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11 Ways To Increase the Serotonin In Your Brain (Naturally)

11 Ways To Increase the Serotonin In Your Brain (Naturally)

Low serotonin levels influence everything from your appetite to your sleep cycle, memory, sex drive, and (of course) mood. Let’s look at 11 powerful ways you can boost your mental well-being, focus and motivation by immediately increasing levels of this neurotransmitter.

1. Get More Tryptophan

Firstly, you need to know about tryptophan. It’s an amino acid that’s vital in the production of serotonin, so if you increase your dietary intake then you put yourself on the fast track to happier days.

Some of the best foods to eat include lean meats, eggs and dairy foods, but don’t fret if you’re on a vegan diet! Nuts and seeds are also packed with tryptophan, so make them a staple snack.

2. Book A Massage

You might already have a sense that a massage can influence your mood, but you probably don’t know that this isn’t just the result of working out muscular tension.

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Research on how massage changes body chemistry suggests that serotonin levels often peak after a session, most likely because of a 30% reduction in cortisol. When too much of this hormone is circulating around your system, your brain is actually blocked from making the right amount of serotonin.

3. Boost Your B Vitamins

Every vitamin in the B family helps you feel good and plays a role in keeping your body fit but there are two particularly useful ones when it comes to serotonin production—vitamins B12 and B6. There’s even evidence that B vitamin supplementation can help to treat depression in the elderly population.

Most people benefit from a dose of about 50-100mg per day but check with your doctor (and don’t be afraid to ask for a blood test in case you have an underlying vitamin deficiency).

4. Soak Up The Sunshine

Whenever you’re outside in the sunlight, you kick-start your brain’s serotonin production. This is true even if there’s some cloud cover, so there’s no excuse to stay inside all day in winter!

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Do your best to spend at least 20-30 minutes outside every morning or afternoon—this is a great opportunity to go somewhere beautiful, or just reflect while listening to your favorite songs.

5. Add More Magnesium To Your Diet

You may not give much thought to magnesium, but some reports estimate that as many as 75% of the American population could be deficient in this mineral. It’s not only capable of influencing serotonin balance, but also helps to control blood pressure and regulate nerve function.

In supplement form, it has been shown to help some patients recover from even major depressive episodes. To add more to your diet, look to foods like dark leafy greens, fish, bananas and beans.

6. Find Ways To Be More Positive

Increasing the brain’s serotonin levels isn’t just about external things like diet and environment—psychological studies show you can also influence neurotransmitter production by working to change your attitude to life. Figure out what makes you feel good about yourself and the world around you, and do more of that!

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Good examples include socializing with people you love, allocating an hour a day to an inspiring hobby, deliberately visualizing a happy event, and keeping a gratitude journal.

7. Reduce Sugar Intake

Interestingly, one of the major symptoms of low serotonin is a craving for sugary foods—this is because insulin is needed to manufacture some of the components of serotonin. Unfortunately, this increased sugar consumption backfires, as it typically leads to a mood crash (counteracting the benefits of the helpful neurotransmitters you’ve just produced). Protect yourself from illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, and focus your efforts on healthier ways of increasing serotonin.

8. Meditate

Yes, we know, meditation comes up in every list that relates to well-being! However, there are good, evidence-based reasons for this—meditating really can help just about every area of your life. Serotonin levels increase in response to any form of meditation that raises 5-HIAA, an acid that the brain needs when making serotonin.

As a bonus, meditation combats the influence of stress hormones, which not only makes you feel happier but also reduces unnecessary inflammation in the body.

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9. Exercise More Often

You’ll already be getting a bit more exercise if you follow the above advice about sun exposure, but take a critical look at the rest of your week and see if you can make time for extra workouts. Anything that gets your heart pumping can elevate your serotonin levels, and the associated endorphins make you feel fantastic as well. Think outside the box to find types of exercise that you actually find fun—for example, swap the treadmill for jogging through the park, attending a dance class or learning water aerobics.

10. Get More Vitamin C

While vitamin C doesn’t seem to be as crucial to serotonin as B vitamins, there is some emerging research showing an increasingly strong connection with mood. For example, some studies indicate vitamin C has natural antidepressant properties, and one group of scientists even found that people who increased vitamin C felt happier within just a week. This may not only be to do with serotonin but also vitamin C’s role in producing other neurotransmitters like dopamine and epinephrine—both of which make us feel good. Oranges, bell peppers and tomatoes and leafy greens are all excellent choices if you want to get more vitamin C.

