Ways to boost serotonin

11 Ways to Raise Serotonin Levels Naturally

There are a number of ways to boost serotonin levels without medication including spending time outdoors, adjusting your diet, and more.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) involved in many processes throughout your body, from regulating your mood to promoting smooth digestion.

It’s also known for:

  • promoting good sleep by helping regulate circadian rhythms
  • helping regulate appetite
  • helping with learning and memory
  • helping promote positive feelings and prosocial behavior

If you have low serotonin, you might:

  • feel anxious, low, or depressed
  • feel irritable or aggressive
  • have sleep issues or feel fatigued
  • feel impulsive
  • have a decreased appetite
  • experience nausea and digestive issues
  • crave sweets and carbohydrate-rich foods

Read on to learn about different ways to increase serotonin naturally.

You can’t directly get serotonin from food, but you can get tryptophan, an amino acid that’s converted to serotonin in your brain. Tryptophan is found primarily in high protein foods, including turkey and salmon.

But it’s not as simple as eating tryptophan-rich foods, thanks to something called the blood-brain barrier. This is a protective sheath around your brain that controls what goes in and out of your brain.

In a nutshell, tryptophan-rich foods are usually higher in other types of amino acids. Because they’re more abundant, these other amino acids are more likely to cross the blood-brain barrier than tryptophan.

But there may be a way to bypass the system. Research suggests that eating carbs along with foods high in tryptophan may help more tryptophan make it into your brain.

Try consuming tryptophan-rich food with 25 to 30 grams of carbohydrates.

Snacking for serotonin

Here are some snack ideas to get you started:

  • whole-wheat bread with turkey or cheese
  • oatmeal with a handful of nuts
  • salmon with brown rice
  • plums or pineapple with your favorite crackers
  • pretzel sticks with peanut butter and a glass of milk

Exercising triggers the release of tryptophan into your blood. It can also decrease the number of other amino acids. This creates an ideal environment for more tryptophan to reach your brain.

Aerobic exercise, at a level you’re comfortable with, seems to have the most effect, so dig out your old roller skates or try a dance class. The goal is to get your heart rate up.

Other good aerobic exercises include:

  • swimming
  • bicycling
  • brisk walking
  • jogging
  • light hiking

Research suggests that serotonin tends to be lower after winter and higher in summer and fall. Serotonin’s impact on mood supports a link between this finding and the occurrence of seasonal affective disorder and mental health concerns linked to the seasons.

Spending time in the sunshine appears to help increase serotonin levels, and research exploring this idea suggests your skin may be able to synthesize serotonin.

To maximize these potential benefits, aim to:

  • spend at least 10 to 15 minutes outside each day
  • take your physical activity outside to help increase the serotonin boost brought on by exercise — just don’t forget to wear sunscreen if you’ll be out for longer than 15 minutes

If you live in a rainy climate, have a hard time getting outside, or have a high risk for skin cancer, you can still increase serotonin with bright light exposure from a light therapy box.

If you have bipolar disorder, talk with your mental health professional before trying a light therapy box. Using one incorrectly or for too long has triggeredmania in some people.

Spending time in nature has also been shown to increase serotonin. One study looked at the effects of forest therapy on middle-aged women and found that serotonin levels increased significantly after partaking in forest therapy.

Some dietary supplements may help jumpstart the production and release of serotonin by increasing tryptophan.

Before trying a new supplement, check with your healthcare professional. Notify them if you also take:

  • prescription medication
  • over-the-counter medication
  • vitamins and supplements
  • herbal remedies

Keep in mind that supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Always read the label and take the recommended dosage.

Research suggests the following supplements could help increase serotonin and reduce symptoms of depression.

Pure tryptophan

Tryptophan supplements contain much more tryptophan than food sources, making them more likely to reach your brain. A 2021 review suggests tryptophan supplements can have improve mood and decrease anxiety, though more research is needed.

SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine)

SAMe appears to help increase serotonin and may improve depression symptoms. Speak with a healthcare professional before taking it with any other supplements or medications that increase serotonin, including certain antidepressants and antipsychotics.


This supplement can easily enter your brain and produce serotonin. A 2016 study suggests it worked as effectively as antidepressants for those with early symptoms of depression. But other research on 5-HTP suggests longer treatment duration studies are needed.

