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How to Increase Serotonin Naturally – Serotonin Foods and Tips

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How to Increase Serotonin

Learning how to how to increase serotonin is beneficial because it’s a natural mood booster that makes us feel happier and improves our mental health and bodily functions.

It’s actually quite easy to do, especially when incorporating serotonin foods and exercise into regular lifestyle habits.

Every day, people are taking more and more responsibility for their personal health and wellbeing. Staying healthy is more than simply avoiding illness, and overall health is about both the mind and body.

This is why it’s important to find ways to naturally increase serotonin, a happy hormone in the body that plays a key role in physical and mental health.

What is Serotonin?

Serotonin is a chemical neurotransmitter, similar to dopamine, norepinephrine, or GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), that controls many aspects of the way the body and brain work.

Many people think that serotonin is produced in the brain, but approximately 90 percent of it is actually located in the gut, intestines, and GI tract.

One of serotonin’s main functions is to regulate and enhance mood, although it also plays a role in some of the following:

  • Sleep
  • Stomach, intestinal, and bowel health
  • Sexual functioning
  • Bone strength and density
  • Blood clotting and wound healing
  • Mental health and motivation

Having healthy serotonin levels can make a big difference in a person’s day-to-day life. Research suggests “serotonin plays a role, not only in the treatment of depression, but also in susceptibility to depression.”

In other words, low serotonin may be behind many of the symptoms of depression or anxiety. It can cause mood swings, from irritable to impulsive, and may even be a reason for sugar and other junk food cravings.

There’s a reason that increasing serotonin levels affect mood and wellbeing. This neurotransmitter is associated with regenerative sleep, memory and learning functions, healthy digestion, and appetite regulation.

When the body and mind are running at peak productivity, we are less likely to experience dips in the way we feel emotionally.

However, when the metaphoric “dark cloud” does inevitably show up over our heads, understanding how to increase serotonin can help us move through these issues much more quickly and even relieve anhedonia symptoms.

Foods That Increase Serotonin Naturally

How to Increase Serotonin Naturally

From serotonin foods to other types of organic serotonin boosters, it is possible to naturally enhance our levels of this neurotransmitter. The good news is that in the process, we can build habits that will continue to sustain healthy living for years to come.

Effective Ways to Naturally Increase Serotonin include:

  • Foods with serotonin and tryptophan
  • Serotonin supplements
  • Sunlight and Being in Nature
  • Avoiding Sugar
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Getting a Massage

Perhaps one of the best ways to boost our levels is to have a diet of serotonin rich foods. These are foods many people already have around the kitchen.

What Are Serotonin Foods?

“Serotonin Foods” are those that contain protein and the amino acid tryptophan, which converts into serotonin in the brain.

Proteins and Foods that increase serotonin include:

  • Poultry, like turkey and chicken
  • Salmon is a lean protein rich in tryptophan
  • Eggs, especially hardboiled or poached, also make the protein list
  • For vegetarians and vegans, tofu and soy products are a good source
  • Dairy, such as milk and cheese contains tryptophan
  • Nuts or seeds with healthy fats are ideal foods with serotonin
  • Even pineapples and bananas are good for some fruity variety
  • Green leafy vegetables and avocados

Serotonin Foods for Better Mood and Mental Health

In addition to many of these serotonin foods containing protein or tryptophan, some of them are rich in other vitamins and nutrients that promote mental health.

Vitamin B-6

Vitamin B-6 helps the body to increase serotonin and decrease depression symptoms. To get a healthy dose of Vitamin B-6, eat foods like nuts and seeds, avocados, and bananas.

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 deficiencies can be a cause of mood problems but it’s easy to get more of this by eating green leafy vegetables, fish, cheese, and even broccoli.


A Magnesium deficiency can cause stomach issues such as cramping or nausea, and is also related to low levels of serotonin. To increase magnesium levels, look to foods like almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, spinach, potatoes, black beans, salmon, or chicken breast.

While on the subject of serotonin boosting foods, it should also be mentioned that other foods should be avoided because they can have a negative impact on mental health.

Sugar and refined carbohydrates, like white flour, should be avoided whenever possible and there are many benefits of adopting a no sugar diet.

