2018's 10 Best
Mental and physical health goals have taken root across the states at unprecedented levels. Serotonin supplement sales continue to increase as more customers realize the long term benefits of improving neurotransmitter capabilities. We’ve found that the happier you feel the more likely you are to make beneficial changes in your life that would not have otherwise come about.
Which is just science-y talk for: people are tired of feeling like crap. Something that most people can totally empathize with.
Frustration, depression, anger, anxiety, and that all-over nasty feeling has lead to inquiries about how we can improve our mood while implementing the smallest amount of habitual change possible.
This has loads of people asking how to increase serotonin levels. The quick answer is that serotonin supplements can provide that answer for people, and that answer often comes with other great benefits.
Serotonin is commonly called 5-HT or 5-hydroxytryptamine and is a monoamine neurotransmitter, which is a form of psychostimulant. It’s also produced in the gastrointestinal tract and platelets (blood cells). Basically it affects a bunch of different physiological and homeostatic functions.(1) Dopamine and adrenaline are also monoamine neurotransmitters.
Serotonin is different from dopamine and adrenaline because it is much more complex. It affects different processes, like: mood, gastrointestinal health, blood pressure regulation, sleep, motor control, pain control, and sexual behavior. And these are just the most prominent.
When looking at serotonin, it is important to recognize the three pathways by which it works. (2) Those three are:
Agonists: Agonists help initiate a chemical reaction when they’re combined with a receptor.
Receptors: A receptor is a form of protein that will receive signals from outside forces to start a new biological response.
Antagonists: These block agonists from completing the chemical reaction.
In the case of serotonin, all three pathways are needed to maintain a specific level of serotonin in your system. Keeping serotonin in check is the best way to ensure that your body is working properly.
Unlike many other issues you can supplement for, there is a chance of having too much serotonin, which is why it’s important to know what you are doing to increase it and to make sure you’re not overdoing it. Jump to our list of amazing Serotonin Supplements
What Does Serotonin Do?
Serotonin is so important in our system that many issues can be linked back to low serotonin levels. Those days where you feel off, uncomfortable, sad, or even have an upset stomach may be caused by low serotonin.
That being said, while serotonin is considered an “upper”, its effects are slightly more chill than those of dopamine or adrenaline. Where dopamine is generally associated with joy, and adrenaline with that blood-pounding feeling, serotonin is more likely to promote a feeling of contentment and well-being.
Because it is created 3 different ways throughout your body, the impact of low serotonin is more widespread. It is made in your lower intestines, blood, and brain. This is why it affects happiness(3), wound healing(4), organ health(5), and bone strengthening(6).
Serotonin is vital to your health and happiness, but it’s uncommonly easy to knock off balance.
What are Serotonin Disorders?
Serotonin disorders are caused by an imbalance in the brain that either causes more or less serotonin to be produced than is necessary. Because serotonin can be produced in several parts of your body, it is imperative to maintain steady levels. Any serotonin deficiency or surplus can result in physical impacts.
What Happens With Low Serotonin?
Low serotonin is more common than high serotonin, but has less pronounced effects.
Typical low serotonin symptoms include feeling moody, tired, and depressed. There can also be complications with your stomach and digestion, and there’s a possibility of incurring osteoporosis if you go long enough without proper serotonin levels. (7)
There are quite a few things that influence serotonin on a daily basis and that, when left unchecked, can degrade your health enough to cause a serious problem. Jump to our list of amazing Serotonin Supplements
Lack of sunlight is a major issue that causes low serotonin. It’s a common problem that has been nicknamed S.A.D. or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Basically, when you’re without sunlight for an extended period of time your body stops being able to produce serotonin, and that drastically impacts mood and health. (8)
This is especially seen with people who live in northern countries like Canada. It’s a little more common with people who move there rather than with people who grew up there and who have several generations of family in the area. That’s likely just because of genetic adaptation though.
