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Increasing Serotonin: 5 Effective Ways

Serotonin deficiency should not be underestimated. In our times of stress, in particular, low serotonin levels are one of the most common causes of widespread mental illnesses such as depression.

Serotonin is on the one hand a happiness hormone and creates a good mood and on the other hand a messenger substance and transmits nerve stimuli.

Those who take in too little serotonin feel uncomfortable, tired, unfocused and irritable. Sluggishness, sleep problems and a depressed mood can become a daily companion.

So that you understand how a serotonin deficiency affects your health and how you can increase your serotonin, we have summarized the most important information for you in this article.

the essentials in brief

  • There are several factors that favor a serotonin deficit. Long-term stress, a lack of vitamin B6 and cancer are among them.
  • Typical symptoms of serotonin deficiency are listlessness, irritability, bad mood, anxiety and sensitive pain perception. If the deficiency remains untreated, this can also promote irritable bowel syndrome.
  • The amino acid tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin. With the help of this amino acid it is possible to increase the serotonin content and to compensate for a deficiency. In addition to drugs that contain tryptophan, there is also a wide variety of foods that contain tryptophan.

Definition: what is serotonin?

Serotonin is a so-called biogenic aminethat arises from the reaction of amino acids and is formed with the essential amino acid tryptophan. Serotonin, on the one hand, acts as a Neurotransmitters and on the other hand as Tissue hormone.

Serotonin is also called hydroxytryptamine or enteramine. It helps your body to regulate blood pressure in the blood vessels, gastrointestinal activity and the transmission of stimuli in the nervous system.

If your body does not absorb enough vitamin B6 and L-tryptophan, your brain will not be able to produce 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) and will subsequently fail to activate serotonin.

In the brain, serotonin is primarily responsible for perception, temperature regulation, pain perception, appetite, sleep, libido and hormone secretion.

In this table you will find the individual steps that are necessary to produce serotonin by converting the amino acid L-tryptophan.

Serotonin production description
L-tryptophan First, the amino acid L-tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP during serotonin biosynthesis.
TPh1 and TPh2 During the conversion, an enzyme controls the L-tryptophan and differentiates it on the basis of the two separate molecules TPh1 and TPh2.
TPh1 The TPh1 tryptophan gets into the liver and the intestines.
TPh2 The TPh2 tryptophan comes into the brain.
Serotonin (5-HT) Once the serotonin has been formed, it continues to dock on specific receptor subtypes, so-called re-uptake transporters and progenitor cells.

The nutrients zinc and magnesium are also essential to enable the conversion of L-tryptophan into serotonin.

A deficiency in serotonin can usually be detected with a urine sample. If your urine contains a lot of 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid, this means that a lot of serotonin is broken down.

Background: Why you should increase your serotonin if you have a deficiency

The better you are informed about how a serotonin deficiency comes about and which symptoms arise, the faster you can do something about it.

If you recognize the symptoms of a deficiency early on, you can largely avoid long-term effects that are difficult to treat.

How does a serotonin deficiency arise?

Serotonin deficiency can have numerous causes. Often is unbalanced diet a trigger for low serotonin levels.

Very little of the serotonin that you consume actually crosses the blood-brain barrier and arrives in the gap between the nerve cells.

Protein-containing foods contain plenty of tryptophan, which is necessary for serotonin production, but are also rich in over 100 other amino acids.

These are channeled into the brain as if through a tiny eye of a needle, where they compete with tryptophan for entry. Thus tryptophan is largely displaced.

Since protein foods contain numerous amino acids, they are often unable to increase serotonin levels. The brain has to produce its own serotonin and needs certain building materials for this.

In addition to L-tryptophan, vitamin B3, vitamin B6, magnesium and zinc are crucial for serotonin production.

Carbohydrate or fat-rich foods, on the other hand, promote tryptophan absorption and thus also the formation of serotonin. This also results in the well-known food cravings during a low mood.

Causes of a serotonin deficiency include:

  • Problems with blood sugar levels (fluctuations in blood sugar levels, insulin resistance and diabetes)
  • Fructose malabsorption
  • Deficiency in vitamin B6, vitamin B3, or magnesium
  • Constant stress
  • Chronic latent infections (viruses, fungi, Borrelia)
  • Cancers

What are the symptoms of low serotonin levels?