It’s true that they can give us a quick mental boost, but it is short-lived and the crash that happens usually within an hour drains our energy and results in sluggish mental focus and acuity.

Foods with serotonin are an excellent source for gaining momentum in the quest to be healthier and happier. However, there are additional ways to naturally increase serotonin.

How to Increase Serotonin with Exercise

Let’s face it, staying healthy doesn’t come free and, yes, we need to exercise on a regular basis, but this doesn’t have to be dreadful.

Exercise helps tryptophan convert to serotonin and make its way to the brain. In the end, this is what boosts our mental wellbeing and healthy bodily functions.

If you’ve never kept a regular exercise regimen or it’s been a long time, the key is to start slow and do something you enjoy.

Consistency matters most. Start with regular 30-minute walks around the neighborhood, at a livelier pace than your regular stroll.

Low intensity exercise, like walking, a pleasant nature hike, or even bike rides are good because you can do them every single day.

It might seem like a challenge at first, but once you make the time, you will notice a difference in how you feel.

For those that are already physically active, try increasing the intensity in small chunks to make bigger gains.

What’s more, if you can exercise outside, you get the added boost of the sunlight as a natural serotonin booster.

There is data that shows sunshine can help our skin manufacture serotonin. Just don’t forget to protect yourself with sunscreen.

Exercise is a Natural Serotonin Booster

Supplements to Increase Serotonin

There are a number of natural serotonin supplements on the market that claim to increase serotonin but not all of these products are equal.

If you decide to take a supplement, choose products from companies with a reputable history and check with your doctor to make sure they won’t cause any side effects with medications you might be taking.

It’s important to have a clear understanding of the purity of supplements that we choose to put into our bodies.

Some of the essential vitamins and nutrients mentioned earlier with serotonin foods can also be taken as supplements too.

These include:

  • Vitamin B-6
  • Vitamin B-12
  • Vitamin C
  • Folate
  • Magnesium

These vitamins and minerals either directly increase serotonin production or they act in conjunction with tryptophan to help convert it into serotonin.

Addiction, Depression and Serotonin

It’s a natural instinct for us to want more of the things that make us feel good. However, alcohol or some types of drugs may decrease or increase serotonin levels.

This can create a cycle of use where a person self-medicates with drugs or alcohol so they feel better. It may work for a short time in the beginning, but over time it actually has the opposite effect and makes matters much worse.

Impact of Drugs and Alcohol on Serotonin

Alcohol and recreational drugs have a profound impact on the way we feel mentally and physically. A common symptom of addiction is depression, which may be linked to serotonin levels.

Just like with sugar and refined carbs, any temporary positive feelings caused while under the influence of alcohol or drugs will be gone when the effects wear off.

Certain types of drugs like MDA vs Molly literally flood the brain with serotonin and the crash is much worse than with sugar.

This is due to the biological function of “homeostasis,” which is the body’s attempt to keep a relatively stable state of balance.

What goes up must come down, and this occurs with an equal reaction. The highs are high and the lows are even lower. So it’s best to stay away from drugs or alcohol to keep serotonin levels at an optimal state.

When some types of drugs and prescription medications that increase serotonin are taken together it can cause an excess in the body and lead to a dangerous condition known as serotonin syndrome.

For those struggling with substance use, addiction treatment can help heal the brain and return it to its normal function after a period of sobriety.

In some cases, health care professionals might prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), also known as antidepressant medication, which makes more serotonin available to the brain.

Even though taking antidepressants to normalize serotonin in the body can help overcome bouts of depression, the ultimate goal is to find out how to increase serotonin naturally to avoid relying on medication to feel better.

This isn’t always possible for everyone, but for many people, a little serotonin boost can do wonders for improving mood and overall mental health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Wellbutrin increase serotonin?

No, Wellbutrin (Bupropion) is an antidepressant that regulates norepinephrine and dopamine but it does not affect serotonin.

Does alcohol have an impact on serotonin?

Alcohol releases serotonin early after drinking, which is why people feel a boost in mood and relaxation, although the feeling is temporary.

Does marijuana increase serotonin?

There isn’t much research on the correlation between marijuana and serotonin although several recent studies suggest low doses may increase levels, but high doses can have an opposite effect and decrease it significantly.

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