St. John’s wort

While this supplement seems to improve symptoms of depression for some people, research hasn’t shown consistent results. It also may not be ideal for long-term use.

Note that St. John’s wort can make certain medications, including some cancer drugs and hormonal birth control, less effective.

People on blood clotting medication should not take St. John’s wort as it interferes with the drug’s effectiveness. You also shouldn’t take it with medications, particularly antidepressants, that increase serotonin.


Research suggests getting more probiotics in your diet may increase tryptophan in your blood, helping more of it to reach your brain.

You can take probiotic supplements or eat probiotic-rich foods, such as yogurt, and fermented foods, such as kimchi or sauerkraut.

Serotonin syndrome warning

Use caution when trying these supplements if you already take medication that increases serotonin. This includes several types of antidepressants.

Too much serotonin could cause serotonin syndrome, a serious condition that can be life threatening without treatment.

If you want to try replacing antidepressants with supplements, work with your healthcare professional to safely taper off antidepressants for at least 2 weeks first. Abruptly stopping can have serious consequences.

Massage therapy helps increase serotonin and dopamine, another mood-related neurotransmitter. It also helps to decrease cortisol, a hormone your body produces when stressed.

One review of 65 studies suggests massage therapy can benefit varying conditions, such as prenatal depression, autoimmune conditions, breast cancer, and dementia. The review of breast cancer reported reduced depression and increased serotonin and dopamine.

While you can see a licensed massage therapist, this might not be necessary. Try swapping 20 minutes of massage with a partner, family member, or friend.

Too little serotonin can negatively impact your mood, but could a good mood help increase serotonin levels? Older 2007 research suggests yes.

Thinking about something that makes you feel good can help increase serotonin in your brain, which can help promote an improved mood in general.


  • visualizing a happy moment from your memory
  • thinking about a positive experience you had with loved ones
  • looking at photos of things that make you happy, such as your pet, a favorite place, or close friends

Keep in mind that moods are complex, and it’s not always that easy to change your mood. But sometimes engaging in the process of trying to direct your thoughts toward a positive place can help.

Chronic stress is known to be linked with a host of health problems, which is why reducing stress is so important. Research has found that chronic stress can even lead to low serotonin levels.

Some ways to reduce stress include:

  • practicing yoga
  • journaling
  • going to therapy
  • practicing deep breathing exercises
  • listening to calming music
  • saying affirmations
  • practicing gratitude
  • taking a warm bath
  • trying aromatherapy

Yes, partaking in bouts of sleep deprivation could boost serotonin levels. One study found that six hours of sleep deprivation in mice resulted in higher serotonin levels.

However, do note that disrupting your sleep should only occur in moderation and you should talk with your doctor first.

Socializing is imperative for many aspects of wellness and research has found spending time with loved ones can even increase serotonin levels.

Spending time with animals also has its benefits. Cuddle your pet or try volunteering at an animal shelter for an extra boost of serotonin.

Helping others feels good for a reason: Research has shown that kindness can increase serotonin as well as oxytocin and dopamine. One study found that giving support (over being on the receiving end) is an underrated way to boost mood.

It’s been said that laughing is the best medicine. A 2016 review looked into the therapeutic benefits of laughter on mental health and found that laughing can lower stress hormones such as cortisol which, in turn, decreases the stress response.

If you’re looking to increase serotonin to improve mood-related symptoms, including those of depression, these methods may not be enough.

Some people may have lower serotonin levels due to their brain chemistry, and there isn’t much you can do about this on your own. In addition, mood disorders involve a complex mix of brain chemistry, environment, genetics, and other factors.

If you find that your symptoms are starting to impact your day-to-day life, consider reaching out for support from a mental health professional. If you’re concerned about the cost, our guide to affordable therapy can help.

Depending on your symptoms, you may be prescribed a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) or another type of antidepressant. SSRIs help keep your brain from reabsorbing the serotonin that’s released. This leaves more available for use in your brain.

Keep in mind that you may only need to take SSRIs for a few months. For many people, SSRIs can help them get to a place where they can make the most out of treatment and learn how to effectively manage their condition.

Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter, affecting everything from your mood to your bowel movements. If you’re looking to boost your serotonin, there are a few things you can try on your own. However, don’t hesitate to reach out for help if these tips aren’t cutting it.