Serotonin deficiency is accompanied by numerous unpleasant symptoms. To ensure your well-being, you should recognize the symptoms early and enable your body to get the right serotonin supply.

Discuss your options with a doctor too! They can perform appropriate tests and determine whether there is actually a serotonin deficiency or whether your condition has another cause.


Probably the most well-known companions for serotonin deficiency are listlessness and permanent fatigue - you feel tired, no matter how long you sleep.

With a severe serotonin deficiency, your energy and strength balance is permanently depleted. You are more easily exhausted and less active in the course of movement, since too little serotonin causes mobility disorders.

Likewise, prolonged concentration and focusing can be difficult. Difficulty sleeping through the night is also a common indicator of a serotonin deficiency.

Irritability and bad mood

If the happiness hormone serotonin is missing, your satisfaction also suffers - depressive mood is neurochemically attributed to a lack of serotonin or its precursor L-tryptophan.

Of course, not every depression is accompanied by a serotonin deficiency - nevertheless, many mild depressions are caused by a disturbed serotonin metabolism and can be alleviated or cured within a few days.

It is important that you get to the bottom of the cause of the serotonin deficiency! This can prevent mood swings, irritability, listlessness, sleep disorders and many other symptoms.


Pronounced anxiety or anxiety attacks can also have a serotonin deficiency at the origin. As the neurotransmitter balance in the brain is disturbed, anxiety disorders occur without actually being a threat.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are drugs that inhibit the breakdown of serotonin and thus increase the concentration of serotonin in the gap between the nerve cells. However, these only help with some of the anxiety disorders.

Increased pain perception

Increased sensitivity to pain can also indicate a lack of serotonin. Serotonin is used in chronic pain therapy and is usually able to relieve pain and sleep problems.

Serotonin disrupts the transmission of pain stimuli and thus reduces the pain intensity.

Medicines with L-tryptophan help in chronic pain disorders to largely compensate for the chemical imbalance of the messenger substances in the brain.

Since a large part of serotonin is formed in the phases of deep sleep, sleep is extremely important for serotonin production.

What are the consequences of a long-term serotonin deficiency?

If there is a long-term serotonin deficiency, serious consequences can arise - these range from chronic fatigue to anxious-aggressive behavior to attention deficit disorder (ADD).

Persistent tiredness and sleep disorders have serious consequences that are not only noticeable psychologically but also physically.

If you are not doing well, you will not be able to perform as well and it will be exhausting to cope with everyday life.

A long-term serotonin deficiency also favors the development of diseases and disorders. Below we have summarized the most well-known diseases that are most likely associated with a serotonin deficiency:

  • migraine
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (functional disorder of the bowel)
  • Fibromyalgia (chronic disease with muscle and tendon pain)
  • PMS (abdominal cramps of premenstrual syndrome)
  • ADD (attention deficit disorder)

It is common for IBS sufferers to have abnormal levels of serotonin. Type D irritable bowel patients with the main symptom of diarrhea are often diagnosed with an elevated serotonin level. Likewise, constipated IBS sufferers should increase their serotonin levels.

Disturbed sexual behavior and abnormal body temperature are not uncommon signs of a serotonin deficiency.

How is serotonin level determined?

As mentioned earlier, the serotonin level will through the urine identified. The best-known method examines the 5-hydroxytryptamine value in the urine and sets it in relation to the creatinine value.

Much of the population has abnormal levels of serotonin due to various underlying diseases. Their level is not within the normal range of 50-250 micrograms per gram (μg / g) creatinine in the urine.

Serotonin urine tests are performed by your doctor, but you can also purchase them as a self-test to take at home. Depending on the result, different options for action are recommended.

An excess of serotonin can also affect your well-being. This often arises as an interaction with the intake of antidepressants. Restlessness, increased muscle tension, muscle twitching, tremors and excitement are possible consequences.

An extreme excess can trigger a so-called serotonin syndrome, which can range from fever to coma and even death. However, with a normal diet and without taking medication that boosts serotonin, an excess of serotonin can be ruled out.

Is Serotonin Deficiency Dangerous and Why Should I Increase Serotonin?

