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Serotonin Boosting Methods

Updated on January 10, 2013

This can help boost your serotonin

Serotonin is a very important monoamine neurotransmitter that is produced from L-tryptophan. It is also referred to as 5-hydroxytryptophan or 5-HT in short. The neurotransmitter is produced by the liver as well as by the central nervous system tissues. The highest levels of serotonin is produced outside the nervous system and found on the gastrointestinal tract cells. However, it should be noted that the most important functions and synthesis of this neurotransmitter happens in the central nervous tissue cells. This notwithstanding, the highest percentage of this synthesis happens outside the CNS. This is import in the sense that one will know how to boost serotonin levels where it is much needed. It is also important to get to know the most important symptoms of low serotonin in the CNS or the body.

After the synthesis of serotonin, it is then stored on the blood platelets and performs very useful bodily functions. Among them is aiding in blood clotting in case of body injuries. Serotonin is also responsible for vasoconstriction and growth. In as much as serotonin is produced in large amounts in the body, it does not penetrate the blood-brain barrier and therefore not accessible to the brain in amount levels that are desired. To make sure that the amount of serotonin in the brain is increased, the serotonin precursors are used. These precursors are L-tryptophan and 5 HTP. These amino acids have the capability of passing through the blood-brain barrier and reach the brain cells. In this way, the levels of serotonin in the brain are increased.

Using the enzyme catalyst that has a vitamin B6 cofactor, L-tryptophan is converted to 5 HTP and then serotonin. In addition to being a very important factor in determining moods, appetite and sleep, serotonin is also directly associated with memory capacities and learning capabilities. It is also good to realize that, using the seven groups of serotonin receptors, the body is also able to control other neurotransmitters such as dopamine, acetylcholine and others. This is without mentioning that the same serotonin receptors control the hormones such as oxytocin, prolactine and substance P among others.

The serotonin functions in the body are enormously important and should be approached with caution. This means that any interference with the production or levels of serotonin in the body as well as in the CNS should be handled with the advice of a qualified professional and done in such a way that it will not compromise other bodily or system functions. This also means that the medications that target the serotonin system should be used with caution. Such medications include antidepressants, antiemetic drugs, antipsychotic drugs, anti-migraine medications as well as anxiolytics to mention but a few.

In addition to interfering with the synthesis, functions and levels of serotonin, these medications can have dangerous and life-threatening side effects. These side effects may range from hallucinations, organ failures, and chances of coma, seizures, high blood pressure, hyperactivity and confusion. This is without mentioning that they can cause even death.

Based on this realization, better means of addressing serotonin issues have been sought and used safely without risking all the mentioned side effects. These alternative methods have ensured that those who are suffering from various conditions and disorders as a result of serotonin imbalances have gotten recourse and relieve. These include those who are suffering from depression, those suffering from insomnia, sleep apnea, obesity among other health-threatening conditions.

In response to the need for safe serotonin boosting methods, here are the most important of them; diet, change of lifestyle and the use of the right supplements.

· Documented facts state that in a normal protein dish, the amount of protein and the precursor of serotonin (L-tryptophan) is only 1%. Another fact is that carbohydrates are useful in ensuring that the essential amino acids cross the blood-brain barrier. This relationship of facts and normal body functions dictate that an individual is well placed in the serotonin mix if he or she takes more carbohydrates. This is without caring that L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid and protein in nature.

This means that it is better to eat more energy-giving food than proteins in the sense that it will aid the crossing over of the L-tryptophan and ensure increased serotonin. In this way therefore, studies have shown that a diet constituting sweet potatoes, yams and oats is the best. Other sources that will be of great benefit are barley, whole grain meals and wheat. These will prevent the individual from risking obesity due to consumption of carbohydrates. They have low levels of glycemic indices.

· Another dietary method that can be used to ensure more serotonin in the brain is by taking tryptophan rich proteins. In addition to ensuring that there are increased levels of tryptophan available to cross the blood-brain barrier, this will balance the amount of carbohydrates that you will take. In this way, you will find that more serotonin is synthesized in the brain and therefore reap the benefits of the same. Among the most important of these proteins that are rich in tryptophan include dairy products, beef, poultry, legumes and low fat milk. These products are especially important in ensuring that serotonin has been produced in the brain.

· A has been documented, stimulants are known to cause temporary reprieve from such issues as low moods, loss of mental focus among other issues that directly concern the mental and emotional state of an individual. However, these stimulants are also known to worsen the already bad situation by favoring the opposite of what they had temporarily done in the initial stage. This means that as their effects die off, the situation deteriorates. This is because of the fact that the level of serotonin in the brain hugely declines and the opposite effects are experienced.

It should be noted that this happens with all the stimulants including alcohol, sugar and caffeine. This therefore means that the best thing in ensuring that the brain is given time and chance to normally synthesize serotonin is by avoiding stimulants by all means.

