We’re living in some of the most stressful times in recent history, and many people are reaching to pharmaceutical antidepressants to help manage increasing symptoms of depression. Besides pharmaceutical drugs to manage mood and mental health, there are a number of ways to increase serotonin naturally, reduce feelings of depression, and boost mood and brain function. Here’s what you need to know to increase your serotonin naturally and support your brain health.
What is Serotonin?
Known as your main “feel-good” neurotransmitter, serotonin helps to boost mood, give you energy, and support healthy brain function, gut health, among other actions. While the hormone serotonin impacts your whole body, it is mostly found in the digestive system, and made from the amino acid, tryptophan. Having low tryptophan levels can lead to low serotonin, and impact your mood, sleep, and mental health.
Most antidepressant drugs work to increase the amount of available serotonin in your brain. They are called SSRI’s or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, giving your brain more serotonin to help calm anxiety, depression, and other symptoms of low serotonin levels.
Inflammation, Mood and Depression
One of the biggest factors influencing mood imbalances and serotonin levels can be seen in the chronic cycle of inflammation, stress, and depression. Acute and chronic stress s fuels inflammation in the brain and body, impacting serotonin and depression. At the same time, inflammation in the gut and throughout the body worsens mental and emotional health and can cause more depression and anxiety.
One of the chemical messengers released during inflammation is histamine (the compound that can also trigger uncontrolled allergies). Research shows a direct link between excess histamine and reduced serotonin in the brain.1
This is a vicious cycle that can be worsened by other inflammation-promoting factors, like an unhealthy diet, toxins in the body, and lack of exercise—all of which can derail both your mental and physical health. By adopting natural strategies that support healthy inflammation responses and improve serotonin levels, we can enhance not only our mood and mental health, but total-body health and aging as well.
How to Naturally Boost Serotonin and Support Your Mental Health
Here are 5 natural strategies to boost serotonin and support vibrant mental health:
Eat Tryptophan Foods
For mood and relaxation, tryptophan is available in many different foods like turkey, eggs, cheese, milk, bananas, pineapple, pumpkin seeds, oats, and others. Studies show that high tryptophan foods can improve mood and emotional health.2
Yoga for Mood and Mental Health
Yoga is a time-honored practice that incorporates mindfulness and breathing with movements to stretch and strengthen your body and mind. Numerous studies have shown yoga to be effective in reducing anxiety, stress and depression, and boosting mood and mental health. It’s also shown to improve serotonin levels. Yoga is an excellent form of exercise that can help to support healthy inflammation responses, oxygenate tissues including the brain, and increase endorphins—brain chemicals that boost your mood and alleviate stress and pain.3
Mindfulness meditation is an excellent way to calm the brain and body, reduce stress, and help eliminate depression. A number of studies have shown that mindfulness meditation practice can be as effective in some cases as antidepressants, but without the risk of side effects. Studies show it can also boost serotonin. Regular meditation can actually change the way your brain responds to stress, helping you to be more resilient and increasing feelings of wellbeing and happiness.4
Probiotics and Supplements for a Healthy Mood
The gut-brain connection is a key pathway in the body between your digestive system and your neurological system—particularly the brain. Having a healthy gut keeps your brain healthy, and supports optimal serotonin levels. Probiotics can help you maintain a healthy gut and support the gut-brain connection.
A number of probiotics are shown to support a healthy mood and brain function, including boosting serotonin levels. Known as “psychobiotics”, these probiotics boost mood, reduce stress, and increase feelings of happiness. In particular, Bifidobacterium longum and Lactobacillus rhamnosus are shown to improve serotonin metabolism and support healthy mood.5,6
ecoProbiotic is a certified organic, liquid probiotic formula with prebiotics and 19 digestive supporting herbs for optimal gut health and microbiome balance. This first-in-class, fermented gut health formula contains 8 live, clinically studied probiotic strains, including Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and others have been shown to support a healthy mood through multiple actions.*
Pure honokiol is a powerful botanical extract that continues to gain attention in the scientific literature for its benefits in mood and brain health, stress, and more. Honokiol is derived from magnolia bark which has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese herbalism to address mood and neurological health. Pure honokiol crosses the blood-brain barrier and enhances activity of the neurotransmitter GABA to promote relaxation and a sense of calm, and support a healthy mood. Pure honokiol also supports healthy inflammation responses in the brain and throughout the body, and promotes healthy cognitive function.
Healthy Brain-Body Chemistry
October is national depression education and awareness month, and it’s important to realize that that mood imbalances can be complex and have many possible causes. Speaking with a qualified health professional about mood imbalances is important to help develop a plan that’s right for you. These healthy mood support strategies can provide a solid foundation to help lift your mood, boost resilience to stress, and support healthy brain function and chemistry. Your mental health matters.
- Hersey M, Samaranayake S, Berger SN, et al. Inflammation-Induced Histamine Impairs the Capacity of Escitalopram to Increase Hippocampal Extracellular Serotonin. J Neurosci. 2021 Jul 28;41(30):6564-6577.
- Mohajeri MH, Wittwer J, Vargas K, et al. Chronic treatment with a tryptophan-rich protein hydrolysate improves emotional processing, mental energy levels and reaction time in middle-aged women. Br J Nutr. 2015 Jan 28;113(2):350-65.
- Timothy McCall. Can You Prove That Yoga Works? Yoga Journal website. Updated Aug 28, 2007. Accessed October 4th, 2021.
- Krishnakumar D, Hamblin MR, Lakshmanan S. Meditation and Yoga can Modulate Brain Mechanisms that affect Behavior and Anxiety-A Modern Scientific Perspective. Anc Sci. 2015;2(1):13-19.
- Cao YN, Feng LJ, Wang BM, et al. Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium longum supernatants upregulate the serotonin transporter expression in intestinal epithelial cells. Saudi J Gastroenterol. 2018 Jan-Feb;24(1):59-66.
- Li H, Wang P, Huang L, et al. Effects of regulating gut microbiota on the serotonin metabolism in the chronic unpredictable mild stress rat model. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2019 Oct;31(10):e13677.