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Easy and Natural Ways to Raise Low Serotonin Levels

 

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Copyright © 2007 Mary Ann Copson

 

Research indicates that in the United States 60-80% of the people, especially women, have low serotonin levels. You don’t have to get caught in the low serotonin cycle of hopelessness and despair. You can alter your low serotonin levels by carefully orchestrating your foods, activities and daily routines and habits.

You alter your brain chemistry, manipulate your neurochemical profile and affect your body’s physiology every day by what you do and don’t eat, what you think about, and how and where you spend your time. Through your daily behaviors and the environments in which you spend your time, you create your biochemical profile and this is reflected in the emotions, energy, thoughts, actions, and psychological states that either bring you into peak performance or that block your best functioning.

You have an enormous power to shape your inner world – your experience of life. What you do every day, what you eat, when you eat it, what activities you engage in and when you engage in them, what kind of environment in which you live and work – everything you do and do not do – shapes how you feel, think and how you experience your life.

You can create the range of emotions, energy levels and intellectual and creative functioning that you want. You can learn how to use what you do and do not do everyday and how you do it to create inner strength, hope, joy, mental alertness, and enthusiasm. By designing a life that keeps your biochemistry in balance you can maintain a state of optimal wellness, vitality and performance. When you understand the optimal physiological requirements of your body operating at its best, you can design your lifestyle to provide the diet, exercise, behaviors, thoughts, scheduling, and environment to support and nourish this optimal state of functioning in your body.

 

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1. Serotonin levels are increased by a carbohydrate rich diet.

When you eat carbohydrates it results in a rise in insulin levels that acts to usher the amino acid tryptophan into the brain. Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin. One and a half ounces of carbohydrate food (1/4 cup of oatmeal or a piece of sourdough bread) will significantly boost brain levels of serotonin. The healthiest carbohydrates to use are whole grain, low glycemic index carbohydrates such as barley, oats, buckwheat and carbohydrate rich vegetables such as yams, sweet potatoes and squashes. Fruits and most other vegetables have a neutral effect on brain chemistry.

Learn more about insulin, the glycemic index and how carbohydrates relate to serotonin metabolism here.

2. Eat the kinds of protein that favor serotonin production.

These proteins are high in the amino acid tryptophan: chicken, white flakey fish, lean cuts of pork, veal, cottage cheese, lamb, low fat cheeses, low fat milk and dairy products, soy and legumes.

3. All meditative activities raise serotonin levels.

Spend time in a natural place such as a forest, park, mountains, or seashore.

Prayer, meditation, positive visualization boost serotonin levels and your feelings of well being, relaxed concentration and peace.

Engage in low arousal, highly meditative and internal spiritual practices that relax you.

Try relaxing activities such as hobbies or crafts.

4. Engage in exercise that increases your heart rate somewhat but not significantly.

Strolling, yoga, non-aerobic swimming, bike riding when done at least 4 days in a row a week will over a period of 60 days increase your baseline serotonin levels.

5. Have a regular wake sleep cycle.

The production of serotonin for the next day requires at least 7 continuous hours of sound high quality sleep the night before.

6. Get out in the sun at least 30 minutes in the morning and for 2 hours throughout the day.

Sunlight burns off melatonin produced the night before. The presence of high levels of melatonin consumes serotonin. Sunlight suppressed the production of melatonin and allows your serotonin levels to rise during the day. Without the exposure to adequate natural light your melatonin levels will be higher and your serotonin levels will be lower.

7. Eat a meal with high level of proteins that contain tryptophan and follow that by a carbohydrate snack two hours later.

This will act to drive the lingering tryptophan into the brain and set up the production of greater amounts of serotonin the next day.

8. Do things that revitalize you and let you feel good.

Take a low activity, high relaxation vacation with your family or by yourself with plenty of time to slow down.

Listen to classical music, light rock, folk or easy listening music.

Visit a museum, go to the theater, the symphony, or watch TV or films about love stories, comedies and other feel good movies.

Engage in long, deep conversations with one or two other people.

Clean and organize your environment.

Read: Self-help books are especially complimentary.

 

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Mary Ann Copson is the founder of the Evenstar Mood & Energy Wellness Center for Women. With Master's Degrees in Human Development and Psychology and Counseling, Mary Ann is a Certified Licensed Nutritionist; Certified Holistic Health Practitioner; Brain Chemistry Profile Clinician; and a Health, Wellness and Lifestyle Coach. Discover ways to positively affect your neurotransmitter profile at http://evenstaronline.com/brainchemistry

 

People in this conversation

  • Bridgette, you don't mention whether your diet contains the major sources of the amino acid tryptophan, such as poultry. An adequate intake of tryptophan is essential to maintain serotonin production.

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  • Hi Jo,

    I suffer from chronic depression and SAD and find that cloudy days are almost as bad as the dark inter days so for me it really has to be bright sunlight to get the benefits. Any light is better than none though so getting outside for walks might help - exercise obviously helps depression as well. Adrenal fatigue due to chronic stress and other factors, as well as blood sugar imbalance/hypoglycemia, are sometimes contributors to poor sleep patterns. Good luck!

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  • Hi John,

    I looked at the use of tryptophan in depression during my degree studies and didn't come across any research looking at the timing of protein and carbohydrate consumption - in fact the research base is very small in general although what there is has been quite encouraging.

    It would seem likely that loading with protein/tryptophan and then having a high carb meal an hour or two later would increase serotonin levels in the brain the most. Eating protein and carbohydrate together would attenuate the blood sugar rise and decrease the amount of insulin released and thus the amount of tryptophan transported across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) into the brain.

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  • Hi Christina,

    I'm glad you found this article useful. It seems you're not the only one as it has been the site's most popular article for some time now!

    I myself have struggled with low serotonin as well as seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D). I've found many of the recommendations in this article particularly meditation, exercise (I can currently manage a round of golf), getting to bed at a sensible time and getting sufficient natural light exposure.

    If the measures in this article don't help you to improve as much as you'd like you can also try nutrients and herbs such as 5HTP, St John's Wort and Rhodiola rosea. Vitamin D may also be helpful particularly in winter(as might light therapy).

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