Serotonin: What is it, and how to increase it?
Serotonin is one of the most important neurotransmitters for happiness. This hormone plays a fundamental role in regulating mood. A chronic low in serotonin synthesis is one of the leading causes of depression and anxiety.
The goal of most antidepressant medications is to increase serotonin temporarily. However, it is not the only way to achieve it; increasing serotonin without drugs is possible.
The following article describes effective natural foods and supplements to increase serotonin.
Causes and consequences of low serotonin
Determining the causes that lower this hormone and what foods affect it is the key to increasing its levels.
For example, increasing serotonin under stressful situations is impossible. We have all been able to notice how our mood changes in a stressful situation, the smile fades in seconds.
This is explained because the synthesis of serotonin decreases when the production of cortisol increases. In other words, some hormones act oppositely.
The main consequences of low serotonin concentrations are increased aggressiveness, sudden mood swings, and relationship difficulties. This is explained due to an increase in the activity of the frontal area of the cortex. (3)
According to Elena Baixaulli, a renowned psychologist from the University of Valencia, the lack of human relationships and understanding of the world around us is one of the leading causes of low serotonin and oxytocin.
As a solution, it proposes not only maintaining a continuous and lasting physical and mental attraction to another person. But try to answer the question: What is the meaning of life?
According to Baixaulli, expanding the understanding of how our brain works and combining it with a solid emotional connection can increase serotonin significantly.
This turns off the activity of the amygdala, the part of the brain related to negative emotions like fear. (3)
Foods to increase serotonin
Scientists have put it more practically: increase serotonin naturally, emphasizing food. What are they saying?
According to scientists, tryptophan foods are the key to increasing serotonin. (4) (6) (7). When tryptophan is not available in the body, it cannot synthesize the hormone.
Before gorging on foods with tryptophan, it should be known that they effectively regulate serotonin levels when their levels are low. Not to increase them when they are normal.
The recommended daily intake of tryptophan is about 250 mg per day per person, although up to 6 grams can be used to increase serotonin.
In a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology (5), up to 40% have been reported to increase serotonin when supplementing mice with tryptophan.
As well as, significant values (26%) have been registered when supplying the animals with tryptophan after high doses of MDMA.
Although the study suggests further advances in the knowledge of the relationship between foods and supplements with tryptophan in increasing serotonin.
Scientists propose using hydrolyzed tryptophan as a possible way out and alternative to psychotropic drugs. In particular, as a treatment for post-depression after using symptomatic medications such as ecstasy.
Does chocolate increase serotonin?
There is a myth that chocolate is capable of increasing serotonin. What do the studies say?
A study published in the JAMA (8) Network states that some types of chocolate are capable of indirectly increasing serotonin.
Scientists explain that the combination of carbohydrates with tryptophan causes the concentration of this amino acid to enter the brain and stimulate the instantaneous production of this hormone.
In contrast, a study in the Journal of Affective Disorders (7) states that the effects of chocolate consumption on increasing serotonin are short-lived. According to them, when chocolate is consumed to cure psychological disorders, there are more chances of prolonging the habit than of stopping the symptoms of depression.
In short, eating chocolate can instantly increase serotonin, not permanently regulate it. The principle works when there is a lack of foods with tryptophan in the diet.
While it is a good strategy when going through a temporary emotional situation, it should not be seen as the solution to the problem.
Natural Supplements to Increase Serotonin – Silymarin
Most pharmaceutical drugs work by regulating serotonin and norepinephrine synthesis mechanisms. While they are practical and capable of increasing serotonin quickly, they often have a long list of side effects.
The search for natural supplements to replace them is raised by some scientists as an excellent strategy to increase serotonin naturally.
In addition to fewer side effects, herbal and herbal medicines tend to be lower in cost, thus gaining ground on the market.
It has been confirmed that some medicinal plants, such as silymarin, can increase serotonin significantly. (2)
Some compounds present in silymarin interact with serotonin receptors. For this reason, they are effective in increasing and regulating this molecule.
The bad news: treatments to increase serotonin with medicinal plants such as silymarin have synergistic effects with certain types of antibiotics. (2)
There are indeed natural treatments to increase serotonin without synthetic drugs; silymarin is one. However, it is essential to know that all medicines (genuine or not) must be carried out under the supervision of a professional. It’s hazardous to self-medicate when it comes to mental health.
Lack of vitamins and low serotonin
The lack of vitamins is directly related to low serotonin. The vitamins that most influence moods are vitamin D and vitamins of group B. Vitamin B3, for example, is essential for synthesizing serotonin and melatonin.
Vitamin D is one of the essential fat-soluble nutrients that the body manufactures in conjunction with the effect of UV rays. The consumption of vitamin D in capsules is recommended for those who live in areas where the days of the sunny season are counted in winter.
Lack of vitamin D is common during cold seasons. It is one of the leading causes of depression due to eating. The lack of this vitamin weakens the immune system and accelerates the reproduction of cancer cells. (1) Including vitamin D through food is essential to increase serotonin naturally.
Serotonin and weight gain
Serotonin plays a fundamental role in regulating body weight. The direct relationship between serotonin levels and the desire to eat has been confirmed for more than 30 years. (4) This explains why drugs that stimulate serotonin release (like MDMA) make a person lose interest in food.
Recent studies have found receptors related to appetite and weight gain via serotonin. (4,5) Such studies are not yet conclusive on how to increase serotonin to regulate body weight. However, they state that it is necessary to say that foods with tryptophan should not be lacking in the diet.
- Serotonin is one of the most important neurotransmitters. Normal serotonin levels are associated with a better sense of well-being.
- How to increase serotonin without drugs? Avoiding a lack of vitamins, stressful situations, poor sleep, social isolation, and the use of synthetic drugs is the first thing to do.
- Foods with tryptophan are effective in increasing serotonin when it is lacking. Nuts are foods with a higher concentration of amino acids.
- Current research does not agree on whether dark chocolate is an excellent way to increase serotonin or not. However, they do not pose it as a solution to the problem.
- Silymarin is a medicinal plant with the potential effects to increase serotonin naturally. Although there are still more studies to be done, it may be a future alternative to treatments with psychotropic drugs and other synthetic drugs.