Soothe Yourself: Boost SerotoninJul 25, 2020
by Henry Emmons, MD
[adapted from The Chemistry of Calm]
p.s., If you haven't read Part 1 of this series, head there first.
Increase Serotonin Levels with Supplements
Nearly everyone feels better when their serotonin levels are optimal. It has such a wide array of functions, involved with everything from sleep to appetite to impulse control to sexual desire. It's the brain chemical that helps soothe you when you feel stressed or threatened, and it offers considerable protection to the brain against the damaging effects of cortisol.
Serotonin’s broad benefits may explain why Prozac and the other SSRI’s took the world by storm in the 1990’s. It took a while for the shortcomings of these medications to become clear—problems such as agitation, numbing of emotions and sexual feelings, weight gain, insomnia, fatigue. The SSRI’s are not the cure-all that they initially appeared to be. The problem remains: millions of people are serotonin-depleted and suffer from the impacts of stress and anxiety (not to mention depression) as a result.
Most people with anxiety, especially if their mood is low as well, may benefit by boosting their serotonin levels. In addition to following the Resilient Diet, which is designed to help with serotonin production, the following supplements may offer support:
- L-tryptophan or the related precursor 5-HTP.
- B vitamins (try Activate)
- Vitamin D (try Illuminate 5000)
- Omega 3 fats (try Strengthen)
- St. John’s wort
It also helps to take measures to reduce inflammation, which frees up a key metabolic pathway to produce more serotonin.4
Serotonin boosting supplements at the Natural Mental Health Store
1. Activate contains the entire spectrum of B vitamins to support body and brain.
2. Illuminate (5000) contains cholecalciferol provided in convenient softgels. Vitamin D supports many functions in the body, including mood, brain, immunity, bone and heart health.
3. Strengthen contains omega-3 fatty acids, which support healthy brain development, vision, skin, and joints. They can also support a healthy mood and can be used as a preventive for seasonal or cyclic mood problems.*
How do you know if you are serotonin-deficient?
Because it is such a key brain chemical, the signs of serotonin depletion are many:
- Insomnia (or irregular circadian rhythms).
- Craving sweets and other carbohydrates.
- Frequent muscle aches and pains.
- Impulsive behaviors.
- Moodiness (especially sadness, anxiety, and irritability).
- Feeling emotionally sensitive or vulnerable.
- Feeling insecure or lacking self-confidence.
- Low stress-tolerance.
*Note: Some of the supplements discussed in this article can cause side effects, but many people tolerate them much better than prescription medications. They are generally considered safe, however, they should not be started without your doctor’s knowledge and supervision. If you are taking medication already, be sure to talk with your doctor before adding any of these items. If you are considering going off medication, remember never to stop your medication suddenly—always consult with your doctor about how to safely taper off any psychiatric medication. See terms (link terms).
**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
5-HTP for Anxiousness
Considerable research has shown that 5-HTP can reduce anxiety, both general and panic, as well as improve mood. Read more.
- Hassel, B., & Dingledine, R. (2006). Glutamate. In Siegel,G. J., Albers, R. W., Brady, S. T., & Price, D. L. (Eds.), Basic neurochemistry: Molecular, cellular, and medical aspects (267-290). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
- Kim, A. H., et al. (2002). Blocking excitotoxicity. In Marcoux, F. W., & Choi, D. W. (Eds.), Neuroprotection (3-36). New York: Springer.
- Krimer, L. S., et al. (1998). Dopaminergic regulation of cerebral cortical microcirculation. Nature Neuroscience, 1, 286-289.
- Wichers, M., & Maes, M. (2002). The psychoneuroimmuno-pathophysiology of cytokine induced depression in humans. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 5, 375-438.
- Peled, R., et al. (2008). Breast cancer, psychological distress and life events among young women BMC Cancer, 8.
- Alhaj, H. A., et al. (2006). Effects of DHEA administration on episodic memory, cortisol and mood in healthy young men: A double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Psychopharmacology, 188(4), 541-551.
- Darbinyan, V., et al. (2007). Clinical trial of Rhodiola Rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, 61(5), 343-348.
- Bystritsky, A., et al. (2008). A pilot study of Rhodiola rosea (Rhodax) for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14(2), 175-180.
- Khanum, F., et al. (2005). Rhodiola rosea: A versatile adaptogen. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 4, 55-62.
- Lombard, J. (2006, September). Neurobiology of mood and cognition: Strategies and protocols of neurotransmitter balance. Presented at Great Lakes Conference.
- Kobayashi, K., et al. (1998). Effects of L-theanine on the release of alpha-brain waves in human volunteers. Journal of the Agricultural Chemical Society of Japan, 72(2), 153-157.
- Lake, J. (2008). Integrative Management of Anxiety. Psychiatric Times, 25(1), 13-16.
- Grant, J., et al. (2007). N-acetyl cysteine, a glutamate-modulating agent, in the treatment of pathological gambling: A pilot study. Biological Psychiatry, 62(6), 652-657.
- Grant, J., et al. (2009). N-acetylcysteine, a glutamate modulator, in the treatment of trichotillomania. Archives of General Psychiatry, 66(7), 756-763.
- Mori, M., et al., (2002). Beta-alanine and taurine as endogenous agonists at glycine receptors in rat hippocampus in vitro. The Journal of Physiology, 539, 191-200.
- Wu, H., et al. (2005). Mode of action of taurine as a neuroprotector. Brain Research, 1038(2), 123-131.
- Palatnik, A., et al. (2001). Double-blind, controlled, crossover trial of inositol versus fluvoxamine for the treatment of panic disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 21(3), 335-339.
- Abdou, A., et al. (2006). Relaxation and immunity enhancement effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration in humans. BioFactors, 26, 201-208.
- Kinrys, G., et al. (2009). Natural remedies for anxiety disorders: Potential use and clinical applications. Depression and Anxiety, 26, 259-265.
- Akhondzadeh, S., et al. (2001). Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder: A pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 26, 363-367.
- Yuan, C. S., et al. (2004). The gamma-aminobutyric acidergic effects of valerian and valerenic acid on rat brainstem neuronal activity. Anesthesia and Analgesia, 98, 353-358.
- Panijel, M. (1985). Therapy of symptoms of anxiety. Therapiewoche, 41, 4659-4668.