The Happy Chemical Read Time: 3 minutes
Looking for a natural way to improve mood? Serotonin may be the answer. Both a hormone and neurotransmitter, this has been called the happy chemical because of the ability to improve mood. There is a clear link between low levels of serotonin and depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Serotonin is also essential for digestive health, bone health, and healthy sleep. The chemical is not found naturally in foods, but there are 3 ingredients people can take to activate serotonin.
What a person eats or the supplements a person takes can contribute to serotonin production. Specifically, consuming foods or supplements high in the amino acid tryptophan can boost mood. Tryptophan is found in foods that are high in protein, such as salmon, poultry, and eggs. The amino acid is also in spinach, seeds, nuts, and soy products. In the body, tryptophan converts to 5-HTP, which is the chemical that works in the brain to make serotonin. If people aren’t getting enough tryptophan naturally, a 5-HTP supplement may be helpful.
Carbs sometimes get a bad reputation when talking about health. But getting enough whole grains and nutrient-dense carbohydrates is good for health. Besides giving people energy, this macronutrient helps take tryptophan to the brain, where serotonin is made. Steer clear of overly processed carbohydrates and stick with sources like whole-grain bread, pasta, fruits, and vegetables.
For many people, serotonin levels drop during the winter months when the sun is less visible. This research supports the link between serotonin levels and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Research has shown that going outside for just 10-15 minutes per day can increase serotonin and boost mood. People who live in rainy or overcast climates may consider getting a light therapy box to ensure adequate light exposure.
How do I know if my levels are low?
Besides feeling like energy is low, signs of low serotonin include poor memory and difficulty sleeping. Food cravings, low self-esteem, anxiety, and aggression can all also point to a serotonin imbalance. People should always check with a healthcare provider or pharmacist before starting a new supplement.
Is there anything else I can do?
One other crucial way to boost serotonin is to exercise regularly. Likewise, eat a nutritious diet full of a variety of fruits and vegetables. If moods are still low after making these lifestyle changes, check with a healthcare provider to find out if there are any underlying conditions at play. A healthcare provider can help provide diagnosis and treatment options.