The serotonin level in your body and brain is significantly affecting your mood. This hormone plays an extremely important role in your overall well-being. Learn about how the hormone affects your body, how it can positively affect your mood, and how you can quite naturally increase your serotonin levels.

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1. How does serotonin work in the body and brain?

Serotonin is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter that regulates numerous body processes. Probably best known is the effect of serotonin in the brain. In your control center, serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter and is, therefore, a messenger substance for the excitation of your nerve cells.

This is especially important for information processing and forwarding in the thinking apparatus. In a sense, serotonin ensures that all information processed in the brain runs correctly. If the hormone is present in too small a dose, these processes can become unbalanced, which potentially affects your body and your mood.

The latest studies also show that serotonin is particularly needed for creative ideas. Because a normal serotonin level can help you develop creative and smart ideas.

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2. Serotonin is also called the "happiness hormone"

However, a well-regulated serotonin level can be of great importance not only for the brain and your mood. In principle, serotonin is also able to influence other areas of your physical well-being.

According to initial scientific findings, serotonin is also connected to your nervous system in the intestine. It also influences the cardiovascular system, for example, the contraction of blood vessels. In both cases, serotonin docks to certain receptors, the so-called "5-HT receptors". [1]

Take-Home-Message #1: Serotonin is a hormone, neurotransmitter, and messenger in one. In the body, serotonin can take over various control functions, e.g. in the cardiovascular system and intestines. In the brain, it is involved in the transmission of information. If this is disturbed by too little serotonin, your brain can get out of balance to some extent.

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3. How can I influence my serotonin level?

The brain or the intestines must produce the serotonin themselves, there is no way around it. To do this, it needs certain building blocks that serve as a basis. Whether amino acids, vitamins or minerals, the possibilities to positively influence your serotonin level in a natural way are numerous.

Since about 95% of serotonin is produced in the intestine, it is very important that it is healthy in order to be able to produce the hormone. Many consumers, therefore, rely on pre- and probiotic capsules to keep their digestive tract alert. Fermented food such as kimchi or sauerkraut can also be helpful here. 

An extensive study of the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience [2] has dealt with natural "serotonin doping" and found the following: Vitamins and minerals are extremely important because they are involved in the production of serotonin.

They are so-called "cofactors", which the body needs for the synthesis of the hormone. Cofactors are substances that are not a direct component of the hormone but are involved in its formation, e.g. vitamin B6. It is therefore important to be sufficiently supplied with the required cofactors.

Serotoninspiegel steigern

On the other hand, other substances found in a wide variety of foods act as starting materials. Since serotonin, for example, is formed from certain amino acids, you should make sure that you get enough of them in your diet. This includes, in particular, the amino acid tryptophan, which is found in particular in foods such as nuts or fish.

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The amino acid tryptophan is first converted to the intermediate stage 5-HTP in the body and later to serotonin in the brain. Other ways to increase serotonin levels are chemical and are used in pharmacology. If you want to find out whether this option is right for you, you should consult your doctor. There you will receive all the information about chances and risks.

Take-Home-Message #2: You can help your body to produce serotonin by eating a balanced and healthy diet. Vitamins and minerals act as so-called cofactors, amino acids are directly involved in the formation of serotonin. An important amino acid in this context is tryptophan.

4. 3 important micronutrients for a normal serotonin level

You want to support your well-being naturally and do something for a normal serotonin level? Then the following nutrients are just right for you. Make sure that you take in enough of these in your diet. 

1. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 contributes to normal mental function. According to initial scientific research, as a cofactor, it specifically supports the conversion of amino acids to serotonin and is therefore important for the formation of the happiness hormone.

Unfortunately, vitamin B6 cannot be completely produced by the body itself, but fortunately, it is contained in many foods. Good vegetable sources include avocados, cabbage, green beans, and lentils. Good animal sources are poultry, liver, and fish.

2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D, which can be ingested through a balanced diet and can also be formed under sunlight, is essential to support your immune system and is also associated with mood in initial scientific studies.

More in-depth research is still urgently needed here. Vitamin D deficiency is widespread in an unbalanced, one-sided diet, especially in winter. A too low concentration can be accompanied by a so-called "winter blues". [3]

Therefore: Off to the sun! This can be good for your immune system and therefore also for your well-being.

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3. Omega-3 fatty acids 
Omega-3 fatty acids are found mainly in fish such as salmon, mackerel, and the more sustainable krill, but flaxseed and oils also contain a lot of omega-3 and are among the most important nutrients for brain health and functioning. The fatty acids are crucial for your brain cells because they are made up of them.

Scientists have found that people with low serotonin levels often do not take enough omega-3 fatty acids. Two relatively well-known representatives are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These two acids can make the body's receptors more receptive to serotonin and at the same time promote its release. [4]

Take-Home-Message #3: Serotonin levels in the body can be influenced by diet. You just have to know how!

5. Conclusion

Serotonin is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter. It is also called the happiness hormone because it is partly responsible for your mood. You can influence your serotonin level with the help of your diet. The amino acid tryptophan, which is found particularly frequently in fish and nuts, is important in this respect. But vitamin B6, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids are also crucial for the formation of serotonin.

6. Sources:

[1] https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/1702484
[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2077351/ 
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24558199
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25713056