Need to know
- A look at how to increase the natural production of serotonin. What to know, why it’s important and some helpful tips and strategies.
Serotonin is essential for mood, digestion, sleep, brain function, and circadian rhythm. While it’s crucial for brain function, up to 90 per cent of our serotonin is actually produced by bacteria in the gut. Once produced, serotonin acts as a chemical messenger or neurotransmitter that communicates via the enteric nervous system. It is also released into the bloodstream where it operates as a hormone.
Why is it important
Low serotonin can underlie changes in our mood, behaviour and health. If your child has low serotonin, they might:
- feel anxious, low, or depressed
- feel irritable or aggressive
- have sleep issues or feel fatigued
- feel impulsive
- have a decreased appetite or experience nausea and digestive issues
- crave sweets and foods rich in carbohydrates.
Tips and strategies
Eat protein with a side of carbs. While you can’t get serotonin directly from food, you can get tryptophan, an amino acid that’s one of serotonin’s building blocks. A clever hack to boost tryptophan uptake and increase serotonin production is to combine carbohydrates with high-protein foods. Try these crowd pleasers: pineapple muffins, pretzel sticks with peanut butter and a glass of milk, or corn on the cob.
Get plenty of exercise. Exercising triggers the release of tryptophan into your blood, which you already know is used by the body to make serotonin. The key is to get your heart rate up; time to get the bike out of the shed!
Think happy thoughts. Thinking about something that makes us feel good can help increase serotonin levels and in turn make us happier. Find a game to play that you all enjoy and reap the benefits of all those extra smiles.
Get some sunshine. Exposure to bright light and the production of serotonin appear to be closely linked. You can’t go wrong by taking the kids outside to enjoy some fresh air: they’ll get exposure to sunlight and the freedom and fun of play. Start a high-energy game of never-ending tips in the sunshine and you’ll tick the exercise and happiness boxes as well.