There are many brain chemicals also known as neurotransmitters that affect behavior and that are altered in the brains of individuals with Down syndrome. For our purposes today we will be focusing on serotonin and how we can use foods to influence this brain chemical.
According to Wikipedia, Serotonin is a monoamine neurotransmitter and is popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness. You may recall that some anti-depressants such as Prozac affect a person’s serotonin level, but is it possible to raise serotonin with plain old food?
It has been well researched that individuals with Down syndrome tend to have lower levels of serotonin. So what can we do food-wise to address this? I want to be very clear here. Diet alone very well may not be enough to increase serotonin levels to normal levels especially those with Down syndrome, but eating these foods should help and certainly worth a shot!
Foods don’t technically contain serotonin, however, they do contain tryptophan which is the precursor to serotonin. Be sure to eat these foods with healthy carbohydrates such as sweet potato, oats, brown rice, or if tolerated sprouted whole grains to help with absorption.
- Wild Salmon- Please, please, please no matter what you do be sure you are buying wild salmon. Why? Farm-raised salmon are not only not as nutrient-dense but they may contain toxic ingredients such as artificial food coloring that is added to their food to make you think they are consuming their natural diet of krill. This is a lie! Krill are small bright orangey-red fish that is the wild salmons natural diet giving them that pinkish/reddish/orangish color. Wild salmon contains around 400 milligrams of tryptophan and is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which are also great for brain health..
- Pastured Eggs- Notice I didn’t say free-range or organic, although those eggs are healthier than factory-farmed also known as “regular” eggs, but the goal is really to get pastured eggs. Why? They are far more nutrient-dense and taste better too! When chickens are allowed to eat from their natural environment their egg yokes will become a firm, bright orange versus pale yellow that falls apart. Also please stop throwing out the yoke as it is the most nutrient-dense part of the egg. Egg yolks have very high levels of tryptophan and as well as choline which is a crucial nutrient for individuals with Down syndrome.
- Nuts/Seeds- Ok so the one caveat to this is please make sure to properly prepare them. Nuts/Seeds need to be soaked and then dried on low temperature preferable using a dehydrator. This will reduce the phytic acid levels that are in most nuts/seeds. Phytic acid affects how our bodies are able to absorb nutrients. All nuts/seeds contain tryptophan so choose your favorites and keep in mind that peanuts are legumes and are also moldy so not recommended. Almonds should also be used with caution because they are pasteurized and therefore not as nutrient-dense as the rest. I like to add brazil nuts to smoothies because they are kind of funky to eat but contain a large amount of selenium which is a necessary nutrient for proper thyroid function. Since thyroid function tends to be an issue for so many individuals with Down syndrome this may be a good nut to give a try.
I would love to hear from you! What is your favorite way to serve these foods? Comment below!
In abundant health,