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10 Natural Ways to Raise Serotonin Levels

Updated on March 5, 2015

What is Serotonin?

Serotonin is a kind of neurotransmitter that is found not only in the central nervous system but it’s also located in the gastrointestinal) tract (GI) as well. The serotonin is that we do have in the GI tract is used to regulate digestion. It has a functional key by causing the contractions of the intestines. Serotonin performs on the guts nerve, which then signals pain, nausea and other stomach issues. It’s been also stated that recent studies show some evidence that serotonin modulates our food consumption by signaling feelings of hunger or fullness. In the central nervous system (the brain) the serotonin) is identified as the “I feel happy and good” chemical. It’s responsible for mood stabilization, promotes your sleep, and a focused mind. Serotonin also has some intellectual purposes, including our retention and learning. It can be looked at as a brain chemical regulator that assists in blood flow, digestion, body temperature, mood and behavior. In ending, it shows that serotonin plays a vital role in our well-being both mentally and physically.

What happens when the serotonin levels are low?

A deficiency of serotonin which some researchers classify as the “happiness hormone” leads to depression understandably. If your serotonin levels are too low, you most likely will be ill-tempered, be very anxious, fatigued, feelings of worthlessness and perceive the world as so unfair and cold. You may feel negative, depressed, and have a pessimistic attitude. You may also have poor memory, low concentration, erratic sleep and unbalanced appetite issues. Sometimes muscle aches and panic attacks also indicate low serotonin levels. Normally after serotonin deficiency is detected by a doctor, they will give their patient depression drugs that target the serotonin system. The drugs are to artificially boost the serotonin levels or sensitivity. Their choices of drugs for this are antidepressants called “SSRI’S” (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors.) Anti-depressant drugs work by retaining the serotonin in your brain to keep circulating and to help normalize your mood, sleep patterns and appetite.

Besides medications, are there natural or alternative ways I can boost my serotonin?

Yes indeed, but first always consult with your doctor if you are experiencing or being treated for depression, suspect you are suffering from depression or are currently on any medications.

Have you ever had your serotonin levels checked?

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10 Natural Ways to Raise Serotonin Levels

