5 Ways to Boost Serotonin Naturally
By Sarah Axtell, ND • April 29, 2021
Low levels of serotonin can lead to depression, anxiety, PMS, pain, fatigue, binge eating, hot flashes, low sex drive, and IBS (constipation and/or diarrhea). The most common conventional treatment is antidepressants (such as SSRIs). But there are many natural ways to get your body making more of this “feel-good” neurotransmitter on its own:
- 5-HTP: this is my go-to “natural antidepressant” that I recommend. 5-HTP is a an amino acid precursor to serotonin (ie. building block of serotonin). It has the following effects on the brain: positive mood; relaxation and calming; and healthy eating behavior. This study showed 5-HTP works as effectively as antidepressants for those with early depression. It also has a positive effect on the gut, promoting healthy transit time.
- Vitamin B6: B6 is an important co-factor for serotonin production. I recommend the active form of B6 called “P-5-P.” Here is an article highlighting the association between B6 and depression.
- Heal your gut: Your gut is often termed your “second brain.” The nerve cells in your gut produce 90% of your body’s serotonin. If your gut is inflamed from poor food choice, food sensitivities (most commonly gluten) and/or dysbiosis (SIBO), your production of serotonin will be compromised.
- Exercise: Exercise is the most underutilized anti-depressant. Exercise triggers the release of tryptophan, an amino acid precursor to serotonin. Cardio exercise seems to have the most significant effect.
- Sunlight: Research shows serotonin levels tend to be lower in the winter and higher in the summer. Seasonal affective disorder is absolutely real. Get outside for 20-30 minutes a day to soak up the sun. And if you live in Wisconsin (or anywhere else with a looooong winter), consider getting a “happy lamp,” or a light therapy box. Also, take your vitamin D! Be sure to have your level tested so you know the adequate dose for YOU.
Another natural option I use clinically for low mood, poor focus, and hot flashes is Rhodiola. See these articles on the benefits of this incredibly powerful adaptogenic herb:
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.