Bad eating habits is another big one. Serotonin is created when a chemical reaction occurs with certain proteins, vitamins, and minerals. These make up receptors and agonists, and without all the proper nutrients in place it makes it much harder to produce serotonin. (9)
For example, L-tryptophan is one of the best chemicals to help produce serotonin. It is typically derived from dietary proteins. It is an amino acid that has been well built for the creation of serotonin. People who lack dietary protein will see a drastic drop in serotonin levels, which requires them to invest in a supplement.
It’s also possible to not see the effects in a heavy protein-based diet. This is because there are a bunch of other amino acids that work faster than tryptophan to get into your blood and brain. That competition makes your body use the tryptophan in other processes, which prevents it from helping boost mood.
Having the right balance of carbs, fats, and proteins will have the best impact on your mood.
Lack of exercise is especially connected to serotonin levels. This is likely because it gets your blood flowing, which allows for the chemical creation of serotonin in the blood stream. It has also been connected with better brain health in general:
“Furthermore, regulations of the secretion of neurotrophic factors, vasculotropic factors, inflammatory mediators, and neurotransmitters are also involved in exercises influence on brain function. Among these effects, secretion of neurotransmitters, especially monoamines, have been linked to the exercise-induced neuronal adaptation.” (1)
To de-nerdify that: exercise influences the way your brain produces neurotransmitters. Later on that article goes on to mention how exercise almost speeds up the process too by making it easier for the receptors to find the right combinations needed to produce serotonin.
Too much exercise can cause the same problem, though, especially when coupled with a bad diet or other negative habits (lack of sleep, no sunlight, etc.). It’s absolutely necessary to achieve balance if you’re looking to improve your serotonin levels.
Crappy genetics can also play a major role in how your body produces serotonin. Dang. That’s a crappy message to share. Sorry, folks! Still, some people just struggle to metabolise certain vitamins, minerals, or proteins that hold the right agonists or receptors. This makes it harder for their bodies to produce serotonin.(10)
This is where you see issues like clinical depression and anxiety.
In this case, it’s likely that you’re already working on a way to boost serotonin with your doctor. . . but there might be a few supplements that work well enough for you to naturally rebalance your serotonin levels.
What Causes Serotonin Syndrome?
The opposite of low serotonin is high serotonin. This is a disorder called Serotonin Syndrome. (11) It is typically only found in people who are engaging in methods to boost serotonin or at least to balance other neurological issues. It’s almost specifically an issue for people who consistently take serotonin boosters, whether done by supplementation or on a doctor’s orders.
It can be bypassed if you stop taking medication or supplements when you notice the most common symptoms.
Serotonin Syndrome is super easy to spot but goes underreported because the symptoms are very similar to catching the flu. Look for:
- Cold chills/heavy sweating
- Rigid/out of control muscles
These are the most common symptoms, and they will just get worse if you don’t seek help or at least stop medication.
How Can You Improve Your Mood?
Serotonin seeps so much into the feeling of well being and happiness, that people have begun searching in earnest for ways to improve mood naturally. This especially in the wake of fears about the use of medication to treat the problem directly. Jump to our list of amazing Serotonin Supplements
Fortunately, there are ways to improve your mood without relying on prescribed medication, as long as it isn’t a serious problem. There are cases where you ought to talk to a doctor and get professional help, but you will also likely know when you hit that point.
There’s a lot of discussion about the best ways to boost mood, whether it’s exercise, better diet, or the use of supplements and vitamins.(2) It really comes down to the individual and the science behind each method. In some cases, more exercise isn’t what you need, but a small capsule with your pre-workout is. In others, a small diet change will fix the problem, but if that change is harder, a multivitamin might solve the problem.
Vitamins Vs. Amino Acids
In the brain there are neurotransmitters. We’ve already discussed those a little bit. Most of them are created in the brain through chemical processes that rely on the agonists and receptors that you get from the chemicals in food and medication.
Amino acids and certain vitamins are the two most common supplemental forms of serotonin boosters. They’re crowd favorites for a few reasons. They have multiple purposes outside of boosting serotonin, and they’re cheaper than medication.
It’s worth noting at this point, that if it is a vitamin or amino acid deficiency that is causing low serotonin, it likely started as a dietary or habitual issue.
