Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in the pineal gland, intestinal lining, and the central nervous system. It is involved in many physiological processes within the body, including smooth muscle stimulation and vasodilation. However, serotonin is best known for its influence on one’s mood and energy levels. Low serotonin has been linked as a causative factor in body dysmorphic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, premenstrual syndrome, seasonal affective disorder, and depression.
Symptoms of low serotonin levels can manifest in a number of ways including:
- Negative Thought Patterns/Mindset
- Chronic Pain and Migraines
- Cravings for Simple Carbs (Sugar and Starch)
- Mood Disorders
- Low Self-Esteem, Feelings of Guilt, or Excessive Shyness
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Impulsive Behaviors – Aggression, Overeating, or Alcohol Abuse
- Thoughts of Suicide
Common causes of low serotonin levels:
- Poor Diet/Nutrition Deficiencies
- Lack of Exercise
- Hormone Imbalance
- Digestive Tract Imbalance
- Smoking/Alcohol Abuse
- Blood Sugar Imbalances
- Inadequate Sunlight
- Candida Overgrowth
Natural Ways to Boost Serotonin Levels
- Consume the building blocks of serotonin. Our body uses the amino acid tryptophan to synthesize serotonin. Therefore, consuming enough tryptophan plays a vital role in maintaining healthy serotonin levels. The following foods provide a good source of the essential amino: beans, milk, turkey, chicken, eggs, whey protein, salmon, avocado, baked potato, walnuts, chickpeas, lentils, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. Combine these foods with a good complex carb to maximize production.
- Improve digestive health. Eating plenty of tryptophan rich foods will do no good if the digestive system is compromised and those good nutrients are not being absorbed properly. More than 90% of the serotonin our body uses is produced in the gut; thus digestive imbalance leads to deficiency of the vital neurotransmitter. Consider looking into the elimination diet, candida overgrowth, parasite infection, and the benefits of probiotics and fermented foods to optimize digestive health.
- Harness the power of good fats. Essential omega 3 fatty acids found in avocado, nuts/seeds, high quality fish oils, salmon, tuna, sea vegetables/algae, walnuts, hempseeds, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, watercress, and flax seed are needed for hormone production. Be sure to get enough!
- Avoid caffeine, processed sugars, and quick carbs. Foods, drinks, or supplements that cause a temporary spike in energy followed by a crash deplete the body and wreak havoc on our hormones. Strive to avoid stimulants altogether or consume in limited quantities. Less truly is more in this case.
- Get more natural light. Exposure to direct sunlight and natural light boosts serotonin production. Open home/office windows and blinds, step outside for a few breaths throughout the day, and strive to get the recommended daily amount of sun exposure.
- Exercise. Daily exercise, even as little as 15 to 20 minutes per day, stimulates production/release of serotonin, dopamine, and other mood boosting endorphins in addition to promoting overall health.
- Incorporate natural aids. The body works synergistically so there are many natural supplements that can assist our body in serotonin production and overall hormone balance including: St. John’s Wort, ginko biloba, green tea, kava, magnesium, fish oil, probiotics, and vitamin B complex.
Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure offers a free self-exam to help individuals identify potential serotonin or dopamine deficiency.
Sources for this Article Include: