How to Balance Serotonin Levels in the Gut

Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter.
Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter. (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Often called the body's second brain, the gut is cited by people who suffer from emotional pain, anxiety and fear. This is due to the fact that the gut contains 100 million neurons and more of the neurotransmitter serotonin than the human brain. Serotonin is responsible for keeping us in a good mood as well as regulating sleep, appetite and headaches. Not surprisingly, a low level of serotonin leads to irritation, depression and a host of other problems that make life dreary. Fortunately, we can balance and increase the serotonin levels in our gut by eating the right foods, taking the right supplements and making some changes in our lifestyle.

Eat less processed sugar. Sugary foods like pastries, candy and soft drink cause rapid blood spikes of insulin in the bloodstream. High insulin levels cause the body to release adrenaline, which can interfere with the production of serotonin. This is why many people feel tired, burnt out and low in energy, and they often experience low moods after eating too many sweets.

Eat more tryptophan-enriched foods. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin in the human digestive system. Tryptophan is found in red and organ meats, fish, eggs, beans, dairy and whole grains like oatmeal. Eating lots of tryptophan-enriched foods means that your body can produce more serotonin, which is especially important if your system becomes unbalanced through stress, lack of sleep or excessive sugar consumption. You can purchase tryptophan in supplement form in health food stores and through online vendors.

Get lots of exercise. That exercise acts as a natural antidepressant, boosting mood levels and energizing the body has been well documented. A study published in the journal "Physiology & Behavior" in February 1994 found that at least part of this effect is due to the fact that exercise increases serotonin production.

Get some sunshine. Your body needs sunshine to create serotonin, and a lack of sunshine can lead to low serotonin levels — found, for example, in seasonal affective disorder, which is characterized by low energy and depressed mood levels during the winter season. Try to get 15 minutes of sunshine daily on your hands and face to keep your serotonin levels at an optimum.

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