Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that allows you to experience pleasure and self-confidence. It manages the biochemical messages leaving the brain. It creates electricity for sight and rest and also controls cravings. Serotonin keeps the right and left hemispheres of your brain in balance. You are much more likely to fall into depression when this balance is compromised.
If your brain is out of sync, the left and right sides of your brain will be off-balance, and your brain’s ability to recharge is mitigated. A serotonin depletion creates a disconnect between the brain’s left side’s rationality and the right side’s creativity. When this occurs, you can’t think clearly which affects mood and sleep.
When your serotonin levels are optimal, you are excited and ready to take charge of your life. You welcome new challenges and are in a personal growth phase. When your serotonin is high, you experience a great mood during the day and restful sleep at night. When your serotonin levels are low so is your self-confidence. You don’t feel vibrant and ready to take on challenges and blast through obstacles. People with depleted serotonin are often risk-averse and have trouble sleeping at night. When you don’t feel right for too long depression inevitably follows. Anxiety and living in fear from low serotonin are major age accelerators.
In addition to requiring serotonin to feel good, we need night serotonin for restoration. Serotonin helps you relax and wind down in the evening so that you can restore fully for the next day. As we get older serotonin levels to start declining and having a good mood is often the first sign. When your dopamine levels are low, you have a feeling of fatigue. When your GABA levels are low, you feel anxious. However, when your serotonin levels are low, you do not feel much at all. As a result, you will become withdrawn and depressed.
Food cravings for simple carbs and salty foods often stem from low serotonin levels. These foods may offer a quick fix, but it won’t last and creates a vicious cycle. Foods high in sugar, sodium, fat and chemical additives are highly addictive. The more you have, the more you want. These kinds of “food” (they contain nothing healthy to sustain you and can hardly be called food) increase body fat rapidly and fuel insulin and leptin resistance.
Optimizing Serotonin Levels
Get more sleep
Sleep is the ultimate anti-aging protocol. Lying in bed tossing and turning does not cut it. You must immerse yourself into a deep sleep state (a sign of deep sleep is vivid dreaming) to derive the restorative benefits. When you do not sleep in a deep state, all your fears, phobias, obsessions, compulsions, become intensified. This will make being at your best when awake very difficult, to say the least. You need seven hours of deep sleep to boost serotonin levels. You need to sleep for optimal serotonin levels, but the catch is your need adequate serotonin levels to sleep deeply.
When sleep is poor, stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline go up. This increases your blood pressure. Studies show that women are more sensitive to the deleterious effects of poor sleep. Women have an increased risk of hypertension from sleep deprivation. The brain needs sleep to reset. Poor sleep ultimately results in poor memory, slower reaction time, and poor concentration. Prolonged lack of sleep will result in irritability, anxiety, and depression.
Your immune system repairs your brain and body when you’re sleeping. When you do not acquire enough quality sleep, this crucial process is hampered.
When serotonin levels are low leptin levels will be low as well, and the message that you are full takes much longer to reach the brain. If serotonin levels are really depleted the message may never reach the brain leaving you in a state of constant hunger no matter how much you eat. This is known as leptin resistance.
Interestingly the amount you need to eat to feel satisfied has more to with your brain (balance in the brain) than how much you weigh. Your brain has to be nourished from food to send out the signal to stop eating. The wrong food choices will not nourish your brain and you will continue to be hungry, often ravenously hungry.
When you’re sleep deprived you increase the likelihood of leptin resistance and increase the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin. One of the most effective ways to control hunger is to attain adequate sleep.
When sleep is low growth hormones levels are also compromised. Growth hormone is needed to control the ratio of muscle to fat. When you do not have enough GH, you’re more likely to increase body fat rather than building muscle.
Food choices for increased Serotonin
Broccoli, pears, brown rice, oatmeal, increase serotonin and also soak up excess estrogens.
Increase the amino acid tryptophan. The body needs tryptophan from food and uses it to make serotonin. Eating foods high in tryptophan can improve your mood rapidly. Some examples of high tryptophan food include avocado, chocolate, and rolled oats.
Saffron, marjoram, peppermint, spearmint, dill, nutmeg, and turmeric are all impressive antidepressants that boost serotonin. Nutmeg, in particular, was shown to be comparable to Prozac.
Cinnamon has also been shown to reduce carbohydrate cravings and increase insulin sensitivity. Have a teaspoon of three spices which each meal (including protein shakes, homemade protein bars).
According to Dr. Carolyn Dean author of “The Magnesium Miracle” magnesium is required for the release and uptake of serotonin in the brain cells. Stress depletes magnesium rapidly. If the magnesium is not replenished then serotonin is not picked up and depression can follow. (400-500mg twice per day. I think the best option for magnesium supplementation is magnesium oil which also supports the production of the hormone DHEA which is also a mood elevator and helps with stress management). Check out the Aggressive Strength Recovery Oil
Meditation and restoration exercise
Meditate daily for 30 minutes. After workouts and before bedtime are good options (I like the Holosync program) and practice forms of restorative exercise such as tai chi, yoga, chi kung. For every hard training session, you have to balance it with a form of restorative exercise.
5-HTTP works very well to increase serotonin levels and in turn reduce sugar and salt cravings. 50-100mg 2x per day. My adrenal energizer RED contains several adaptogens that support optimal serotonin levels as well.
Source: Dr. Eric Braverman’s “Younger You”