  1. Change your diet: It’s a complex subject how diet and serotonin correlate so I will try to deliver this in an understanding way. It’s true; your diet plays a factor in delivering serotonin to the body. Foods can increase serotonin levels in the gut, demanding speedy messages between gut cells. Did you know the gut manufactures 85 to 95 percent of all serotonin? Serotonin regulates our digestive muscles during digestion. It responds to the gut nerves that signals your pain, nausea and other gut issues. If your gut is sick and not happy, then you are not happy or feeling well. Eat fermented foods which will kill bad bacteria and reintroduce a good bacterium which takes care of the gut. Foods that are rich in serotonin for the gut are tomatoes, plums, kiwi, pineapples, bananas, plantains, and walnuts; these have the richest concentration of serotonin. Also incorporate plenty of fiber in the diet by eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables, preferably raw. Eat the kinds of protein that serve serotonin production but also have a specifically higher percentage of tryptophan. This is due to tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin and an amino acid crucial to serotonin production in our brains. Eat foods rich in tryptophan like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, nuts, cheddar cheese turkey, eggs, yogurt, bananas, beans and fish. Ingesting healthy carbs will also boost serotonin. The healthiest carbohydrates to consume are whole grain plus have a low glycemic index and not too many carbs, balance is the secret. Foods with a low glycemic index won’t force the pancreas to secrete too much insulin; therefore your blood sugar remains stable and securer. The yummy carbs like sweets, white breads and pastries will give serotonin a boost but not for long. Carbs will raise serotonin levels naturally and perform like a natural tranquilizer to relax you. They upsurge levels of tryptophan in your brain, and the higher levels of tryptophan results in added serotonin. Try to eat carbs alone if possible without little or no protein. The best performing carbs are barley, oats, buckwheat, like a bowl of warm rolled oats is a great start for breakfast. Also, for lunch and dinner, a fresh green salad, bowl of legume based soups (like lentils or split pea) and vegetables rich in carbs such as yams, sweet potatoes and squashes. Scientists have said that eating too much protein or high protein diet foods prevents tryptophan from reaching the brain; again balancing your diet is vital. This is due to that the digestion of protein causes the blood to fill up with other amino acids that inhibit tryptophan from arriving to the brain. It’s true; your mood can be affected by what you eat. Remember we have to do more than just consume serotonin-rich foods in our diets. This is just one factor you should implement to increase serotonin.
  2. Eliminate sugar (or try at least to significantly reduce your consumption) – If you have low serotonin, you may have cravings for sugar that are intense and unrelenting. It’s your body’s way of communicating to you to increase the serotonin. It’s because eating sugar creates insulin, which helps tryptophan go into your brain. But, as you know too much sugar will ultimately cause addiction to sugar and there are better foods you can consume to increase the tryptophan to your brain. The paragraph above about diet correlates to this fact and explains in detail about the tryptophan. Also check out my other article about sugar so I can help you find healthier alternatives to sugar. http://organicsusana.hubpages.com/hub/Ways-to-cut-sugar-out-of-your-diet
  3. Exercise- Involve yourself in exercise that increases your heart rate to some extent but not significantly. Moderate exercise has shown the best results in the body’s natural high. Try interval exercise, like sprinting then walking, tennis, yoga, or biking to name a few. Exercise is an awesome approach to boost your serotonin levels safely and naturally. Moving your body around and exercise also enhances your additional feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine. It’s crucial to get in the habit of exercising even though you may not want to do it. After a while your body will feel the positive results from doing so and you will want to do it eventually after getting over that hurdle. It surely will improve your mood. When you feel better, you act better!
  4. Sunshine- Being in the sunshine is the quickest way to boost your mood, even on a winter’s day. Vitamin D plays a vital role in your body including producing serotonin. Aim for 15 minutes 2 times a day to soak the rays in. Sunlight helps to adjust hormones such as melatonin (the night sleep hormone) and serotonin so it can balance them. We are indoors far too much in these days and research has shown that exposure to bright light such as sunlight increases serotonin levels in the brain.
  5. Sleep Right- The lack of sleep affects our brains in a negative way. Sleep deprivation can reduce serotonin levels significantly. Exercising can help you fall asleep better at night by increasing serotonin and that plays a significant role in our sleep cycles. Serotonin also is manufactured by the pineal gland to produce melatonin and that’s the hormone that is directly connected to healthy night’s sleep. Melatonin is created at nighttime and is instrumental in regulating the body’s natural biological clock. In other words if you are undersupplied in serotonin, this will ultimately affect the construction of melatonin you have and you surely won’t sleep well. There’s no way around this, a good night’s natural sleep results from good nutrition because besides food nourishing the body it also maintains your hormones and keeps them balanced.
  6. Prayer or meditation- When you are reflecting it puts you in a relaxed awareness. Close your eyes and breathe consciously while in prayer or meditation. Also think positive thoughts because positive visualization will boost serotonin levels and give you feelings of well-being. Practice the art of thanks plus verbally express gratitude for all you have, this too relaxes the body in contentment.
  7. Stress– If you can manage your stress, your serotonin levels will increase. As you already know stress can wreak havoc on your body and totally throw it out of whack. Stress raises your insulin levels, free radicals, and of course your blood pressure. When all these are raised due to stress it damages the neurons. Try reducing stress in your life in ways that work for you so serotonin levels remain balance and it provides you better coping mechanisms as well.
  8. 5-HTP-(5-Hydroxytryptophan)-this is plant derived and drug free form of an amino acid that naturally escalates the body's level of serotonin. It has been shown to boost serotonin and reduce anxiety, control appetite and depression. Research shows a lot of people prefer 5-HTP better than L-Tryptophan supplement due to the fact it doesn’t compete in a similar way with other amino acids, and is more likely to get through to your brain. Because 5-HTP is a naturally occurring compound in the body, it’s considered mostly safe for short-term use (up to 11- 12 weeks). However, those with existing gastrointestinal problems should be cautious because it can exasperate stomach issues and cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It is not advice to take this if you’re already taking antidepressants (such as an SSRI or MAOI) or if you are being treated for depression or bipolar. (Make sure you consult your physician when considering taking this.)
  9. Vitamin B-12 &- Vitamin B-6- Research shows that vitamin B12 and folic acid work together to help in serotonin production. Vitamin B6 is needed for the production of serotonin and other amino acid neurotransmitters. Try to consume foods rich in vitamin B6 such as whole grains, pistachios, sweet potatoes, tuna, turkey, spinach, walnuts, cashews, legumes, potatoes, chick peas, cauliflower, kidney beans, sunflower seeds, brown rice, hazelnuts, bananas and avocados. Even a slight deficiency of vitamin B-12 can possibly lead to poor blood, constant fatigue, and depression. Vitamin B12 can only be made by bacteria and only found naturally in animal products. Because there is no plant-based source of B12 in existence, there are the synthetic forms that are readily available and added to cereals, silken tofu or supplements. Foods that are rich in Vitamin B-12 are like fish, beef, crab, liver, cooked clams, skim milk, turkey, yogurt, cheese and eggs.
  10. Magnesium and Calcium – These minerals are forerunners to serotonin production, so it's important to be getting plenty of these in your diet. These vital minerals are found together in some dairy products, almonds, halibut, kelp, raw celery, spinach, Swiss chard and soy beans. Try to get them in your diet for healthy ways to boost your intake and for some people who exhibit a deficiency, a quality supplement is also beneficial.