7 Foods That Could Boost Your Serotonin

Foods rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that helps increase serotonin production, may have a positive effect on your mood and overall health.

Serotonin is linked to mood regulation and is known to be a key factor in overall mental health. Low levels of serotonin can cause depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other mental health conditions. While many people turn to medication to help regulate their moods, some foods may actually help boost serotonin production in the body.

Here’s an overview of serotonin and 7 foods that could boost serotonin levels and help improve mood.

Serotonin is a chemical messenger that’s believed to act as a mood stabilizer. It’s said to help produce healthy sleeping patterns as well as boost your mood.

Serotonin levels can have an effect on mood and behavior, and the chemical is commonly linked to feeling good and living longer.

Supplements can increase your serotonin levels via the amino acid tryptophan. Serotonin is synthesized (made) from tryptophan.

But for a more natural approach to possibly increasing your serotonin levels, you can try eating foods that contain tryptophan. It’s known that tryptophan depletion is seen in those with mood-related conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

Research from 2016 suggests that when you follow a low tryptophan diet, brain serotonin levels drop. However, research is ongoing to determine how much tryptophan-containing foods can affect serotonin levels in the brain.

Here are 7 foods that might help increase serotonin levels.

The protein in eggs can significantly boost your blood plasma levels of tryptophan, according to 2015 research.

Pro cooking tip: Don’t leave out the yolks!

Yolks are extremely rich in tryptophan, along with:

  • tyrosine
  • choline
  • biotin
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • other nutrients that are major contributors to the health benefits and antioxidant properties of eggs

Cheese is another great source of tryptophan. A yummy favorite you could make is mac and cheese, which combines cheddar cheese with eggs and milk — also good sources of tryptophan.

Pineapples have been shown for decades to contain serotonin.

Yet it’s best to get them while they’re fresh. Though some other plants, like tomatoes, increase in serotonin as they ripen, that’s not the case with pineapples.

Soy products are rich sources of tryptophan. You can substitute tofu for pretty much any protein, in pretty much any recipe, making it an excellent source of tryptophan for vegetarians and vegans.

Some tofu is calcium-set, meaning that the manufacturer has added calcium. This provides a great calcium boost.

It’s hard to go wrong with salmon, which — as you may have guessed — is also rich in tryptophan. Combine it with eggs and milk to make a smoked salmon frittata!

Salmon also has other nutritional benefits, like helping balance cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and being a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Pick and choose your faves, because all nuts and seeds contain tryptophan. According to a research review from 2018, studies show that eating nuts regularly also lowers your risk for heart disease by improving your lipid and apolipoprotein profile.

Nuts and seeds are also good sources of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.

There’s a reason why the Thanksgiving meal is usually followed by a nap on the couch — turkey is essentially stuffed tryptophan.

So the common belief is that by eating foods high in tryptophan, you can boost your serotonin levels. But is this true?

Foods high in protein, iron, riboflavin, and vitamin B6 all tend to contain large amounts of tryptophan. While foods high in this amino acid won’t boost serotonin on their own, there’s one possible cheat to this system: carbs.

Carbs cause the body to release more insulin, which promotes amino acid absorption and leaves tryptophan in the blood. If you mix high tryptophan foods with carbs, you might get a serotonin boost.

The tryptophan you find in food has to compete with other amino acids to be absorbed into the brain, so it’s unlikely to have much of an effect on your serotonin levels. This differs from tryptophan supplements, which contain purified tryptophan and do have an effect on serotonin levels.

While they can’t compete with supplements — which you shouldn’t take without approval from a doctor — the foods listed above contain high amounts of tryptophan.

Your best chance at achieving a serotonin boost without using supplements is to eat them often, with a serving of healthy carbohydrates, like:

  • rice
  • oatmeal
  • whole grain bread

Food and supplements aren’t the only ways to boost serotonin levels. These factors also help:

  • Exercise. A 2017 research review shows that regular exercise can have antidepressant effects.
  • Sunshine. Light therapy is a common remedy for seasonal depression. Research from 2015 shows a clear relationship between being exposed to bright light and serotonin levels. To get better sleep, or to boost your mood, try to work in a daily lunchtime walk outside.
  • Gut bacteria. Eat a high fiber diet to fuel healthy gut bacteria, which research from 2016 shows play a role in serotonin levels through the gut-brain axis. Supplemental probiotics may also be of value.

