Top 5 Ways to Boost Serotonin: Mood, Appetite, and Sleep

By The Wellnicity Clinical Team, June 27, 2019

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Brain Break: Top 5 Ways to Boost Serotonin

Serotonin is considered the master neurotransmitter and plays a role in supporting healthy mood, appetite, and sleep.  It is charged, along with GABA, one of our main calming neurotransmitters in regulating the activity of the stimulating neurotransmitters (dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine and glutamate).  Having adequate stores of serotonin and GABA is essential to returning the nervous system back to a balanced state after it has been excited by a stressor (physical or emotional).  When you have adequate serotonin, you’ll experience feelings of happiness and well-being. Outside of helping your mood, serotonin has other beneficial functions in the body, too. It helps with bowel regularity, bone density, and more!  Signs that serotonin may be depleted include low mood, anxiety, sugar and carbohydrate cravings, sleep difficulties, and headaches.  So if you find yourself googling for an anxiety test or a sleep test or if “maybe she needs carbs is your new slogan”, you might just need to boost your serotonin.

How can you boost your serotonin levels? Below are five ways to up your happiness scale through serotonin. Pick two this week and add an additional one each week thereafter.

1. Exercise

Take a step in the right direction by going for a morning or afternoon walk. Take a swim, go for a bike ride, lift some weights, or dance like no one’s watching! The key is to do something you enjoy, and have fun doing it. If you go for a run as if a tiger is chasing you, that will be stressful rather than serotonin-stimulating.  The goal is to get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. 

2. Tryptophan

The amino acid tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin. Turkey is known as an excellent source of tryptophan, but other great sources are avocado, salmon, chicken, tuna, grass-fed beef, soybeans, and lamb. Eating a variety of foods at your evening meal and incorporating those that are good sources of tryptophan will give your body the components you need to create more serotonin by bedtime. 5-HTP is a metabolite of L-tryptophan that can be taken in supplement form.  Finding professional-grade 5-HTP in the right dose for you requires more science than guesswork.  All was speak with a nutritional professional to make sure you are taking supplements safely and effectively.

3. Healthy Gut

The health of your digestive tract is very important because approximately 95 percent of serotonin is produced in your gut.  A few simple steps to promote gut health include: rotating foods so you aren’t eating the same foods every day, taking a high quality, multi-strain probiotic to diversify and boost friendly bacteria, and limiting fried foods and those high in sugar and simple carbohydrates. Make sure you’re eating a healthy diet with complex carbohydrates (such as sweet potatoes, legumes, and whole grains), grass-fed or organic protein sources, nuts and seeds, and omega-3 rich oils.

4. Get the Basics 

Make sure you take a high-quality daily multivitamin and omega-3 supplement each day. The multivitamin will give you nutrients that help cellular-level pathways work more efficiently. When you experience stress, your body may need more nutrients and antioxidants than your diet provides. A professional-line omega-3 supplement will be anti-inflammatory for your gut and your body. It also provides essential fatty acids to boost synapse health where your serotonin and other neurotransmitters do their work. 

5. Have a Sunshiny Day!

Try to get 15-20 minutes of natural sunshine each day while thinking about all of the things that bring you joy or that you are grateful for. Sunlight is like a natural antidepressant, and it also increases your vitamin D levels to support serotonin production.

As you work to naturally improve your serotonin levels, don’t sabotage them by relying heavily on caffeine or other stimulants. Stress, anger, fear, and anxiety can also cause your serotonin levels to plummet. Start your day with the end in mind by supporting serotonin levels so you can have restful sleep tonight!

Curious about how your serotonin is faring?  Measure your serotonin level along with 6 other crucial neurotransmitters with the My Brain Balance Test.