Last week we covered some basic suggestions for beating back the blues. In case you missed it, these included increased activity, fish oil and vitamin D. Near the end, I made mention of a few supplements that can offer additional benefit. Today we're going to take a look at a few of these.
Unfortunately, the supplement industry is famously unregulated and, as such, can invoke images of the Wild West. I prefer to use and recommend supplements with proven research behind them. If you're looking for products that have well-prepared (and well-paid) spokesmodels, look elsewhere. Just the facts, ma'am.
First, let's define serotonin, as increasing it is linked to improved mood, appetite control, relaxation and our ability to control inhibitions. Simply put, it is a neurotransmitter which is mostly made in our gastrointestinal lining.
Eating fermented foods or drinks like sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha can help our digestion work with us. Avoiding excessive alcohol, highly-processed foods or those with extra sugars or trans fats can also lead to a healthier GI system.
In addition, two of the supplements I mentioned last week work directly with serotonin: 5-htp and rhodiola rosea. The first, 5-htp, is a metabolite of tryptophan. Whether taking tryptophan or 5-htp, both will cause an increase in serotonin. While they can provide relief, I would advise against consistent, ongoing use as it can cause serotonin syndrome. In short, use them once in awhile for improved mood and sleep, but not everyday.
The next, rhodiola rosea, is a popular traditional herb. It causes a rise in serotonin while also reducing exhaustion stemming from fatigue. Research also suggests that rhodiola may also promote longevity and is highly neuroprotective, saving your brain from potential damage from toxins. Similar to 5-htp and tryptophan, I would recommend using it but not everyday.
Last week I mentioned curcumin, which is a very potent anti-inflammatory molecule. Lowering inflammation has been shown in multiple studies to reduce depression, as well as signs of frustration and aggression.
You can find curcumin in the spice aisle at your local grocer (if they don't have it directly, look for turmeric as curcumin is the active ingredient). You may also take it in a supplemental form. Unfortunately, our body's ability to absorb it from oral source is not that strong, so it's best to take with black pepper to increase the absorption.
Lastly, let's look at green tea extract. I suggest it here as a good form of energy on those overcast days that seem to superglue you to the couch. Luckily, green tea extract also offers a host of other benefits.
It's been shown to protect almost every part of our bodies: our cardiovascular system, nervous system and liver, as well as being anti-carcinogenic and anti-diabetic. Taken before meals, it's also been shown to reduce our body's ability to absorb carbohydrates and can aid in weight loss. Not too shabby, huh?
Well, that's all for this week, but be on the lookout for more on supplements in the near future. I enjoy being a guinea pig (a responsible one, mind you) and sharing what I find to help others gain benefits and save moolah. If you have questions about a supplement, drop me a line via social media, email, The Wilson Post or my website, www.FreshEvolutionFitness.com.