Our body creates its own serotonin. But, sometimes, when we are chronically stressed or eat a poor diet, our serotonin levels tend to drop.
Stress is a serious problem. Based on reports from the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of people felt so stressed they couldn’t cope.
That’s why 46% of volunteers who were evaluated stated they ate unhealthily or too much food because of the stress. Around 29% started drinking, and 16% turned to smoking.
If you want to work on your mood, depression, eating, and sleeping problems, increasing serotonin can help. Here is how.
What Is Serotonin?
Serotonin is probably the most well-known neurotransmitter in the human body. Since it modulates the neural activity and many neuropsychological processes, it is vital to know more about it.
Most serotonin is outside the central nervous system, and all 15 serotonin receptors are expressed either outside or inside the brain.
According to 2020 studies, serotonin is a neurotransmitter of fundamental physiological importance. It is the main treatment of many neurological and psychiatric disorders. That includes PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), depressive disorder, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), anxiety, depression, and more.
Serotonin synthesis starts with the brain tryptophan, an essential amino acid. The release of a serotonin receptor causes an adrenergic response. For example, quickened respiratory rate, increased heart rate, and unusual pupil dilation.
Those who are familiar with serotonin also know a lot about dopamine. Although they are different, they can both make you happy. Dopamine relates to pleasurable sensations, muscle movement, mood, motor system function, memory, and reward system.
Unlike dopamine, the body will store most of its serotonin inside the gut, not the brain. Having too little or too much of either neurotransmitter can trigger physical and emotional problems.
What Does Serotonin Do?
Known as the “happy chemical,” serotonin takes part in a range of different functions, contributing to people’s happiness and well-being. Serotonin in the prefrontal cortex is vital for normal behavior. You can find it in the blood platelets, bowels, and brain.
Since the body relies on it to transport messages between the nerve cells, it can alter digestion, emotions, mood, and appetite.
Serotonin can also manage the body clock and sleep-waking cycles. In other words, serotonin is a multi-purpose chemical crucial for promoting memory, appetite, learning, sleep, and positive behavior.
When there is low serotonin, this neurotransmitter can cause depression, agitation, irritability, impulsiveness, and more. So, it is critical for a properly functioning brain, mood, and body to figure out how to increase serotonin naturally, without medication.
But, SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) medication may be the most viable alternative when dealing with a severe serotonin deficiency.
This antidepressant medication can help restore healthy serotonin levels and provide the system with proper anxiety control. So, if you have a serious mood disorder, you should contact a medical expert first.
Depending on your serotonin activity, you might have to take an antidepressant to control the happiness hormone.
Never stop taking your antidepressant without consulting your doctor first. Abruptly discontinuing SSRIs without following a psychiatrist’s guidance and without gradually reducing the dosage can result in the emergence of withdrawal symptoms associated with antidepressants. While recovering from SSRI use, withdrawal symptoms can last from 1-2 weeks to several months or more.
10 Practical Tips on How to Increase Serotonin Naturally Without Medication
For the past few decades, the question of how to manipulate serotonin activity without drugs became a popular topic. People want to avoid the use of an antidepressant because it is easier to prevent the side effects.
If you want to know how to work on increasing serotonin for a positive mood and possibly avoiding serotonin syndrome, then you’ve come to the right place. Here is a list of 10 natural tips you can try.
1) Pay Attention to the Food You Eat
You won’t get serotonin from a meal, but you could get tryptophan. Once tryptophan reaches the brain, this amino acid will get converted into serotonin. Options like salmon, turkey, and protein-rich foods are an excellent source of tryptophan.
Based on 2007 reports from experimental animal trials, tryptophan is an efficient antidepressant for mild or moderate depression. In highly irritable adults, tryptophan can help boost their mood, reduce arguing, and let them calm more easily.
But, to get the desired results, experts suggest pairing foods high in tryptophan with healthy carbohydrates. The carbs make sure the tryptophan makes it towards the brain and bypasses the blood-brain barrier, also known as the protective sheath, which is in charge of what enters and leaves the brain.
L-Methylfolate is the only folic acid that can cross the barrier and help with neurotransmitter synthesis and mood regulation. But, this is a medical food only a doctor can suggest in patients with major depressive disorder and folate deficiency.