It’s no secret that vitamin deficiencies can cause a variety of problems. What is usually left undiscussed though, is the impact it can have on mental stability. For many people it’s possible to get enough vitamins and minerals through diet and daily routine, but thanks to crazy work environments, crappy metabolism, or bad dietary choices, those routes can become more difficult.
Something as simple as not getting enough time outside in the sun can push your body into a vitamin D deficiency. That can be easy enough to fix, but the effects are pretty hard hitting. Vitamin D deficiency has also been connected to Seasonal Affective Disorder, and typically leads to depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide.
In this case and many others, if you are unable to change habits or diets, a supplement is a great option. Vitamins have a few pros over serotonin medications or other supplements because your body will more willingly release them. So anything that isn’t used or necessary can be excreted quickly.
This is usually a wiser route to take because it’s a better way to boost serotonin and avoid Serotonin Syndrome.
The cons are typically that a single vitamin might not be what you need, or it might not work well enough to make a solid difference. We’d typically recommend vitamins for someone who is experiencing mild S.A.D. because of an office job or long winter. Jump to our list of amazing Serotonin Supplements
The best vitamins for fighting depression and boosting serotonin levels are:
A multivitamin with some or all of these would likely be a great help especially when coupled with dietary or habit changes.(12)
On the other end of the supplemental spectrum, amino acids are regarded as one of the best ways to naturally boost serotonin levels.
The two amino acids most well-connected to serotonin production are 5-HTP and Tryptophan. They’re “slower” amino acids that have a special ability to break beyond the blood-brain-barrier and have legitimate impact on your neurological functions. (13)
According to Tzu-Wei Lin and Yu-Min Kuo in their 2013 article: Exercise Benefits Brain Function: The Monoamine Connection:
“5-HT is synthesized from l-tryptophan, which is first catalyzed by tryptophan-5 hydroxylase to form 5-hydroxytryptophan and then further converted to 5-HT by aromatic l-amino acid decarboxylase. The axons of serotonergic neurons, primarily from the median and dorsal raphe nuclei, project to the entire CNS. 5-HT is regarded as the keystone in the psycho-emotional symptoms of depression and anxiety [56,57]; antagonists of 5-HT transporter have been widely used to ameliorate neuropsychiatric symptoms.” (1)
Yeesh. These people with PhDs just kill me sometimes.
Amino acids are both receptors and agonists depending on which ones you are typically getting. Their ability to work in your brain gives them the ability to bring in the necessary and good substances that are great for creating neurotransmitters like serotonin.
So when you’re deficient in either of them it can be a cause for low serotonin and a bad mood. Exercise without proper dietary changes is the primary cause of low amino acid levels. This is why for some people more exercise won’t solve the problems of depression or anxiety.
The other problem that arises with them is that because they are so slow, there is no guarantee that the amino acid that you need will make it to the brain before it’s used up or excreted.
5-HTP vs. Tryptophan
5-HTP is the precursor to serotonin (5-HT). (14) It is an amino acid that can be created biologically within your system, but functions relatively slow compared to other non-essential amino acids. The reason it has such an impact is because it is created by tryptophan, the essential G-Protein amino acid that is the most common basis for serotonin production in the brain.
When it comes down to whether you should choose between a 5-HTP and a Tryptophan supplement, researchers continue to argue.
In most aspects a 5-HTP supplement will be the best option because they:
- are faster acting
- are more bioavailable
- have easier access to the brain
- work directly with serotonin
Tryptophan not only works with a bunch of different processes, but it’s slower, and requires more work for it to be used as as serotonin booster. But your body won’t build up a tolerance to Tryptophan like it will with 5-HTP and the effects are longer lasting because it’s a gradual change rather than a quick fix. (15)
Overall, it depends on who you are, why you’re taking it, and how long you’ve been taking it. If you’re looking for a long-term change and fix, Tryptophan will be your best option. It’s not fast, and you likely won’t notice legitimate changes for a few weeks. If you’re looking for a fast solution that will help jumpstart other positive changes then 5-HTP will be your best option.
