What are you doing to look after your mental health? Are you prioritising it as much as your physical health? In this episode, Jen explains the role of the Serotonin, Dopamine and Cortisol hormones and how they impact our mood, memory, and movement throughout the day. You’ll learn the warning signs that tell you when you’re out of balance and what to feed your brain for good mental health.

Did you enjoy the podcast today? Please let me know by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts. Every month I draw one lucky reviewer to have a free one-hour consultation with me. Also, remember to subscribe wherever you’re tuning in from so that you always catch the next episode.


Have you ever been for a massage and felt like you floated out of the session? It’s because massage therapy increases Serotonin and Dopamine and decreases Cortisol.

What are Serotonin and Dopamine, and why are they important?

  • Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilises our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. It is a hormone that impacts your entire body. 
  • Dopamine is the “feel good” chemicals in our brain. Interacting with the pleasure and reward centre of our brain plays a vital role in how happy we feel. In addition to our mood, Dopamine also affects movement, memory, and focus.

Have you ever felt immobilised when you were stressed? It’s because your Dopamine has been taxed by your stress hormone Cortisol. High levels of Cortisol can wear down the brain’s ability to function properly. It can disrupt the way our brain fires making us less sociable and more likely to avoid others.

Signs of a Dopamine deficiency

Some signs and symptoms of conditions related to a Dopamine deficiency include:

  • Muscle cramps, spasms, or tremors
  • Aches and pains
  • Stiffness in the muscles
  • Loss of balance
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty eating and swallowing
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Signs of reduced Serotonin

Serotonin (generally speaking) enhances the production of Dopamine and hampers the production of Cortisol. People with depression tend to have reduced amounts of Serotonin in their brain and elevated levels of Cortisol in their bloodstream. 

So, what happens? Cortisol dampens gut chemistry. It lowers the enzymes, which means your food stews instead of digests, so the amino acids aren’t taken up to the brain. This equates to low Serotonin and Dopamine.

How to feed your brain for mental health

  • Eat quality protein. Proteins are made up of smaller building blocks called amino acids. We need the full spectrum of amino acids, so look to eat GRASS-FED protein.
  • Eat less saturated fat.
  • Eat probiotics and fermented foods.
  • Move your body.
  • Get Enough Sleep (Episode 1).
  • Listen to or play music (I’m learning the ukulele).
  • Meditate – walking meditations/chanting.

You can’t directly get Serotonin from food, but you can get tryptophan, an amino acid that’s converted to Serotonin in your brain. Tryptophan plays a role in producing Serotonin, a mood stabilizer, melatonin, which helps regulate sleep patterns. So how can you increase your tryptophan?

  • Milk – Whole Milk is one of the largest sources of tryptophan, including 732 milligrams per quart. 2% reduced-fat milk is also a good source, coming in at 551 milligrams per quart.
  • Canned Tuna – 472 milligrams per ounce.
  • Turkey and Chicken – Contrary to popular beliefs, turkey is a large source of tryptophan, but it is not the largest. Light meat contains 410 milligrams per pound (raw), and dark meata contains 303 milligrams per pound. Chicken also contains high amounts of tryptophan, with light meat containing 238 milligrams per pound and dark meat containing 256 milligrams per pound.
  • Oats – 147 milligrams per cup.
  • Cheese – cheddar cheese contains 91 milligrams of tryptophan per 30grams.
  • Nuts and Seeds – Peanuts have 65 milligrams per 30gm.
  • Bread – Whole wheat bread can contain up to 19 milligrams per slice.
  • Chocolate – 18 milligrams of tryptophan per ounce.
  • Fruits – A medium-sized banana contains approximately 11 milligrams of it. A medium-sized apple contains approximately 2 milligrams of tryptophan. A single prune contains 2 milligrams.

Take 8 to 12 grams of L-tryptophan by mouth per day. L-tryptophan should be taken in divided doses of three or four times a day. Most people aren’t getting enough tryptophan in their diet.

More tips to help:

  • Move your body
  • Bright light
  • Massage
  • Increase digestive enzyme-rich foods – Pineapples, papayas, mangoes, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kiwifruit, and ginger. 
  • Take kombucha – it’s full of antioxidants and probiotics, or live bacteria that boost the health of intestinal cells, improve immune function and aid in food digestion. 

Helpful Links

Healthy Life Hacks

So, the healthy life hacks I want to leave you with today are: 

  1. Reduce stress and Cortisol – Adaptogen Herbs are great for that (see link above)
  2. Make sleep a priority
  3. Bring more tryptophan-rich foods into your diet

Did you enjoy the podcast today? Please let me know by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts. Every month I draw one lucky reviewer to have a free one-hour consultation with me. Also, remember to subscribe wherever you’re tuning in from so that you always catch the next episode.

Are you looking for more great resources? Get a free copy of my Feed Your Body ebook here and be sure to explore my blog while you are there.