How To Boost Serotonin Levels Naturally | with Michele Grosvenor

October 13, 2022 4 min read

Many of us may already know that Serotonin is the body's happy hormone but let's explore it in a little more depth and discover some ways that we can boost this happy hormone naturally.

What is Serotonin?

Serotonin is a naturally occurring chemical we make in the body that acts like as a neurotransmitter.  We use it to help the brain and central nervous system communicate with each other.  It is most notoriously known for its role in regulating our mood to keep us feeling happy and content, but it also plays a role in other functions of the body.

Why is Serotonin important? 

  • It helps regulate your mood.
    A serotonin deficiency can cause depression, and in some people anxiety.  This is why the majority of anti-depressant medications work by blocking the brain’s serotonin receptors to keep it working within the brain. Stress can also play a part in lowering serotonin levels because when we are under stress, the body releases cortisol which works in conjunction with serotonin.  When we are under long term stress it can impair serotonin’s ability to function properly leading to depression.

  • It regulates your sleep wake cycle.
    Serotonin is the step before we make melatonin, which works in the pineal gland of the brain to help regulate your sleep wake cycle.  Too little serotonin and you are sleepy all the time and too much and you are wide awake!  Serotonin also works in conjunction with another neurotransmitter called dopamine to support how well and how long we sleep for.
  • It helps regulate your inner sex god/goddess aka your libido.
    The level of serotonin and where it is made in the body plays a role in your desire for sex.
  • It helps wounds heal.
    When we cut ourselves, serotonin is released by our platelets to help slow the blood flow in the small arteries, which helps from blood clots, so we don’t bleed out.
  • It helps regulate bone health.
    Depending on where serotonin is produced in the body and the levels we have it can  either promote or inhibit our bone density levels over time.  Studies have shown that long term use of some anti-depressants can lower bone density levels leading to the development of osteoporosis.
  • It helps move your bowels and supports digestion.
    Too little serotonin and it can slow you transit time down causing constipation and too much it has the opposite effect causing diarrhoea!  It also helps us recognise when we feel full and can make us feel nauseous when we have eaten something that doesn’t agree with us.

Where is Serotonin made? 

You may not know that most of our serotonin is made in specialised gut cells, with our brain only producing approximately 10-20%.  It is made from a protein called tryptophan, which we get from our diets as we don’t produce it ourselves.  We also need certain co-factors to help with the conversion so having a healthy diet is important for our serotonin production.

Our gut bacteria also influence our serotonin levels so if you are having gut issues it can affect your levels.  This is why if you only treat the brain you have missed the bigger picture.

How much Serotonin do we need? 

Serotonin is like the story of Goldilocks & the 3 bears… need just the right amount for optimal health.  Having too much, a condition called Serotonin syndrome, is not common but can be dangerous.  It is usually associated with the use of an anti-depressant medication with other medications such as other anti-depressants, analgesics like tramadol and oxycodone, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, and cold/cough medications containing dextromethorphan, as combined they can increase serotonin levels in the body. 

How do you know if you may have too little Serotonin?

 Well, you may experience symptoms like the following;

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • OCD type behaviour
  • Memory issues
  • Sleep problems
  • Little or no appetite
  • Slow wound healing
  • Poor focus and concentration
  • Chronic pain 

When your serotonin levels are low you can feel sad, stuck and unmotivated – if this is happening a lot, then it is worth consulting with a health practitioner to explore possible treatment options to get you back on your feet. 

In the meantime, there are some lifestyle and dietary things you can do to naturally boost serotonin levels in the body.

6 ways to boost Serotonin levels naturally:  

    • Get some protein on your fork - eating foods rich in tryptophan helps boost your serotonin production. Foods like eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, tofu, nuts & seeds, milk, cheese, banana, apples, prunes and pineapples are good things to include in your daily diet.
    • Exercise - besides making you feel happy with the endorphins exercise produces, working out also helps release tryptophan into the bloodstream to boost serotonin levels making you feel happy. You don’t need to be running a marathon but taking a 20 minute brisk walk, going to the gym or swimming are good options.
    • Get out in the sunshine – as I mentioned we use serotonin to make melatonin especially when it gets dark. If we are always inside being exposed to artificial light sources our bodies get confused and we can overproduce melatonin.  10-20 minutes of daily sunshine exposure helps our body know what time of the day it is
    • Take some good B vitamins & Omega 3 fish oil – these are some of the co-factors we need in the production of serotonin and can often be low in the body which impacts our serotonin production
    • Fibre – because our gut bacteria play a integral role in our serotonin production we need to feed them well with good levels of prebiotic fibre. Aim for a minimum of 3 cups of seasonal colourful vegetables each day, some unprocessed wholegrains and a little fresh fruit.
    • Lower your stress levels – as I explained long term stress increases our cortisol production which depletes our serotonin levels. Try to minimise your stress levels by incorporating some daily stress reduction techniques like diaphragmatic breathing, meditation, and being out in nature.


If you need some support, book a consult with Michele here, to explore some treatment options to help boost your serotonin levels and help you find your feet.
Love Michele
Michele is a naturopathic clinician and certified GAPS practitioner with a special interest in digestive health which in naturopathic medicine, is thought to be the seat of all disease when its function is compromised.

join the family