By Jayashree Mani, MS, CCN and Liz Friedman, MS
It pays to be in a good mood. The body functions better when we maintain a positive frame of mind. It makes us more likely to “seek new experiences, be creative, plan ahead, procreate and adapt to changing conditions.” ¹
So what exactly is “mood,” and how can we affect it?
Mood has been defined as “a transient frame of mind that influences how we think and view the world.” ¹ It can be influenced by life events, the food we eat, the amount of sleep we get, our hormones, seasonal changes, and even the weather, and is controlled by the limbic system, deep inside the brain.
Establishing good mood is a delicately orchestrated process in the body, and one of the key players in this symphony is a hormone called serotonin.
Serotonin – the natural mood booster
Serotonin is a chemical messenger with many effects, including stabilizing and enhancing mood. It enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other effectively, helping to imbue feelings of well-being and happiness. Serotonin also helps to regulate sleep patterns, improve cognitive health (including learning & memory), and improve digestion.
People who feel unusually irritable or down for no apparent reason may have low serotonin levels. Low serotonin levels can also disrupt sleep-wake cycles, and this restless sleep can lead to anxiety and depression.
Nearly 20% of the world’s population suffers from depression and many are prescribed antidepressantsꟷ themost common of which are the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Both SSRIs and SNRIs work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain but may not be as effective in moderate and severe cases and are definitely not without risks.
Thankfully, there are non-pharmaceutical ways you can boost your serotonin levels; here are our top five:
Five effective ways of increasing serotonin naturally
- Exercise is perhaps one of the easiest ways to increase serotonin production and ensure healthy levels. Approximately 30 minutes of aerobic exercise such as running, biking, swimming and walking can provide a serotonin “high.” Yoga, Pilates, weight-lifting and other exercise also increases serotonin levels by a lesser amount. As muscles are activated during exercise, they allow more tryptophan, which the body converts to serotonin, to cross the blood-brain barrier.
A good exercise routine can treat and prevent depression due to its influence on inflammation, oxidative stress and functioning of the endocrine system. Now that the weather is cooling off, it’s the perfect time to get outside and get moving. With proper layering, a walk outdoors is possible even into the winter months.
- Light therapy. Sunlight has a positive effect on serotonin production, which is why it is easier to feel happy and uplifted in the sun-soaked months. Colder, darker months herald the feeling of sadness and dread, which increases chances of depression, including seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or “winter blues.” This common affliction occurs when the seasonal decrease in sunlight upsets the body’s circadian rhythm. Serotonin levels drop and the sleep hormone – melatonin – gets off balance. Symptoms usually appear during late fall or early winter and disappear during the sunnier days of spring and summer.
Green light therapy is an effective way to get the effects of natural light in the winter months or practically anytime. The special green bulb emits light that reaches the pineal gland in the brain via the retina. Here, it creates a harmonizing and calming effect and triggers serotonin production promoting restorative sleep, concentration and relaxation.
- Methionine & glycine. It’s said a good night’s rest clears the mind. Sleep helps restore the brain by flushing out toxins that can build up during waking hours. At the same time, the accumulation of toxins can affect a good night’s sleep!
- Methionine is a sulfur containing amino acid that aids in liver detoxification, and in the process reduces excito-neurotoxins, helps the mind be less “jumpy” and be better able to relax into sleep. This reduces depression/anxiety and improves a very important biochemical process called
- Glycine is another amino acid used by the brain as a control neurotransmitter. It supports healthy serotonin levels enabling more restful sleep, regular circadian rhythms and improved mental clarity. It also sustains the phase II liver detoxification pathway in the liver, neutralizing and clearing toxins.
A combination of methionine and glycine can provide the much-needed support for balancing mood and sleep.
PERQUE Mood Guard™ contains methionine in its active free form as well as glycine, to support mental and emotional stability.
- Tryptophan is an amino acid that’s an important precursor to serotonin and subsequent melatonin production. It stabilizes circadian rhythms, improves mood balance, increases “delta wave deep sleep” and helps avoid grogginess/brain fog upon waking. Adequate levels of tryptophan are essential for biochemical balance of the brain.
Consider tryptophan supplementation with Vitamin B6 and B2 as important cofactors to improve the quality of sleep and decrease depression as well as anxiety.
PERQUE Sleep Guard™ uses only the highest-quality, pharmaceutical-grade L- tryptophan, plus key transport-enhancer nutrients, including B6 and B2, for the most effective results.
- It’s a “gut” feeling. There is an anatomical and physiologic two-way communication between the gut and brain via the vagus nerve. The gut is also called the second brain – and for good reason. The gut-brain axisdescribes the intricate connection between what we eat, the state of our digestion, and what our brain experiences. Over 90% of serotonin is made in the digestive tract. Gut bacteria produce other neurochemicals as well, such as dopamine and GABA, that the brain uses for memory, learning, or mood.
Improve the gut microbiome to support a healthy mood in the following simple ways:
- Monitor your digestive transit time
- Follow the Alkaline Way diet
- Don’t forget to add fermented foods
- Include active, live probiotics (PERQUE Digesta Guard Forté 10™ contains over 7.5 billion gut-friendly probiotic organisms) and recycled glutamine (PERQUE EnduraPAK Guard™) to strengthen your gut.
Using some or all of these five serotonin-boosting methods will help to keep your mood balanced through the darker winter months.