Serotonin is a chemical produced within the human body and is commissioned with a wide variety of biological responsibilities. Serotonin works to regulate mood and communicate between brain cells, the central nervous system (CNS), and the systems of the body.
Most of the body’s serotonin levels are found in the digestive tract, but there is also plenty in the CNS and in the blood. As we will see in the following article, serotonin plays an important role in keeping us functional and can be replenished naturally.
What Does Serotonin Do?
There is hardly a part or function of the body that does not benefit from plentiful serotonin levels. Motor skills, digestive functions, and demeanor rely on a sufficient supply of serotonin more than any others. Serotonin also allows for restful sleep habits and keeps bones strong and healthy.
When serotonin levels are high, the body enjoys a peaceful feeling that comes with chemical balance. Emotions are regulated and cognitive capacity is improved as well. By the same measure, if serotonin levels are depleted, many of these important functions can become impaired and health diminishes.
Here are some natural ways to boost serotonin and enhance its vital functions:
Natural Ways to Boost Serotonin
Serotonin Friendly Diet
Serotonin is made from an essential amino acid called tryptophan. It is essential because unlike other amino acids, tryptophan can’t be created in the body and must be sourced from healthy foods. If your present diet has insufficient tryptophan, serotonin levels are the first to begin dropping away and taking health and functionality with them.
Some of the best sources of tryptophan include:1
- Lean Beef
- Fish and Shellfish
- Raw Oats
For an almost instant boost of serotonin, the kneading and tissue manipulation of an experienced masseuse is just the thing. Massage therapy has been used for centuries to soothe muscles and joints and is widely considered the most ancient form of physical remedy.
Modern medical studies have found health benefits that reach beyond mere muscle and joint care. Massage therapy is effective at reducing stress, improving immunity, and promoting relaxation.
Part of the notable benefits of massage therapy for human health may be due to the increased levels of serotonin produced as a result. One study showed how melatonin and serotonin levels can be improved after a massage.2
Vitamin C and Serotonin
Vitamin C is essential for the biosynthesis of serotonin. Vitamin C allows 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) to be constructed in the brain which is an important precursor to serotonin. One good way to ensure your body is able to make all the serotonin it needs is to check your daily vitamin C intake.
A study performed in India showed that vitamin C deficiency was closely linked to mood disorders. Since it is a potent antioxidant, vitamin C is also effective at fighting disease.3
Are you feeling low on energy? Are you surrounded by stress and feel like your brain is depleted? Try getting more exercise. Exercise is an essential human activity that positively affects the biological processes that support the production of serotonin and other brain chemicals.
According to experts, exercise benefits serotonin levels in two ways. First, serotonin is produced more regularly during moderate exercise, which can result in an instant mood boost just by running around the block. Second, regular exercise allows an increase of tryptophan which is used to create serotonin in the brain.4 While the exact reason for this result is still being investigated, the fact that exercise improves serotonin levels goes unquestioned.5
One of the most common symptoms of low serotonin is depression. This seems to be due to a lack of effective communications between the various parts of the brain needed for optimal cognitive function.
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In addition to natural methods of addressing serotonin deficiencies, there are some supplements that also work to improve the mood and health through enhancing serotonin levels in the body.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
SSRIs are one class of serotonin medications typically prescribed to improve moderate to severe levels of depression. SSRIs stop serotonin from being disassembled once its task is complete and therefore leads to higher levels of serotonin in the brain. These are the most commonly used antidepressants in the world.
Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
SNRIs function much the same as an SSRI but SNRIs are involved with an additional neurotransmitter, norepinephrine. With increased levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, depression and moodiness are easily controlled.
As mentioned, 5-HTP is an essential component in producing serotonin. Since 5-HTP is a precursor of serotonin, supplementation can increase serotonin levels and effectively improve sleep, demeanor, appetite, and can even counter the effects of obesity.6
Risks and Precautions for Serotonin Supplementation
None of the serotonin-boosting methods mentioned here carry any strong precautions or consistent side effects. Nevertheless, they can affect a very essential biological function so caution is still advised.
Before beginning any serotonin treatment, be sure to speak with your regular medical practitioner. Some of the most common side effects from serotonin supplementation include:
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Pain in the joints or muscles
- Reduced sexual desire
- Upset stomach, nausea, or diarrhea
Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers will want to be extra careful about the compounds passed to developing infants. Speak to your health professional before beginning any such diet alterations.
5-HTP can affect the way serotonin is affected during surgery. It is imperative to discontinue serotonin supplementation for at least 2-weeks before any surgical procedures.
Final Notes on Serotonin Supplementation
The best ways to keep your levels of neurotransmitters healthy and replenished is by healthy living. Consider improving the quality of your diet and sleeping habits to better consolidate your daily cycles. Finally, having a good amount of fiber greatly improves your body’s capacity to assimilate the nutrients it needs for biological processes.7
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