Serotonin is a very important brain chemical. One of the ways that we see serotonin in use is in our moods and especially in the way that we think. Depression is often caused by low levels of this hormone so to raise serotonin levels is a very critical thing for many.
Think of serotonin in your brain as a funnel that just slowly drains goodness, if you have stress, don’t get our enough, get sick, then your serotonin production in your body will drop until that funnel has nothing to give your brain. This is bad. This is what causes depression in many people and there are ways to stop depression causing low serotonin levels.
The important thing to remember is that stress in our life, although sometimes important and good, increases the output of cortisol. Cortisol is the anti-happy hormone if there ever was one.
So it is important to keep your life free of extra stresses and especially when you are feeling down take all stresses possible out of your life
How to Raise Serotonin Levels
Basically what you need to increase the creation of serotonin in your body is diet change, exercise, exposure to bright sunlight and if all else fails then SSRI antidepressent drugs.
1. The dietary supplement 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan (5-HTP) is promoted as a treatment for insomnia, depression, migraine, obesity and attention deficit disorder in children. It is a derivative of the amino acid tryptophan and, in fact, the body makes it from the tryptophan present in foods such as beef, chicken, fish, dairy products and other high protein foods.
I have found a lot of evidence that people swear by supplementing their diet with 5-HTP so this is something that you can try.
2. Exercise increases serotonin. We all know how important exercise is for improving our physical health and concentration as well as mood and it is the endorphin creation that fuels higher serotonin levels. Get exercise everyday.
3. Bright light increases serotonin and in winter a lack of serotonin may be one of the reasons behind Seasonal Affective disorder. Getting out in bright sunlight, especially in Winter when it is much tougher often to find is important.
4. Taking a walk on a cold sunny day in the Winter is great but even in Summer some people just do not get out enough to help raise those levels of serotonin.
A few more tips from Chatelaine Magazine
5. Take B Complex Vitamins. High total intakes of vitamins B6 and B12 are associated with a lower risk of depressive symptoms over time in community-residing older adults, according to the results of a cohort study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Vitamin B6 in particular supports the production and function of serotonin, melatonin and dopamine in the brain.
6. St. John’s Wort. This herb has been proven effective for easing mild to moderate depression. It appears to work as a natural SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) by preventing the breakdown of serotonin in the brain.
7. Add inositol to your smoothies. Naturally present in many foods, inositol improves the activity of serotonin in the brain. As a supplement, it’s an excellent choice for alleviating anxiety and depression and supporting nervous system health.
And a couple more from a great article on the Bodyecology website
8. Include fermented foods and drinks in your diet – Fermented foods and drinks greatly assist in digestion and assimilation of all the important nutrients you need for serotonin. Additionally, they boost the nutrients in your food by at least a hundred fold. As mentioned above they manufacture those essential B vitamins that help with boosting your mood.
Microflora rich Dong Quai is an excellent fermented drink that supports your energy and mood AND decreases cravings for sugar.
9. Get massages and other forms of body work – We’ve heard about the healing power of touch, but now research backs it up! A study conducted by the Touch Research Institutes at the University of Miami School of Medicine shows that massage increases serotonin by 28% and decreases cortisol (the stress hormone) by 31%.
10. Consider purchasing a BioMat. This is a wonderful pad that you lie on — ideally with headphones and beautiful relaxing music that increases brain cells. The BioMat combines far infrared negative ions and amethyst crystals and produces negative ions that increase the flow of oxygen to your brain having a positive effect on how serotonin is oxidized in your blood stream.
Like a large, chamber-size and more expensive sauna the Bio Mat also helps with removal of toxins that interfere with brain health. I recommend the smaller size because it is more affordable and yet you can still do a “sauna-level” sweat on it.
11. Eat foods that are high in Serotonin or raise serotonin levels. There are a few foods like Turkey or bananas with their Tryptophan, buckwheat and Flax which are high in B Vitamins and Omegas. And when speaking of Omega vitamins don’t forget Wild Salmon or eggs.
Nuts like walnuts are especially beneficial for serotonin production. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, peanuts, almonds and cashews can increase serotonin in the body
12. If all of these things fail then it is a good idea to talk to your doctor. Antidepressant drugs like Lexapro, Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil work to raise serotonin levels in the brain by stopping one part of your brain synapses from absorbing all serotonin and instead making it available for the parts that do need it. This will help you to be able to pop out of that depression in as little as a few days to a couple of weeks.
The key to using these drugs to raise serotonin levels to me though is that you need to do all of the right things. Do not rely on the drugs when you can instead rely on outdoor exercise and a better diet.