Serotonin is a brain neurotransmitter that promotes a positive mood and feelings of calm. Your body produces it naturally, and research has shown that those with low levels of serotonin are more likely to suffer from low mood, fatigue, and brain fog.
Some studies suggest that increasing your serotonin intake can help support mood and cognition. Certain foods containing tryptophan may increase levels of the amino acid in your blood.
If you’re wondering how to increase your serotonin levels through your diet, there are several foods you can eat that may help improve your mood. In this article, you’ll learn about these foods and discover how to better assist your body’s natural serotonin-producing capabilities through your daily habits.
Serotonin Food Sources
While there aren’t any foods that contain serotonin itself, increasing your consumption of foods containing its sole precursor, tryptophan, may help increase serotonin levels in your body.
It’s important to remember, however, that research is ongoing in this area. The jury is still out on whether these foods directly increase serotonin levels in the brain.
Since tryptophan is an amino acid, most of the foods that contain high levels are those that are good sources of protein. Eggs, turkey, salmon, tofu, cheese, and walnuts are the food sources with the highest levels of tryptophan.
One small study found that participants fed a diet with tryptophan-enriched cereal improved mental health in middle-aged adults. Improvements in sleep were also noted.
Although tryptophan-enriched cereals aren’t commonly sold on the supermarket, these results do demonstrate that there may be a way to improve mental health by eating tryptophan found in foods. However, this study only had 35 subjects, so the results cannot be generalized to claim how this method may affect most people.
Another study found that women who consumed walnuts twice a day with a Mediterranean-style diet for 16 weeks experienced reduced levels of nervousness, greater emotional stability, and better energy levels.
The participants in this group all had emotional issues and fatigue, however, so like the other small study, these results cannot be assumed to apply to the general population. But they do support the idea that tryptophan from foods can improve mood.
Unlike data about foods containing tryptophan, data demonstrating the benefits of supplementing with tryptophan doesn’t seem to be as limited. This is because the form often found in supplements can enter the brain.
Supplements such as BrainMD’s Serotonin Mood Support contain 5-HTP, the form of tryptophan shown to improve serotonin levels. This can improve focus, mental sharpness, energy levels, and promote a positive mood.
Lifestyle Habits That Help Serotonin Production
One thing scientists find over and over again is a positive association between certain lifestyle habits and mood.
Getting Some Sun
Do you ever notice that you feel more energized and less stressed after going for a walk? Well, it turns out taking a walk to clear your mind and calm your emotions has science behind it. Getting sunshine can help your body synthesize more serotonin. This is because vitamin D is needed to activate the part of the brain that facilitates serotonin production.
Moving your body is another way to naturally boost your mood by increasing serotonin in the body. Also, regular exercise can improve your sleep patterns and help regulate your appetite. All these benefits combined help to facilitate and maintain optimal serotonin levels to keep your brain and mood stable.
Journaling, yoga, meditation, or visualization exercises can help balance your brain and mood as well.
Finding healthy ways to cope with stress is key when it comes to mental and emotional health. Calling a friend or family member, gardening, playing a board game, or finding a new hobby that you enjoy are a few other ideas.
Creating intentional habits that incorporate joy and positivity into your life can help balance your brain chemicals and keep them that way, too.
Lifestyle Habits That Harm Serotonin Production
While serotonin levels tend to naturally decline with age, there are some factors in your everyday habits that can make it more difficult for you to maintain optimal levels.
Poor Gut Health
Much of the serotonin in your body is created in your gut. The science surrounding the gut-brain connection and its effects on serotonin levels is still new.
However, what researchers know is that poor gut health caused by things like a diet high in sugar and processed foods can disrupt the microbiome in your gut. This may affect your mood and mental status over time.
Eating a balanced diet and gut-nourishing foods like yogurt, bone broth, sauerkraut, and kefir, can help keep your gut in check.
Poor Sleep Habits
A lack of sleep over a long period may negatively impact your gut and hormones. Since your body is a holistic operating machine (meaning, everything is connected), your levels of serotonin are impacted by poor sleep patterns as well.
Aim for 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night. Sleep quality is impacted by screen time, so it’s a good idea to put your phone away and turn off the TV at least one hour before you head to bed. Giving your brain time to unwind will help you improve the quality of your sleep.
Excessive Alcohol Intake
Excessive alcohol intake can cause alterations in the way your brain processes serotonin and even decrease serotonin levels.
This may cause withdrawals during a period of alcohol cessation. Some scientists believe that this pattern may be what contributes to alcohol abuse. So, it’s important to consume alcohol in moderation and preferably with a meal.
Serotonin is a key component in energy levels, mood, and focus. Its precursor, tryptophan, is found in many foods.
Despite the unclear data about serotonin from foods, there are still many things you can do to support your body in creating and maintaining healthy serotonin levels. Activities like exercise, getting outside, and reducing stress can help your body make the right amounts of this essential transmitter.
Additionally, you can also take supplements to help increase your serotonin levels. While the science on these supplements is relatively new, there are some promising data supporting their benefits to focus, mood, and energy.
It’s always important to check with your healthcare provider before you start taking a new supplement, especially if you’re also taking prescription medications.
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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