· The need for exercise cannot be understated. There is always a good reason to make a habit of exercising regularly. However, it should be noted that strenuous exercises may trigger the production of stress hormones in the body and therefore run down the benefits of the same. In this way, light exercises are preferred as they trigger the production of those hormones that make the individual to feel good, happier and relaxed. These exercises should last less than 20 minutes so as to reap the highest benefits. Among the light exercises that one can use is jogging, dancing and walking.

· Another way of ensuring that you have more chances of serotonin production is by spending more time outdoors. Sunlight has its benefits that include the production of serotonin. This is made possible by the fact that sunlight sends signal to the body that it should stop producing melatonin and start producing serotonin. Arguments have been made that spending time outdoors have the same properties as using antidepressants in as far as production of serotonin in the brain is concerned.

· There has been an argument that the best things are always free and in most cases natural. One of the most common methods of boosting serotonin production in the brains is by sleeping. However, for this to happen, you should be able to know how to sleep. You should be able to learn that you have to sleep well and in a duration that is just enough. Too much or too less sleeping will produce adverse results. You should be able to sleep at the right time and for the right duration. Sleep is important in the sense that it gives the body the opportunity to rest and also carry out other body functions such as body repairs. It is also good in the sense that it will give the body a chance to produce serotonin and melatonin.

· The use of supplements is another very important method of boosting the production of serotonin. The most important supplements for this include L-tryptophan, 5 HTP and vitamin B6 supplements. As a precursor to serotonin, L-tryptophan is an important essential amino acid in the production of serotonin. Through the use of its supplements, the body is given an opportunity to have the production of serotonin. This amino acid can also be sourced from the food that we take and those ones that are containing the amino acid in high amounts. The consumption of food that is also rich in carbohydrates have also been shown that it improves its absorption and crossing over the blood-brain barrier to the brain.

· 5 HTP is a natural way of providing the brain with serotonin. However, the food that we usually take does not contain it. In this way, it is sourced from a plant that is found in West Africa. With this supplement, the brain is able to experience increased levels of serotonin thereby making it possible for all the necessary brain functions of reducing the effects of depression or any other issue that may be caused by low serotonin levels. It is notable that 5 HTP supplements are better than tryptophan supplement due to the fact that 5 HTP is able to cross the blood-brain barrier better and faster.

· Vitamin B6 supplements are also very important. This is because, even though it is not related to the production of serotonin in the brain, it acts as a catalyst cofactor. This means that vitamin B6 supplements are important in speeding up the synthesis of serotonin in the brain. In this way, the supplements will also be used together with 5 HTP and tryptophan supplements.

Effects of levels of serotonin

There are a number of health related effects with increased or decreased levels of serotonin. This is because serotonin is very important in the normal functioning of the body. Serotonin functions through serotonin receptors. It is good to realize that there are seven serotonin receptors in the human body and that they are named as 5 HT 1, 5 HT 2.... to 5 HT 7. All these are similar in their functions except 5 HT 3 that is tasked with the transportation of potassium and sodium ions.

In addition to controlling the functioning of serotonin, these receptors are also tasked with the control of other neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters include glutamate, GABA, dopamine, acetylene, epinephrine, nor epinephrine and thereby producing either inhibitory or excitatory responses in the CNS. In addition to this, serotonin receptors are also responsible for the control of the release of important hormones in the body such as cortisol, vasopressin, substance P, oxytocin and prolactine.

It must be noted that serotonin affects almost all the functions of the brain in its manner of performance. Due to the fact that serotonin affects all other neurotransmitters, it therefore affects most of the brain cells in a direct and indirect manner. The serotonin is therefore responsible for complex brain functions and performance.

Among the main areas that are affected and controlled by serotonin include determination of personal mood, memory, learning processes, appetite and cravings for food, sleep patterns, sexual drive and performance, body temperature and social relations with other people. In is notable that in addition to these functions in the brain, the serotonin is also responsible for other functions outside the CNS. These other functions outside the brain include effects in the endocrine and cardiovascular systems. Serotonin is also responsible for control of body muscles as well as the milk in lactating mothers. Serotonin has also been singled out as a growth factor in the body.

Dopamine is directly responsible for increased appetite. Increase in dopamine increases appetite. In this way, when serotonin blocks the secretion of dopamine, one will experience reduced appetite or lack of appetite. This therefore means that when an individual smells food, dopamine is secreted instantly and the individual gets increased appetite. Dopamine is reduced as the individual continues eating and eventually stopped.

Causes of low serotonin in the body

There are many factors that may lead to low levels of serotonin in the body. However, it is good to remember that the symptoms of low serotonin levels may be brought about by other factors. These factors include the shortage of serotonin receptors in the body, problems in the transportation of serotonin in the body as well as other factors.

