What is Serotonin?
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is integral to many processes in the body. It helps to improve mood and memory, regulate sleep, and is an important factor when treating a variety of disorders including depression, anxiety, bulimia nervosa, panic disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 1 In addition to improving mood, serotonin strengthens immunity and improves digestion, so those who are not experiencing mood issues also benefit from actively seeking out serotonin boosters. 2 3 There are a number of ways to naturally boost your serotonin levels in order to improve your mood, help your memory, reduce insomnia, increase immunity, and more.
If you think that you are experiencing a mood disorder, a professional assessment and medication may be the best option for you. Additionally, if you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, please seek immediate medical attention. Speak to a healthcare practitioner to determine what course of treatment is right for you.
Natural Ways to Increase Serotonin
Being exposed to bright light, especially sunlight and first thing in the morning, stimulates increased serotonin production in the body. 4 Try to get out in the sun regularly, especially during the winter months when sunlight is more difficult to come by. Go for daily walks if you can, even very brief ones, or simply sit out on your porch and soak in the natural light. If you live in a climate that has very little sunlight during the colder seasons, invest in a sunlight-mimicking lamp to help raise your serotonin levels.
The amino acid tryptophan is converted to serotonin in your brain, so eating foods high in tryptophan, such as poultry, nuts and seeds, spinach, eggs, and salmon can help increase your serotonin levels.5 It is best to eat these foods in conjunction with carbohydrates, which make it easier for tryptophan to reach your brain and convert to serotonin. 6 When making major changes to your diet, always consult a healthcare practitioner. A naturopathic doctor (ND) can work with you to create an individualized nutrition plan that includes foods and supplements that decrease stress and improve mood.
Getting a massage helps to uplift mood, increase relaxation, and decrease stress. Massage stimulates the body to produce both serotonin and dopamine (another mood-improving neurotransmitter) as well as decreases cortisol levels in the body, resulting in both a better mood and a reduction in stress. 7 For the best results, schedule regular massages from a registered massage therapist. Recruiting a loved one to rub your back is also effective for a serotonin boost when you could use an instant pick-me-up.
If you are interested in how nutrition and lifestyle changes can be used to treat health issues, a career path in naturopathic medicine may be the right fit for you.