At one time or another in your life you’re bound to suffer from musculoskeletal pain experiencing fatigue and a disturbance in your sleep as well as body-wide / isolated pockets of pain. But did you know that by increasing the production of serotonin (the ‘happy hormone’) you can exert a powerful influence over your mood, pain sensation, sleep habits, appetite, digestion and even body-temperature regulation?
The causes of musculoskeletal pain are varied: trauma to an area (car accidents, falls, fractures, sprains, dislocations) can cause musculoskeletal pain; other causes of pain include postural strain, repetitive movements, prolonged immobilisation whilst poor body mechanics may bring about spinal alignment problems and muscle shortening, causing other muscles to be misused and become painful. Furthermore, as we age we are more likely to suffer from this condition as our bones, joints and muscles show signs of wear and tear.
Affected areas include the neck, back, hips, legs, knees, feet, shoulders and wrists creating pain, aches and stiffness.The severity of the condition varies widely but very often the pain and discomfort interferes with everyday activities. Treatments such as NAIDS (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or topical analgesics can help but recognizing that there are natural ways your body can make serotonin and obtaining plenty of the important co-factor, vitamin B6, may free you from needing to rely on long-term use of prescription drugs…
Get plenty of exercise– Exercise increases serotonin via two pathways. First, the activation of motor neurons increases the firing rate of serotonin neurons, thus boosting the synthesis and release of serotonin. Second, exercise consistently elevates tryptophan levels (a key ingredient in making serotonin) in the brain, up to several hours after the session. Even a gentle exercise like walking can boost your immunity and mood.
Have fun in the sun– Serotonin production increases when we’re exposed to natural sunlight –which means that most of us are battling low serotonin levels having spent months of being stuck indoors! Getting outside for a 20-minute walk in the early morning sunlight can boost your mood and improve your sleep because the early morning sunlight is more intense, helping boost your body’s production of melatonin in the evening.
Get a massage – we’ve all heard about the healing power of touch and how a massage can tilt the balance away from stress toward relaxation and healing but research now proves that regular massage treatments can increase serotonin levels by 28% (as well as decreasing cortisol, the stress hormone, by up to 31%). It’s a no brainer folks!
Eliminate sugar (or at least drastically reduce you sugar intake)– intense sugar cravings is your body’s way of trying to increase serotonin because eating sugar produces insulin which helps tryptophan go into your brain. But beware! Too much sugar can lead to a sugar addiction, insulin resistance, hypoglycemia and type 2 diabetes. Try to satisfy your sweet tooth with healthier options such as fresh fruit, dark chocolate and dried fruits – in moderation of course.
Eat more foods rich in Vitamin B6 – spinach, turnip greens, garlic, cauliflower, mustard greens, celery, fish (especially tuna, halibut, salmon, cod and snapper), poultry (chicken and turkey) and lean beef tenderloin are all great sources and should make a regular appearance on your plate.