Serotonin is a key hormone in the body that naturally regulates mood. Although mood disorders and depression tend to be caused by long-term external factors, a hormonal imbalance such as serotonin deficiency can exacerbate an existing mood problem.
Even if you aren’t clinically depressed, increasing your body’s serotonin levels can help boost your mood as well as raise your energy levels. This is because serotonin works as a neurotransmitter, helping the brain to communicate with other nervous system cells.
Fortunately, there are natural ways to increase serotonin levels making you less susceptible to symptoms of depression.
Increase Serotonin By Improving Your Diet
Foods high in iron, vitamin B6, and riboflavin often contain tryptophan, which can boost serotonin levels.
The following nutritious foods may help increase serotonin.
- Nuts and seeds
Although you may see a small improvement with eating the above foods, combining them with carbohydrates will probably have an even greater impact. This is because carbs cause the body to produce more insulin, which in turn promotes the absorption of tryptophan. The fact that different types of foods work together to optimize serotonin levels is why it’s best to eat a balanced diet.
Increase Serotonin Through Supplementation
If improving your diet isn’t enough, you may want to consider taking a supplement. There are a few different supplements on the market that have been shown to boost serotonin levels. That said, you shouldn’t take those kinds of supplements you are already taking anti-depressants called SSRIs, which stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
If you aren’t taking SSRIs, the following supplements may help:
- 5HTP has been shown to help patients with mild symptoms of depression
- St. John’s Wort may help some people but can interfere with other prescriptions including birth control pills
- SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine) may be helpful unless you are immunocompromised or have bipolar disorder
Serotonin Production By Exercising
Foods and supplements aren’t the only way to boost serotonin levels. If you’ve ever experienced that runner’s high, you know that exercise makes you feel good. One possible reason for this is an increase in serotonin levels when tryptophan is converted to serotonin during exercise. Even if it turns out that serotonin deficiency isn’t the cause of your depression, exercise is a proven way to improve your mental health due to its many other mood-boosting effects.
Serotonin Increases With Bright Light
Not only do you need to eat right and get adequate exercise, but you also need bright light. In the fall and winter months, the days are shorter, and people stay indoors more. This is why about 5% of adults in the United States experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is caused by a lack of sunlight.
Scientists have discovered that the brain produces serotonin in response to daylight, especially in the morning. Like exercise, bright light offers mood-boosting benefits beyond just increasing serotonin levels. Your body was designed to see the light of day on a regular basis. Get outdoors more, or if you can’t, consider investing in a specialized lamp.
A proper diet combined with exercise and sunshine can help increase serotonin levels in your body, but sometimes you need more than a natural remedy. If the above suggestions don’t solve your serotonin problem, or if your depression is severe, it’s time to see a doctor.
If you live in the DFW area, make an appointment with Diamond Physicians today.