The main causes of low serotonin levels in the body are discussed here under;

· Dietary deficiencies of L-tryptophan are one of the main causes of low levels of serotonin. This is a very important amino acid that helps in the production of serotonin in the brain. It is important in the sense that this amino acid is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and therefore gets to the brain. Once the dietary deficiency of L-tryptophan is experienced, there is reduced synthesis of serotonin. When the deficiency is arrested, then the production of serotonin resumes. This therefore means that one is supposed to eat foods that are rich in the amino acid; these include meat, dairy products, nuts and chicken.

· For better production of serotonin from L-tryptophan, the need for enzyme reactions is experienced. This coenzyme for the synthesis of serotonin is a vitamin called B6. This means that if there is deficiency of vitamin B6, then there will be reduced synthesis of serotonin. This will therefore cause low levels of serotonin in the body.

· Existence of other amino acids available for the body and brain cells to absorb also leads to low levels of serotonin. In as much as there is a need to eat those foods that are rich in essential amino acids, these amino acids including tryptophan compete to cross the blood-brain barrier. In this way, there is the usual expectation that increased competition from other amino acids will lead to low levels of tryptophan crossing over to the brain. This is true with protein-rich food substances. It would be expected that foods rich in proteins will lead to more serotonin. This is not true because of the fact that proteins also have other essential amino acids to compete with tryptophan. It is therefore advisable that diets rich in carbohydrates should be taken.

· Other non-essential amino acids such as theanine in the brain may lead to low levels of serotonin. This happens in the sense that serotonin production will be blocked and hampered by the presence of this non-essential amino acid. The amino acid reduces the levels of tryptophan and obstructs the release of the same from the nerve endings.

Serotonin is an integral part of the brain and therefore its inadequacy brings about very dire consequences. It is therefore very important to ensure that the right levels of serotonin are maintained. The various body systems that are affected by serotonin are;

· Cardiovascular

· Musculoskeletal

· Central Nervous

Symptoms of low serotonin levels are therefore both physical and emotional. Among the most important physical symptoms of low serotonin levels include;

· The individual feels fatigued even when he or she is well rested or has not been involved in physical activities.

· Due to the anxiety that come with low levels of serotonin, the individual suffers sleep disorders. This may also be occasioned by restless leg syndrome that is also associated with reduced levels of serotonin.

· Loss of appetite is the clearest symptom of low levels of serotonin. This is followed by increased desire in carbohydrates. The craving for carbohydrate is a s a consequence of the body trying to reinitiate the production of serotonin.

· The individual also suffers hot and unstable body temperatures. Other related symptoms of low serotonin levels also include migraines and headaches and gastrointestinal pains.

Among the most notable emotional symptoms of low serotonin levels that are experienced include;

· Social withdrawal, low moods and low self-esteem.

· Individuals also suffer from depression and emotional sensitivity.

· Sexual disorders are also increasingly related to low serotonin levels.

There are several factors that should be considered in the efforts of boosting serotonin levels. Some of these steps that are taken to remedy the situation may be aimed at boosting serotonin levels or even addressing symptoms of low serotonin levels.

Treating low serotonin levels

Here are some of the steps and actions that should be taken to boost serotonin levels and addressing symptoms of low serotonin levels in the body;

· Proper body exercise. This should be done in the right manner to ensure that you do not develop stress. Stress is detrimental to serotonin production. There also other ways that you can manage depression and other mood and emotional stress such as using meditation methods. Meditation is good in reducing the effects of these emotional pains.

· Spending time outdoors in the natural sunlight especially in the morning is very important. This means that sunlight is an integral constituent in the production of serotonin. It also inhibits the production of melatonin the chief competitor of serotonin.

· Dietary intake of more carbohydrates and less protein is recommended. An exception to this is when the protein taken is rich in tryptophan. This therefore means that the body will be able to absorb more tryptophan and cross over to the brain.

· Taking serotonin supplements is another way of helping out the situation. This will greatly raise the amount of serotonin in the body. Tryptophan supplements are able to increase the concentration of the same in the platelets and subsequent cross over to the brain. There are also other important serotonin supplements that are able to directly increase the levels of serotonin. A good example is seronex supplement.

· There are also other medications that can be used to treat low levels of serotonin. Such examples include SSRI and SNRI. These medications are also used as antidepressants.


There are many ways through which one can use to boost serotonin levels in the body and in the brain in particular. Some of these ways include the use of supplements. Once you have experienced the first symptoms of low serotonin levels, you should be sure to take the necessary actions. The diet taken should be rich in proteins that are good sources of tryptophan as well as taking more carbohydrates to ensure that the body absorbs more tryptophan. All these steps will lead to increase in the production of serotonin.


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    • conradofontanilla profile image


      5 years ago from Philippines

      From what I read the chain of conversion is niacin, tryptophan, serotonin, melatonin, in that order. In this Hub there might be functions attributed to serotonin that are actually done by melatonin like treatment of insomnia. Tryptophan does not cross the blood-brain barrier but glucose, glutamate, glutamine and insulin do. Glutamate and glutamine are derived from carbo through the citric acid cycle. Voted interesting.


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