12 Ways To Boost Your Serotonin Levels
12 Ways To Boost Your Serotonin Levels

12 Ways To Boost Your Serotonin Levels

Serotonin is the feel-good hormone that plays a key role in everything from sleep and digestion to mood – but dark days, a lack of exercise and a poor diet can throw your levels off. Here’s what three wellness experts recommend to keep your serotonin flowing…
By Tor West

Know The Signs

“If your serotonin levels are low, one of the first things you may notice are mood changes. You may feel low, anxious, struggle to concentrate or feel aggressive or overly tense. You may also experience insomnia, which in itself can take its toll. At the end of the day, serotonin is converted into melatonin, the sleep hormone that makes us feel drowsy and ready for bed. So, if your serotonin is low, you won’t make enough melatonin, which can affect sleep. Digestive issues – especially IBS-related symptoms like constipation and diarrhoea – can also be a sign of low serotonin. This is because most of your serotonin is found in your gut.” – Lucia Stansbie, nutritional therapist


Get Outside

“Serotonin levels are more likely to be low in the winter months, and this is due to a decrease in our exposure to natural light when the days get shorter. There are unique pigments in the back of the eye that are stimulated by exposure to natural light. When sunlight, especially in the morning, reaches this part of the eye, messages are sent to the brain to suppress melatonin production and increase serotonin production. Therefore, when we don’t get as much light exposure in the winter, melatonin levels increase, ‘stealing’ more of our serotonin. This is one of the reasons why we naturally feel more tired and need around two more hours of sleep per night during the winter.” – Phoebe Liebling, nutritional therapist


Do A Workout

“Regular exercise has a positive effect on our mood in more ways than one. It’s also associated with an increase in tryptophan availability to the brain and therefore our ability to synthesis serotonin. Bonus points if you can exercise outdoors – 30 minutes outdoors is enough to have a positive effect on mood.” – Maz Packham, naturopathic nutritionist & founder of Nourishful Nutrition


Eat Foods Rich In Tryptophan

“Serotonin is made from an amino acid called tryptophan, which our bodies convert into another chemical, 5HTP, and then into serotonin. The body can’t produce tryptophan, so we must get it from the diet. If you don’t consume enough tryptophan, you will struggle to produce serotonin. Eating a source of protein at each meal is a good place to start – lean meat like turkey, salmon and tofu are great sources of tryptophan – along with carbs to ensure proteins reach the brain and create serotonin.” – Lucia 


Cut Back On Processed Food

“A high intake of sugary and processed foods will cause spikes in blood sugar that compromise serotonin levels and consequently take our mood on a rollercoaster. For better mood, the quality of your food matters. Cut back on processed food, including foods that seem healthy – protein bars, breakfast cereals and breads with more than four ingredients are all sneaky examples. Instead, focus on real food and get as much colour as you can. Colourful fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds, spices and wholegrains feed your gut microbes, and you actually have more serotonin receptors in the gut than the brain. We know gut bacteria have a direct impact on mood stability, so it’s a double-edged rainbow sword of positivity.” – Phoebe


Ditch Alcohol

“Excessive alcohol consumption can interfere with serotonin production and function, which explains why many people experience the ‘booze blues’ after drinking. The problem with alcohol is that its negative impacts apply to all neurotransmitters, not just serotonin, which is why you can feel so rubbish the day after drinking.” – Phoebe


Avoid Snacking On White Carbs

“This rings true for health overall, but when it comes to mood, you want to be in control of your sugar spikes. Whether it’s from popcorn, fruit, maple syrup or sweets, the nervous system loves sugar, and if you snack on these foods throughout the day, you’ll send your mood into a spin. Your meals should sustain you for four hours at a time, and if you fancy something sweet, have it as a lunchtime dessert within 30-45 minutes. If you do need a snack in between meals, choose something rich in protein and fat, like yoghurt, nuts, a boiled egg, edamame beans or wholegrain toast with avocado or hummus.” – Phoebe


Don’t Look At Screens First Thing

“In the summer, you have more tolerance for increased screen time as the blue light emitted from screens is more equally matched by natural light. However, when we are more reliant on artificial light in the winter months, screen time quickly becomes far more destabilising for your body. Avoiding looking at a screen first thing when it’s still dark outside can make the world of difference. Instead, use this time for movement, to catch up on the news on the radio or turn on a vitamin D lamp (I rate the Lumie range) to trigger your hormones properly. Blue light blockers and screen protectors are a great idea, too.” – Phoebe


Prioritise Deep Sleep

“Poor quality sleep will affect serotonin levels, and studies show quality matters more than quantity. Many things happen in the brain – including resetting our neurotransmitters – when we cycle through the different stages of sleep, but if you don’t get enough daylight exposure during the day, spend hours looking at a screen and go to bed late, it’ll affect your deep REM sleep, the time when the brain and nervous system regenerate. If you get eight hours of sleep but it’s all light sleep, your serotonin levels will remain low.” – Phoebe


Be Specific With Supplements

“When it comes to improving serotonin levels, lifestyle changes should come first. Work on these for two weeks and see how things improve. If you feel you need further support, look at a quality vitamin D supplement as well as an omega-3 and multi mineral complex to build your foundations before adding a 5HTP supplement, a precursor to serotonin. Focusing on sleep with CBD oil and an adaptogen complex, like Motion Nutrition Unplug, can also help.” – Phoebe


Load Up On Vegetables

“Ensuring half of your plate is made up of vegetables will mean you’re getting adequate levels of magnesium, folate and vitamin C in your diet, all of which are essential for the conversion of serotonin to tryptophan. Go organic if you can for added micronutrients, while seasonal fruit and vegetables will be higher in vitamin C. There is a link between vitamin C and mental health, with studies showing individuals with low levels of vitamin C can feel sluggish or depressed. Have berries on your morning porridge, add lemon juice to salad dressing, or swap crisps for carrots to dip into hummus.” – Lucia


Reduce Stress

“Whether it’s through exercise, journalling, meditation, breathwork or catching up with friends, making an effort to lower stress hormones like cortisol will help support balanced neurotransmitters and improve the availability of serotonin. Also be mindful of your caffeine intake. Although caffeine leaves you feeling alert and prevents feelings of fatigue, it can also interfere with other neurotransmitter pathways, including serotonin.” – Maz

DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme

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