Are you wondering if you have a serotonin deficiency, and want to know how to increase serotonin naturally and safely?
If you've landed here today, you're probably wondering if a serotonin supplement will help you feel better.....to help you become less anxious, less depressed, to sleep better, lose weight, cope better with the stress in your life. And yes, all of these benefits can truly be yours with a serotonin boost.
Yet....it's not always that simple. Let's face it, it can be risky to mess with your brain chemistry too drastically without getting all the facts.
Photo credit: Michal Marcol at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Like you, I've heard a lot about the benefits of boosting serotonin - it's known as the "happiness brain chemical" after all!
But when I began to look into it, I found that there is a lot of wrong and incomplete information out there. The brain is incredibly complex in the way it works, and low serotonin is just one of the many imbalances that can play havoc with your mood and sense of well-being. If you just rely on a serotonin supplement to boost your mood, you risk other deficiencies such as dopamine - a brain chemical that gets you energised and motivated.
Serotonin supplements can be great for boosting your mood and reducing food cravings, but they're not for everybody. There are some people who shouldn't take serotonin supplements, and you need to know if you are one of them, and if you would be better off trying something else.
How to increase serotonin naturally
My guess is that you are wanting to avoid pharmaceutical medications such as Prozac and Zoloft and other SSRIs because you are concerned about side-effects and the risks of long-term use – so you want to make sure that any serotonin supplements you use are safe and effective. This was my big concern, and I've done a lot of digging around, sorting through all the information I could find.
So what is serotonin, and why is it important?
Serotonin in your brain helps to regulate sleep, body temperature, memory, learning, mood and appetite.... and more. If your brain serotonin level is too low or is otherwise not working properly, there are a lot of things that can go wrong!
If you want to find out more about the biology of serotonin and how it works, you can read more here.
How can I tell if I have a serotonin deficiency?
Although there is a blood test to measure serotonin, it won't tell you anything much about your brain serotonin level. At this stage, the only way to diagnose a serotonin deficiency is by your symptom profile. Read more here...
Here are some serotonin deficiency symptoms to watch out for:
Low brain serotonin levels have been linked with a whole range of conditions, including
- low stress tolerance
- poor concentration
- sleep problems
- binge eating
- sensitivity to pain
... and those are just the more recognised ones.
All of these conditions can have a variety of causes, but there is one symptom that does fairly reliably indicate low brain serotonin: a craving for carbohydrates.
If you find yourself reaching for something sweet and/or starchy for a quick mood boost, you might find that a serotonin supplement works a whole lot better.
Serotonin supplements – who should avoid them?
- If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, you should be careful about taking any medication or supplement, and consult your health practitioner first.
- If you have been diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder (BPAD) you shouldn't take a serotonin supplement of any kind.
- If you are already taking a supplement or medication that boosts serotonin (e.g. anti-depressant medication) you need to take this into account, so that your serotonin level doesn't increase beyond healthy limits. If you are taking medication of any type, talk to your qualified health practitioner about any possible interaction.
Why take a serotonin supplement?
All these are great ways to improve your overall health and enable your brain to regulate serotonin so you can live your life optimally, and that's what you want, ultimately.
But sometimes these methods take too long for the results you need. After all, you want to feel better now! And some people are just naturally low in serotonin. For example, if you are prone to depression or anxiety or overeating, most likely your brain needs some extra help.
If this is the case, there are some supplements and herbal remedies with extremely promising results.
The supplement that is closest to actual serotonin is 5-HTP. Here's why it comes out as one of the best choices for a serotonin booster:
- 5-HTP is the closest thing you can take to serotonin itself. It's just one step in the production process to make serotonin from 5-HTP – which makes it the fastest & most effective serotonin booster available. That means immediate relief for food cravings and a quick boost to your mood – no waiting for days for the effects to kick in.
- 5-HTP can easily get into the brain, which is where you need it to make serotonin and boost your mood. (Some of the other serotonin boosters such as L-Tryptophan get hijacked on the way & only a small proportion actually gets into your brain.) Again, this helps give you that fast boost you need.
- As long as you get 5-HTP from a reliable quality source, it's safe and with minimal side-effects.
- 5 HTP is highly recommended by some reputable mainstream doctors (included Dr Oz and Dr Ray Sahelian) and it's backed up by good research.
- You can get 5-HTP in a sustained release form that makes it fairly inexpensive and much more effective in giving you an ongoing boost to your mood and well-being. Sustained release also minimises any possible side-effects.... you get a continual low dose that your body can easily handle.
St John's Wort
St John's Wort is a common herb with a long history of use in Europe as a remedy for depression and anxiety. Many scientific studies from Germany - and more recently in the USA - show that St John's Wort can be as effective as an SSRI anti-depressant for mild to moderate depression, and with fewer side-effects. It seems to work in much the same way too, by inhibiting the re-uptake of neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.
Herbal medicine generally has more subtle benefits than taking a single nutrient, and for many people who have experienced great results from St John's Wort, this is the go-to serotonin booster.
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- 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) – University of Maryland Medical Centre
- St John's wort for major depression . Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (2008)