Serotonin is a neurotransmitter best known for regulating mood, nicknamed one of the "happy hormones" along with others like dopamine and oxytocin. We could all use a little more happiness, so what are some of the best ways to increase serotonin?
Prescription medications that regulate neurotransmitters can have awful side effects, and while it isn't technically a hormone, there are still a few natural ways to regulate your body's production of serotonin.
Read on for 5 of the best ways to boost serotonin naturally with supplements and certain behavior modifications.
What Is Serotonin
We've explained that serotonin is a neurotransmitter, but what exactly does this mean? These are compounds that are released in your brain to travel across synapses and communicate messages to other parts of the brain or your body.
Serotonin is a multi-faceted neurotransmitter, involved in relaying messages concerning anything from mood modulation to learning, memory, reward and other cognitive functions. It's safe to say this compound is pretty vital for keeping mind and, in turn, body running smoothly.
That's why maintaining proper levels of this key neurotransmitter are so important, and why many psychiatric medications work by increasing overall serotonin levels in the brain.
Unfortunately, you can't get serotonin directly from any food sources but here are a few of the best ways to get your body to make more of the compound:
While you can't consume foods with serotonin, you can get tryptophan from your diet. Tryptophan is an amino acid that gets converted to serotonin in the brain and is found in high protein foods like turkey and salmon.
Ever wonder why you're always feeling extra sleepy after a turkey-filled Thanksgiving dinner? That's because the tryptophan in the turkey acts as
Aerobic exercises that get your heart pumping help to increase tryptophan levels in the blood. Because something called the the blood brain barrier is a membrane that surrounds the central nervous system and acts as a shield, allowing only select compounds to pass from the blood affecting the brain.
Because of this, the more tryptophan available in the bloodstream, the higher the chance of some of it passing this barrier to get to the brain and convert to serotonin.
Studies show a link between serotonin levels and sunlight that suggests there may be a mechanism for production through the skin. This may also account somewhat for seasonal depressive disorders and the fact that completed suicides occur more frequently in the winter months than in summer and fall.
One of the most efficient ways to increase levels of serotonin is to take pure supplements that will either convert to the compound in the body, or are known to help the conversion process.
Supplements To Boost Serotonin
Here are some of the supplements that give you your best bet for boosting serotonin:
- Tryptophan. While you can get it from your diet like we mentioned above, taking pure tryptophan supplements gives you the potential for highest absorption and, therefore, the greatest probability of breaking through the blood brain barrier.
- L-5-Hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP is an amino acid compound that occurs naturally. It's also a precursor to—you guessed it—serotonin. Research suggests that taking 5-HTP can significantly increase serotonin in the body. So much so, in fact, that taking it with other medications known to increase serotonin (like anti-depressants), can cause an over abundance of compound resulting negative side effects.
- Probiotics. For many different reasons, probiotics are great to keep in your supplement cache. Aside from the commonly known benefits to digestive health, probiotics may also increase tryptophan levels in the blood.
- St. John's Wort. The research is a bit inconclusive here, but this natural herb has been shown to help those with depression and, as such, potentially increases serotonin. Be careful though, St. John's wort is notorious for negative drug interactions. Consult your doctor before taking, especially if you're on any cancer medications or hormonal birth control as the herb can render these medications less effective.
Most of us get emotionally drained and need and influx of happy every now and again. While there's really no such thing as a magic pill to shake off the bad mood, increasing serotonin can be a great step to feeling and functioning better and you can do so by making moderate lifestyle changes and trying certain supplements.
Be sure to consult your doctor before adding any new supplements to your routine, though. They may have adverse affects on other medications or your personal health. If you're struggling with depression or anxiety, reach out to a health professional for remedies and resources.