BEST SEROTONIN SUPPLEMENTS
Our top 10 list of Serotonin supplements is organized to reflect what you most value in your supplements. First and foremost is quality. All of or top ten supplements meet high standards of quality and come from brands with a proven record in excellence and purity. Another important factor in deciding the top ten was cost. You don’t have to pay through the nose to get a high quality supplement. In addition, all the companies represented on our top ten list have stellar records with customer service and prompt shipping to ensure that your supplement experience is enjoyable from the first click to your final capsule.
- Tzu-Wei Lin, and Yu-Min Kuo Exercise Benefits Brain Function: The Monoamine Connection Brain Sci. 2013 Mar; 3(1): 39–53. Published online 2013 Jan 11. doi: 10.3390/brainsci3010039
- Flavio Guzman, MD. Serotonin (5-HT): receptors, agonists and antagonists Pharmacology Corner
- H G Ruhé, N S Mason & A H Schene Mood is indirectly related to serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine levels in humans: a meta-analysis of monoamine depletion studies Molecular Psychiatry volume 12, pages 331–359 (2007) doi:10.1038/sj.mp.4001949
- T Velnar, T Bailey, V Smrkolj The Wound Healing Process: An Overview of the Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms First Published October 1, 2009 Journal of International Medical Research
- Anthony L. Kovac Comparative Pharmacology and Guide to the Use of the Serotonin 5-HT3 Receptor Antagonists for Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting December 2016, Volume 76, Issue 18, pp 1719–1735
- Marie Anne Gebara MD, Marcie L. O. Shea MD, Kim L. Lipsey MLS, Steven L. Teitelbaum MD, Roberto Civitelli MD, Daniel J. Müller MD, PhD, Charles F. Reynolds III MD, Benoit H. Mulsant MD, Eric J. Lenze MD Depression, Antidepressants, and Bone Health in Older Adults: A Systematic Review DOI: 10.1111/jgs.12945 First published: 15 July 2014
- Paul W. Andrews, Aadil Bharwani, Kyuwon R. Lee, Molly Fox, J. Anderson Thomson Jr. Is serotonin an upper or a downer? The evolution of the serotonergic system and its role in depression and the antidepressant response Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews Volume 51, April 2015, Pages 164-188
- Tzvetelina D. Dimitrova, Gloria M. Reeves, Soren Snitker, Manana Lapidus, Aamar R. Sleemi, Theodora G. Balis, Partam Manalai, Muhammad M. Tariq, Johanna A. Cabassa, Naila N. Karim, Mary A. Johnson, Patricia Langenberg, Kelly J. Rohan, Michael Miller, John W. Stiller, Teodor T. Postolache Prediction of outcome of bright light treatment in patients with seasonal affective disorder: Discarding the early response, confirming a higher atypical balance, and uncovering a higher body mass index at baseline as predictors of endpoint outcome November 2017Volume 222, Pages 126–132 Journal of Affective Disorders
- Stuart, Kara Investigating the effects of a high carbohydrate, high fat diet on the ghrelin-serotonin 2C receptor pathway in the brain Thesis (Non-Research) (Honours) Current – Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences – School of Agricultural, Computational and Environmental Sciences 24 Nov 2017 06:22
- Troisi, Alfonso; Carola, Valeria; Gross, Cornelius GENETIC VARIATION IN THE SEROTONIN TRANSPORTER GENE INFLUENCES ADULT ATTACHMENT STYLE Clinical Neuropsychiatry . Aug2017, Vol. 14 Issue 4, p241-246. 6p.
- Buckley, N. A., Dawson, A. H., & Isbister, G. K. Serotonin syndrome. Bmj, 348, g1626.Chicago (2014).
- Rhonda P. Patrick and Bruce N. Ames Vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids control serotonin synthesis and action, part 2: relevance for ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and impulsive behavior 24 Feb 2015 https://doi.org/10.1096/fj.14-268342 FASEB Journal
- Anna G. Wessels, Holger Kluge, Frank Hirche, Andreas Kiowski, Alexandra Schutkowski, Etienne Corrent, Jörg Bartelt, Bettina König, Gabriele I. Stangl High Leucine Diets Stimulate Cerebral Branched-Chain Amino Acid Degradation and Modify Serotonin and Ketone Body Concentrations in a Pig Model Published: March 1, 2016https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0150376
- Birdsall TC 5-Hydroxytryptophan: a clinically-effective serotonin precursor. Altern Med Rev. 1998 Aug;3(4):271-80.
