What is Serotonin?
Serotonin is a chemical naturally produced by the human body. It is a neurotransmitter, communicating information throughout the brain and body by relaying signals between nerves.
How Does Serotonin Affect Us?
Serotonin is produced in the brain and the intestines. In fact, about 90% of our serotonin is produced in our intestinal tract. Serotonin can affect our lives in a number of different ways, including:
- social behavior
- appetite & digestion
- sexual desire & function
Serotonin helps us to maintain a balanced mood and is considered one of the ‘happy chemicals’ naturally found in our bodies, the others being dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. A number of individuals suffer from low serotonin levels and many are not even aware of it. The following are some signs that an individual may be low in serotonin:
- gloomy thoughts or depression
- significant insomnia
- worried, apprehensive, panic attacks
- cravings for sweets & starches
- low self esteem
- impulsive or aggressive behavior
How Can We Increase the Production of Serotonin in Our Bodies?
There are a number of changes we can make to help increase our serotonin levels:
- Light: exposure to natural sunlight increases serotonin production, boosting our mood.
- Exercise: 20 minutes of exercise, such as a morning walk, will boost serotonin levels.
- Diet: avoid sweets and simple carbs, which will raise your blood sugar only to send you crashing down a short while later. Also avoid caffeine, which will suppress serotonin. Instead, focus on eating protein, fruit, and plenty of vegetables.
- Improve Digestion: if digestive issues are a problem, incorporating more water throughout the day, taking digestive enzymes with meals, and/or a daily probiotic may increase serotonin levels.
- 5-HTP: an amino acid that has been known to encourage serotonin production, improve sleep, enhance mood, and balance appetite.
- B-Complex: great to take when you are feeling stressed. This multi-vitamin has been known to help lower depressive feelings and supports the production and function of serotonin.
- Inositol: this vitamin has been known to help improve the function of serotonin in the brain and alleviate anxiety and depression.