Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that circulates in your brain helping to regulate your feelings of anxiety, happiness level and overall mood. But when you run low in this critical brain chemical it’s hard to feel happy.
In fact, low serotonin can trigger a bout of the blues, or even worse a case of depression. Depression drugs often target your serotonin levels, lifting them in order to lift your spirits.
But if your happiness hormone levels have dipped just a tad, and your trouble is a simple case of the blues brought on by something like a bad week at work, or trouble concentrating because of stress, naturally raising them could turn out to be just the mood adjustment you need.
1. Seek out sunshine:
There’s a reason a sunshiny day can lift your mood. Although we’re still trying to figure out how it all work, experts say it appears that sunshine literally triggers your body to start pumping out more happiness hormones. In fact, lack of sunshine may be why some folks suffer from “the winter blues” or seasonal affective disorder.1
Plus, as we’ve explained before, your skin converts sunshine into vitamin D. And it turns out D in turn regulates the enzyme that converts the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin.
In other words, spending more time outside in the sun can be a nearly instant fix, lifting your mood while encouraging your body to make more serotonin.
2. Stock up on seafood:
If you’re a seafood fan you’re in luck. Eating more seafood could help send your serotonin climbing.
In fact seafood will provide you with three different serotonin supporting nutrients…
- omega 3s
- vitamin D
According to a study published in FASEB Journal omega-3 and vitamin D may control brain serotonin levels.2 And researchers say boosting your vitamin D, along with the omega-3s EPA and DHA, could optimize the levels of serotonin in your brain.
Plus oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, and tuna and other seafood such as shrimp are rich in tryptophan. And while the tryptophan in the foods you eat can’t cross the blood brain barrier, experts say vitamin D can help convert that tryptophan into serotonin.3
3. Push the animal proteins:
Animal proteins including beef, chicken, fish, milk and eggs are good sources of tryptophan. Eating more of these foods could help boost the serotonin levels in your brain eventually changing your mood.
For a proven brain boost try whey protein. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition researchers used whey protein to improve cognitive performance in a group of stressed out folks.4
The group which got the whey protein had their tryptophan levels climb. And since an improved tryptophan ratio is linked to increased brain serotonin function the researchers say the improvements in cognitive function were partially the result of a boost in serotonin activity.
In a similar study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, scientists found that when a group of folks drank egg protein their brain tryptophan levels shot up 40 percent.5
4. Make a move:
Exercise is proven natural antidepressant, and researchers say this is likely because of its link to the happiness hormone. In fact, doctors often recommend trying exercise before drugs in cases of mild depression.
Experts say physical activity increases the firing rate of serotonin neurons in the brains of lab animals increasing the production and release of serotonin.6 Plus exercise was shown to boost brain tryptophan levels as well, which leads to an even bigger bump in serotonin levels.7
Break through those blues, and give yourself the happiness boost you deserve, by naturally raising your own serotonin levels starting today.
1. “Sunshine, Serotonin, and Skin: A Partial Explanation for Seasonal Patterns in Psychopathology?,” Innov Clin Neurosci. 2013 Jul-Aug; 10(7-8): 20–24
2. “Vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids control serotonin synthesis and action, part 2: relevance for ADHD, bipolar, schizophrenia, and impulsive behavior. FASEB Journal, February 2015
3. “Vitamin D hormone regulates serotonin synthesis. Part 1: relevance for autism,” The FASEB Journal, 2014
4. “Whey protein rich in α-lactalbumin increases the ratio of plasma tryptophan to the sum of the other large neutral amino acids and improves cognitive performance in stress-vulnerable subjects,” Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Jun;75(6):1051-6
5. “Effect of hydrolysed egg protein on brain tryptophan availability,” Br J Nutr. 2011 Feb;105(4):611-7
6. “A microdialysis examination of serotonin release in the rat forebrain induced by behavioral/environmental manipulations,” Brain Res. 1996 Nov 11;739(1-2):57-69
7. “Motor activity increases tryptophan, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid, and homovanillic acid in ventricular cerebrospinal fluid of the conscious rat,” J Neurochem. 1986 Apr;46(4):1313-6
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