The Best Natural Ways to Increase Serotonin | BrainMD
The Best Natural Ways to Increase Serotonin
Do you often have negative thoughts racing through your mind? Do you notice that you are more lethargic, irritable, or sad for no reason? Our brain requires a balance of vital neurotransmitters that help to control our feelings of happiness or positive mood.
You may have heard about dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins as being contributing factors to feeling happy. Similar to these neurotransmitters, serotonin plays many important roles in the brain’s biochemistry and is intimately involved in facilitating sustained and deep sleep, maintaining healthy mood and self-confidence, even supporting a healthy appetite and social engagement.
What is Serotonin?
Our brains produce a naturally soothing neurotransmitter called serotonin, from before birth and all through life. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. Additionally, it helps decrease our worries and concerns and is associated with learning and memory.
“People who are clinically depressed often have very low levels of serotonin,” says Dr. Daniel Amen, MD.
Some studies suggest that women produce 52 percent less serotonin than men. Levels seem to fluctuate with menstrual cycles, which may explain why women are more prone to depression.
Less sunlight may also cause a drop in the neurotransmitter (chemical messengers that help the brain to function) serotonin, which in turn can initiate low mood. While serotonin levels may dip with less exposure to sunlight, many people suffer from low serotonin year-round.
When your serotonin levels are too low you’re more likely to become irritable, anxious, and perceive the world as unfriendly. You may feel depressed, pessimistic, and have irregular appetite and sleep.
The good news is serotonin can be increased in the brain (and body) by eating the proper foods and/or supplementing your diet. So how can we help to increase our own serotonin levels?
4 Ways to Increase Serotonin Naturally
Here are 4 of the best strategies to increase your serotonin levels:
1. Break a Sweat – Daily!
Exercise is a serotonin intervention – it boosts serotonin in your brain. Multiple research studies have demonstrated that exercise is at least equally effective at increasing available serotonin as serotonin-enhancing medications are, and in some cases exercise is more effective. Recently, several studies concluded that positive mood in individuals is a strong predictor of physical health. Consistent daily physical activity one of the best ways to improve your serotonin levels and your overall brain health.
2. Keep Your Gut in Check
Much of the serotonin in your body is produced in your gut, so strategies designed to optimize gut health and the production of serotonin could certainly go a long way toward optimizing your mental health. Make sure you are taking a quality probiotic, properly hydrating, and eating a brain-healthy diet.
3. Eat The Right Food
Foods high in simple carbohydrates, such as pasta, potatoes, bread, pastries, pretzels, and popcorn, typically increase insulin levels and allow more tryptophan (the natural amino acid building block for serotonin) to enter the brain, where the brain cells can convert it to serotonin. The calming effect of serotonin can often be felt in within thirty minutes of eating these foods. This may be one of the reasons simple carbohydrates are so addictive. They can be used to make you feel happy, but can also cause high blood sugar levels that can contribute to memory problems over time.
We recommend complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, apples, blueberries, carrots, and garbanzo beans, as a healthier way to boost serotonin. Brain serotonin levels can also be raised by eating foods rich in L-tryptophan, such as chicken, eggs, cheese, turkey, beef, salmon and tuna, tempeh, beans, lentils, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, pumpkin and chia seeds, and nuts. Many people may unknowingly trigger cognitive inflexibility or mood problems by eating diets that are low in L-tryptophan.
Interestingly, Dr. Amen states that “certain nutrients can help metabolize and help utilize serotonin most efficiently. Some of these nutrients include magnesium, zinc, folic acid, fish oils, vitamins C and B6.”
4. Natural Serotonin Supplements
Serotonin supplements that provide vitamins B6, B12, and folate, as well as concentrates of saffron, can help support healthy serotonin levels. BrainMD’s Serotonin Mood Support was created specifically to promote multiple brain mechanisms that maintain healthy serotonin levels in the brain.
“Taking supplements that help maintain healthy levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin are important to maintaining a healthy mood.” – Daniel G. Amen, MD
By committing to these 4 natural strategies to increase serotonin, you may begin to see the incredible benefits in your life including increased calmness, positive mood, and healthy weight management.
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The mood problem is , to me more complex than a mood changing supplement addresses. Further …your over simplifying the problem as you do teaches a generation that should be learning strategies for solving life problems as they come up instead of relying on a quick fix, which you as a doctor should know is better for them than a brain supplement…. it teaches them the 1950’s thinking that doctors always knoow what’s best. Just because mood improves from pill popping does not mean “Problems Solved.”. It means … Patient was lacking a happy state of mind and has no ability to fix that problem. That’s why LSD became so popular … and later Marajuana! This is i. many ways no different. This is not to imply that your intentions are bad , buy poorly conceived ….. in my opinion.
