More and more people are talking about this “happy hormone” called serotonin. This naturally produced bodily chemical has become so popular in some groups that memes and other pop culture references have been created. So what is this happy hormone and what should we know about it?
Dr. Vikki Petersen, certified clinical nutritionist, chiropractor and certified functional medicine practitioner, explains what serotonin is and ways to boost it naturally.
“Serotonin is a chemical produced by your nerves and is found mostly in your digestive tract, but also in your central nervous system.
It sends signals between nerve cells and is known to affect mood, memory and cognition. The concept of the brain-gut connection is explained by where serotonin is produced and the fact that it affects brain and mood function. When serotonin levels are ideal happiness, focus and calm are the results,” says Dr. Vikki Petersen.
Since serotonin is primarily produced in the digestive tract, this means it’s directly connected to what you eat. Food plays a major role in serotonin production.
Tip #1:Staying Hydrated
Dehydration can deplete your body’s ability to get tryptophan, the amino acid that converts to serotonin, from arriving in your brain. Dehydration, very common amongst Americans, is associated with insufficient serotonin levels. Make sure to get plenty of water to boost your odds of feeling happy and well.
Tip #2: Regular Exercise
Research has shown that regular exercise that raises your heart rate boosts serotonin levels. This aligns with research supporting brain function optimization with regular exercise. Exercise also boosts dopamine, another happy hormone, so just by getting up getting moving, you get a double dose of feel-good hormones.
Tip #3: Healthy Gut
Serotonin is mostly found in your gut. Balanced serotonin levels are affected by healthy gut tissues and a good balance of gut bacteria.
It has long been known that an unhealthy gut causes an increased risk of cognitive decline, mood swings and depression. Eat pre and probiotic-containing foods to help keep your gut healthy and strong so it can create the serotonin your body needs.
Tip #4: Adequate Sleep
Sleep deprivation leads to decreased serotonin levels. Setting up your schedule for 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night is ideal, but at least try to set a consistent wake and sleep schedule, even if this means a bit less sleep each night. Feelings rested will help your body produce the right amount of serotonin to keep you feeling great.
Tip #5: Healthy Diet
In order to have a healthy gut and produce adequate serotonin, you need a healthy diet. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil help serotonin production. Many Americans do not enjoy fish plus finding safe sources that are farm-raised and therefore not tainted with mercury (a neurotoxin) can be difficult. I think the safest way to obtain omega-3s is through supplementing from a trusted source. Tryptophan helps to make serotonin, but it turns out that turkey is not a good source. Better sources are whole grains, potatoes and corn (if you can tolerate it and it’s non-GMO).