The Case for Serotonin Supplements

People spend their lives in chase of serotonin—the somewhat elusive happy chemical that helps us feel relaxed and balanced. As a powerful neurotransmitter, serotonin is present in many bodily functions such as mood regulation and digestion. It is famous for regulating sleep cycles and appetite, promoting memory function, and positive social behavior. As with anything else produced naturally by the body, sometimes a person just might not have enough. Low serotonin levels, while not medically emergent, can have a negative impact on a person’s overall health.

Key Takeaways:

  • There are plenty of multivitamins and supplements that promote serotonin levels within the human body.
  • These supplements are safe for consumption and can have a positive impact on your life with consistent use.
  • Supplements are beneficial in increasing the levels of serotonin in the body by activating higher levels of tryptophan, an essential amino acid.
  • You can also obtain higher levels of serotonin through your diet and exercise.

What is serotonin?

Serotonin is a chemical messenger produced naturally by the body. It has a very multifaceted role, as it regulates and promotes mood, brain cognition, learning, memory, bowel movements, vasoconstriction (the natural narrowing of blood vessels), and even vomiting. Since it is involved in so many things that make us feel good, it makes sense that people do not feel quite right when their levels of serotonin suddenly decrease. Low serotonin levels can lead to feelings of anxiousness and depression, sleep problems, impulsivity, irritability, and nausea. Naturally, no one wants to experience these things, which leads them to seek out supplements to help them boost their levels of the happy chemical. But how do those supplements work?

How do I increase my levels of serotonin?

Perhaps the clearest answer lies in the consumption of supplements. One of the faster ways to boost your body’s levels of serotonin, vitamins and supplements work to do this by activating the release of an essential amino acid called tryptophan (which eventually synthesizes serotonin). Once the tryptophan is activated, more serotonin will eventually be produced and synthesized accordingly. There are many different forms of these supplements to take, which will be explored below.  

Two young people look at each other happily.
Serotonin affects everything from mood to sleep to bowel regulation. Maintaining healthy levels of this neurotransmitter is important for overall health. Image courtesy of psychcentral.com.

1. Traditional vitamins

You might already be promoting your serotonin levels without even knowing it! Multivitamins such as vitamins B6, B12, and folate can help increase and maintain consistent levels of serotonin. If you have spare vitamins lying around, check the medicinal information on the  bottle to see if it could help increase your serotonin levels.

2. Pure tryptophan

If you want to increase your serotonin levels fairly quickly, ingesting pure tryptophan supplements might be the way to go. Since these types of supplements consist of more tryptophan than traditional food sources, they are likely to work faster and get to boosting your serotonin levels in no time.

3. 5-HTP

There is evidence that the vitamin 5-HTP can help increase serotonin levels. A study in 2013 discovered that the use of 5-HTP functioned as an antidepressant in patients in the early stages of clinical depression.

4. Diet and exercise

If you prefer a more natural approach, there are ways to boost your serotonin through diet and exercise. Foods such as whole wheat bread, turkey, salmon, and nuts will increase your levels of tryptophan, which in turn will lead to higher levels of serotonin. Exercise will function similarly, triggering the release of tryptophan into your bloodstream. Try aerobic exercises such as bike-riding, swimming, running, brisk walking, or dancing in order to see a serotonin boost.

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Which ones should I buy?

If you are committed to the idea of taking supplements, there are plenty of options to choose from! Here is a list of all different sorts of vitamins than can lead to an increase in the happiness chemical.

1. Quality of Life PureBalance Serotonin Supplements

This vitamin contains a strong combination of vitamin D3, 5-HTP, and rhodiola root extract. These ingredients all promote serotonin levels on their own, making this supplement one of the more effective ones on the market. It has been touted for reducing overall anxiety and inducing healthier sleep.

2. Sephora Collection x OLLY: Goodbye Stress

This vitamin, branded by Instagram popular brand OLLY, includes ingredients such as gamma-Aminobutyric acid (or GABA, for short), lemon balm, and l-theanine. These elements can help counteract stress as well as calm and soothe the mind. Users of this supplement have reported stress reduction, better sleep, and generalized relaxation.

3. Now Foods L-Tryptophan Supplement

This powerful supplement contains a double dosage of l-tryptophan, upping the normal levels from 500 mg to 1000 mg per capsule. This mega-packed capsule leads to a hefty boost of serotonin very quickly. Reviewers of this product are overwhelmingly positive for everything from basic tension relief to a decrease in symptoms of clinical depression.  

Green pills placed next to a glass of water.
Serotonin supplements can have a powerful impact on both physical and mental health. Image courtesy of byrdie.com.

Should I be taking serotonin supplements?

The intake of vitamins and supplements is highly individualized and depends on many factors. People who suffer from generalized stress and anxiety that is not a result of a mental illness may be able to counter these symptoms with serotonin supplements as opposed to psychiatric medication. With that being said, if you are debating on beginning the consumption of supplements or vitamins, it is advised to discuss this potential change with your healthcare provider. They will be able to tell you about any possible interactions with prescription or over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, or other supplements. Before trying any of the vitamins listed above, make sure you consult with your doctor to make sure supplementation is appropriate for you.

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