Listless, depressed, restless: That aptly describes your emotional state lately? The cause may be a serotonin deficiency. Serotonin is also known as the "happiness hormone" and contributes to your well-being and inner balance. In this article you will learn about the causes and symptoms of a serotonin deficiency and how you can naturally increase serotonin in your body.
Serotonin: the "happiness hormone"
Serotonin is a hormone and also a messenger substance in one. It is therefore involved in a large number of processes in the body and brain. For example, serotonin can influence the force and frequency of the heartbeat and control the movement of the intestines and lung muscles. In the brain, serotonin regulates the sleep-wake rhythm together with the sleep hormone melatonin. The neurotransmitter also affects mood, eating behavior and memory. In short: a balanced serotonin level in brain and body plays a central role for your balance, inner peace and satisfaction.
Serotonin is formed in the intestine and brain. However, in order for serotonin to have an effect on mood, it must be formed in the brain, because it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. In this process, the amino acid L-tryptophan becomes 5-hydroxytryptophan, or 5 HTP for short, and this becomes serotonin. The stimulating serotonin subsequently becomes melatonin, which makes you tired.
L-tryptophan → 5 HTP → serotonin → melatonin.
These processes are made possible by certain enzymes, but also by vitamins and minerals. Important are for example vitamin D, vitamin B6 and magnesium.
Serotonin Deficiency: Symptoms
A wide variety of symptoms can indicate a serotonin deficiency. These can be of a physical nature or become noticeable on the psychological level. Possible signs are:
- excessive fatigue
- increased irritability
- depressed mood
- digestive problems
- weight gain
The tricky thing is that many of these symptoms are quite non-specific and don't necessarily mean you have a serotonin deficiency. If you don't feel well for a long time, it's best to seek medical advice. This way you can also rule out other causes for your symptoms.
Serotonin Deficiency: Recognizing and Treating Depression
Do you feel down, disinterested, and drained most of the day for two weeks? Do you sleep extremely much or little and feel restless, guilty or worthless? These may be signs of depression. According to the German Federal Ministry of Health, about one in five people in Germany suffers from some form of depression during their lifetime. If you suspect that this could be the case for you now, you should act as quickly as possible. The sooner you take action, the better your chances of quickly putting a depressive phase behind you. The first step is always to get medical support. You can also seek contact with a close person and talk about your situation.
Serotonin Deficiency: getting active
Low serotonin levels can be the result of various causes. There are diseases such as chronic inflammations or autoimmune diseases that can have a negative effect on your serotonin balance. Depression can also be associated with low serotonin in the body, although this is not necessarily the case. In addition, prolonged stress, too little sunlight or the lack of important vitamins, for example through an unbalanced diet, can lead to a serotonin deficiency. Then you can become active yourself to increase your serotonin level and improve your well-being.
You take in serotonin every day through your diet. It is contained in fruits and vegetables, for example. But serotonin ingested through food does not reach the brain. Instead, it must be formed directly on site from tryptophan. With these foods you create the best conditions to increase your serotonin level:
- Bananas, plums & pineapple: These fruits contain particularly high levels of L-tryptophan, from which the body forms serotonin.
- Dark chocolate: Cocoa is also rich in tryptophan.
- Whole grain products: For example, whole grain pasta or oatmeal contain vitamin B6, which is needed for the production of the happiness hormone. In addition, L-tryptophan can be better absorbed in combination with carbohydrates.
- Nuts & seeds: They contain tryptophan and omega-3 fatty acids. Since serotonin content and omega-3 levels in the body influence each other, this nutrient is also important.
Supplements for Serotonin Deficiency
Another way to contribute to a balanced serotonin balance are preparations containing L-tryptophan or 5 HTP. The special feature: 5 HTP is a precursor of the happiness hormone. For example, the African black bean, also called Griffonia, is very rich in 5 HTP. In general, however, the substance is hardly found in the Western diet. Unlike tryptophan, 5 HTP does not compete with other amino acids for passage into the brain. Thus, it can easily cross the blood-brain barrier and be converted into serotonin.
Vitamin D3 also plays an important role in serotonin balance. It stimulates the formation of the happiness hormone. Exercise and time outdoors can help to lift your mood and prevent a serotonin deficiency. Because with the help of sunlight, your skin forms the valuable vitamin D. You can perfectly combine spending time outdoors with exercise. This also supports the reduction of stress, which can be a cause of serotonin deficiency.
Serotonin deficiency: The essentials in a nutshell
- Serotonin deficiency can have a negative impact on your physical well-being and mood. It can make you tired or depressed, contribute to digestive problems or promote anxiety.
- Important substances that your body needs for the production of serotonin are L-tryptophan, 5 HTP, vitamin B6, D3 and magnesium.
- With your diet, i.e. foods and supplements that contain valuable substances and vitamins, you can contribute to a balanced serotonin level. For example, bananas, cocoa and nuts are good sources to increase serotonin.
- By exercising outdoors, your body makes vitamin D3 and reduces stress. Both can have a positive effect on your serotonin balance.
- Serotonin deficiency and depression can sometimes lead to similar symptoms. In case of depression, however, you should always seek medical advice. After all, balancing serotonin levels can only be an accompanying measure to professional treatment of depression.