Discover the foods that boost your happiness with serotonin

Serotonin is a chemical that plays a fundamental role in our bodies. It is a natural mood stabilizer that controls and happiness.

It is also essential for sleep, digestion, nausea, wound healing, bone and sexual desire. This neurotransmitter, as explained by Health Direct -the Australian government's health page-, is made by the body's nerve cells and is formed “during a chemical reaction involving a protein called tryptophan”, an essential amino acid that our bodies cannot produce on their own. “It has to be obtained from the you eat,” they say.

Most serotonin is found in the intestines

Most serotonin is found in the intestines – around 90% is found in the cells lining the gastrointestinal tract – although it is found throughout the body. It helps our body function properly by sending messages between nerve cells.

Serotonin and mental health

One of serotonin's main functions in our body is that it regulates our mood. “When serotonin is at normal levels, you feel more focused, emotionally stable, happier and calmer,” say Cleveland Clinic.

Instead, low serotonin levels can be associated with many health problems such as depression; anxiety; sleep problems; digestive problems; suicidal behaviors; panic disorder; post-traumatic stress disorder; even phobias.

In fact, many drugs used to treat anxiety, depression and other mood disorders are often aimed at increasing serotonin levels in the brain. Although, they point out from the Cleveland Clinic, “scientists still have much to learn about serotonin's role in the body and in disease”.

Natural strategies to boost serotonin levels

Although drugs are often used to increase serotonin levels in the body, as noted in an article for the Journal of Psychiatry & According to McGill University Professor Emeritus Simon Young, non-pharmacological methods “can also improve mood and social functioning in healthy people”.

In this sense, Young points to four methods: induction of a positive state of mind; greater exposure to sunlight and fresh air; exercise; and food. In the first case, the interaction between serotonin synthesis and mood is thought to be bidirectional, so serotonin influences mood and mood influences serotonin. In this sense, meditation or mindfulness, for example, could be positive.

Sun exposure, Young explains, is a common treatment for SAD, although she notes that some studies also suggest that it is an effective treatment for non-seasonal depression and improves mood in women with PDD and pregnant women with depression.

As for exercise, Young says there are several lines of research suggesting that exercise increases serotonergic function in the brain. And while there is still some skepticism about the antidepressant effect of exercise, for Professor Emeritus “it's that aerobic exercise can improve mood.”

Finally, in terms of , certain foods are rich in tryptophans and can therefore help boost serotonin levels. Among the various foods that naturally contain tryptophan are salmon, eggs, cheese, turkey, tofu, pineapple, nuts, hazelnuts and seeds.

However, they warn CEAN Psychiatrists, “the brain can only absorb tryptophan when it is combined with carbohydrates”. And that's because our bodies need carbohydrates to release insulin, which is needed to absorb amino acids.

“Increased glucose levels stimulate insulin , and insulin in turn makes brain neurons receptive to tryptophan from which the brain creates serotonin,” they explain.

Find the balance for better mental health

By optimizing your serotonin levels naturally, you can improve your and overall well-being. Opt for strategies such as inducing a positive state of mind, greater exposure to sunlight, regular exercise and a tryptophan-rich diet. Don't forget that your mental health is also linked to other factors, such as emotional , social support and stress management. Find out what works best for you, and don't hesitate to seek professional help if necessary.

3.8/5 - (13 votes)