The human brain naturally produces a soothing neurotransmitter called serotonin, mostly from the amino acid tryptophan that is derived from dietary proteins. Serotonin plays many important roles in the brain’s biochemistry and is intimately involved in maintaining an upbeat mood, boosting self-confidence, sustaining the body’s 24-hour rhythms, and facilitating sustained and deep sleep.
Unfortunately, far too many people aren’t naturally producing enough serotonin to consistently experience its calming, positive effects. Inadequate serotonin is linked to low mood, negative behaviors, unhealthy sleep patterns, and many other physical and mental problems.
Signs of possible low serotonin or functional serotonin deficiency:
- Difficulties with mental sharpness
- Carbohydrate cravings and binge eating
- Digestive and other intestinal problems
- Sleep problems
- Feeling overwhelmed and unhappy
- Anger and irritability
Most people realize that the quality and quantity of their sleep can have a direct impact on how well they function during the day. But did you know that what you do during the day can affect how well you sleep at night?
Getting appropriate levels (at least 10 to 30 minutes) of sunlight on your skin during the day can help maintain your body’s natural production of vitamin D3, which promotes the production of serotonin molecules. In the evening, the brain naturally converts serotonin into melatonin, the main sleep hormone. Getting sufficient levels of serotonin during the day may improve your chances of getting a good night’s sleep.
Anything that disrupts this sleep/wake cycle, like excessive caffeine, alcohol or video game playing, can have adverse effects on your ability to effectively perform tasks at work, school or home. Insufficient and inconsistent sleep can increase irritability, moodiness and poor judgment. To remain at the top of your game, it’s recommended that you get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
If you have difficulties turning off your brain before bedtime, or if you just need more calm in your life, here are 3 ways serotonin can help you stay in a restful state of mind:
3 Ways to Naturally Boost Your Serotonin Levels
- Consistent Physical Exercise
Exercise is a serotonin intervention – it boosts serotonin in your brain. Multiple research studies have demonstrated that exercise increases the blood levels of tryptophan, which gets into the brain to make more serotonin available. Consistent physical exercise is one of the best ways to improve your serotonin levels and has many other positive effects on your brain and body health.
- Increase Serotonin with Food
Very few foods contain premade serotonin, and once absorbed into the blood it can’t get across the blood-brain barrier. However, tryptophan from food proteins does get across this barrier, so it is possible to support the brain’s serotonin needs by eating foods that boost the brain’s tryptophan levels. Some examples of foods rich in L-tryptophan are: spirulina, seeds (especially pumpkin), squash, chia, watermelon, grass-fed meats (beef, lamb, goat), free-range poultry (chicken, turkey, duck), wild caught salmonand tuna, peas and beans (not canned), tofu, tempeh, tahini, edamame, eggs and spinach.
- Get Nutritional Support
Getting high-quality sleepis essential to wellness. If you have problems falling asleep, a safe, scientifically formulated dietary supplement may help you achieve restful sleep.
One very effective, natural sleep aids is 5-HTP (the direct precursor amino-acid and building block of serotonin.
Taking 5-HTP can help increase the production of soothing brain waves, correct stress-related nutritional deficiencies, and promote relaxation that will enable good quality sleep. It can help you handle the ups and downs of life with more composure. A good formula would include the following nutrients:
- Vitamin B6– Vitamin B6is fundamental to healthy brain function. It’s also an essential cofactor for enzymes that make serotonin and other key transmitters. It works in harmony with methylfolate and methyl-vitamin B12 to support the brain’s structural brain maintenance and functional efficiency.
- Methylfolate– Methylfolate is pre-activated and is the body’s most readily utilized form of the folate vitamin. It’s better utilized than folic acid, which is a manufactured substance not found in nature. Many people cannot efficiently convert folic acid into usable folate.
- Methyl-cobalamin, the body’s most readily utilized form of vitamin B12, is paired with methylfolate to help ensure the brain has sufficient methyl to make melatonin(our sleep hormone) and has the biochemical tools for renewing and maintaining its nearly 200 billion cells. We avoid using cyano-cobalamin, which contains toxic cyanide.
- Lifestyle habits such as consuming smart carbohydrates in moderation, seeking out healthy foods rich in tryptophan, and taking a dietary supplement like 5-HTP can work together to elevate mood and promote restful sleep.