Serotonin is responsible for a variety of functions in the human body. It plays at least some part in mood regulation, digestion, sleep quality, blood clotting, sexual function, and more. When there is too little (or sometimes too much) in the body then wellbeing suffers. There are a number of ways to naturally increase serotonin if you currently have too little.
What is serotonin?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, serotonin is a hormone that carries chemical messages between your brain cells and your nerve cells. Essentially, telling your body what to do and how to act. Most of the serotonin in your body is actually found in your gut, helping digestion work smoothly, but the hormone is more commonly known for its impact on our moods. Serotonin is an emotional regulator chemical, which means that when you have too much or too little, your wellbeing takes a downturn in the source: the brain. Mania and depression are a result of imbalanced serotonin, but having just enough keeps you cool and focused, operating in the peak performance category.
How do you know if you are low in serotonin?
If you are experiencing disturbances in any of the areas mentioned above, you may have low serotonin levels. More specifically, Healthline suggests that these symptoms might be indicators:
- feel anxious, low, or depressed
- feel irritable or aggressive
- have sleep issues or feel fatigued
- feel impulsive
- have a decreased appetite
- experience nausea and digestive issues
- crave sweets and carbohydrate-rich foods
If this describes your experience, start by talking to your doctor to rule out other issues before making the adjustments recommended below.
Regular exercise is a common way to naturally increase serotonin. According to VeryWell Mind, “The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise each week plus strength training two days per week.” If this sounds like too much, start smaller and focus on building a consistent movement habit. Sticky habits rely on consistently making small strides toward your goals.
Serotonin is present in a variety of foods that are part of a healthy diet. VeryWell Mind lists these foods as ones that increase serotonin:
- Beans (such as chickpeas, kidney, pinto, black beans)
- Leafy greens (such as spinach, kale)
- Nuts and seeds (such as walnuts, flaxseed)
- Oily, fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, mackerel)
- Probiotic/fermented foods (such as kefir, yogurt, tofu)
Not only do these foods naturally increase serotonin but they also provide other important nutrients your body needs to help it function well, physically and emotionally.
In addition to the other benefits of spending time in nature, sunshine appears to naturally increase serotonin. Research suggests that skin may be able to absorb serotonin. To maximize this benefit, spend at least 10 to 15 minutes outside each day and double up the serotonin boost by exercising outside. A light therapy box might provide benefits for those in rainy or cold climates.
Massage therapy is an enjoyable way to naturally increase serotonin and dopamine and decrease cortisol levels. As a result of this leveling, stress is reduced and hormone levels return to a better balance. The good news is that massage therapy from a partner or friend has shown to be just as effective in the long run as one from a licensed professional.
Some supplements have been recommended by medical professionals to naturally increase serotonin. Choosing good quality supplements is important. Before taking a new supplement, always disclose any other medication use to your healthcare provider to avoid potential harm. Supplements that have been linked to an uptick in serotonin are:
- Pure tryptophan
- SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine)
- St. John’s wort
Which of these ways to naturally increase serotonin appeal to you? After consulting with your healthcare professional, let us know what ones effectively boost your serotonin and share with us how it impacts your physical and emotional wellbeing!