11. Practice Self-Care to Reduce Stress

Finally, you’ve probably noticed that ways of regulating cortisol have come up a few times because cortisol blocks serotonin from being made in the first place. This means that essentially, anything you can do to reduce stress levels can have a positive knock-on effect on the amount of serotonin in your brain.

If you’re the type of person who puts others first, takes on too much and is constantly working, start looking at ways to prioritize self-care in your week and more serotonin will follow. Self-care means different things for different people, but you can brainstorm good ideas by making a list of ten things that make you feel truly happy!

How to increase serotonin levels

    Featured photo credit: Andrés Nieto Porras, Flickr via flickr.com

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    8 Things to Watch for If You’re Considering Being Vegetarian

    8 Things to Watch for If You’re Considering Being Vegetarian

    Vegetarianism has been around for a long time, finding favor with many people, including Pythagoras clear back around 580 B.C. It’s been presented as one of the most healthy diets around, including being touted by the Egyptians to the point of abstaining from meat and animal clothing due to karmic beliefs. The vegetarian society (vegsoc.org) defines vegetarianism as:

    “Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish* or by-products of slaughter.”

    While it’s pretty obvious that there are multiple benefits to following a vegetarian diet, it’s always good to be informed about the cons of this dietary choice as well.

    Outlined below are several things you might want to be aware of before you say good-bye to meat forever. Whether you are a current vegetarian, or contemplating making a shift, keep in mind these 8 things to keep yourself healthy.

    1. You could suffer from B12 vitamin deficiency

    The B vitamins are especially important for stress management, adrenal health, and brain function. Vegetarians in particularly are at risk for B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is attached to the protein in animal products and without enough B12 you can suffer from depression, fatigue, and an inability to concentrate.

    Due to its attachment to animal proteins, B12 is the hardest for vegetarians to obtain when they don’t eat dairy or eggs in their diet. This essential little vitamin can be found in some algae and has been added to some yeast, but research doesn’t currently provide enough information to say whether or not these forms of B12 are of good quality and can provide adequate supplementation.

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    The body is unable to make this vitamin, meaning it has to be taken in through food or supplementation. Essential for making red blood cells, DNA, nerves and various other function in the body, a Harvard Health Medical report in January of 2013 found symptoms of a B12 deficiency can present in sneaky ways including depression, paranoia, delusion, and loss of taste and smell.

    2.  You could suffer from higher states of anxiety/depression, lower sense of well-being

    According to a CBS Atlanta report, vegetarians suffered from a higher rate of anxiety and depression than their counterparts. Read the full report here. Depression and/or anxiety can be a result of many possible deficiencies including essential vitamins and amino acids you can find only in meat products, including Omega-3s from wild caught salmon.

    Without the correct supplementation and proper understanding of diet, including the importance of micro and macro nutrients, depression and anxiety can become a serious problem, bringing down the overall health and well-being of vegetarians.

    Even though reports on health and lifestyle show vegetarians have a lower BMI and lower consumption of alcohol and drugs, it also shows they suffer from more chronic illnesses and more visits to the doctor than their meat eating counterparts.

    3. You could suffer from excess weight

    When you go vegetarian it opens up a lot of food, but just because there isn’t any meat in front of you, it doesn’t mean it’s necessary healthy. Though pizza and beer technically fall under the vegetarian diet, it’s not a healthy choice for your waist line.

    Just because being a vegetarian is associated with a healthier lifestyle in many cases, doesn’t mean it’s always true. Making bread and pasta your staples and not understanding where your protein sources should be coming from, can pack on body fat, which increases your chances of health issues such as diabetes and chronic inflammation.

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    If the choice to go vegetarian happens on a whim without the proper understanding of food control, portion, and nutritionally dense alternatives you can find yourself reaching for vegetarian foods, which could cause serious problems down the road. Nuts are a good example, but just because something is touted as healthy, it doesn’t mean, your should eat it in excess.

    Eating too many calories in fat will still cause you to gain weight. Eating too many calories in carbs will cause you to gain weight. Eating too many calories in protein will cause you to gain weight. See a pattern here? Not to mention you’ll miss out on important nutrients the body needs by over-eating in one area and under-eating in another. Re-read number 2.

    4. You could have a higher risk of heart disease

    Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables should be a goal we all strive for, but when you cut out meat, you also cut out what is known as complete protein, which you find in animal by-products. Complete means more than just the essential amino acids, it means those amino acids contain dietary sulfur. Without enough dietary sulfur, which is found almost exclusively in fish and pasture feed grass beef, the body will struggle with the biological activities of both protein and enzymes.

