How can I increase my serotonin levels naturally?

We can increase serotonin levels naturally, eating foods with tryptophan, exercising, exposing to sunlight, having a meal high in carbs and taking L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP supplements!

What is serotonin?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter. It’s popular for regulating mood, appetite, temperature, eating behavior, sexual behavior, movement, gastrointestinal motility and sleep![1]

Serotonin is mainly found in the digestive system. Also, it’s stored in blood platelets and the central nervous system.

Increase serotonin levels through food

The body produces serotonin from tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that we should take from food. Hence, it’s important to consume foods with tryptophan for high serotonin levels!

Great dietary sources of tryptophan are chicken, turkey, red meat, pork, fish, eggs, and dairy. Moreover, even people who follow a plant-based diet can have a high tryptophan intake, as beans, nuts, seeds, and cereals are good sources.

For instance, soybeans, tofu, oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, sweet potatoes, wheat bread, chocolate, peanuts, spinach, broccoli, avocados, and bananas are great dietary sources of tryptophan.

The recommended daily intake of tryptophan is about 250-425 mg.[2] As many foods are high in tryptophan, most people consume more than 900 mg of tryptophan a day.

Moreover, the synthesis of serotonin demands adequate amounts of vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folic acid, and iron:[3,4]

  • As we can’t get adequate amounts of vitamin B12 from food, a weekly dosage of 1,000 mg from supplements may promote serotonin synthesis.
  • Great plant-based sources of iron are chocolate, spinach, tofu, chickpeas, lentils, white beans, goji berries, raisins, prunes, whole wheat bread, rice, tomatoes, and potatoes.[5]
  • High doses of vitamin B6 are in chickpeas, oats, potatoes, bananas, rice, onions, spinach, raisins, and many more. Moreover, vitamin B6 is necessary for weight loss.
  • eating vegetables is the best way to consume high doses of folic acid. For instance, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, asparagus, kale, spinach, avocados, bananas, and beans are great dietary sources.

Exposure to sunlight may increase serotonin levels

Another great way to increase your serotonin levels is sun exposure! It seems that the sunlight promotes the synthesis of serotonin. According to studies, serotonin levels are higher during the morning and in the summer.

Hence, sunlight, along with high levels of tryptophan, could help people with depression.[6] Moreover, sunlight promotes the synthesis of vitamin D. Vitamin D is also vital for fighting depression and having a good mood.

Exercise increases serotonin levels

We can increase our serotonin levels with exercise! Exercise increases the synthesis and the release of serotonin.

It seems that fatigue during exercise is associated with elevated brain tryptophan, the building block of serotonin! Therefore, exercise increase the serotonin synthesis.

That’s because exercise to fatigue leads to the depletion of other amino acids from the blood.[6] These amino acids, and especially BCAAs, are tryptophan’s competitors. These amino acids inhibit the synthesis of serotonin, as they inhibit tryptophan transport into the brain.

We need carbs for increased serotonin levels

Another way to increase your serotonin levels naturally is by having a meal high in carbs. No protein, no fat.

Tryptophan competes with other amino acids. Eating a meal high in carbs releases insulin which transfer amino acids away from the cells of the brain.

Tryptophan isn’t so vulnerable to insulin. So, there is more tryptophan into the blood compared to other amino acids. Hence, more tryptophan can reach the brain, synthesizing more serotonin!

On the contrary, eating meals high in protein won’t promote serotonin synthesis. High-protein meals contain high amounts of other amino acids which compete with tryptophan.

Certainly, we should consume meals with protein to take the recommended tryptophan dose. But, we better have a meal rich in carbs, in order, to give tryptophan the chance to reach the brain cells and promote the synthesis of serotonin.

On the other hand, even small amounts of protein could inhibit the production of serotonin. We should avoid protein altogether for this high-carb meal.

Furthermore, we can trigger the synthesis of serotonin, if we eat a breakfast high in carbs, such as oatmeal! It seems that only the first meal of the day can greatly affect the synthesis of serotonin!

Additionally, we can increase serotonin levels, having a meal high in carbs, such as sucrose and starch, right after a workout. In this case, the body has used all glycogen in muscles for energy. Also, the stomach is empty. So, eating carbs after exercise has a huge impact on the synthesis of serotonin.

Moreover, eating carbs is good for faster muscle recovery.

Supplements can instantly increase serotonin levels

Certainly, there are supplements, such as L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP that can increase serotonin levels.

While these supplements are considered pretty safe, you should consult your doctor before taking them. They could interfere with other medication causing serious adverse effects.

Above all, eating foods with tryptophan, walking outdoors, and having a breakfast high in carbs are the safest ways to boost serotonin synthesis naturally!

Avoid excess alcohol consumption

Last, but not least, you shouldn’t consume too much alcohol. High alcohol consumption decreases the ability of tryptophan to reach brain cells up to 25%, impairing serotonin synthesis.

In addition, stress, insulin resistance, magnesium deficiency, and age can affect serotonin synthesis.