Mood an health are very complex. But, combinations or diet, exercise, mental support, and medications are all just tools. And, the true benefit is the use of all together to see both mental and physical wellness. Today I think we see more physical and mental illness due or living patterns and stressful world we live in.
Having anxiety/sleep problems does not always imply an unhappy state of mind. I’m healthy, exercise, eat right, happy, great relationships, stress free job, but suffer from insomnia which promotes anxiety. This is a brain imbalance and yes maybe an herb/supplement/popping a pill can help reestablish balance of our neurotransmitters and give us a good night’s rest:)
Amen! I began suffering from insomnia at some point. My life was going okay, but I just could not fall asleep. I was in my mid 40’s at the time, and I suspect it had something to do with hormonal changes (I am a Female). I was not a good candidate for Hormone Replacement Therapy. For years I used Valerian Root and other herbal remedies, but they just stopped working. I exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet, have a good emotional outlook and spiritual practice. It seemed to be simply a physiological change in my circadian rhythm. Bummer!
I am a regular user of sleeping medication, otherwise I would be the grouchiest person alive. Lack of sleep was making me physically ill, very irritable, unable to organize tasks, constant headaches, etc.
When I spoke to my Dr. he told me that 50% of his patients reported problems getting adequate sleep.
I am not sure if this is a phenomenon of modern life, but I am very glad to have effective sleeping medication.
Please, what medication are you taking and what dose ? Thanks so much
Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin. It is found naturally in many foods. The key to boosting serotonin naturally with tryptophan rich foods is consuming foods with a high tryptophan to LNAA ratio (large neutral amino acids). This is because the LNAAs compete with tryptophan to cross the blood-brain-barrier. I couldn’t find any site that had these ratios so I did the math for many of the top sources of tryptophan to see which would be the most effective in boosting serotonin. The winner was Chia Seeds, by quite a bit!
i tried taking tryptophan pills on empty stomach, high dosage etc, it makes nada effect (actually it makes me feel a little cold and a bit more anxious, maybe it increases adrenaline). What helps is warm shower, cookies, chips and going for a walk (relaxation is the key word, GABA might also be deficient), but sometimes this is not enough, so question is what else is needed to boost the levels sufficiently? Don’t say prescription drugs like prozac etc, i tested them, they cause allergy etc and doesn’t improve mood, makes sometimes even a little worse. So i’m still waiting for people to write something really useful instead.
I also tested, zinc, magnesium, b6, b12 etc, lots of stuff, i still don’t know what works except the stuff i wrote above. Interesting thing is that I know alcohol works for some hours if i’m already in a good mood (i usually don’t drink alcohol), but afterwards i’m even worse, so here is the clue staring us in the face as to what is deficient and how to boost it with something better than alcohol, but i think the pharmacists already know the answer (since long) but don’t want to spill their secret (for sake of business).
After a year, did you find out something that is working ? I am trying 5htp. Thanks
This is a great article but some of the things you mention contain GMOs which have been found to cause many health problems. The body reacts to BT Toxins in GM products the same way it would if you had food poisoning. Also glyphosate and glufonisate herbicides used on GM crops had been found to effect the things that are responsible for production of serotonin. They also use those toxins to dry bean, grains and other products.
Maybe he should have mentioned in the article that he prefers organic foods. Don’t assume he is recommending GMO foods. His recipe book stresses organic which cannot be GMO.
I suffer from low serotonin, and now that I see a connection to my diet, I think I understand why. I got markedly worse after I was diagnosed with Celiac Sprue, which won’t allow my body to process breads, pastas, etc. This caused me to cut many of those things out of my diet, and I am really having a difficult time with the brain chemistry presently. I CAN have breads made with rice flour, soy flour, etc. I just want my sanity back and to get a good night’s sleep.
A good herb worth looking at for sleep regulation is mugwort ( Artemisia vulgaris)
Avoid grains completely. There’s no real need for them. Grains and flour are just flirty with sugars and seed oils that disrupt the gut. You should do faux intermittent fasting. Eat LOTS of fat (go for salted grass-fed ghee) with some. Eat that way when you would typically be fasting i.e. in the morning. The fat will lubricate your gut while your metabolism is fighting to feed off fat rather than carbs. Doing this will help ease the hunger shock that happens when people aren’t experienced fasters. when you want to break that fast later in the day with carbs, eat dark raw honey before anything else. This doesn’t spike your blood sugar like other carbs. As for any sleep issues, listen HubermanLab podcast on better sleep. I PROMISE this will help.
Great post! Thank you for sharing this helpful information. Having a good mood always shows a positive outcome.
I suspect that the ratio power-wise between adrenaline and GABA matters, too much adrenaline causes everything to tense up (including blood vessels which restrict blood flow and causes a cold feeling in extremities), but with enough GABA one feels energetic AND relaxed.