Natural Ways to Increase Serotonin & Endorphins
by Ashley Miller
Endorphins and serotonin are important chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are manufactured in your brain and affect your mood, energy levels and overall well-being. Your body naturally produces serotonin out of a chemical known as tryptophan, contained in foods like cheese, eggs and milk. Endorphins are produced in response to pain, exercise and stress and are associated with the feeling known as “runner’s high.” You can support your body’s production of these chemicals in certain natural ways to promote increased feelings of wellness.
Exercise is one of the most important and healthy ways you can increase your body’s production of both serotonin and endorphins. A clinical review published in the November 2007 issue of the “Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience” explains that exercise may increase tryptophan availability in your brain, leading to increased serotonin production. Aerobic exercise also increases your brain’s production of endorphins. You don’t need to engage in heavy physical activity — even activities like hiking in nature can promote the release of endorphins, according to MayoClinic.com.
Most people breathe unconsciously without fully appreciating the benefits of deep, abdominal breathing. Yet taking deep breaths that stem from your abdominal region not only helps you feel more relaxed, it may also increase your body’s production of serotonin, endorphins and dopamine, another neurotransmitter that helps with mood regulation, according to Jeffrey Rossman, Ph.D., in an article for Rodale.com. Rossman suggests a specific breathing technique known as resonant breathing, which synchronizes your heartbeat with your breath rate and encourages the production of these neurotransmitters.
Meditation is another beneficial, natural way to increase your body’s production of endorphins and serotonin, according to a journal article by Robert Nash, M.D., published in 1996 in the “Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine.” Meditation and other forms of deep relaxation help stimulate the action of your hypothalamus and your pituitary gland, the parts of your brain responsible for producing these and other important neurotransmitters.
Eating certain foods can stimulate the release of serotonin and endorphins. People with low levels of serotonin and endorphins often experience cravings for simple carbohydrates like bread, pasta or sugary foods, according to Henry Emmons, M.D., author of “The Chemistry of Joy.” These foods cause a spike in your body’s production of endorphins and serotonin, yet also result in their rapid depletion. Emmons suggests enjoying foods with a high vitamin content, like green and yellow leafy vegetables and high-fiber cereals, and reducing processed, sugary, calorie-rich foods, to support your body’s production of serotonin and endorphins.