2) Work On Your Athletic Performance
Without physical activity, you can’t expect to improve your serotonin activity. When you exercise, the body starts releasing tryptophan inside the circulatory system. It could also reduce the number of other amino acids that might get in the way of serotonin production.
To increase serotonin, do an aerobic exercise. This can be anything you’re comfortable doing. You can try jogging, swimming, cycling, etc. Regardless of what you choose, the activity will accelerate your heart rate. This is precisely what you need to increase serotonin synthesis.
3) Expose Your Body to Bright Light
Have you ever heard of seasonal depression? People who want to work on their low serotonin usually try to manage their mood right after winter or at the peak of fall and summer. This is the time when serotonin can drop very low.
Serotonin’s effect on mood could link with mental health problems and seasonal affective disorder, experts explain. If you spend more time outside under bright light, you can work on increasing serotonin.
Based on clinical trials, the skin might be able to synthesize serotonin, which means if you spend some time outside and get enough vitamin D, you can increase serotonin and give the body the boost it needs.
Further 2018 analysis showed Vitamin D deficiency could lead to depression, autism, diabetes, dementia, and more. Therefore, working on your vitamin D level should be your top priority, even when experiencing low serotonin.
4) Jumpstart Serotonin Production With Supplements
Sometimes a vitamin can give you a boost in the right direction. If you struggle with low serotonin, then serotonin supplements are a good place to start. You have a pure tryptophan supplement, which can help stabilize tryptophan levels. It can reach the brain and provide the system with an antidepressant effect.
If you can’t get enough vitamin D, you can get it in supplements. Vitamin B6 can also help. It has a unique importance as a precursor of tryptophan and serotonin and could help mood and behavior. Whereas a lack of vitamin B6 can cause depression and a bad mood.
Another option is vitamin B12. B12 acts as a cofactor in neurotransmitter synthesis, particularly for serotonin and dopamine levels. While a deficiency in this vitamin can lead to psychiatric disorders, sleeping, mood, and behavioral issues.
For an extra boost, some experts suggest the omega 3 fatty acid. Taking fatty acids in the form of a vitamin can help with brain serotonin and development. Besides, several studies found that omega-3 can slightly decrease anxiety. So, not only can it help increase serotonin, it can ease anxiety disorders as well.
5) Go For a Massage Therapy
Massage is a great way to work on the dopamine and low serotonin level. It can relax the body, ease depression, and stabilize cortisol levels. If you often deal with stress and depression, a simple 20 minute massage can calm that unease.
6) Consider Having Sex
Intercourse boosts the nitric oxide levels in the human body, alongside serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and epinephrine. That’s why many people who want to feel better use sex as a mood-boosting strategy. Even though you can’t use it for managing depression, it can be a good temporary solution.
7) Work on Your Visualization
To increase serotonin, you should boost the mood and allow your brain to experience positive feelings. The best way to do that is to try the following.
- Visualize a happy event or moment that you had.
- Think about experiences you had with loved ones that made you feel happy.
- Look at photos of friends, pets, or family that bring you happiness.
Even though regulating someone’s mood and depression can be a complex process, visualization can engage the brain and direct your thoughts towards something positive.
8) Practice Meditation
According to Harvard Medical School, meditation and mindfulness can alter specific regions of the brain associated with self-awareness, memory, and compassion. They all play a crucial role in serotonin activity.
When you meditate, the body goes through neurochemical changes, which then create an anxiolytic effect. The elevated parasympathetic activity is what helps calm the anxiety while also boosting serotonin levels.
Those who deal with stress regularly will significantly benefit from meditation. The longer you practice it, the easier it is to decrease the cortisol levels and keep your system in check.
9) Do Something New for a Change
Our brain always reacts to a positive new experience. When you do something you like, you will always feel happy. This is a natural human reaction and an excellent change of pace.
So, whether you want to go travel, swim, or do any other activity, go for it. Your brain will reward you with positive feelings and emotions.
10) Use the Right Essential Oils
Although not as effective as some of the other options on this list, essential oils can provide therapeutic properties.
Experts believe that products like lemon, lavender, and bergamot essential oil are a great way to stimulate serotonin release. They may take a while to react but make for a good long-term strategy.
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Serotonin is a part of complicated functions in the brain and body. In theory, it can help with stress, anxiety, mood, and behavior.
People who don’t like to use medications for their serotonin and tryptophan levels can use some of the natural alternatives listed here.
They are all supported by science and can help the body in many ways.