Serotonin is a chemical messenger that affects many functions in the body and the brain. As a true regulator of the circadian rhythm of our body with melatonin, serotonin makes us alert and provides us with the energy necessary to carry out our daily tasks. Any deficiency in this hormone results in daytime sleepiness, chronic fatigue and some irritability.
The body naturally produces serotonin, but there are ways to boost it when needed. In people who do not have depression, it is not certain that an increase in serotonin levels is beneficial. However, for those who have winter blues or suffer from peri-annual depression, a little boost will lead to a substantial improvement in quality of life.
What is serotonin?
Serotonin is a chemical that plays an important role in regulating a variety of bodily functions, including blood clotting and bowel function. The body combines tryptophan with an enzyme to make serotonin. In the brain, serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter, relaying messages around the brain to support its function.
There are many theories about the role of serotonin at the neurological level. It appears to regulate stress and anxiety, promote patient and problem-coping skills, and prevent depressive episodes, panic attacks and chronic anxiety. Note also that anxiolytics and antidepressants tend to increase the production of serotonin to help patients recover. On the other hand, serotonin plays the opposite role of melatonin in helping us wake up from sleep.
How to increase serotonin level?
The manufacturers of dietary supplements are making multiple claims about the ability of their products to stimulate the production of serotonin. These claims are not supported by evidence. The 4 "methods" that we present to you here are all validated by health professionals.
Several common antidepressant drugs directly increase the level of serotonin in the brain. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of antidepressants that prevent the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain. In doing so, these drugs increase the levels of serotonin available to the receptors. Fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft) are among them. Remember that antidepressants should not be taken in self-medication.
2. Physical exercise
Physical exercise has a tremendous effect on the brain and body, whether short term or long term. Activating muscles during exercise has been shown to release more tryptophan, which the body converts into serotonin. The latter can then cross the blood-brain barrier.
3. Certain diets
Foods that contain tryptophan may increase the production of serotonin in the body. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid found in many foods, including:
- the salmon ;
- the chicken ;
- Turkey ;
- eggs ;
- spinach ;
- dairy products ;
- soy products;
4. Light therapy (light therapy)
Exposure to bright light can also affect serotonin levels. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression whose symptoms correlate with the seasons. People with the condition may show symptoms of depression during the winter, when there is less sun.
The causes of SAD are unclear, but it appears that lack of exposure to daylight affects the serotonin - melatonin balance. To remedy this, all you need to do is expose yourself to reasonable sunlight or, if you cannot, choosing the right light therapy lamp, with a light intensity of 10,000 lux and a light spectrum simulating that of the sun.