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about serotonin and food.

What foods help boost serotonin the most?

The highest sources of tryptophan include eggs, salmon, cheese, pineapple, tofu, nuts and seeds, and turkey.

Can eating foods high in tryptophan make a difference in my mood?

Eating foods high in tryptophan may have an effect on your serotonin levels, but they must be paired with healthy carbohydrates in order to make an impact.

Should I take tryptophan supplements?

If you’re considering taking tryptophan supplements, consult a doctor for advice. Supplements may have side effects and should be taken with caution.

What natural alternatives are there for improving mood?

Aside from eating foods high in tryptophan, exercise, light therapy, and a high fiber diet are all good ways to naturally boost your serotonin levels and overall mood. Probiotic supplements may also help. Additionally, engaging in activities such as yoga or mindfulness can provide mental health benefits.

If you’re looking for natural alternatives to help manage your depression or anxiety, tryptophan-rich foods may be helpful. Remember that these foods must be combined with healthy carbohydrates in order to affect serotonin levels.

Exercise, light therapy, and a high fiber diet are also good ways to naturally boost your serotonin levels and overall mood. If you’re considering taking tryptophan supplements, consult a doctor for advice.

How to increase the level of serotonin in the body: 6 quick ways - June 17, 2022

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Serotonin is known as the "hormone of happiness" responsible for good mood. In fact, he is much more influential and powerful.

Serotonin, or 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), is one of the main neurotransmitters that transmits signals between neurons, says Dr. Peter. As a neurotransmitter, serotonin not only modulates the processes of higher nervous activity and controls the functioning of the central nervous system (including the regulation of sleep, mood, appetite), but also stimulates the contraction of intestinal smooth muscles and affects other body systems. nine0089

As Aleksey Tokarev, an anesthesiologist and resuscitator, said, most of the serotonin is produced in the intestines.

Aleksey Tokarev — anesthesiologist-resuscitator, assistant of the Department of Anesthesiology and Resuscitation of the Medical Institute of Tula State University, candidate of medical sciences.

- Synthesis of serotonin occurs in the brain and intestines, while only about 5 percent of the substance is produced in the brain. Most serotonin circulates in the blood and is carried around the body on the surface of platelets. At the same time, serotonin cannot independently overcome the blood-brain barrier - the one that separates the nervous system from the general blood flow and provides a constant and chemically optimal environment for its work, the doctor says. nine0089

The normal level of serotonin in the blood is necessary for a balanced work:

  • immune system;
  • clotting system;
  • cardiovascular system;
  • intestines.

“An interesting fact is that it is serotonin that causes the first heartbeat in the fetus,” adds Alexei Tokarev.

According to the anesthesiologist-resuscitator, infectious diseases, stress, diseases of the gastrointestinal tract can lead to a deficiency of serotonin in the body. nine0089

The following symptoms may indicate a decrease in the level of this hormone:

  • anxiety and restlessness;
  • constant fatigue;
  • frequent headaches;
  • decreased efficiency;
  • cognitive impairment;
  • bowel disorders.

How to increase the level of serotonin without drugs? Alexey Tokarev named 6 simple ways.

There is no serotonin as such in food. For its synthesis in the body, tryptophan is responsible - one of the essential amino acids that comes only with food. Tryptophan is found in foods rich in protein and iron:

  • eggs;
  • dairy products;
  • red meat;
  • fish;
  • cheese.

But in order for tryptophan to be absorbed in the intestines and transported to the brain, carbohydrates are also needed. Foods with complex carbohydrates (such as beans or rice) stimulate the production of insulin, which in turn promotes the absorption of tryptophan and other amino acids into the bloodstream, and this allows tryptophan to enter the brain, crossing the blood-brain barrier. Thus, a stable concentration of serotonin can be achieved by combining foods high in tryptophan and complex carbohydrates in the diet. nine0089

Cravings for sweets and starchy foods, that is, for simple carbohydrates, may indicate a decrease in the level of serotonin in the body. This is again associated with the production of insulin, which is necessary for the synthesis of the hormone: the more often bursts of serotonin occur, the stronger its deficiency develops and, as a result, the dependence on food increases.

