There are times when we feel down and we don’t know why. Nothing special has happened, but we have not managed to reach a satisfactory state of mind. In these cases, low serotonin levels may be the cause.
A fast pace of life, a poor diet and lack of exercise cause our serotonin levels to drop, resulting in a highly variable and generally low mood. Nevertheless, there are ways to increase serotonin naturally . We will see them throughout this article.
Serotonin: the hormone of happiness
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is synthesized, among many other places, in our brain . Traditionally, it has been assigned the name of the “particle of happiness” or the “neurotransmitter of happiness”.
The reason for this is that serotonin is the main factor regulating our mood. This neurotransmitter, which also plays a fundamental role in the regulation of our intestinal functioning, has the capacity to carry out the chemical reactions necessary to increase our sense of well-being and satisfaction .
In the same way, serotonin can help us better cope with the stress and tension of everyday life. However, when stress levels are considerably high, stress tends to decrease. So we run the risk of experiencing some emotional instability.
In addition, a deficit of serotonin, together with a whole set of external and internal factors, can facilitate the appearance and development of any type of depressive disorder. The reason is that when our body stops synthesising it, for reasons of stress, deficiencies in our diet, etc., we are less able to control the ups and downs in our state of mind .
This neurotransmitter of happiness is synthesized in our body thanks to the action of tryptophan. This molecule is an essential amino acid vital for the proper functioning of our brain. Fortunately, tryptophan is found in a wide variety of foods , so the consumption of these, along with a healthy lifestyle, can help us increase serotonin levels and consequently feel much better.
How to increase the amount of serotonin in the brain?
As mentioned above, there are ways to increase the levels of serotonin in our body. Although there are artificial ways to keep our serotonin levels high, there are many other natural, and much more satisfying, ways to raise it.
Next we’ll look at a series of recommendations or tricks that we can perform when we feel that our mood is not very positive.
1. Attempt to decrease stress levels
As specified at the beginning of the article, serotonin can help us manage stress better. However, when stress levels are excessive, it is stress that exerts a harmful influence on serotonin.
Constant stress decreases serotonin and increases our blood levels of the stress hormone estradiol , lowering our defences and worsening our health both physically and psychologically.
In addition, another effect of stress is related to diet, the main pillar for the correct synthesis and maintenance of serotonin levels. When we feel stressed, our organism asks us for foods rich in fats, carbohydrates and sugars; three of the main enemies of serotonin.
Therefore, it is not necessary to wait until we feel down to start worrying about our stress and our eating habits, but the best thing is to maintain a healthy lifestyle that helps us avoid, or at least counteract, this downward spiral
2. Varied diet rich in tryptophan
The importance of achieving a nutritionally varied and balanced diet must be stressed. Most foods contain tryptophan. However, there are a number of them that are distinguished by their high content of this amino acid. These are:
- Turkey meat and chicken.
- Blue fish .
- Pineapple, avocados and plums.
- Spinach, beets, carrots , celery, dates and broccoli.
- Dried fruits (which also provide magnesium and omega-3)
- Whole grains and brown rice.
- Sesame seeds and pumpkin .
- Vegetables such as chickpeas, lentils or soybeans.
- Dark chocolate.
- Spirulina algae .
Therefore, a healthy diet containing these foods on a daily basis will help us satisfy our tryptophan needs and therefore keep our serotonin levels high.
3. Avoiding simple carbohydrates
Simple carbohydrates are highly refined sugars that are digested very quickly and have little or no nutritional value , as they do not contain enough essential nutrients.
Foods containing simple carbohydrates include
- Pastries and sweets with refined sugar.
- Non-wholemeal pasta.
- White rice.
- White bread.
4. Increase omega-3 consumption
In addition to tryptophan, there are many other elements present in foods that can help us increase our serotonin levels. A diet rich in fatty acids, such as omega-3 , promotes the production and regulation of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline.
One of the main sources of healthy fats is oily fish and seafood. However, there are other foods such as avocado, nuts and flax, chia and hemp seeds , foods rich in alpha-linoleic acid.
5. Avoid consumption of coffee and stimulant drinks
Drinks with a high caffeine content, such as coffee or some types of soft drinks or energy drinks, increase the secretion of adrenaline and cortisol; substances that, as we have seen before, are the main antagonists of serotonin.
In addition, these drinks are also characterized by their high sugar content, which makes them extremely exciting foods with very little nutritional value.
It is well known that physical exercise facilitates the metabolism of serotonin and therefore increases serotonin levels.
For this reason, regular physical activity can help keep our serotonin levels high, as it also increases our tryptophan levels.
7. Looking for places with sun and lots of light
Another compound that has a powerful effect on serotonin production is vitamin D. In addition to food, this vitamin D increases with exposure to sunlight . These rays of the sun are a very important help in obtaining vitamin D, since it is synthesized in the skin from the rays of the sun.
In this way, working in brightly lit spaces, exercising outdoors or taking a walk in nature will be perfect allies when it comes to feeling emotionally well and stable.
8. Get the necessary sleep
Lack of sleep is another major enemy in our fight against stress and fatigue. While we sleep our body restores our serotonin levels , so a proper rest will also be essential in keeping our mental health intact.