Disclaimer:

Please note that I am not a medical doctor so I cannot offer medical advice nor diagnose or cure, please always consult your physician when in question. However I’m happy to offer you suggestions for possible enhancements to your health per my research and what I have learned as a Health Coach. I want to educate you the best possible way so you can be equipped with superlative information and make healthy decisions for yourself as you see fit, for this is my sole purpose.

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      Jan 24 months ago

      Very helpful and informative information. Thank you!

    • Organic Susana profile image
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      Susana Danielle 3 years ago from Newark, DE

      continuation#2-Jarrah, it appears some links I provided you aren't working so I'm going to try to post them again..Hoping you are having a nice day...again, thanks for the comment.

      http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/foods-h...

      http://oldwayspt.org/resources/heritage-pyramids/v...

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      Susana Danielle 3 years ago from Newark, DE

      continuation to Jarrah---I couldn't fit all the links in previous comment..so here's some research on the mushrooms and bacteria that you had in question..this article explains it best, scroll down a ways and you can get the info you are looking for....thanks! http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&...

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      Susana Danielle 3 years ago from Newark, DE

      Hi Jarrah, Here are some links to answer your questions. I quote from LiveStrong: "Vitamin B12 is made and stored in the gut of animals. Therefore, plant foods are not a source of vitamin B12 unless they are fortified with it. Fortified breakfast cereals rank as the top third source of vitamin B12. Beef liver, cooked clams and rainbow trout are also excellent sources of this vitamin. Manufacturers use vitamin B12 produced from yeast for fortification." You can sprinkle nutritional yeast on your foods as well for added Vtiamin b-12

      ...http://oldwayspt.org/resources/heritage-pyramids/v... http://www.livestrong.com/article/496617-vitamin-b...

      http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/foods-h... hope this helps....Thanks Again Jarrah and Have a Happy Healthy Day!

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      jarrah 3 years ago

      Awesome article Susana!

      ...a few points in your article i can't seem to find evidence of, one being that B12 is only found in animal products?

      You accurately state bacteria make B12, so one would naturally reason that bacteria exist on all plant matter and therefore plant matter can and does have traces of B12...

      Fungus also hosts B12... Mushrooms are an excellent source of Vegan B12...other sources of B12 can be found in fermented foods like Tempe and Natto among dozens of other fermented foods and drinks...

      My understanding is bacteria in the human body also make B12 and this B12 production occurs in the mouth and is deposited on the teeth during sleep cycles, as well, our feces contains B12, I can't find the articles to back this up at this time...

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