It is also important not to forget about vitamins and minerals, that is, to adhere to a balanced diet. So, vitamins of group B, in particular B12 and B6, are involved in the production of serotonin. Magnesium is also important to maintain hormone levels - by the way, its level can decrease due to stress. nine0003

Serotonin is often referred to as the activity hormone: it is involved in both the regulation of sleep and activity during wakefulness. The fact is that this hormone is produced under the influence of sunlight - its level directly depends on the brightness and illumination.

That is why in autumn and winter, when it is often cloudy outside, its concentration in the body usually decreases. To increase it, do not sit in sunny weather within four walls, but go for a walk.

Physical activity accelerates the synthesis of serotonin. The mechanism is this: regular exercise reduces the level of stress hormones and, conversely, increases the level of endogenous anti-stress hormones in the brain, namely endorphins, dopamine and serotonin.

In addition, exercise improves the rate of blood circulation in the intestines, and it is there that the main "factory" of serotonin is located. Accordingly, the circulation and the amount of serotonin increase.

Anxiety and stress simultaneously activate several hormones that are secreted by the adrenal glands - norepinephrine and cortisol. They act as antagonists of serotonin and lead to a decrease in its amount. nine0003


  • December 04, 2022, 11:00

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    9 simple ways to increase the level of the hormone of happiness (without forbidden tricks!)


    During the winter in St. Petersburg, it is especially important to prevent a drop in the level of serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter that affects our mood, appetite, sleep quality and activity. We advise you to protect yourself from lethargy and fatigue with bananas, sun (yes!) and vitamin B.

    Serotonin levels can be influenced. That's what antidepressants do - they block the reuptake of a neurotransmitter after it's done its job. As a result of such therapy, a person feels much better. But antidepressants are prescribed only as a last resort and strictly according to the prescription. And you can increase the production of serotonin in a natural way.

    1. Get more tryptophan from food

    Tryptophan is an amino acid that is essential for the production of serotonin. It is found in a number of foods, including dairy products, eggs, dark chocolate, bananas, nuts, dates, and seeds. Try including these natural antidepressants in your diet. nine0003

    2. Go for a massage

    It's no secret that your mood immediately improves after a massage. But it's not just about relieving muscle tension. Most likely, the sharp increase in serotonin levels after the session is associated with a 30 percent reduction in the level of cortisol, the stress hormone. Conversely, when cortisol levels are too high, serotonin production deteriorates.

    3. Add Vitamin B

    Every B vitamin is important for our well-being, and vitamins B12 and B6 are also involved in the synthesis of serotonin. Most people get around 50-100mg per day, but this can be increased in consultation with your healthcare professional. You can understand what vitamins you lack after a blood test for trace elements and vitamins. Uncontrolled intake of individual vitamins in supplements is best avoided. nine0003

    4. Try to be in the sun

    Unfortunately, sunlight is not only a deficiency, but also one of the conditions for the production of serotonin. But even if the sky is covered with clouds, try to spend at least 20-30 minutes of daylight hours outside. It will be difficult to do this in St. Petersburg in winter, but don't give up. At least get out of the house on a sunny day off.

    5. Add more magnesium to your diet

    Magnesium also plays an important role in maintaining serotonin levels. And stress and magnesium deficiency can be interconnected processes that exacerbate each other and your condition. To avoid magnesium deficiency, eat plenty of fish, leafy greens, beans, and bananas. nine0003

    6. Don't overindulge in sugar

    One of the main symptoms of low serotonin is cravings for sweets, because insulin is also needed to produce some of the components of serotonin. But try to still focus on healthier and more honest ways to increase its level. Otherwise, you risk earning a sweet tooth syndrome: the body will quickly get used to the fact that sweets lead to an increase in serotonin levels, and with any hint of a bad mood, it will demand it as much as possible. nine0003

    7. Finally learn how to meditate

    The fact that meditation really has a positive effect and helps fight stress has been proven by more than one scientific study. During meditation, the level of 5-hydroxyindolealdehyde, which is the main metabolite of serotonin, increases in the body. Meditation, like massage, reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

    8. Make time for extra exercise

    You know that exercise really makes you happier and makes you feel much more alert. During and after training, you are guaranteed to get an additional portion of endorphins, but physical activity also affects the production of serotonin in the best way. nine0003

    9. Practice positive thinking

    You can influence the production of neurotransmitters not only by adding new foods to your diet, but also by working to change your attitude towards life. Understand what makes you feel good and do it more often.

    Learn more