Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, that’s involved in many processes throughout your body, from regulating your mood to promoting smooth digestion. It’s also known for promoting good sleep by helping regulate circadian rhythms, helping regulate appetite, and promoting learning, memory, and positive feelings.
If your serotonin levels are low, you might feel anxious, depressed, irritable, aggressive, have sleep issues, or feel fatigued. Other signs of low serotonin levels include decreased appetite, nausea, and frequent cravings for sweets and carb-rich foods. Some people opt for prescription medication as a means to increase serotonin levels, but it is only one option. There are natural ways to increase serotonin levels in your body, and I’ve listed five of them for you below.
Food. You may not directly get serotonin from food, but you can get tryptophan; an amino acid that’s converted to serotonin in your brain. Tryptophan is found primarily in high-protein foods, including turkey and salmon. Research suggests that eating carbs along with foods high in tryptophan may help more tryptophan make it into your brain.
Try this: whole-wheat bread with turkey or cheese, oatmeal with a handful of nuts, salmon with brown rice, plums or pineapple with your favorite crackers, pretzel sticks with peanut butter, and a glass of milk.
Exercise. Exercising triggers the release of tryptophan into your blood. It can also decrease the amount of other amino acids. This creates an ideal environment for more tryptophan to reach your brain. Aerobic exercise, at a level you’re comfortable with, seems to have the most effect.
Try this: swimming, hiking, bicycling, and jogging are all great options to get your heart rate up.
Bright Light. Research suggests that serotonin tends to be lower after winter and higher in summer and fall. Spending time in the sunshine appears to help increase serotonin levels.
Try this: aim to spend at least 10 to 15 minutes outside each day or take your physical activity outside to help increase the serotonin boost brought on by exercise — just remember to wear sunscreen!
Massage. Massage therapy helps increase serotonin and dopamine, another mood-related neurotransmitter. It also helps to decrease cortisol, a hormone your body produces when stressed.
Supplements. Some dietary supplements may help to jumpstart the production and release of serotonin by increasing tryptophan. Before trying a new supplement, always check with your healthcare provider.
Wishing you the best of health!