Feeling Down? Let's Take a Look at Your Neurotransmitter


Our moods are regulated by different hormones and neurotransmitters, which are affected by our genes, environments and foods we eat. Different neurotransmitters are responsible for different emotions, let’s take a look:

Serotonin – confidence, positive

(Low serotonin – negative, irritable, sleep problems)

Norepinephrine, dopamine – alert, energetic, motivated

(Low norepinephrine or dopamine – flat, tired, unmotivated)

GABA – relaxed, free of stress

(Low GABA – tensed, overwhelmed)

Does this sound familiar to you?

Low Serotonin

  • Tend to have negative thoughts

  • Worry a lot, gets anxious easily

  • Low confidence

  • Perfectionist, obsessive, control freak

  • Mood is worse during rainy/cloudy days, or during fall/winter times

  • Difficulty falling asleep, insomnia, wake up too early

  • Crave for sweets, high carbohydrate foods or alcohol

  • Pains and aches

Low norepinephrine, dopamine

  • Flat, bored, lost passion and motivation

  • Gets tired easily

  • Cold hands and feet, feel cold easily

  • Gain weight easily

  • Difficulty focusing and concentration

  • Use coffee or chocolate to help with focus


  • Feel stressed and overwhelmed often

  • Tensed, hard to relax

  • Sensitive to light, noise or chemicals

  • Use tobacco, alcohol, food or drugs to help you relax

Low endorphin

  • Sensitive to the environment and people

  • Cry easily

  • Find it hard to get over past grief or pain

  • Experiencing physical or mental emotional pain

  • Use food, alcohol, tobacco or coffee to help numb the pain

If you answer yes to several symptoms listed above, then you are probably deficient of one or more neurotransmitters.

So what causes the deficiency?

Neurotransmitters are made of amino acids, when your diet is deficient of amino acids listed below, it can cause your neurotransmitter levels to drop

  • Tryptophan -> Serotonin -> Melatonin (melatonin helps you to fall asleep, therefore low in serotonin will also affect your sleep)

  • Tyrosine -> norepinephrine & dopamine

  • Phenylalanine blocks the enzyme that breaks down endorphin, therefore raising endorphin levels

Other factors include stress, lack of exercise, lack of sun exposure and deficient in vitamins and minerals that are needed for the synthesis of the neurotransmitters.

How to boost your neurotransmitters?

The very first step and the most important step is to adjust your diet:

  • Avoid refined carbohydrates (white breads, noodles, soft drinks, cookies, cakes), sugar, alcohol, coffee

  • Eat foods that are rich in tryptophan, tyrosine and phenylalanine

  • Nuts and seeds (flaxseeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pistachio, cashew, almonds)

  • Soy, soy products (tofu, soy milk)

  • Cheese, egg, lamb, pork, beef, chicken, turkey, fish (salmon, mackerel), seafoods (lobster, octopus, oyster, shrimp)

  • Besides protein rich foods, consume enough folate, B12, B5, B6, vitamin C, iron, and magnesium rich foods because these are important cofactors in the synthesis and regulation of neurotransmitters

Aside from a healthy and well balanced diet; stress management, good sleep hygiene, and exercise can help regulate your neurotransmitters and boost your mood too.