If you’re anxious, having trouble sleeping, depressed or stressed, you may have a deficiency in serotonin. Here are 5 ways to boost your serotonin naturally!
I recently read an article where the author described the feelings they were experiencing in the following way: It’s like the misery of quitting smoking, combined with the anxiety of failing a major exam, added to the emptiness when your loved one goes away, combined with aching pit in the stomach homesickness, all wrapped in a feeling of dark discontentment. Upon reading the article, I wondered what could cause such a depressing outlook.
Well, one of the culprits just may be a deficiency in a chemical needed by the brain called 5-HT. If you’re not familiar with this substance, maybe you know the more common name: Serotonin. It’s one of those feel-good hormones that help maintain mood balance and a feeling of well-being. A number of prescription medications that are used to treat depression, like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and Celexa are actually designed to increase levels of this important neurotransmitter. It’s interesting to note that some of the well-known recreational, even psychedelic drugs like LSD, cocaine, and ecstasy are based on dramatically flooding the nervous system with Serotonin.
Approximately 80–90% of Serotonin is manufactured in the intestine in a conversion process utilizing the amino acid Tryptophan, and influences bowel function, reduces appetite, aids in blood clotting, bone density, liver health, stabilizes blood sugar, impacts energy levels, and even breast milk production. The remaining 10–20% is synthesized in the brain and is important for concentration and memory, mood balance, the sleep-wake cycle, social behavior, and a healthy libido. A deficit in the Serotonin level is associated with obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, craving of sugary, salty and caffeinated foods, poor concentration, diminished sex drive, aggression and tragically even suicidal thoughts.
Natural ways to increase Serotonin levels:
- When exposed to bright light, especially sunlight, the body naturally increases Serotonin levels. This is the principle behind combating winter depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, with the use of specific frequency light boxes.
- Exercise is known to increase the concentration of Serotonin and has shown to be effective in treating general types of anxiety and depression. Building up a good sweat is ideal, but even a brisk 30-minute walk can do wonders.
- Carbohydrates in the diet trigger the release of insulin which can boost Tryptophan levels high enough for the brain to convert to Serotonin.
- There are a number of plant-based foods that have higher levels of Tryptophan that are linked to an increase in Serotonin levels, such as bananas, pineapple, nuts and seeds, legumes, dark leafy greens, and cayenne peppers. Eggs, dairy, and turkey are high in this amino acid also. The herbs St John’s Wort, Siberian Ginseng, and Kava lead to an increased concentration of 5-HT in the brain.
- Physical expression of emotions such as smiling, laughing, and crying are believed to cause a temporary release of the welcomed mood balancing hormone.
Need to relax? Think Serotonin. Need to chill? Serotonin. Want to be happier? Serotonin. Desire improved sleep? Serotonin. It works; I remember some of the classes in graduate school. Every time the professor lectured on Serotonin, it put me to sleep. But seriously. Serotonin is the answer.