Though you may have heard the term “serotonin” and that serotonin and mood are linked, you may not know what serotonin is or why it’s important. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter – a chemical substance produced in the brain that sends nerve impulses to the synapses of other cells. Not only are serotonin and mood tied together, serotonin influences much more when it comes to your health.
What does serotonin do?
Serotonin can be found in the cardiovascular, immune, and gastrointestinal systems, helping to control how they function in your body. Because serotonin affects the central nervous system, it plays a role in learning, sleep, emotions, and appetite.
What are the effects of reduced serotonin production?
Alterations in serotonin levels have been linked to common mood disorders, such as mental sluggishness, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Studies show that depressed patients have lower serotonin levels than non-depressed patients, causing a lack of sleep, reduced appetite, and inability to concentrate. That’s why doctors often prescribe antidepressants that stimulate the production of serotonin. This connection between the health effects of serotonin and mood has caused researchers to look into different ways serotonin levels can be regulated with lifestyle changes, as well as antidepressants.
What natural ways can serotonin be regulated?
One of the problems with the effect of serotonin and mood on our overall health is that we may not know when our bodies aren’t producing enough serotonin. Here are two of the best ways to keep serotonin on a more even level:
- Exercise on a regular basis. By getting a good sweat going, you not only work towards better heart health, endorphins get pumped into your system, giving you a natural high. This also ups the serotonin, and mood, levels in your brain. Try adding a moderate cardio routine a few days a week to keep the good vibes going. Taking walks or running outside may also help to brighten your mood even more.
- Focus on good nutrition. Foods containing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, protein, folic acid, and vitamins C, B6 and E will help to naturally increase your serotonin levels. Try eating foods that contain high levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to produce serotonin in the brain. A fast way to get tryptophan is through carbohydrates, which could be why we crave carbs when we are upset; the link between serotonin and mood are so integrally connected that we naturally go for foods that will boost our serotonin levels. Foods like yogurt, meat, and eggs are all healthy choices for meeting your body’s craving for tryptophan, and you’ll still be influencing serotonin and mood.
If you are feeling a little out of the ordinary when it comes to your mood, or if you’re having trouble sleeping or concentrating at work, try to get more exercise and eat foods that affect the body’s level of serotonin. Both strategies can help promote a more upbeat feeling of well being.