Ever heard or read about that “feel good hormone”? You are right if you are thinking of serotonin. It is the hormone which has an enormous influence on brain functions. Serotonin is one among various neurotransmitters produced in the body. Neurotransmitters are substances or chemicals which are responsible for transmission of messages between brain cells.
It is produced in the brain cells as well as in cells of gastrointestinal tract. This vital hormone has control over numerous functions in the body, such as, mood changes, sleep, appetite control, memory, contraction of muscles.
Of late serotonin has come in limelight for its role in depression and other mental disorders. Researchers believe that lack of serotonin level in brain is responsible for problems such as depression and low energy level, although there is no clear understanding of the exact mechanism behind less production or its utilization by the body.
There is plethora of drugs available to enhance serotonin level and boost the mood; they are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Most of them are found effective and to an extent safe. However, they can produce many unwanted side effects that can affect daily life such as constipation, appetite fluctuations, loss of libido, excessive sleep, nausea etc.For those who do not want to take this route, certain natural foods and methods can also be as effective to elevate the level of serotonin.
How To Naturally Increase Serotonin Levels?
- Eat protein rich food: Protein contains amino acid called L-tryptophan. Serotonin is synthesized from this amino acid in the brain. Below are given foods that are rich source of tryptophan. Fish such as salmon and tuna, soy products, green peas, beans, cheese, yogurt, lean meat, eggs, turkey, mangoes, cassava etc are rich source of tryptophan. The vitamins present in these foods also act as catalysts in production of serotonin.
- Eat carbohydrate foods: Eat complex carbohydrates as they remain sustained in the blood more time than simple carbohydrates such as sugar. Complex carbohydrate takes longer time to get digested and the level of sugar and insulin remains stable all the time, instead to rapid ups and downs seen after eating sugar. Sustained level of insulin helps tryptophan to reach the brain quickly. Therefore eat foods containing complex carbohydrates when you feel depressed. Such foods are brown rice, dark chocolates, oats, sweet potatoes, almonds, walnuts, pistachio, bananas, pineapple, products made from whole wheat etc.
- Exercise is considered to be mood elevator. This is because after exercise serotonin level rises. Exercise gives a feeling of calm and happiness. It is not necessary to do heavy weight lifting, or going to gym. Simple brisk walking, swimming, cycling, jogging or aerobic exercise can also give a feel good sensation and elevate serotonin in brain.
- Sleep is essential for optimum production of serotonin in brain. Sleep for 7 to 8 hours daily.
- Reduce the intake of caffeinated products as it is known to cause in reduction of serotonin. Also stop drinking alcohol or consume it moderation as it is known to reduce the production of serotonin.
- Fish oil contains omega 3 fatty acids. Although it is not directly involved in production of serotonin hormone, the omegas present in it help to keep the brain healthy and active.
- Relax and control stress: Job stress or personal relationship stress diminishes the production of serotonin in brain. Practice yoga and meditation as it helps to relieve stress and anxiety.