How Serotonin Helps Regulate Mood and Appetite
Your body is full of helpful messengers known as hormones. These substances travel to your tissues and organs, where they keep essential processes humming along. One hormone that assists with many key functions is serotonin.
Here’s what you need to know about this essential hormone.
WHAT SEROTONIN DOES AND WHAT HAPPENS WHEN LEVELS GET TOO LOW
Serotonin plays a major role in regulating mood, appetite, memory and sleep. It also takes part in many other processes in your body, like heart function, digestion and bladder control, according to a 2018 review.
Aging, lack of exercise, major life events (e.g., a death in the family) or a poor diet can all throw hormones like serotonin out of whack.
When serotonin levels run low, you may feel sad, irritable, anxious and have trouble sleeping. “But the main one is depression,”
Low serotonin levels may also lead to changes in appetite, “where you’re either overly hungry, or you have no appetite at all,”
Whether you eat too much or too little may depend on other factors, like mood changes and any emotional responses to food (e.g., stress eating).
NATURAL WAYS TO INCREASE SEROTONIN
There are ways to increase serotonin without a prescription.
1. STOCK UP ON SEROTONIN-BOOSTING FOODS
Believe it or not, eating certain foods may help increase serotonin levels in the body. Namely, foods rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that gets converted to serotonin in the brain, according to a 2016 review.
Find tryptophan in protein-based foods, including meats (turkey, salmon), tofu, dairy (eggs, cheese), nuts and seeds.
2. GET REAL EXERCISE
Physical movement is huge for boosting both mood and serotonin. “If you can exercise at least 20–30 minutes a day, that will help with releasing the hormone and increasing your endorphins,” (Endorphins are feel-good hormones.)
In fact, exercise may be just as effective for treating symptoms of depression as prescription medications and talk therapy, per a 2013 review.
The type of exercise you do doesn’t seem to matte. So, you may want to find activities you enjoy and try to do them regularly.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SEROTONIN LEVELS GET TOO HIGH
There are instances where levels can get too high. This is known as serotonin syndrome.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you’ve been feeling depressed, irritable, anxious, or are experiencing other symptoms of low serotonin levels for a month or longer, it’s important to seek professional advice. “Lower levels of serotonin can lead to really severe bouts of depression and thoughts of suicide,” A mental health professional may be able to prescribe a medicine 💊, if needed.