As already mentioned, a serotonin deficiency attacks both the psyche and the body.

Disturbances in the sleep-wake rhythm, body temperature, sexual behavior, pain perception, intestinal activity and migraine attacks are consequences that can be reduced or prevented entirely by increasing serotonin.

In this video, Doctor Weigl gives you a comprehensive overview of the hormone serotonin and explains what role serotonin plays in various diseases and why your serotonin level should be balanced.

If you have a deficiency, you should increase your serotonin as soon as possible in order to bring your hormone levels back into balance. This is how you regulate your body and prevent depression.

Prevention is extremely important! After all, you should feel good about your body.

If you find that you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, be sure to get a medical exam. This tests whether there is a serotonin deficiency and can detect other related deficiency symptoms.

What to do about low serotonin: What methods are there to increase serotonin

You can use the following five methods to increase your serotonin and get your hormone levels back into shape. It is best to consult a doctor to find the method that is right for you.


If there is a clear serotonin deficiency, your doctor will usually prescribe antidepressants, namely so-called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

These block the serotonin transporters, which increases the serotonin concentration in the tissue fluid of the brain.

Serotonin reuptake inhibitors include citalopram, which is the most commonly prescribed, as well as fluvoxamine, fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline, vortioxetine, clomipramine, dapoxetine, and vilazodone.

If you take several drugs at the same time, citalopram, escitalopram and sertraline are advantageous because they hardly cause any interactions.

Food supplements

Food supplements such as vitamins and minerals also stimulate serotonin production. In particular, B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin C, manganese, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids promote serotonin production.

If there are not enough of the aforementioned substances in your body, no serotonin can be produced! Vitamin B12 should also be taken if you are taking serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Likewise, your serotonin level drops if there is a magnesium deficiency, as magnesium is involved in the conversion of L-tryptophan into 5-hydroxytryptophan.

Homeopathy and naturopathy

There are also treatment options in homeopathy to increase your serotonin.

Homeopathic globules with St. John's Wort, Hypericum, Hyperforin and Hypericin are mainly used for pain and nerve injuries and inhibit the reuptake of serotonin from the switching points between two nerve endings.

They should therefore have a mechanism of action similar to that of the classic serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs.

Homeopathic extracts also have a good effect on mood, although the undesirable side effects of synthetic antidepressants do not occur. Especially with burnout, extracts have a stabilizing and harmonizing effect on the mental state.

St. John's wort tea, St. John's wort mother tincture or St. John's wort potency accord can be used well for winter depression and has a lightening effect when taken from three weeks.


In the so-called Inca diet, a high availability of L-tryptophan in the brain and increased serotonin production are achieved by consuming ground amaranth and quinoa with water in the morning before breakfast. However, the taste often leaves something to be desired.

Basically, you will find it difficult to make up for an existing deficiency by consuming foods particularly rich in tryptophan. This is also due to the numerous competing amino acids that make their way into the brain.

However, there are measures to reduce the competing amino acids. Plenty of carbohydrates increase the insulin level, whereby the remaining amino acids without tryptophan are funneled into the muscle cells and the blood content of tryptophan increases.

In this table we have summarized foods rich in tryptophan with which you can keep a good amino acid balance:

Food Tryptophan per 100g description
Spirulina 789mg Spirulina contains plenty of tryptophan as well as iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc and the rare selenium.
Pumpkin seeds 559mg Pumpkin seeds are easy to incorporate into main dishes and are a good snack between meals.
Cashew nuts 314mg Cashew nuts are a delicious snack. They contain B vitamins, unsaturated fatty acids, magnesium and phosphorus suppliers and tryptophan.
tuna 300mg Tuna is an excellent source of tryptophan and is best eaten fresh.
Hazelnuts 210mg Hazelnuts not only contain tryptophan but also unsaturated omega-6 fatty acids and B vitamins.
Walnuts 205mg Walnuts contain plenty of unsaturated fatty acids, vital substances and tryptophan.
pork meat181mg Lean pork fillet is also a good source of tryptophan.
Amaranth181mg Amaranth also contains numerous essential amino acids, including tryptophan.
Buckwheat 77mg You can mix buckwheat into your muesli or cook it as a side dish.