eggs contain a serious amount of protein and they can also really boost your blood plasma levels as well.  If you want to get the most benefits out of the eggs that you eat then make sure that you don’t leave out the yolk. The yolk in the egg is really rich in tryptophan and this can really help you to boost your serotonin levels.

Protein foods are made from the building blocks of amino acids (including tyrosine), which are essential to the production of dopamine. It's therefore possible that eating more protein may also boost dopamine production and eating a high protein breakfast including eggs, lean meats and dairy including cheese could help reduce mid-morning cravings. Cheese is also  another valuable source of tryptophan. We pile it into macaroni cheese but there are so many meals that you can make with it.

Add in nuts and fruit for lunch

All types of nuts help maintain appropriate dopamine levels, but almonds are considered the best for this purpose. Almonds contain phenylalanine, an essential amino acid required for the production of dopamine. Plus, almonds are high in fibre and good fat, which are important for brain as well as overall.

Fruits such as bananas, blueberries, strawberries and prunes all also contain tyrosine too. Plantains, pineapple, bananas, kiwi fruit, plums, and tomatoes all contain high amounts of serotonin. Moderate amounts can be found in avocados, dates, grapefruit, and cantaloupe.

For dinner try adding in Tofu or Salmon

Tofu is another food that is really rich in tryptophan. It is very easy for you to change out almost any recipe that you have in exchange for tofu and it is a brilliant source for vegetarians and vegans. It also helpful for vegans as calcium-based foods are often known for being dairy.

You really can’t go wrong with salmon. Omega 3 fish such as salmon and mackerel is another suggestion for boosting dopamine with the added benefit of having the ' healthy' fatty acids.

Like I said, it was really difficult to see if any of this would work with Anthony.  Ultimately, increasing his levels may not help if the chemicals are not going to the right places, but if could be that some may benefit from this kind of diet so I thought I'd share.

If you've got any tips or ideas, I'd love to hear them.

1 comment:

  1. Some great ideas - I could of done with these suggestions when teaching x


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