- Das YT, Bagchi M, Bagchi D, Preuss HG Safety of 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan. Toxicol Lett 2004;150:111-22.
- Frick A, Åhs F, Engman J, Jonasson M, Alaie I, Björkstrand J, Frans Ö, Faria V, Linnman C, Appel L, Wahlstedt K, Lubberink M, Fredrikson M, Furmark T. Serotonin Synthesis and Reuptake in Social Anxiety Disorder A Positron Emission Tomography Study. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72(8):794–802. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.0125
The Standout: Improve Sleep and Mood!
5-HTP is a simple and clean way to boost serotonin levels, and nutricost makes this process easy and affordable! This product is high quality and fast absorbing which means you can feel the benefits quickly!
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- 240 Capsules per Bottle
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Whether you’re taking this to boost your mood, reduce your appetite, or fix your sleep pattern if it’s serotonin your body was needing you’ll see success. This product has been reviewed and found to contain no “Peak X” or other contaminants that come from plant based sources.
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Whether you’re using this for weight loss, mood improvement, or better focus Natrol 5-HTP is a great daily supplement to do all three. It is guaranteed clean and natural, but will promote feelings of calm happiness during your day!
- Better Sleep and Controlled Appetite
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If you’ve been looking for a way to improve your life, Natrol 5-HTP might be the way to do it!Keep Reading »
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Zhou CALM NOW is a cost effective and all natural option that is guaranteed 100% vegan and cruelty free. This can be your go to “chill pill” for those especially stressful situations!
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With 100% natural ingredients, Zhou guarantees that this product will promote a boost in serotonin to reduce anxiety and depression. You can feel calmer with this product especially with the ingredients: ashwagandha root, lemon balm, passion flower, and so many more!
Give your body and mind the support it needs to recover and feel healthy again.Keep Reading »
Commonly used and supported ingredients are what fill NOW Mood Support capsules! You can boost your serotonin levels with the inclusion of St. John’s Wort, and B-Vitamins, while balancing brain chemistry and promoting good sleep with Magnesium and Calcium!Keep Reading »
LES Labs Mood Boost is a great mix of serotonin boosting ingredients like, 5-htp, L-theanine, and magnesium. All of which can be to blame for building mental and physical health. You should feel better within weeks of use because of this high tech formula that also contains ashwagandha root and passionflower!Keep Reading »
This brilliant product is a combination of 5-HTP, the leading serotonin booster, and Vitamin B6, which is known for promoting brain chemical balance and overall physical health. NATUREWISE 5-HTP PLUS+ was built to provide a safe and natural supplement for improving mental health where it can.Keep Reading »
Arazo Nutrition 5-HTP is a naturally made 5-HTP supplement for brain, mood, and sleep improvement. There are no allergens like soy, gluten, dairy, shellfish, or egg, and it is Non-GMO with no binders or fillers! You can feel confident with this product because it has been built to give you a natural mood boost and better sleep!Keep Reading »
VitaStrength St. John’s Wort is a vital product for improving mood and serotonin levels naturally. Feel confident with this all natural product built to help you feel better in a matter of weeks!Keep Reading »
Don’t let the price shock you on this one! Genius Joy is a product created by The Genius Brand, and claims to be a great alternative, and natural product to fight depression and anxiety. With each scoop you’ll get clinically recommended amounts of SAMe, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, Rhodiola 5Plus, Red Panax Red Ginseng, and a Neurofactor stimulant.Keep Reading »
This high strength product has been built for optimal absorption and mood boosting capabilities! Organic Ashwagandha Root Powder has been tied to better brain chemical balance and the promotion of better mood, sleep, and appetite. Feel better every day with this awesome all natural product!Keep Reading »
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