Serotonin: The essential mood booster  

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What is serotonin? 

Serotonin is a chemical messenger that carries messages from the brain and throughout the body. It is a neurotransmitter that signals the body how to work.  

The chemical messengers are important as they signal the body how to work. Serotonin plays a crucial role in memory, happiness, body temperature, learning, sexual behaviour, sleep and hunger. 

Lack of serotonin or less production can lead to depression, mania, anxiety and other health conditions.  

Serotonin is commonly found in the gut and about 90%, of serotonin, is found in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. The serotonin will be released into the blood and absorbed by the platelets. The brain produces about 10% of serotonin. 

Serotonin is produced from the essential amino acid tryptophan. The amino acid is commonly found in foods like eggs, dairy products, meat and nuts. The body must produce enough amino acid, which in turn helps with the production of serotonin. 

Where is serotonin produced? 

Serotonin is produced in the different parts of the brain and affects various behaviours and functions like  

  • Fear 
  • Memory 
  • Digestion 
  • Addiction 
  • Sleep 
  • Breathing 
  • Body temperature 
  • Sexuality 
  • Stress response 

How to increase serotonin? 

Low levels of serotonin can lead to mental health issues like anxiety and depression. A healthcare professional will recommend antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) to help increase serotonin levels in the brain. 

Serotonin can be increased without taking medicine. Physical activity can increase serotonin levels. Pedalling a bicycle, lifting weights, and brisk walking for an hour help release tryptophan, which the brain uses to make serotonin. 

Physical activity increases not only serotonin but also other neurotransmitters. People get the feeling of a runner’s high after an intense workout as there will be a boost in serotonin. 

Exposure to the sun or bright light can help replicate and naturally increase serotonin levels. People with the seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can be treated with light therapy.  

Increasing serotonin levels through food can be challenging. Protein-rich foods like turkey are high in tryptophan, but it can be difficult for the body to convert to serotonin. Consuming turkey with other protein-rich foods can make it hard for the tryptophan to competing with other amino acids, as the proteins will be broken down into amino acids. So this can result in less tryptophan absorption by the brain. 

However, the consumption of complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes can help increase serotonin.  

What does serotonin do to the body? 

Serotonin plays a major role in various functions of the body. 


Serotonin is called as the “feel-good chemical”, and it helps regulates your mood. If serotonin is at normal levels, a person will feel good, calm, happy and emotionally stable. Low levels of serotonin are associated with anxiety and depression. Medications that are used to treat anxiety and depression target ways to increase serotonin levels. 


About 90% of serotonin is present in the gastrointestinal tract, where it regulates bowel movement. The gut increases serotonin levels to speed up the digestion process. If you consume foods that irritate your gut, serotonin release will help eliminate these foods. Serotonin plays a major role in reducing appetite while eating. 


Serotonin with dopamine plays a major role in the quality of sleep. The brain requires serotonin to produce melatonin that regulates the sleep and wake cycle. 


Nausea occurs when the gut releases serotonin at a faster rate than it can be digested. The brain receives it as a message and triggers nausea. Drugs that are used to reduce the feeling of nausea and vomiting target serotonin receptors in the brain. 

Wound healing 

The platelets release serotonin to regulate wound healing. Serotonin production narrows tiny blood vessels, which helps to clot blood.  

Sexual health 

Serotonin regulates the sexual mood of a person. Serotonin, together with dopamine, increases the desire for sexual activities. 

Bone health 

If serotonin levels are high in the gut, it can weaken the bones. This can lead to fractures and osteoporosis.  

Problems associated with low serotonin levels 

Low serotonin can lead to certain health problems like 

  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Sleep issues 
  • Suicidal behaviour 
  • Post-traumatic disorder 
  • Phobias 
  • Panic disorder 
  • Mood disorders 
  • Memory issues 
  • Sexual functions 
  • Gastrointestinal issues 
  • Delay in wound healing 
  • Schizophrenia 

However, more research is required on how serotonin levels can affect physical and mental health conditions. 

Causes of low serotonin levels 

Low serotonin levels can be caused due to various reasons. 

  • Genetic factors 
  • Low-production of serotonin in the body 
  • Lack of exposure to natural light 
  • Chronic pain 
  • Lack of physical activity 
  • Body not able to use the serotonin  

Foods to increase serotonin levels 

Foods that can help with serotonin levels are  


Eggs are rich in protein that can boost serotonin levels. The egg yolk is rich in nutrients like 

  • Choline 
  • Tyrosine 
  • Biotin 
  • Omega 3 fatty acid 
  • Antioxidants  


Cheese is rich in the amino acid tryptophan. Include cheese in your diet to boost your serotonin levels. 


Pineapples can help increase serotonin levels. Try consuming fresh pineapples to boost the levels.  


Tofu is a good source of tryptophan. If you are a vegetarian tofu is suitable for you. 


Salmon is rich in tryptophan. Consume salmon with eggs to boost serotonin levels. It also offers other nutritional benefits like lowering blood pressure, helping balance cholesterol and also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. 


Turkey is a good source of tryptophan. However, be watchful of your portion. 

Nuts and seeds 

Nuts and seeds are good sources of tryptophan. Regular consumption of nuts and seeds lowers the risk of heart disease.  

Other ways to increase serotonin levels 

There are other ways to increase serotonin levels.  


Sunlight can help with seasonal affective disorder and other mood disorders. Exposure to sunlight can help increase serotonin levels. Try to get sunlight for at least 10-15 minutes daily.  

Exposure to sunlight not only increases the production of serotonin but also increases vitamin D levels. If you are not able to get sunlight, try light therapy. 


Dietary and herbal supplements can help to increase the production of serotonin levels.  

Medication to increase serotonin levels 

Serotonin receptors can help with low serotonin levels. Antidepressants can block the reabsorption and recycling of serotonin, which allows the serotonin to be retained in the brain. 

Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are commonly used to treat low serotonin levels. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors are a type of depressant that blocks the enzyme that breaks down serotonin. 


Serotonin is important in bodily functions like sleep, mood, appetite, digestion, blood clotting, sexual desires and anxiety. Low levels of serotonin levels can lead to psychological and physical health problems. 

In some cases, the body will produce enough serotonin, but it cannot use it. The way the body uses serotonin is still under research. Exposure to sunlight and regular physical activity can help boost serotonin levels. 


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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