You can tap into the power of serotonin to transform your mood, motivation levels, and overall well-being. Who couldn’t benefit from that these days?
Serotonin is a feel-good hormone, known as a neurotransmitter, that helps ensure we’re motivated, have balanced moods, and feel good about life. Boosting low serotonin levels is one of the keys to health and happiness. Low serotonin levels are linked to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and even violent behavior.
Look for mood-boosting foods
While serotonin isn’t found in foods, it is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan, so foods and supplements that contain tryptophan can help boost serotonin levels. Some of the best tryptophan-rich foods include eggs, nuts, pineapple, salmon, tofu, and turkey.
According to some experts, plant-based foods are superior to animal-based sources of tryptophan. That’s because other amino acids in meat compete with tryptophan for absorption into the brain. The carbohydrates in plant-based foods, on the other hand, trigger insulin, which causes other amino acids to be used for fuel for our muscles, leaving tryptophan without competition for access to the brain.
Foods high in the amino acid L-theanine also increase levels of serotonin. It works quickly, reaching the brain within 30 to 45 minutes. L-theanine-containing teas include white, green, oolong, and black teas.
Reconsider low-carb living
Complex carbohydrates are needed to ensure the absorption of critical nutrients such as tryptophan into the brain, where brain cells, known as neurons, can convert the amino acid into serotonin. Complex carbs also supply energy to ensure the proper functioning of our bodily processes, including serotonin production. Get sufficient complex carbs in your daily diet in the form of whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Get a good gut feeling
Preliminary research shows that the gut can play a role in boosting serotonin levels. In one study of people with major depression, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs were augmented with supplements of the probiotic strain known as Lactobacillus plantarum, with impressive results.
Let there be bright light
Exposure to bright light has been shown to increase serotonin levels, yet modern life keeps most people indoors for long periods of time. Even on a cloudy day, it’s important to spend time outside to help reset serotonin levels. You can also purchase full-spectrum lights or light therapy lamps to use indoors at your desk, in your living room, or other places where you normally spend time. They should be at least 10,000 lux to help boost serotonin levels.
Get plenty of exercise
Exercise not only keeps us fitter, but also helps boost serotonin levels. Several studies demonstrate that exercise increases the release and synthesis of serotonin by the brain, and that tryptophan, the precursor for serotonin, also stays higher in the brain after exercise.
When it comes to serotonin, it’s all about finding a healthy balance for your body and supporting your body’s production with brain foods, healthy lifestyle choices, and natural supplements.
Are you having trouble sleeping these days? Millions of people struggled with insomnia before the pandemic, and experts are now warning that many more of us are struggling with stress, anxiety, and trouble sleeping.
So, what’s the problem? Not getting the recommended eight hours or so of shut eye can put a person at risk for a host of problems, including forgetfulness, anxiety, depression, cardiovascular problems, and diabetes. Lowering stress and sleeping better also helps support our immune systems.
Spring cleaning for the brain?
And as it turns out, sleep does a lot more than help us keep our thoughts clear the following morning—catching a few winks also gives our brains the chance to do a little spring cleaning.
The newly released animal study involved 80 mice who had had cerebral dye injected into the cerebral fluid around their brains. Once the dye was in place, the rodents were studied while awake and asleep, allowing researchers to measure the amount of space between their brain cells during these two phases.
What they found is that a system in the brain—called the glymphatic system—actually controls how much fluid flows into our grey matter. This flow was minimal in the cheese-loving subjects’ brains while they were awake, but it increased significantly while they slept.
What makes this new finding so notable is that this process—allowing fluids to flow between brain cells during sleep—helps to clear toxins from the brain. And this includes toxins that are associated with neurodegenerative disorders.
After their initial discovery, researchers tested the efficacy of this “spring cleaning” process. After injecting the mice with beta-amyloid proteins, which have been associated with Alzheimer’s disease, they measured how long it took for the protein to clear the brain.
They discovered that the proteins were cleared more quickly from the brains of mice who were asleep, indicating that sleep—and the processes that happen during sleep—clears unwanted molecules from the brain.
3 key tips for sound slumber
Ready to detox your brain? Try some of the following tips for a great night’s rest:
- Make sure to get enough exercise each day. A walk in the park or a relaxing yoga class (online or with COVID safety measures) might be just what you need for a restful night.
- Stay away from screens (including those on phones) in the evening when possible. The light that they emit may suppress melatonin production, meaning later bedtimes and a harder time falling asleep.
- Create a routine before bed. Read a book, take a bath, or do anything else that appeals to you (except for sitting in front of the TV). Creating a pre-sleep schedule helps to let your body know when you’re planning to get some shut eye.
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Article copyright 2020 by Alive Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.