What is Serotonin and How to Boost It? Best Methods and Supplements
What is Serotonin?
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and psychological well-being of a person. Disruption of the production (or disruption of the assimilation processes) of serotonin provokes a deterioration in mood and depression, and the principle of operation of most classes of antidepressants is to regulate and normalize the metabolic mechanisms of this particular hormone.
The secretion of serotonin has a direct effect not only on mood, but also on cognitive function, sleep, and even the work of digestion (about 90% of serotonin in the body is located in the gastrointestinal tract). It should also be noted that the action of many synthetic drugs (eg LSD and MDMA) is based on the sudden release of large levels of serotonin.
The Serotonin-Depression Link
Depression is a complex metabolic disorder affecting primarily the central nervous system and the brain. Symptoms of depression include chronic fatigue, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, poor mood, and low emotional outlook. Depression is often associated with low levels of serotonin in the body.
The food source for the synthesis of serotonin is the amino acid tryptophan, which is found in fish, meat, soy, oat and buckwheat, lentils and other legumes, various nuts, cottage cheese, cheese and dairy products. It is also important that the sleep hormone melatonin is also synthesized from tryptophan – which is why low serotonin levels are often associated with low melatonin.
Tryptophan is a source of good mood
The amino acid tryptophan is a structural component of the protein in many foods. The normal tryptophan intake is about 3.5 mg per kg of body weight per day. In other words, to maintain normal serotonin levels, a 70 kg adult must get at least 250 mg of tryptophan daily from food or supplements.
Since chocolate is one of the foods that contain tryptophan, chocolate is often thought to fight depression by increasing serotonin levels. However, this is not entirely true – excessive consumption of tryptophan in depression is most often pointless, since impaired metabolism does not effectively convert this tryptophan into serotonin.
Tryptophan content in foods:
|Food product||Tryptophan content per 100 g.|
|Caviar (red or black)||960-910 mg|
|Different types of cheese||800-600 mg|
|Nuts (peanuts, almonds, cashews)||750-650 mg|
|Legumes (beans, lentils, soybeans)||650-500 mg|
|Pine nuts||420-400 mg|
|White meat (chicken, rabbit, turkey)||350-300 mg|
|Red meat (beef, veal, lamb)||250-200 mg|
|Fish (herring, salmon, pollock)||220-180 mg|
|Chicken eggs||200-150 mg|
|Cottage cheese||200-150 mg|
|Oatmeal, millet, buckwheat and quinoa||180-150 mg|
|Pearl barley||120-100 mg|
|Vegetables (cabbage, beets, carrots, tomatoes)||60-30 mg|
|Bananas, oranges, apricots||40-20 mg|
|Berries (raspberries, strawberries, cranberries)||25-15 mg|
|Cucumbers, zucchini||20-15 mg|
|Apples, pears||15-12 mg|
Serotonin and bad habits
Scientific research suggests that the level of assimilation of tryptophan from food or dietary supplements (and, in fact, the body’s ability to synthesize the hormones serotonin and melatonin) is closely related to the individual characteristics of the metabolism of a particular person, as well as to his lifestyle and the presence of bad habits.(one)…
Constant stress, smoking, alcohol consumption, a sedentary lifestyle, and poor diet have an extremely negative effect on the chemical balance of the brain. On the one hand, there is an increased need for serotonin, on the other hand, the level of assimilation of tryptophan worsens. The result is the work of the body “for wear and tear” and the development of chronic depression.
How to increase serotonin?
Once again, we note that in the presence of depression, eating foods rich in tryptophan (for example, chocolate or bananas) does not significantly increase serotonin levels. In addition, the problem usually lies not in low serotonin levels per se, but in the body’s inability to “properly” use it.
At the same time, the principle of action of the latest generation of antidepressants – sertraline, fluoxetine and paroxetine – is based not at all on increasing the level of serotonin, but on blocking its reuptake. In other words, these drugs help normalize hormone levels by optimizing the mechanisms for using serotonin, rather than increasing it.
Serotonin and 5-HTP
The amino acid 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan or Oxytriptan), available as an over-the-counter dietary supplement, is the final product of tryptophan processing and is a direct precursor of serotonin. When ingested, this amino acid is converted to serotonin, helping to increase serotonin levels.(3)… Among other things, 5-HTP affects the secretion of melatonin and normalizes sleep.
Clinical studies show that the supplement may well act as a substitute for antidepressants and as an appetite suppressant. However, it must be remembered that 5-HTP should never be combined with prescription antidepressants. It is also important that taking 5-HTP can “mask” depression, complicating the treatment process.
Methods for increasing serotonin
Natural (and completely safe) methods of increasing serotonin are to be in bright light – in the sun in the summer or with the help of special lamps in the winter, as well as regular physical activity. Besides the fact that sport directly affects mood, it indirectly improves and …