7 Ways to Increase Serotonin Without Medication
If you or a loved one has ever struggled with persistently feeling low, you may be aware that sometimes medications are prescribed to increase levels of the “feel-good” neurotransmitter serotonin in an effort to boost mood.
Indeed, research on happiness suggests that serotonin plays an important role in our mood and well-being. When serotonin levels are low, people tend to feel low, too. They may get stuck on worries and negative thoughts.
Low serotonin levels can affect more than mood. This important neurotransmitter also helps to regulate appetite, sleep, learning and memory, social behavior, sexual desire, and even body temperature and breathing. When serotonin levels are even slightly off balance, it can impact many of these areas. Low serotonin also might lead to poor sleep, changes in appetite, or emotional eating.
Medication may be necessary for people diagnosed with a mood disorder. However, for other people who simply wish to brighten their mood and feel their best, taking action to naturally boost serotonin levels in the body makes sense. What’s more, the lifestyle actions one takes to boost serotonin naturally also can support general health and well-being. It’s a double win!
Here’s how to increase serotonin naturally.
7 Ways to Increase Serotonin Production, Naturally
1. Move Your Body
Most of us have experienced the mood-boosting effects of exercise. It isn’t too surprising then to learn that a number of studies have noted markers of increased serotonin levels following exercise.
In particular, aerobic exercise – such as running, cycling, or a sport such as tennis or pickleball – can stimulate the release of serotonin. It doesn’t take much. Just 30 minutes of even moderate activity (such as walking or hiking) can double levels of serotonin. Some research has shown that regular exercise can be even more effective than counseling or medication in helping to improve mood!
Of course, exercise is excellent for your overall health, too. It increases blood flow to your brain, which is good for brain health. And if you do an exercise like yoga, you get the mindfulness and relaxation benefits as well.
2. Connect with Loved Ones
We are social creatures, and research shows that spending time with those we love can help increase serotonin levels. Don’t forget that “loved ones” extends to our four-legged friends as well. If you don’t have any pets, volunteer at an animal shelter or offer to look after a neighbor’s cat or dog.
3. Eat Foods That Boost Serotonin Production
There are a number of foods that contain nutrients shown to play a role in helping to boost serotonin levels.
Let’s start with carbohydrates. There’s a reason we love simple carbs such as potatoes, pasta, bread, pastries, and crackers. These foods tend to boost insulin levels, which limit certain competing amino acids and allows more tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain. Tryptophan is a building block for serotonin. Brain cells then can use the tryptophan to synthesize serotonin.
However, since simple carbs aren’t the healthiest foods, consume complex carbohydrates such as whole fruits (apples, berries), sweet potatoes, carrots, and beans. They’re healthier, nutrient- and fiber-rich forms of carbohydrates that can help to boost serotonin and offer multiple health benefits.
Speaking of tryptophan, eating foods rich in l-tryptophan is another way to boost serotonin levels. That includes protein-rich foods such as chicken, turkey, beef, salmon, tuna, and eggs. Vegetarian sources of l-tryptophan include tempeh, lentils, beans, spinach, and other green leafy vegetables. Also, nuts such as almonds and pistachios, and seeds such as pumpkin and chia seeds, are good sources of l-tryptophan.
Even better, if you eat these foods rich in l-tryptophan with complex carbohydrates, it helps to ensure tryptophan crosses the blood-brain barrier. These foods are also rich in vitamins and minerals, and in some instances healthy fats as well, supporting many areas of health.
Nutrients such as magnesium, zinc, fish oil, and vitamins C and B6 can aid in metabolizing and utilizing serotonin more efficiently too. In addition to the foods already mentioned, fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bananas, oranges, and tomatoes are rich in many of these nutrients.
4. Be of Service
There’s something that occurs in our brains when we act altruistically. Kindness is associated with increases in serotonin as well as other feel-good neurotransmitters such as oxytocin and dopamine.
5. Support Your Gut Health
The microflora in your gut plays a major role in producing neurotransmitters such as serotonin. In fact, most of the serotonin in your body is produced in your gut, so tending to your gut health can certainly support healthy serotonin levels.
Stress, illness, and diet are three major factors that can impact the delicate balance of your gut microbiome. When your gut bacteria are out of balance, it can affect the absorption of tryptophan, which is needed to synthesize serotonin.
Refined carbohydrates, artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated fats, fried foods, alcohol, gluten, and too much red meat can all disrupt the balance of microflora in your gut. Consuming fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans – and probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and kefir – and taking a probiotic supplement can all support a healthy microbiome.
Keeping stress levels in check by spending time in nature, meditating, or practicing yoga can help to support a healthy gut too.
6. Laugh Often
Spend time with people who make you laugh, watch comedies, or just be willing to find humor in everyday situations. Research shows that laughing can alter both serotonin and dopamine activity, as well as decrease stress-making hormones found in the blood. It effectively mitigates the effects of stress!
Taking a dietary supplement comprised of nutrients and herbs shown to support serotonin production is one more way to help boost serotonin levels naturally.
BrainMD’s Serotonin Mood Support is formulated with specific scientifically studied ingredients to engage multiple mechanisms that help your brain to maintain healthy levels of serotonin. It supports increased calm and decreased anxiousness, while promoting a positive mood.
The potent formula includes:
- 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) – This nutrient absorbs readily and quickly reaches the brain, where it converts to serotonin. This enzyme also needs vitamin B6.
- Saffron – Derived from the Crocus sativus flower, this coveted and expensive spice has been used for thousands of years to promote happiness and is believed to support healthy levels of serotonin. Research using modern saffron concentrates have consistently shown improved mood.
- B Vitamins – Vitamin B6, methylfolate (vitamin B9, a pre-activated folate), and methyl-cobalamin (a highly utilized form of vitamin B12) all participate in the synthesis of serotonin and have been linked to positive mood.
Improve Your Serotonin Levels
All these actions can help you to better support serotonin balance in your body and feel your best. However, be sure to consult your medical doctor if you suffer from persistent low mood.
At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients to improve your physical health and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of brain healthy supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.
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