    The effects cascade downward, effecting bones, joints, tissues, and even metabolic issues. In short, a low intake of sulfur associated with a vegetarian diet can result in high blood levels of homocysteine, which may lead to blood clots in your arteries, blood clots raise your risk of stroke and heart attack. To read the full report click here.

    5. You could suffer from low cholesterol

    I know, at first you’re thinking, wait, low cholesterol is a good thing. Yes, it is, when it’s LDL cholesterol, which you get from eating an unhealthy diet, but low HDL (good cholesterol) can cause serious health issues. HDL, according to the mayo clinic, is in every cell in our body and can help fend off heart disease, not enough of it though, and too much LDL can go the other way, will be building up plaque in the arteries and leading to heart disease.

    Cholesterol, the good kind, is actually vitally important to the making of every steroid hormone in the body! There are six, and without cholesterol the body is unable to convert hormones, and it can cause damage in the endocrine system.

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    A vegetarian without a balanced diet, meaning enough protein, enough veggies, and enough good fats, could disrupt his or her adrenals, which are directly connected to the endocrine system and the body’s ability to make and synthesize the hormones your body needs. The six major hormones in the body help do everything from metabolizing carbohydrates, to the electrolyte balance, to making sure if you’re a woman you can carry a healthy baby through pregnancy.

    6. You could suffer from lower bone density and osteoporosis.

    Osteoporosis, the disease where the bones get thinner, weaker, and fractures become a high risk with day to day movements. It’s often associated with the older generation, but your risk for osteoporosis increases with a lower bone density. Bone density can be directly related to diet and lifestyle, along with many other factors.

    When it comes to eating a vegetarian diet it’s possible to miss getting enough of the right nutrients, causing the bones to begin to break down. If your vegetarian diet isn’t balanced and providing you with the correct nutrients and the means to absorb the correct nutrients, your body could begin to break down.

    Recently, Professor Tuan Nguyen of Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research led a review of both Australian and Vietnamese research around the bone density of vegetarian versus their meat eating counterparts. Helping Professor Nguyen was Dr. Ho-Pham Thuc Lan from Pham Ngoc Thac University of Medicine in Vietnam. The review was designed to sort though years of research surrounded by discrepancies and inadequate clinical data.

    At the end of the review, with vegetarianism rising to around 5% of the populace in the western continents, and with wide spread osteoporosis reports – 2 million in Australia and closer to 54 million in America – the decrease in bone density of vegetarians is a serious issue which needs to be addressed, if you’ve cut meat and animal by-products out of your life.

    7. You could be at a higher risk for colorectal cancer

    Cancer seems to be running rampant through America, and it’s within everyone’s best interest to do all they can to keep their body healthy and happy to prevent cancer from finding a place to grow. In most studies it’s been found vegetarians are at lower risk for cancer, but a European Oxford study with over 63 thousand men and women in the United Kingdom found the risk for colorectal cancer higher in vegetarians than in meat-eaters.

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    Extra care needs to be taken when establishing a diet to ensure the body is receiving and able to up take all the important nutritional benefits and requirements from food.

    8. You could end up eating more processed food

    Depending on how deep you choose to go as a vegetarian, it could create the need to substitute a lot of food and recipe ingredients in your diet, but what happens when you cut out meat, eggs, and dairy and your recipe calls for meat, eggs, and/or dairy? You have to end up using a “healthy” vegetarian alternative which include stabilizers, thickeners, and various other ingredients you can’t pronounce.

    Lauren from Empowered Substance puts it into a great perspective with her comparison of Earth Balance, a vegetarian approved butter replacement compared to butter. She points out the ingredients in Earth Balance consist of: Palm fruit oil, canola oil, safflower oil, flax oil, olive oil, salt, natural flavor, pea protein, sunflower lecithin, lactic acid, annatto color. Meanwhile, the ingredient list in butter, is much shorter. It’s butter.

    That’s only one example. To appeal to the vegetarian lifestyle food manufacturers have found alternatives which fall under vegetarian, but aren’t necessarily healthy for you. Consider baked goods, which though vegetarian can be filled with more sugars and binders than regular baked goods with diary products. It’s the same with vegetarian items like mac and cheese, without using real cheese you may just be getting oil and thickeners, without even the smallest amount of nutritional value.

    The reality is, most vegetarian substitutes contain the same junky alternatives which even meat eaters should be avoiding to remain happy and healthy.

    On one final note, whichever lifestyle you choose to work with, remember anything in excess – including protein and animal by products – isn’t healthy for the body. It takes a wide spectrum of food and nutrients to keep the beautiful body you travel around in all day running in prime condition.

     

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