How to Increase Serotonin?
Low serotonin levels can have a dramatic impact on your mood, sleep, and general quality of life. It can also contribute to anxiety, which is why many people with anxiety issues are often prescribed Select Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) to help increase serotonin in the brain.
Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that plays a vital role in the body, especially when it comes to proper sleep, regulating appetite, and helping to stimulate your body’s ability to learn and recall information.
While medication can be very effective for some people, many folks simply do not respond to SSRIS and other medication, or would prefer to optimize their mental health naturally.
Regardless of what camp you’re in, these natural supplements have been shown in multiple scientific studies to help boost serotonin naturally.
It is important to note: too much serotonin can be dangerous, and you should not take any supplement mentioned in this post without first consulting your physician.
You should also not take these supplements if you are currently taking an SSRI or other antidepressant, as this could result in too much serotonin in the brain. Serotonin syndrome is a very dangerous condition, so always talk to your doctor to make sure these supplements are appropriate for you.
4 Supplements and Boost Serotonin Naturally
Tryptophan is one of the most popular supplements for increasing serotonin. Most people are familiar with the effect of tryptophan, which is present in poultry, especially turkey. It is likely you have experienced the effect of tryptophan after eating a large amount of turkey at Thanksgiving, which contributes to that drowsy feeling you get after eating it.
Tryptophan is an amino acid, which the body converts to serotonin. Research has shown that a depletion of tryptophan in the body can cause a significant drop in serotonin, negatively impacting mood and sleep. (1)
While supplementing with tryptophan can boost and spike serotonin, it is important to note that research has shown tryptophan to be most effective when taken between meals or on an empty stomach. This is because other amino acids present in your food can crowd out tryptophan and reduce its absorption and conversion to serotonin.
#2: 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan)
5-HTP is a supplement that the body converts to serotonin. 5-HTP is not found in food, so it can only be obtained in supplement form. 5-HTP is a bi-product of the conversion of tryptophan within the body, which is why it is one of the most popular supplements for boosting serotonin.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in normal brain and nervous system health and function. Low levels of magnesium have also been shown to contribute to symptoms of depression and anxiety. In fact, several studies have shown that magnesium deficiency can lead to a depletion of serotonin, so maintaining adequate levels of this key mineral are believed to help contribute to normal healthy serotonin levels and improve moo. (2)
It is believed that most serotonin is produced in the gut, so maintaining optimal gut health is essential for maintaining and increasing serotonin naturally. Some estimates state that up to 90% of our neurotransmitters, including serotonin are made in the gut, which is why supplementing with probiotics has become so popular over the last decade.
A meta-analysis looking at various studies conducted on probiotics and serotonin showed that regular consumption of probiotics improved the metabolism and conversion of tryptophan to serotonin, resulting in improved mood and cognition. (3)
There are a lot of natural supplements that help the body boost serotonin and increase neurotransmitter production naturally. However, as previously stated, it is important to have your blood work drawn regularly and to discuss these supplement options with your doctor before adding them to your daily routine.
That said, if you do have a deficiency, the science is pretty clear that supplementing with tryptophan and other supplements can be beneficial for temporarily increasing serotonin to boost your mood and help maintain normal sleep and relaxation.
Jenkins TA, Nguyen JC, Polglaze KE, Bertrand PP. Influence of Tryptophan and Serotonin on Mood and Cognition with a Possible Role of the Gut-Brain Axis. Nutrients. 2016 Jan 20;8(1):56. doi: 10.3390/nu8010056. PMID: 26805875; PMCID: PMC4728667.
Eby GA, Eby KL, Murk H. Magnesium and major depression. In: Vink R, Nechifor M, editors. Magnesium in the Central Nervous System [Internet]. Adelaide (AU): University of Adelaide Press; 2011. PMID: 29920018.
Wallace CJK, Milev R. The effects of probiotics on depressive symptoms in humans: a systematic review. Ann Gen Psychiatry. 2017 Feb 20;16:14. doi: 10.1186/s12991-017-0138-2. Erratum in: Ann Gen Psychiatry. 2017 Mar 7;16:18. PMID: 28239408; PMCID: PMC5319175.