Keeping your brain in good shape is important for managing stress levels. When your serotonin is low, stress levels may increase – and vice versa.
In this article, you’ll find out why serotonin is important for alleviating stress.
You’ll also find how ongoing stress can disrupt your serotonin production.
Shall we take a closer look?
What is Serotonin?
Serotonin is a brain neurotransmitter synthesized by your nerve cells.
- Your nerve cells communicate by sending signals in the form of chemical messengers to each other. Serotonin is one of those chemical messengers.
The bulk of your serotonin is in the gut. But there’s also some in your blood platelets and in the brain.
Now, your body creates serotonin from l-tryptophan, an essential amino acid you get from food.
You must eat foods such as cheese, red meat, bananas, and nuts in order to obtain tryptophan.
If you don’t get enough tryptophan, your brain won’t be able to create enough serotonin.
This can potentially lead to low serotonin levels.
As a result, you may become anxious, irritable, and depressed. (1)
What’s the Purpose of Serotonin?
Serotonin is an essential brain chemical. Your body needs it for countless processes, from physical movements to emotions. Serotonin is also a natural mood enhancer. It helps you relax, sleep, eat, and digest food.
Here’s how serotonin affects you:
- Heals wounds
- Maintains bone health
- Reduces depression
- Induces nausea when necessary
- Regulates anxiety
So, what’s the link between serotonin and stress?
There are many variables between them, but they seem to work in a see-saw manner.
When serotonin levels drop low, cortisol (the stress hormone) levels tend to get high.
And when cortisol decreases, serotonin may increase. (2)
Chronic Stress vs. Short-Term Stress
However, the problem isn’t in short-term stress as much as it’s in chronic stress.
- Chronic stress disrupts our overall health, it impairs the endocrine system (think testosterone and estrogen), and yes – it also lowers your serotonin levels.
As WebMD put it: “Sustained or chronic stress, in particular, leads to elevated hormones such as cortisol, the “stress hormone,” and reduced serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, which has been linked to depression.” (2)
However, it can be the other way around too.
- If your serotonin levels are low, chances of suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression increase.
Ultimately, the goal is to have balanced serotonin in the brain. Which will in turn help keep your stress levels at bay.
Below we show you how to boost your serotonin levels naturally.
How to Boost Serotonin And Reduce Stress Naturally
Whether you want to get in shape or are looking to improve your mood, exercise is one of the best solutions for both. Regular exercise is shown to improve your mental health just as much it does your physical. It stimulates the parts of your brain that usually don’t activate when you’re depressed. What’s more, exercise helps boost dopamine, serotonin, and other feel-good chemicals. And yes, it reduces stress too. (3)
Salmon, poultry, eggs, bananas, milk, and nuts. Can you guess what all these foods have in common? The answer is “tryptophan”. (4) As we saw, tryptophan helps your brain synthesize serotonin, which helps boost your mood and reduce stress. However, it’s just as important to remove inflammatory foods that cause stress on your body, including sugars, fried foods, processed dairy, and alcohol.
There’s a reason why seasonal depression is such a serious condition. It affects people around the globe, and one of the culprits is low sunlight exposure. See, when you’re exposed to direct sunlight, your body produces more serotonin. (5) As a result, you feel better, you’re healthier, and your stress levels stay low. Try getting at least 20 minutes of direct sunlight every day. This will provide you with optimal amounts of vitamin D in addition to boosting your mood. If going out in the sun is not an option, consider investing in bright light therapy.
Herbs and mushrooms such as Rhodiola Rosea, Lion’s Mane Mushroom, and Bacopa Monnieri are potent brain enhancers, also called nootropics. They work by boosting brain function, improving neuron signaling, and enhancing serotonin pathways in your brain. High-quality nootropic formulas contain these ingredients and help you reduce stress. For example, you can read our reviews of Mind Lab Pro and Performance Lab Mind, which use these natural ingredients and are among the most effective nootropic formulas on the market.
Serotonin may just be your brain’s favorite chemical.
It regulates different bodily processes, including your appetite, sleep, and mood.
Serotonin deficiency can lead to anxiety, depression, and feelings of stress. Likewise, too much stress can lead to serotonin deficiency.
It’s a vicious cycle.
Some of the ways of reducing stress, and increasing serotonin with it, is to exercise, eat a healthy diet, and take natural herbs and nootropic formulas that help support your brain health.